Friday, July 22, 2016

Tsum Tsum Party: Games and Activities

Here are some of the activities we carried out at Kate's Tsum Tsum party. There's nothing particularly novel about them - all parties will have some version of these classic activities, adapted to fit their themes. 

The classic ice-breaker/waiting for late-arrivals activity for younger children: coloring sheets.

We drew ours. You're welcome to use them for your parties, or to entertain your small toddlers and preschoolers if you like. You can find the download in this earlier post.

All you need for a coloring activity is something to color with. We picked markers, because as kids get older, they outgrow crayons as a coloring medium of choice, and fork into markers or color pencils. Or sometimes oil pastels. Or maybe that was just me as a kid. 

Before every party, I set the kids the task of culling our huge marker collection. Their job is to test all the markers and toss out the ones that are no good. And by "no good", we mean "if I got that marker, I would be very upset and would want to swop it for another one with more ink."
This year, Emily went one step further and sorted them into colors in plastic cups, and also decorated the cups with color-coded popsicle sticks. It isn't the sort of detail I'd personally pick to add to a party, but if children want to help in ways that are not life-threatening and do not create mess that I need to clean up later, I usually let them.

And guess what? It seems kids like to have their coloring implements organized and sorted into shades and hues. Whoda thought? I thought all children worked out of tubs full of mixed markers, and just used whatever color they fished out at random. 

The next activity was a Pin The Tail On The Donkey variation.  We briefly considered actually keeping the original version as is, since we had an Eeyore Tsum Tsum character, but we eventually went with a stack of three Tsum Tsums. I drew an outline poster and Kate colored it in and added balloons and confetti.

We cut out separate accessories and/or body parts - Donald's hat, Minnie's bow, and Thumper's nose,

which would be affixed in their rightful places with a bit of rolled-up sticky tape on their backs.

Ideally, these were where those stick-ons would go:

It was a lot of fun to watch the kids (who were great sports) try to get it right. It was surprisingly challenging, because there were three different places the various stick-ons needed to go.

Our third activity was a Bingo game. 

I bought the download for $4 here and printed out the calling and game cards at a print shop because our color printer now prints only black-and-white. I also laminated the calling cards just because. 

Incidentally, those little Tsum Tsum heads are the perfect size for cupcake toppers. I printed an extra card,

cut out the heads and laminated them. Just for fun, I cut some out with plastic tails

and some without, which then had to be taped to a toothpick.

Both versions inserted easily into our cupcakes.

Classic party activities for younger kids that you can adapt for any theme, right? 

And now, I'm betting that some of you are wondering about pinatas - this theme would've been perfect for a classic papier mache balloon pinata painted to any of these Tsum Tsum heads. Alas, Kate does not care for pinatas - never has, and probably never will. Too violent, she explains, and also she doesn't get why kids are supposed to enjoy clamoring for candy on the ground. "Why not just give them candy gently and in equitable portions so no one has to fight for it?" was her (less pompous) reasoning.

And so we let it be - her party, her rules :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tsum Tsum Party: Candy Tubes

This here is the post about the candy tubes we made for Kate's Tsum Tsum party

We found the idea for these candy tubes on the internet while randomly surfing. It was for some other character (which I can't remember at the moment) for some other party, but we adapted it for Tsum Tsums. I'm sure there is a bona fide tutorial for an actual Tsum Tsum TP roll treat box somewhere that you can google, though. 

We began with our Tsum Tsum coloring pages, which we printed on cardstock rather than regular paper, so the faces would be more sturdy. Kate colored them and cut them out.

Here's what we used for one candy tube - a rectangle of card stock for the body (you could use an actual TP roll and paint it or wrap paper around it), a Tsum Tsum face for one end and a circle of card stock for the other end. I can't remember the dimensions of our rectangle, but I measured it to make a narrow enough tube to fit behind the face. 

Cut slits along both longer edges (these will be the edges that become the ends of the tube). Our slits were roughly 1 cm apart and 1 cm deep. 

We rolled the rectangle and glued the overlapping edges to make a tube. 

Then we splayed out those slit tabs on one end.

We applied glue to the outer surfaces of the tabs and glued them to the back side of the face. 

At the other end, we folded IN the tabs, and filled the tube with candy.

Then we applied glue to the outer surfaces of the folded-in tabs and stuck the circle of card stock on them.

Some Tsum Tsums had tails, so we drew them on with Sharpie.

Kate assembled all the candy tubes. We tried to match the cardstock bodies to the actual Tsum Tsums.

Here is the whole batch.

We even tried to stack them, as are appropriate for Tsum Tsums.

But they were a bit of a mess.

So, instead, we stood them upright in a box

and, on the day itself, let the kids pick out their favorite as a prize for one of our games.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tsum Tsum Party: Medallions

This is how we made the medallions for Kate's Tsum Tsum party.

This started out as an unrelated craft to occupy Kate during her "I am bored" moments. We were playing with salt dough and made these discs in different sizes (the smaller discs were for Bunny, of course).  Then I thought it might be fun to paint them and string them up as lockets or medals.

I don't remember which recipe we used, but we got it on the internet, among hundreds of salt dough recipes and hints. I think it might have been a combination of this and this, and our proportion of dough to salt was about 1: 3. What I remember of those hints were these:
  • thin bakes more evenly and quickly than thick. Our discs were 1/4" thick.
  • the exact temperature for baking isn't really important. We used a lower temperature and baked our discs for longer, because they were thicker.
  • There is a little bit of expansion during the baking process, which doesn't matter to the exterior dimensions of the discs but it did mean we had to make the string holes bigger than were needed, because they did shrink a bit. We used a thick bamboo skewer to poke our holes.

Out of that painting activity came the idea to make Tsum Tsum faces. The discs baked concave on one surface and convex on the other. We tried painting faces on both surfaces and decided we liked having the convex ones in front (faces) and the concave ones at the back (solid colors).

Kate painted Thumper (the grey bunny on the pink disc) and then lost interest - not surprisingly, given the amount of detailed work involved in getting the lines neat. I painted the rest with acrylic paint. I drew rough pencil sketches to be sure the entire face (plus ears) fit into the circle, and then free-hand painted the colors in, and finished with a coat of varnish. Looking back now, it seems a disproportionate amount of time spent on something that we could've just printed out on paper and stuck to corrugated cardboard or something easier, but painting has always been cathartic for me, especially not on a time crunch, so it was all fun.

When everything was dry, I added large jump rings with florist wire and Kate threaded the medallions on narrow ribbon.

If I'd started out making medallions (instead of as a random craft that ended up being medallions), I'd have used wooden discs instead of salt dough clay. Salt dough is lumpy to paint, which is fine if there aren't fine details. But the disadvantage of using ready-made discs is that you'd have to drill holes in them yourself. And the advantage of salt dough, of course, is that it's free (or cheap) to make with whatever's already lying around the house. Can't be beat, right? 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Kate's Tsum Tsum Party

Kate turned 8 in the spring and, later in the summer, when the weather was much more hospitable to parties, we threw her a Tsum Tsum shindig.

It always amuses me, the transience of trends and children's fancies. Not that long ago, the kids were all about Shopkins. Now it's Tsum Tsums. Next year it'll probably be something else. Much as we don't support merchandizing any more than the next guy, we do enjoy looking back over the years and saying, "Hey, remember when you liked Elmo/Barney/Wild Kratts/Fetch/Maisy?" 

Those phases - indulgently covetous though they might have seemed at the time - are a part of each kid's childhood, a season of innocence and "Oh, so cute, Mom! Can I buy it? I can use my allowance!" which is all too fleetingly lost. Before I can even capture that era in photos, I know those same kids will be all grown up and immersed in a world of even more insidious marketing - iPhones and unlimited data plans and branded gear and cars-with-built-in-GPS-and-self-parallel-parking. And I tell myself: my children must learn, must they not, the value of money in their own way, so that they will be both wise with it in the future, and enjoy that it can be good?

So, Tsum Tsums. 

All I will say is that they're painfully cute. Whoever thought it was a good idea to turn creatures into blimps was a genius. And have you seen the giant Tsum Tsum blimps in Target? Argh. 

Kate planned her own party. And by planning, I mean, she dictated the schedule down to the minute.

I think it helped that we almost always run our parties the same way, with a standard sequence and many traditional elements. 

And she did a lot of behind-the-scenes work, like her invitations,

 labeling our cubby-hole grocery sacks for the guests to organize their loot.

and wall decorations.

The day dawned relatively fair, as days will often dawn in Minnesota's fickle June. We held the party in the garage and on the deck, scooting from one to the other, according to how well the sky was behaving itself.

First, there was the traditional driveway chalk mural to welcome guests.

Then there was the traditional birthday poster.

This was the first poster the kids got to help color. Usually, I draw their birthday posters in secret as a surprise for the morning of the party, but this one was like a huge free-for-all coloring sheet. Can you spot what Bunny's been up to?

As the guests arrived, they played in the yard with the birthday girl,

and were given markers and coloring sheets to work on while waiting for everyone else to arrive. 

Incidentally, we used our coloring sheets for quite a few elements of this party, including the invitations.

Then we had lunch and dessert.

We did not go with the traditional gelato pie this year. Shockingly, Kate, who is generally anti-cake, decided she wanted cupcakes. So we made chocolate-nutella cupcakes, 

and stuck Tsum Tsum heads in them.

After lunch, we opened gifts.

Then, there were games.

The challenge with a character birthday party is finding activities that aren't the same old. It is always much, much easier to run a generic-theme party than one dictated by a specific character theme, because one isn't limited to, well, doing character-faithful stuff. However, this was Kate's pick, and she designed her own games, so we ran with it.

First was Pin Stick The Accoutrements On The Tsum Tsums.

It featured a poster of Tsum Tsums missing critical accessories. I drew the stack of Tsum Tsums and Kate colored them (she was beside herself at all the coloring opportunities the party prep afforded her) and added balloons and confetti.

The missing accessories were separately cut out; rolls of sticky tape on their backs allowed them to be stuck onto the poster.

Like so. 


Here are the kids, blindfolded (Emily donated her sleep mask), spun around, and invited to accessorize the Tsum Tsums.

Anyone who managed to stick anything anywhere without it falling off (we were extremely lenient with their accuracy, or the lack thereof) was declared a winner and given a medallion

We made ours out of salt dough and hand-painted them.

Next, we played a Tsum Tsum Bingo game. This was a surprise game i.e. none of my own kids even knew about it - I figured that after planning the entire party themselves, Kate (and her sisters) should at least have something left as a secret surprise thing to enjoy on the day itself.

I've made Bingo cards myself in the past, but not these. These I bought as a pdf file on Etsy and printed them out at a copy shop. 

We provided Skittles as tokens, and Grandma called out the Tsum Tsums for the kids to match them against their game cards. I always like Bingo because it's one of those games that can be played by kids of any age, and especially by a group of multi-age kids. Also, everyone plays simultaneously, which is better than waiting in line for turns. And the kids could eat their own tokens. Win-win all round.

We handed out candy tubes as prizes.

Kate and I made a boxful.

The third game was a treasure hunt. This is traditional. There's something about hunting for things that appeals to kids. These were the loot - Tsum Tsum softies made from socks -

which we hid around the yard

The mechanics of the treasure hunt were planned by Kate. She designed these wanted cards based on a game she'd played at school with her teacher,

then assigned each guest a particular Tsum Tsum, a task she deliberated long and hard over, because she really wanted everyone to like the one they got.

The guests were given their cards, and sent off to search for their toy.

We are happy to report that everyone was very pleased with what Kate picked for them.

The final activity was a no-fuss craft.
I sewed these simple flat zippered pouches.

One side was some Tsum Tsum cotton I found on Etsy,

and the other side was plain canvas. Emily and I drew a Tsum Tsum face on this side,

We slipped a piece of thin cardboard (we cut up cereal boxes) inside each pouch, to prevent the ink from seeping through to the front side,

set out fabric markers,

and let the guests pick one to color and personalize. We offered free block-letter-name-drawing services for anyone who wanted it, 

so they could color in their name as well.

Some drew their own names.

And everyone colored until their parents came to pick them up to head home.

We had a wonderful day, and I am thrilled at how much more the birthday kid owns her party with each passing year, doing everything from the conceptualizing, planning and scheduling to the actual prep work. And they take turns to help out at each other's parties, too, which is beyond fabulous for me.

Emily, who'll be turning twelve this September, is executing her own party. Yes, you read that right; I am barely involved. It is bittersweet - and wholly thrilling - not to be needed the way I once was. She's doing all the prep work and recruiting her own helpers. And if you think the parties I've planned are uh. . . shall we say . . . detailed, wait till you see hers. I can't wait to share that with you in the fall.

In the meantime, I am excited to share posts of the individual elements for Kate's Tsum Tsum party - the games, the candy tubes, the pencil cases and the Tsum Tsum softies, along with my resources and links. And I'll update this main party post with links to those posts, as they go live. Check back soon!