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!


  1. Kate certainly planned out a fabulous party! I'd have had fun there myself! :)

    1. That was such a nice party - the first parties of the summer always are, because we spend all spring working on it, which is something nice to do before it gets into the really good outdoor weather and we just want to be outside all day instead of making craft stuff indoors!

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you, Quinn! They're always so much fun to look back on in photos, and make the work worthwhile!

  3. What a fantastic party Kate planned! I surely wish I was one of your children's have the greatest parties ever! You are so talented and have passed it onto the next generation which is wonderful. Can't read the details and am really looking forward to Emily's party!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Sue! Emily's party prep is in full swing now, and I might have to do a fair bit of sewing for it after all. But otherwise, it's a lot of fun watching the kids run their own shows!

  4. Wonderful! Fantastic. I'm kind of envious at not being a friend of your family.

  5. What a wonderful party. I love that she loves planning them and thinks of her guests. Loads of fun and memories!

    1. Pam: Absolutely - the memories. They make the work worthwhile! And to see the birthday girl's face while she's planning is just the best part - all earnest and excited.

  6. Thank you for sharing your children's birthday parties. I do miss my kids' parties, even the near riot ones, and I am allowed to be a litle wistful for yours. So sweet, so KIND.

    Time goes by so swiftly.

    1. SJ Kurtz: Oh, time does. It's cruel, almost, that we aren't allowed to bottle it for a day when nobody wants parties anymore. And "near riot" just about sums things up, doesn't it?

  7. Great party! My son loves planning his parties and also the activities, to the minute! Love to see the pin the 'something' on 'something' game! That's our tradition, too. Each year the something's are made to match the party! Love it!

    1. I'm Feelin' Crafty: Yay! It's nice to know our family isn't alone in the Type-A, somewhat-OCD planning of birthday events. And isn't it so much easier to have a "template routine" to follow? It certainly is for us.

  8. What a fun party! My kids don't seem to be at all aware of Tsum Tsums, apart from occasionally looking at them in stores. Not sure if it hasn't made it to our part of the country or if it's a side effect of our local public school population being incredibly nerdy.

    Half of my family's birthdays take place the first week of August! I need to work out when Lily and Anna's parties will take place - will probably delay until after school has started for both of them.

  9. I am constantly amazed by you and your sweet girls!!

  10. I love so much your birthday parties!! This is the first time I hear of Tsum Tsums... maybe they are not very popular in Spain?, or maybe i'm a little alien... As always, what a wonderful party! I'm excited to know what's planning Emily!

    1. Lola: they started in Japan, so it's no wonder you've not heard of them. I wouldn't have heard of them, either, if my kids hadn't shown them to me in the store.


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