Get to Work! Max’s Construction Birthday Party

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So despite my best efforts, Max insisted on turning 4 a couple of weeks ago. His actual birthday, being on Tuesday, was a low-key family/local grandparent event at Chili's (birthday boy's request) and ice cream at Baskin Robbins.

It was a very Thomas birthday; his entire birthday gift list involved an ever-changing rotation of about a dozen specific train cars.

His party? Dump truck themed, but the gifts? All Thomas the Train ALL. THE. TIME.

I think we managed to get (or requested, so other people got for him) almost his entire list… he came away from this birthday with about 9 new train cars, and we're rapidly approaching more train than tracks!

I was kind of disappointed that he had to go to day care on his birthday, so we spread his gifts out over the course of the day; we got a selection of Thomas and Cars2 cars, so he got one when he woke up, one in the car on the way to day car, was supposed to get one at lunchtime (She forgot. Sigh.), one when I picked him up, and when we got home, before we went to dinner.

Spreading them out really made the whole day special, since he's on his own at day care (it's just him and his daycare provider; no other kids at the moment), and I really wanted him to have a special day, after all of the weeks he had spent counting down!

At the end of the night, because we're the dorks that we are, we had a mini family photo shoot, complete with free Toys R Us birthday balloon and my crazy fleece monkey pants!

So that was it for the actual day… the party, on the other hand, was a whole ‘nother thing!

He asked for a “dump truck party” several months ago; maybe around Christmas. Here are a bunch of photos… if you want more info, read below!

INVITATIONS:Not much to them, really… one of the shots from his birthday shoot, with the text overlaid. We actually just sent them out via email (I know, I know) to save on paper and postage.

(That's the logo in the bottom right corner)

DECORATIONS: I made a logo for “Max Porter Construction” that we used all over the place; I made stickers (using full-sheet labels and a circle punch) with the logo, and we stuck them all over the place… on the hard hats, the paper cups, turned them into cupcake decorations, gave them to those who wanted them… 3 sheets of labels full of 2″ round stickers goes a looooong way! LOL We used orange, grey and yellow streamers, and put our 500′ roll of CAUTION tape to good use, and we have astonishingly little of it left!

Signage: The front door had a “Welcome to Max Porter Construction World Headquarters! Let's Get to Work!”, our bedroom, which we'd set aside for breastfeeding mamas/napping infants, had a “Break Room” sign on it. The bathroom was labeled “Port-a-Potty” with a reminder to wash hands. I also created signs for each of the activity stations, and all of the food.

FOOD:The food was standard snacky fare, but we made sure everything had a theme-related name.

  • Wrecking Balls: Meatballs in Teriyaki Sauce
  • Lil' Bricks: Li'l Smokies Sausages in BBQ sauce
  • Paint Chips & Dip: Ruffles and Onion Dip, served from a plastic paint tray liner and paint tub
  • Tiles & Grout: Hummus and Wheat Thins
  • The Lumberyard: A tray of carrots and celery sticks
  • Keystones: Apple and orange wedges
  • Nuts & Bolts: Bowl of Chex Mix
  • Random bowl of Reeses Pieces because they matched the color scheme
  • Random bowl of chocolate rocks, those little chocolates that look kinda like pea gravel

For the cake, we had Funfetti cupcakes (Max's request) and I made a chocolate cake which we decorated with a backhoe and more chocolate rocks. For ice cream, we pre-scooped orange sherbet into sugar cones, which were then topped with a graham cracker. Freeze it all together and voila! It's a safety cone full of ice cream! (Note: letting the ice cream soften and then trying to use a Ziploc bag to pipe the ice cream mush into cones results in a massive, sticky mess. I don't recommend it!)

ACTIVITIES: I had planned a bunch of specific activities, but ended up letting the kids play with everything however they chose. It was easier for me, and I know they all had a blast!

  • Excavation Station: Basically a tub full of dry rice, with some buried plastic coins and digging implements. We originally had the rice in a shallower under-the-bed depth container, and it was a disaster, so we swapped it to a deeper one and put it on the ground instead of on a table. Worked out great!
  • Build Something: Sheets of styrofoam + golf tees + toy hammers = Preschooler GOLD! Max banged tees into the foam for almost an hour solid, in the morning before the party. My 2.5 year old niece spent almost that long too! Huge success and oddly satisfying to do!
  • Hardhats & Aprons: I'm always a fan of getting kids creating something, so I got these plastic hardhats and had a pile of stickers for them to decorate them with. Letters and happy faces and Disney characters… I cleaned out Max's sticker stash and he didn't even notice! I also premade little bows for those who wanted them (mostly the girls) because I found this really cute ribbon that looks like measuring tape. The aprons are plain canvas, from Home Depot for about 70¢ each. We then got the t-shirt transfer paper for dark fabric, and ironed the logo onto them, to cover the HD logo.
  • Chuck the Truck: I'll get into the story behind him in a minute, but the plan was for the kids to throw these foam hardhats (stress balls) into the squares in the back, in order to get a prize (a construction-themed rubber ducky or a Dollar Store dump truck toy) A lot of them *did* throw the hats into the squares, but with no rhyme or reason, or prizes. Everyone got prizes, everyone played. Win-win.
  • Obstacle Course: We had (again) planned the course out, but it wasn't really run as expected. No biggie! We had a sawhorse to go under, cones to slalom around, a collection of cardboard boxes to stack and a “road hazard” to jump over. (Read: construction tape strung between 2 cones) The kids pretty much did all of the obstacles, just not in order. Again, they had a blast!

Now the story behind Chuck: Chuck is what started this whole party! Max loves the show and the characters, so he asked for a “dump truck party” I took it upon myself to expand that into “construction.” Around Christmas, Jamie and I were at Fry's, and spotted this gigantic Chuck the Truck floor display… we knew we'd be moving soon, and that if it was meant to me, it would happen, so we didn't think anything else of. Fast-forward to the week after we moved. Jamie was at Fry's again, and asked his buddy who works there if they were going to be taking down the Chuck display soon (couldn't believe it was still there!) and his answer was, “Actually! It's coming down today! Did you want it?” So Jamie and I hauled ourselves (and our borrowed pick up truck) to Fry's to bring home this gigantic (Seriously. It FILLEd the back of a Toyota Tundra!) cardboard dump truck. We kept it HIDDEN from Max from late February until the morning of his party, under a tarp, in the backyard. Impressive, no? 🙂

So anyway, that's the story of Max's Construction birthday party! If you have any questions about anything, please leave me a comment!

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  1. WOW. That looks like one FUNTASTIC party. Max is a lucky guy. 😉

    You did a great job with the party – wish we had been able to make it!

  2. Liz, all I can say is that when Ed got home from the party, all he talked about was how impressed he was with your “crafty” skills and all the thought that had gone into the party. I’ve never heard him talk about a party like that. Clearly your mad skills impressed him! I’m so bummed I couldn’t be there for it. Clearly it wasn’t just fun for the littles ones!

  3. You do realize that you’re beginning to look like the next Martha Stewart. I can’t believe how totally amazing this is. I can’t wait to meet the big 4 year old in person this weekend.

  4. That Maz truck was quite the find!
    My son adores that show too, and I always wonder why Chuck’s parents stop filling his head with egotistical notions 😉

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