How do you host an art-themed toddler party?


As a writer, the milestone I most looked forward to was D's first words. It was a sufficiently long wait that his pediatrician recommended checking his hearing. His ears were just fine. Turns out he just wasn't talking until he had something important to say. And that was all the colors. "Boo" (blue) came first, followed in short time by the rest of the rainbow. 

So when D's second birthday arrived, we knew we wanted to celebrate with color. 

My husband and I are both of the view that, until D is old enough to know what day it is, we'd rather put money into his college fund than into blowout birthday parties. For his first birthday, we had a simple but "splashy" party for three: bath toys and D's first lobster. Even with the fancy fare, the day cost us less than $100. But that type of party isn't totally compatible with cousins, parents, aunties, uncles, and grandparents who also wanted to mark the occasion. 

We had three main concerns about hosting a big party. First, we didn't want to buy loads of favors and decorations that young kids would eventually destroy or ignore. Second, we didn't want the kids and adults in separate rooms, as so often happens with large gatherings. Third, we wanted to actually enjoy the party, instead of spending our time bartending or cooking. 

All three of these issues were easily solved by our studio and gallery opening.

While the materials cost more than I initially planned to spend for a 2-year-old's birthday, nearly all of them were re-usable. The easels, along with the leftover paint, paper, canvases, brushes, crayons, and chalk, are part of our home studio. The aprons still get used for painting, but also for messy kitchen and garden projects. Even the cake stands (wooden palettes) will find use at home as actual palettes once D is better able to mix colors. We replaced traditional favors with aprons and guests' painted works. 

What made the idea really work was splitting the day into two parts: "studio" time, during which adults and kids painted together, and "gallery opening" time, when the kids showcased their work (taped on the garage walls or propped on tables to dry) for the adults. The theme also helped keep us out of the kitchen. In gallery opening fashion, everything served could be eaten off of a cocktail napkin, which made it easy for guests to roam with food in one hand and a drink in the other (champagne and sparkling juice). 

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