Safari Birthday Party: The day my house became a jungle

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I only get to post these once a year because my kids only have one birthday…makes sense right? My Gentleman turned 6 this year (well 2014) and he wanted a Safari birthday party…after having a Wild Kratts party last year because the kid loves animals. I immediately started thinking of all kinds of things that would be awesome for a Safari themed party…and then had to tone it down or figure out how to do it myself.

After doing the Wild Kratts birthday the year before I wasn’t sure I could top it. I’ve always thrown the kids parties because it usually ends up either cheaper than going somewhere for a party or as much but you get more out of it. My parties always have cupcakes and cake pops, treat bags with themed toys and a little but not lot of candy, a game or 2-3 crafts or activities for kids to do and then of course presents.

gentleman birthday party (11) copyI guess I go over the top for the kids parties…it’s what I do so when my son chose Safari as his theme I really didn’t think anything other than turning my garage into a jungle would work. I mean how awesome would it be for kids to go on an actual Safari…minus the real animals of course.

As I tried to figure out the best and least expensive way to have large printed animals in my garage along with some stuffed ones I decided to work on crafts and treat bags. Oriental Trading was the first place I looked for treat bag fun and Amazon has some good deals on similar stuff. I also had some stuff left over from the Wild Kratts party the year before. I LOVE putting together treat bags.

I am not sure how much I spent but obviously you adjust and cut back and not include everything I did…like I said I go over board a bit. Plus I plan my parties literally 2-3 months in advance and start buying things then so the cost is split up between months.

2015-01-03 17.47.33 copyTreat Bags:

I used Paper Bags for the treat bags and found some animal print paper in bulk on Oriental Trading (a good deal and will last beyond this party!). We cut 3.25×3.25 inch squares out of the animal print and 3×3 inch out of a nice warm yellow card stock and glued it on top of the animal print. I have a Silhouette cutting machine so I’m spoiled..I also used to be a graphic designer so i can make things to cut out…again spoiled but handy during birthday season!

I found and edited shadows of animals and cut them out for the treat bags. I used Elephant and Giraffe only for the Treat Bags but I can’t remember which was the girl side and which was the boys side. Everything IN the Treat Bags except ONE item was the same with no gender difference…cause it’s easier and every kid loves toys and trinkets.

 I found animal puzzles, bookmarks, pencil and notebook kits with animal print, animal stickers and another set of notebooks but with animals on them. My favorite find was mini monkeys in a barrel! They were keychains and I actual mini monkeys in a barrel like the bigger game. I couldn’t pass them up. There were also tiny snakes in each treat bag and we made snake perler bead key-chains for everyone.

The key-chains were fun but took forever. My son wanted three colors for each snake and he wanted girls to have pink and white stripes and purple because his friends that are girls liked those colors he said but the boys needed red and black/white stripes for colors. He normally doesn’t do the boy color/girl color but I think this time had more to do with him wanting his friends to get things they liked…which makes sense and is adorable.

I’ll post the pattern for the snake soon in the Printables section.

gentleman birthday party (16) copyThe Decorations:

This is not the Safari…that is going to be separate but the decorations included vines all over our ceiling, the doorways covered in in streamers, and square silhouettes of various animals. Again I have that cutting machine I cut out animals large enough to fit on 8×8 inch squares.

The Wall Decor:

It sounds more fancy than it was…we cut the animal print paper into 8×8 inch squares and the yellow just slightly under that at 7.75 inches to leave a small border. Then I cut the animals to fit in there and glued it all together with glue stick and elmer’s glue.  I hung those around the living room and kitchen on the walls with painters tape (rolled on the back so you don’t see it) and it worked great!

You can get the papers from craft stores and Oriental Trading but if you don’t have a cutting machine you could find stencils and paint them on with a little roller. You also might find or use stickers of animals or printed pictures from the internet. You COULD cut them to shape or cut them in squares to make it easier. Plenty of options!

gentleman birthday party (9) copyThe Vines:

I found  a few ways to make paper vines online and they all mentioned cheap brown paper and twisting a lot of it. I went to the Dollar Tree and grabbed about 5 rolls of their brown paper rolls in the envelope section for $1 each. I noticed they had decorative vines with green somewhat jungle vine looking leaves so I grabbed 3 of those too for $1 each again.

To give you an estimate 1 roll will give you about 3 vines. Simply cut the roll into three sections and start twisting them. We started at a slight angle and used a hot glue gun to keep some of the twists together more and also to add on a leaf every so often. We made 9 sets of vines for the ceiling in the living room and kitchen and used a couple for the Safari jungle too.

gentleman birthday party (12) copyThe Door Streamers:

These were fun and the Dollar Tree had them in dark green and brown so I grabbed 3 of each color. They have the 2 packs of 72.5 ft…more than enough and again at that $1 each price tag. You will also need a cardboard box to slice up.

Measure the width of the door frame you are wanting to cover and cut the cardboard to the outside measurement and about an inch and a half tall. Take the roll of streamer and starting at the top of the door frame unroll it until the end reaches the bottom and maybe a little longer just in case, then cut it. Take that piece and cut strips out of the green and brown to the same length using the first strip as the measure.

Then get your hot glue gun and on one side glue the brown and flip it over and glue a green right “next” to the brown. Flip back and glue another brown on the brown side and flip again and do the same with the green side. Keep going until the cardboard strip is covered and then tack it up in front of your door frame. Or nail it or tape it…but you’ll want a bit of tape as it gets heavy. I put one in the door from the living room to the kitchen and another in the entry way to the garage which was where the Safari was.

gentleman birthday party (17) copyCake Pops and Cupcakes:

I always make cake pops. Always. This time I made the usual fun fetti mixed with chocolate frosting and dipped them in orange. I then decorated then as best as I could with chocolate to look like tiger stripes. The cupcakes were easy too. Fun fetti cake mix, chocolate frosting with green tufts of “grass” frosting and topped with plastic snakes. I don’t think I had any of any of them left afterwards.


I stopped doing food when my parties starting getting bigger but we do supply snacks. We had pretzel sticks for twigs, ants on a log (peanut butter on celery with raisens), fruit tray and veggie tray both of which we actually bought fruit and veggies and cut up ourselves. Cheaper than buying a tray of them! We also of course had animal crackers! Juice, water and soda were the drinks.

gentleman birthday party (6) copyThe Crafts:

I knew the Safari would take a bit but not too long and we wanted to wait for everyone to get there as much as we could so I needed something for the kids to do first. I came up with three things and had Wild Kratts playing on the tv.

Face Painting: My sister-in-law did an amazing job at face painting! I bought a set of the big kit face paints from Michael’s with a 50% off coupon. I actually did it twice just in case but one was enough it turned out. She looked online to do some of the animals which turned out seriously amazing. She even did a special Blue’s Clue’s face paint for a kid and an elephant on her daughter’s face.

Paint your own frogs: I bought these white plastic frogs from Oriental Trading that kids could paint. I didn’t want to give kids a bunch of permanent markers so I used tempera paint but that flaked off…the kids didn’t care though but I guess it is best to use acrylic paint.

 Rain shakers: A friend helped turn toilet paper tolls into rain sticks but trimming them in such a way they connect in the middle and then closed on the top and bottom. The trick was to cut and fold it on the top of two and then cut and interlock them both in the middle.

I used animal print duct tape (also at craft stores and of course I used coupons) to tape them around the middle and at the top and bottom. Once I taped one side and the middle I put in about 2-3 tablespoons of rice (the cheapest rice I could find) and then closed up the other side.

For the party I laid out the shakers and feathers, gems, sequins, tissue paper glue, animal print paper and scissors that had fun edges. The kids had a blast making them!

gentleman birthday party (41) copyThe Safari:

First what person goes on Safari without a hat and binoculars? No adventurer would and neither would these kids. I found an amazing deal on straw safari hats WITH black binoculars for like $1.88 each SET. Not sure if it is around again or not but I found it on Amazon so I got enough (well a few extra) for kids coming to the party…there were a lot.

Safari Bags: My husband made satchels for the kids with a shoulder bag type patter with a flap to close that was about 5×7 inch in size and went happily over the kids head and shoulder. Strings were everywhere from the fabric but the kids didn’t mind and the fabric was on sale or I used a coupon…can’t remember but JoAnns has good deals on the cheap fabric!

Inside each bag was a random crayon and a printed check book. Each animal in the Safari was shown but the real life versions photo with a check box next to it. The kids were supposed to take pictures of each animal and check it off when they did. In the back was also a little color page and a few questions. How many spiders and frogs did you see and what color was the anaconda?

I made those buy setting up the files using Illustrator and printing on regular paper and stapling them together. They had a decorative cover too cause I’m….me.

gentleman birthday party (69) copyCameras: One thing my cutting machine and I did was spend quality time making Cameras for the Safari. Paper cameras with lids to put “pictures” of the Safari animals with facts for each on the back inside. I HAD to have animal facts…fun IS learning and I’m always going to slip in education when I can. There is a template on Silhouette that you can buy for $1 and then using various nature colored papers we cut out and glued together a LOT of paper cameras. So worth it though.

Pictures: I took pictures from a kids point of view with MY camera and then printed them on card stock like cards. On the back I had a picture of the real life animal, its name, where it lived, if it was endangered or not and a few other fun facts. Those were pretty popular too. They got them AFTER the Safari and showed me their checkbook that they took pictures of all the animals.

These cards were there printed pictures and a huge hit. So glad I did it but again costs here were card stock paper (white) and ink…so much ink is involved in DIY stuff! You can find all the information about various animals online on sites like National Geographic and even Wikipedia.

gentleman birthday party (79) copyThe Animals: I decided that a few stuffed animals were ok but we didn’t have half of the animals he wanted. He likes the odd animals like Tarsier, Okapi, and Sloth Bear. I priced giant cut outs of animals but the “life-size” cardboard cutouts were NOT life sized…no adult is close to as tall as a giraffe let alone taller than one.

Local print shops and sign companies who handled larger prints were reasonable but out of my price comfort zone. If I was just doing a couple I would have had them printed but I had some card stock print paper and figured it would be cheaper to do it myself.

This was the most expensive part of the whole party because I had to buy ink twice…though that was partially due to printing TWO of the largest animal we printed. Oops…I learned several lessons while printing these animals. Test colors of all animals on one paper smaller until you get them right and set up files before you start printing ANYTHING was lesson #1.

gentleman birthday party (76) copyLet me explain. I decided to find pictures of the animals my son chose online in large formats, use Photoshop to cut them out and set them up to print life-ish sized. We would then spend hours of our life sitting and putting together the puzzle with glue and tape, mostly tape, while cutting it out so there was no background. Tedious, cheaper and a HUGE pain in the butt! Again…so worth it though.

Lesson #2 would have to be print BORDERLESS…I use photoshop which set up the print as borderless but the printer wasn’t. For all the animals. Which meant when we lined them up the edges there was a thin white gap where print should have been. I was ready to quit and used stuffed animals at this point…we printed everything put it all together and were about to start cutting the edges off and now this?!?! I was done…my husband not so much.

His mind works opposite of mine so he immediately started working on the files himself (he knows a bit of photoshop from being a web developer) and literally found, measured, setup and printed the strips we were missing. Every. Single. One. I think he even had fun lining them up and figuring them out. After all that we set up the Jungle.

gentleman birthday party (56) copyWell he and a friend mostly did while I worked on the last bits of everything else. After clearing and cleaning the garage middle area they wrapped the refrigerator we had out there in a leaf background paper we found at the United Arts and Education store. Huge rolls of jungle leaf background and on sale for $4 ish per roll. We bought a few to line the garage with.

The Dollar Tree with their famous price was where we found green table cloths we needed for the tree canopy. It was the only way I could figure to encase the jungle while blocking out the “real” world of our garage. Plus it worked as a background when we didn’t have enough of the leaf background. It took a few to cover the ceiling but the effect was amazing and we didn’t have them hang down or drape too much.

They made a tree using cardboard boxes stacked and taped together in a sort of circle/triangle shape then wrapped loosely in the brown paper. Using extra cardboard box pieces they created a giant limb and wrapped that as well. A parrot sat on the limb and a monkey hung from it.

gentleman birthday party (70) copyThere were a couple other trees using just paper and some creating paper poofing and a spray adhesive. He cut out giant jungle leaves from green construction paper and glue them all around too. Randomly on the canopy and on the walls where “branches” were around or near vines. There was even a blue felt pond (had from a previous project) and a crocodile lurking beneath the water. I stuck him between the blue so it looked like he was peeking out of the water.

We put up stuffed birds, spiders, lizards and plastic insects, spiders and frogs. The printed animals were an Orangutan (hanging so his hand was hidden and it was as huge a print as it could have been), a Tapir (carefully printed at a certain angle to reduce printing), a couple of birds for the ceiling with another to perch on a branch along the wall.

Giant bats hanging from a tree, a leopard sitting behind a stump, and Ocelot on a tree branch, a couple Tarsiers in the trees, a Sloth Bear and an Okapi which was the biggest animal we printed…twice. We did carefully print it with no legs and then put “grass” over the animal so it was hidden a bit.

gentleman birthday party (40) copyIt turned out amazing and was so worth it but like I said we learned a few things. Kids and adults were in awe and my husband was directing the “tour” giving information about each animal that most kids hadn’t heard of. I loved that too but even more since it was the Gentleman’s idea for them.

This might have cost a lot more than I wanted or if I had just gone to Chuck E Cheese but I believe it was worth it in the end. The kids had a blast and my son still talks about it. It also may have been my last home party for him as he wants to start going to places for his birthday.

You can use just stuffed animals or purchase the cardboard cutouts or even use blow up animals that they have on Oriental Trading. This type of party requires kids use their imagination so anything will work. If I had an artist nearby I would have bought a roll of white paper and paid them to draw animals…well it was a thought I had anyway. You could line your garage or a room with cardboard and paint a mural of a jungle with animals peeking out and around too.

No matter how you throw your Safari party Imagination and fun are key and where the first is, there will almost always be the second. Send me pics of your Safari party!

Here is a gallery of our Safari Party.

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
~ Walt Disney

Author: sandyz