Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Creating a Wind in the Willows Birthday Party

It's been a while since we had a fun DIY'd birthday party to share and heaven knows we all could use more celebratory fun this year, so without further ado, here's our  
Wind in the Willows Birthday Party!
Our party theme was inspired by the stop motion animation Wind in the Willows film & tv series by Cosgrove Hall from the 1980s.  Both are based on the classic children's book of the same name by Kenneth Grahame.  We discovered this enchanting series at our local library when my bigger kids were small and fell in the love with it.  We bought all of them on dvd and the book & have been enjoying them ever since. 
This is one of the first shows we've let our little guy watch and he LOVES the characters Ratty, Mole, Badger and, most especially, the silly & outgoing Toad.  Since we haven't been able to do many things he enjoys out & about in the past year, thanks to the craziness of the outside world, bringing the imaginary world of Wind in the Willows to life seemed ideal for his 3rd birthday.
We are huge fans of the talents of Cosgrove Hall, so I want to be clear that everything I put together was for our personal use only.
I started by making a little digital invitation using the cover of one of the dvds & iPiccy:

Since there were no manufactured party supplies even remotely close in theme, I had to really put my thinking cap on to pull a design together.  

I found some forest path design plastic tablecloths on Amazon, which gave the perfect "Wild Wood" vibe.  As did some log print paper plates.  A wicker picnic basket we had in a closet came in handy as a party prop since picnic hampers are featured heavily in many of the adventures the animals go on:

I used some plastic grass sheets and a moss covered basket (from Hobby Lobby and Michaels) to add some dimension & texture to our party table.
I also found a few high quality still images from the show online.  I printed those on card stock and laminated them to make some character themed party decor.  Laminating them meant my little guy could keep them after for playtime, which he has really enjoyed.  
I lucked out big time when I remembered we had a plastic motorcar from a Victorian-themed Playmobil set and that it was green, so it looked just like Toad's.  Boop-boop!

Years ago I'd found a used Wind in the Willows board game on eBay and it came with these charming wooden game pieces.  They were great decorating additions too:

Our favorite local bakery, Sorella's, came through in creating this incredible cake, with an edible image of the beloved characters:

 My little guy's face lit up when he saw his favorite friends on it.  Of course he wanted Toad to be on his piece.  And then he insisted on trying Mole.  Everyone else loved eating up the buttercream leaves:

 This shirt was another one of my 11th hour craft brainwaves.  The idea only occurred to me the evening before his party.  I drew the Toad design and scanned it to make into a cut file to use with some heat transfer vinyl.  I whipped it together in next to no time and was feeling pretty pleased the morning of the party....

Semper Bufo is Latin for "Always Toad" which is Toad's motto.  I thought that would be fun on a shirt so he could wear his favorite character.  Except in my rush to make it I didn't think to do a spell check and the transfer I originally made said "Buffo", which my husband noticed was wrong as I was setting up the table.  Doh!!  I knew no one else in our family - especially my 3yr old - would even know that, but I couldn't leave it.  I had just enough black HTV left (and a single blank shirt in my stash), so a couple hours before the party I did a correct version.  Phew!

The one thing party thing I was most unsure about, but ultimately most pleased with, was my handmade Toad pillow.  There was no plush toy anywhere that resembled his beloved Cosgrove Hall Toad, so I spent some time looking at still images like these:


 Then drawing & drafting a pattern to create this version of Toad using materials I had on hand - some snake-skin print & solid chartreuse fleece fabric, a bit of faux leather and black felt:


I'm not the greatest illustrator, but I feel like he came out pretty well given I scrounged my stash to make him.  It was either a miracle from above or a sign my stash is out of control.  I may even share how I made him in a future tutorial.  To go full on Wind in the Willows, I snagged a few used picture books, circa the '80s, on eBay, so all his presents from us would be in theme too.  


The tough part, as both a mom & crafter, was that my little guy was overwhelmed with all the big, bright and action-packed gifts he got from everyone else.  So during present opening time he didn't pay much attention to Mr. Toad, or the shirt.  After, when things were quiet (and he wasn't hepped-up on birthday cake), he was cuddling with him and asked to have Toad in his bed with his other favorite softies.  Since then Toad holds a special place next to his blankie and he frequently asks us to "make him talk" by saying Toad's key phrases with it.  He's worn his shirt a bunch of times too, so I know he really enjoys them, which makes all the work worth it.   

We had so much fun with the party that we left all the decorations out for him to play with for a couple of weeks.  I may even do an "open road" or "on the riverbank" WITW celebration with them outside when some big renovations to our backyard are completed for summer.  In the meantime we've got some wonderful photos to remind us of his special day and hopefully helps us recapture it again in the future:)


  1. Your toad pillow is amazing...excellent creation!

  2. What a wonderful birthday party theme! My now grown sons loved that book series and I've kept the books for future grandkids. My nickname is "queen of theme" and this is one I hadn't thought of before. Pinned!


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