The boys have been camping since they were babies, so campfires, s’mores, and lake swims are just the norm for them. I have wanted to celebrate both camping and my summer birthday boy together in a themed birthday party. And this is the year! My youngest turns five… and I’ll save my tears about that for a later post! But now, here’s how we threw together this simple and rustic camping birthday party theme.
Camping themed birthday party decor
I definitely scaled back for this birthday party – I’ve realized over the years that while I love party prepping and decor, trying to go too big made the special day too busy and a little stressful. So, I decided to only decorate the cake and dessert table this year. The boys are older, they are more interested in running around with their cousins than all the cutesy decorations anyway. So I thought, let’s just go big at the cake table, for a nice backdrop for photos!
My thought was to simply evoke the concepts of camping with the decor. The result ended up being a little less “kid-ish” than I had intended…. but all the grown ups enjoyed the look! And my five-year old? He didn’t care as long as he got cake and ice cream! That’s how he rolls.
I used a lot of reds, browns, burlap and galvanized metal for the decor. A pair of creamy, gauzy curtains became my tablecloth, to give a mosquito-netting feel. I used a woodsy-colored strip of plaid fabric for a runner (just pick up a 1/4 or 1/2 yard from the fabric store!). The extra fabric, I tied around the other decor items, and wrapped around the trail mix tins using twine. A crate box and galvanized tin tiered stand added height for decor and treats.
Most of my themed decor I got from my sponsor, Oriental Trading, and I just want to take a moment to share why I love getting my party decor from them. First, it’s easy to stay on a budget when you shop Oriental Trading – I just add and remove items from my cart until I get within my range. And, searching for colors or item keywords helps me find new decor ideas that I might not have thought of just by browsing a store. I always check in my cart to see the thumbnail images and make sure what I’m purchasing “goes” together as well. Getting decor from Oriental Trading saves me time too, since I don’t have to run around to various stores! Now… on to more decor ideas!!
Don’t you love the red metal lanterns? I love how they really gave the table a POP of color (see the runner fabric tied on to bring it all together!?). Plus, one thing I try to do with each party decor is make sure what I use can be versatile for other holidays – these will be amazing at Christmas and Valentine’s too!
Adding in a wood round centerpiece under the cake and a birch pillar with bark brought that in-the-woods feeling to the table. The burlap balls string lights were for later in the evening, although it ended up being light for so long we didn’t turn them on!For the backdrop, I used a burlap square pennant garland, and layered cream-colored tags over the front of each square. On these tags, I traced and colored lettering for the birthday boy! Little bits of the runner fabric are also tied between each pennant to add color and texture. This banner looked so awesome fluttering in the summer breeze! Creating party banners is seriously my favorite part of party prep!
I framed the banner with two burlap print light-up hanging paper lanterns – because I just adore paper lanterns at a party! The third lantern filled a bare spot on the table as well. It’s always handy to have paper lanterns to add dimension to a party table!
Camping birthday party – S’mores cake and desserts!
I used the recipe idea here to make my S’mores cake. Some changes I made were to alternate vanilla and chocolate cake layers, and to use organic boxed cake mix to make my life way easier!
Stacking four layers of cake is no joke, and when I started spreading the marshmallow fluff (yes, you can get organic fluff!), it dribbled down the layers so much I started to panic. But after a few minutes it does sort of “set” and stop sliding! The chocolate ganache topping was amazing, and with graham cracker crumbles in each layer and on top, it really did evoke the feeling of a s’mores!
The dessert table also had “Gone Fishin'” trail mix (pretzel rod fishing sticks, popcorn bobbers, nuts and berries, and a Wholesome Delish Fish on top!). And I made Chocolate Dipped Fishing Rods (pretzel sticks dipped in chocolate with a Delish Fish on top!).
We also had a small fire going in our fire pit, and the kids all got to roast marshmallows after dinner as well! Oh and… party t-shirts!! Gotta have them every year. This year I used stencils and fabric paint to create these “Happy Camper” shirts. I really like how they came out and other than being nervous about stenciling, it was very easy!
Camping birthday party food ideas
This was seriously the easiest food I’ve ever done for a party! Camping food is SO simple, you almost can’t go wrong! Here’s our menu:
- Hot dogs on skewers – to mimic hot dogs cooked over the fire
- Oven-baked potatoes – I used smaller sized ones and they were just perfect for little kids! and grown ups just took two!
- Beef Chili – Guests could eat this as a soup, over their potato, or over their hot dog! Win-win-win!
- Garden salad
- Locally bottled root beer and birch beer
- Cheese puffs – we don’t usually eat these but I loved the idea I saw on Pinterest to use them as “flames” so I set out a bowl for fun!
I didn’t do as many games and activities as I used to for birthday parties. The kids are old enough to make their own fun. But we did enjoy this magnetic Gone Fishing game where the kids all got to “fish” for their bag of Delish Fish treats – check out the entire tutorial here.
And so our camping party is over, but we have some really great memories of our little boy turning five. So big! It was really exciting to plan and prep this birthday party, and also keeping it simple helped me enjoy the day more too!
Can’t wait for our real family camping trip coming up soon! I’ll be telling you all about it!
What kinds of birthday themes have you done? Ever done a camping party before? Tell me about it!!
Thanks to Oriental Trading for supplying me with items to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.