OBoy’s birthday bash {the in-real-life one}: construction themed kid’s birthday party on a budget

We decided that since so much of OBoy’s second year of life had been filled with tools, work permits, and helping DanO with the upstairs remodel (not to mention a few dozen trips to the hardware store), a construction-themed party was quite fitting.

And speaking of the upstairs remodel ($$$), did I mention this party was on an itty bitty teeny tiny budget? ‘Cuz it was. So much so that all decorations were free (and by ‘all’ I mean both of them).



See my really, really fancy decorations? There were a couple of these taped up around the house, and one on the front door that said “Caution: Birthday Zone”. Hardy har har… I know. I also used these signs to label the different playing ‘stations’.

How to make construction-themed birthday party signs: 


A printer

Painter’s tape

A “stencil” font such as “PortagoITC TT” which came installed on my Mac or download this free one.


In a word document, make signs with a large font size – I think mine was in the 200s – with phrases such as “Happy Birthday!” “Caution: Birthday Zone!” “Hard hats required past this point” and “{Birthday boy’s name} is {age}!”

Print the signs and hang with painter’s tape. The blue painter’s tape is awesome for 3 reasons: 1) it’s easy to remove b) we happened to have some laying around III) it fits the theme and (and the color) of the party.


My mantle, complete with a paint-chip bunting flag, befitting the remodel theme (and also free, made with color scheme paint chips we had from the remodel).

How to make a paint chip bunting flag:


Left over paint chips, either monochromatic or “color scapes” as shown here

Yarn, ribbon, or thick string such as twine

Scotch tape


Measure the distance you would like the banner to span, then times it by 1.75. Cut your ribbon to that length.

Cut paint chips into isosceles triangles. Take a moment to acknowledge the fact that you just used something you learned in high school geometry.

Tape the triangles onto your yarn or ribbon, leaving about a foot of length on the end for hanging. Space the corners out from each other about 1/4 to 1/2 inch to leave room for “swagging” – whatever looks right with your size of triangles. Continue cutting and taping triangles until you have your desired length, again leaving about a foot of length on the end for hanging.



The party was from 2:00 to 4:00 (after nap and well before bedtime – intentional) so a meal wasn’t necessary, but nobody likes a party without food, either.


We served finger sandwiches (ham & cheese, chicken salad, and “sunflower butter” & jelly – two kiddos in attendance had peanut allergies), fruit salad, a veggie tray, pretzels, Izze sodas, water, juice, and cupcakes.

Most of the food came from Costco. The cupcakes and their frosting were boxed mix/store bought because cupcakes from scratch are against my religion. (Against my religion to make, not to eat. It is very much within my religion to eat cupcakes from scratch, provided they were made by someone else.)

The cupcake toppers are yellow construction hats. I wish I had taken a better picture of them – they were perfect and CHEAP. Ordered from here for less than $4 for a set of 12. On the table there were tool shape cut-outs of paint chips (there they are again!).

O, and cookies.


These came cheap to me because of our awesome house guest – Ms. Ryley of That’s My Cake!. Can you believe that she and her kiddo flew out from Utah for OBoy’s party? She happens to have mad cookie making and decorating skills so these were like, professional grade cookies.

For a while there it was touch and go because the humidity was so ridiculous (as in more humid than the average day in the Amazon Rainforest. Fact.) so the frosting wasn’t hardening, but I think they turned out fabulously. We sent them home as favors and also had some out on the table.

The cookie cutters are from here and were $7 for a set of 5 – screwdriver, saw, wrench, pliers, hammer. After watching Ryley make these sugar cookies with flooded royal icing, well, I think I could *maybe* do it on my own. They wouldn’t look as great, that’s for sure. I also may have taken an easier way out and done regular frosting, because I’m a wuss.


Around the house there were three areas for kids to play. This is where the penny pinching really came in handy. OBoy’s birthday present was this hardware store workbench complete with a cash register:


stole bought it (and most of the tools you see on it) for $10 from a second-hand kids store.

TEN DOLLARS. As in 3 grande chai lattes. SO CHEAP.

{{Thank you, thank you! Here’s my back… would you like to pat it?}}

The store is Once Upon a Child. They are nation wide.  Do you have one in your area? Because if you do you need to go there for things like big play equipment, booster seats, winter boots, and some seriously good prices on clothes. But this is not about Once Upon a Child. This is about OBoy’s birthday.

The hardware store/workbench was not only a birthday gift, it was a ‘station’ at the party.


Do you see that adorable boy in an adorable yellow construction hat and Home Depot tool belt? We had those for every (child) guest and… wait for it… those were cheap too!

The tool belts were literally ¢77 a piece purchased at Home Depot, and I ordered the hats from here for $4.50 for a set of 12.

The next 2 play stations were 100% free to me.


The living room ottomans were moved aside and the main space of the room became a cardboard block building (and demolishing!) site. I had been collecting medium and small sized cardboard boxes for a couple of months with this play station in mind. They were assorted sizes and would have worked fine… but we found something even better the day before the party.

Remember how DanO’s younger brother got married in early July? Well, they got dishes – lots and LOTS of dishes – as wedding gifts and they all came in identical boxes.


We had 24 identical boxes that we reconstructed inside-out so that it was more of a tower building station and less of a Fiestaware ad. (Also? My brother and sister in law have 24 sets of Fiestaware. Holy dish envy, Batman. But hey! Sweet boxes for me!)


These boxes live, to this day, in our playroom. I have dreams of going nuts painting them with OBoy someday. Wouldn’t that be fun?

The third play area was the playroom which has a train table in the middle of it. Some days it has train tracks set up, others it’s duplos, but for the party it was an “Earth Movers” station.


We put out all of the trucks and cars OBoy owns and dumped packing peanuts (that came in one of those boxes I was saving) onto the table.

Then we set the kids free.

Be free, kids.


Sure, most of the peanuts were on the ground by the end of the party, and that was with a pick-up session or two, but the mess was minimal and the table was a capital h Huge hit. Apparently the chatty phone got in on the action, too.


The Earth Movers table was a hit. The Build Site was a hit. The Hardware Store was a hit.

The party was a hit.

So much fun and laughter, creativity and energy.

I love this age.



24 Responses to “OBoy’s birthday bash {the in-real-life one}: construction themed kid’s birthday party on a budget”

  1. Ashley

    What a great party. I love it and no shame in saving money. Btw cardboard supposedly attracts cockroaches. Just wanted to let you know. :)

  2. Kelly @ Love Well

    I am so sad I missed this party.


    See? Big sad frown.

    But I have to tell you my favorite Menard’s story, because the tool bench reminded me. When we had just moved back to Minnesota, and rediscovered the nerdy joy that is a Menard’s commercial, Natalie (then 2) would dance around the house singing the jingle (at least as she understood it): “Save Big Mommy At May-Nards!”

    I was pregnant at the time, but still. Sheesh. I didn’t think I was THAT big, nor did I think I needed saving.

  3. Mo

    Great party idea!!! The “earth movers” station, that’s just brilliant! What a great way to use what you have, yet in a totally fun new way, and theme appropriate!

    • AllisonO

      Thanks! I think I was honing my former preschool teacher self. We did all sorts of variations on water tables where I used to work. Packing peanuts was new, though!

  4. Jessica Duell

    Such a cute idea. We did a pirate themed party recently for my littlest’s first birthday party. I love all the little stations. I can never think of good ‘game’ ideas for little kid’s parties. Now I have some THANKS

  5. Laura

    So cute! If we ever have boys, I will have to keep these ideas in mind. Lovely, creative party.

  6. Rashell

    My baby is turning two soon (sniff, sniff) so I may be using some of your awesome (cheap!) ideas for his party. Thanks in advance!

  7. Laura P

    Such a fun and creative birthday party idea! Oh and I think I might need to get those cookie cutters now. My son (4) would love it if I made tool cookies. Not that mine would look anything like those pictured above but still. :)

    • AllisonO

      It was so precious with OBoy would label the tools/cookies. “Hammer cookie!” “Saw!”

  8. Annie

    WOW. Seriously. So creative and fun…and not very expensive. Impressive. Thanks for the inspiration and ideas (and I LOVE the exact instructions!!)

  9. Angie S.

    I have a little boy that is turning 2 in October. I may have to steal a few of your ideas for our party.

  10. Chrissy.B

    Amazing use of things you already had. Love the stations idea, great way to keep everyone occupied and happy. Thanks for the links for the cookie cutters and little hard hats.

  11. Ashlee

    Wow I’m so impressed! The party looks like it was so fun and everything is adorable, not to mention you didn’t have to spend a fortune!

  12. Mae

    Love the party, it looked like a blast. Also Once Upon A Child rocks my world. I go a few times a year and stock up (It’s a bit of a hike for me so not a feasible stop much more often) and it saves us a ton of cash. That digger table is genius. GENIUS.


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