Hay bales fit the theme at a cowboy party.

Decorations to Make for a Child's Cowboy Party

by Shelley Frost

Wanted: Rootin' tootin' custom party decor to set the stage for the junior cowpokes who will soon invade your home. You don't have to spend a fortune or settle for cookie-cutter decor from the party store. Lasso your creativity to whip up custom cowboy decorations worthy of a loud, "Yeehaw!"

1. Stage Setters

A few large showstoppers set the stage for a cowboy party. Square bales of hay scream, "Wild West." Plus, the hay doubles as seating when the little cowpokes tire from all of the entertainment. Keep the bales on low, level ground so no cowboys take a tumble. What would an Old West town be without a jail? Make your own from an empty appliance box with slits cut in it. Why stop with just a jail? Try making a whole town from the boxes. A little paint makes the boxes look like the old storefronts.

2. Wall Decor

Wanted posters transform the party venue into a wild west town, full of wanted cowboys. If you have access to photos of the party guests, make a poster for each child to hang on the wall. Generic photos or an image of the birthday cowboy also work for the posters. Old West signs spruce up the party space. Start with poster board or cardboard. Paint the sign to look like boards that are nailed together in the rustic Western style. Hang a sign near the food that says "Saloon" or "Watering Hole." The bathroom door is an ideal spot for an "Outhouse" sign.

3. Table Toppers

The tots won't sit for long, but cowboy centerpieces spread the theme to the tables. Red and blue are common colors for the cowboy party theme. A checkered tablecloth gives you a colorful and fitting base for your table display. Balloon centerpieces are popular, but a popped balloon is a major choking hazard for tots. Instead, use a mini hay bale -- often found at craft stores -- as the centerpiece. Decorate the bales with ribbon, raffia and bandannas. Another option is to make a miniature version of a Wild West town for the middle of the table. Use smaller boxes, like cereal containers, as the buildings. Cover the boxes with construction paper and decorate them as a saloon, bank, hotel and jailhouse.

4. Favors

A parting gift sends all the cowhands off with smiles. With a little creativity, the party favors double as decorations to add to the cowboy theme. Start with a bandanna for each guest. Arrange treats in the middle of the bandanna and tie the corners together to keep the toys inside. Ideas for treats include a sheriff's star pin, toy train, plastic horse toys or cowboy stickers. Watch out for tiny pieces on the favors that could present a choking hazard. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests using an empty paper towel or toilet paper tube to test small items. The toys should not fit through the tube. The safely wrapped favors stacked in a large basket or barrel create a rootin' tootin' party decoration.

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