July 30, 2015

Creating a Foam-tastic Birthday for Just $10


Cheesy title aside, this really is a cool way to do birthday decor and party favors. And cheap.

Did I mention cheap?

Because I can mention it again - CHEAP. And when I say cheap, I don't mean, "I only spent $150 on my son's party."

Stab me in the heart and watch the money bleed out. Seriously? Only? I don't even spend that much on presents. Well, not for birthdays. And certainly not for a six-year-old.

Every project today will cost you around $10. TOTAL. Not $10 each. For ALL THREE.

And two of them can be used again and again and again. Bonus!

Before we begin, gather your supplies.

  • Craft foam. I bought mine in a bulk package at Walmart for about $5. It came with foam in every color you could imagine in little half-sized sheets. Except white. If I hadn't already been to Walmart every single day this week, I would have gone back to get white. I mean, how in the world do you do Captain America without white?
  • Scissors
  • Ruler. Only if you're drawing your shapes rather than tracing.
  • Pencil. I use a mechanical pencil because I'm an office supply snob. Any pencil or pen will do.
  • Stencils or cookie cutters. Cookie cutters worked so well, it's ridiculous. I may never do another stencil again.
  • Craft glue. If you notice, none is pictured. That's because I didn't have any craft glue for these photos. Another trip to Walmart...
  • Yarn. Or string. Or paracord. Or any other stringing item. I had black yarn on hand for another project, so I just used that.
  • Round cord elastic. I bought mine at Walmart for $1.47 for 5 yards. They had beading elastic for fifty cents cheaper, but knowing this was for little boys, I opted for the more heavy duty stuff.
  • Big ole needle. I think mine is a super pointy yarn needle. It could even be a tapestry needle. As long as it's thick and can handle both the yarn and the elastic, it's good.
  • Wooden barbecue skewers.
  • Markers.
  • Something for inspiration. These projects are for a Marvel superhero party, so I grabbed a cup with said characters to borrow ideas from. Your inspiration could come from images you find online or your kid's favorite pj's. Whatever works.

Project #1 - a superhero birthday banner

Honestly, this doesn't have to be a superhero themed banner. It could be a princess theme or space cowboys or dinosaurs. Any shape will work. If you stink at drawing, print off a template to trace or use cookie cutters. Super easy.

Grab foam in your desired colors, ruler, scissors, and your pencil. If you're using a template for your shape, grab that as well.

I used a piece of pink foam to create a template for my superhero shield. The light color made it easy to see my lines.

Thinking back, it probably would have been easier and less time consuming to just print off a template. But I didn't think about that sort of thing until after I had already done the work.

I transferred the edge marks to my desired piece of foam.

And connected the dots, using my original pink template as a guide.

Then I cut it out, trying to keep my scraps as large as possible. To make the words "Happy Birthday", I used fourteen shields - one for each letter and the space in between. Because each piece of foam made three shields, I used five sheets.

I wanted a layered look, so I cut out another five sheets of shields and trimmed one shield down.

Using it as a template, I cut out mini shields.

Save those scraps! They'll come in handy later.

After a bit of trial and error, I matched up each mini shield with a larger shield, making sure no two were alike. On to the lettering!

Using the scraps I set aside.

In a brilliant moment of sheer genius, I grabbed my alphabet cookie cutters and pressed down on the cookie cutter to make an impression in the foam.

It's kind of hard to see, even in real life, but it saved me the hassle of trying to trace those suckers or even worse, freehand the lettering.

To keep things simple, I matched the letters to the background shield. You can mix it up, if you'd like. DO NOT GLUE YET!

I lined everything up to admire my handiwork. Because that's an essential step. Still, no glue yet.

Thread the big ole needle. I didn't cut the yarn since I didn't know how much my border would take and I didn't want to be short.

On the side you don't want showing, trace the top part of the mini shield onto the larger shield.

Using the big ole needle, poke holes in the corners where you want the yarn to go. Poke both before you thread the needle through so you know where the needle goes on the other side. Notice, it's right under where the mini shield sits. 

This is the front of the shield once I threaded it through.

Credit goes to my Handyman Husband for this idea. Yep, I married a freakin' genius.
Check out what happens when you put the mini shield and letter on top. The yarn disappears! Whoa...

Wait! Don't glue anything yet!

Thread all the shields onto the yarn. Then adjust their positions so they hang evenly.

The Y mini shield looks white in this picture. I assure you it was yellow.

And now...GLUE! Glue the letters onto the mini shields and the mini shields onto the larger shields. The glue will keep the shields in place. Let it dry before hanging. Snip off the extra yarn and hang in a doorway, on a wall, or on your front porch.

Done! The best part about this project is being able to use it year after year. Just store in a gallon-sized bag when you're not using it.

Project #2 - masks

No superhero party is complete without masks. You can also make crowns or other theme-related items using the same technique. Your only limit is your imagination.

I once again grabbed a piece of pink craft foam to create a template. My first attempt turned out a little small, so I upsized it to get the right fit.

Templates are for tracing. Due to the size of my mask, I was only able to get two masks per sheet. Save those scraps!

At this point, you can stop so the kids can decorate their own masks with markers, stickers, or whatever else you have on hand. Once you put the elastic on, it gets a little more difficult. I like being able to size it on each child since there are those with normal 50th percentile heads and then there are my kids with 75th or 90th percentile noggins. 

Big brains, I say. Just right for mischief-making. (Heaven help me...)

Using the big ole needle threaded with elastic, poke a hole in one side of the mask. Fold the mask in half and poke all the way through to the other side.

Pull it through.

Knot one side and size it to the pint-sized superhero's head. Snip and knot the other side.

If you want to get all fancy, use the scraps to add superhero designs.

Done! These work well both for an activity and a super cheap party favor the kids will love.

Project #3 - cupcake toppers

My dear, sweet child told me he desperately wanted the Marvel Superhero cupcake rings for his cake. I searched online and about had a heart attack at the price asked for twelve pieces of plastic with stickers on them. Seriously, a buck apiece?


So I got creative. Since I already had all this fun stuff out, I decided to make my own.

Cookie cutters to the rescue once more! I cut out each desired letter.

I wanted the cake toppers to stand out a bit, so each one is superhero themed. This one is the Incredible Hulk. But Incredible Hulk R needed pants. So I traced the bottom half of the letter onto purple foam and cut it out.

It also needed a background. So I dug through my scrap pile and found a piece of black that would work.

At this point, I had an option. Leave the layered look, or cut the green R in half and use the green on top, purple on bottom. I left the layered look because it was easier.

Since I didn't have white foam, I got creative and used a silver permanent marker for Captain America's star.
Spiderman's webs are drawn on as well.

I did this with other letters as well. Kudos to anyone who can identify them all. (Especially since I have no idea what the B and I are. They just looked superhero-ish.)

You can spell out your kid's name (and use it year after year) or do a customized letter for each of your guests (another awesome party favor).

Cut out a second background square and sandwich the pointy end of a barbecue skewer between the two. Glue it all up and let it set.


Final step: Brag about your amazing crafting skills.

Or just let the finished product do the talking. I mean, who wouldn't be impressed? Pinterest-worthy party decorations for budget-friendly cost. 

Not that I'm overly proud about this or anything.

Nope. Not me.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to Walmart. Again. 

Dang craft glue...

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