One of my two little guys is absolutely obsessed with firetrucks and firefighters. He wants to be a “firefighter/artist/builder” when he grows up (note that “firefighter” comes first!). At the military post we live near in Seoul, the birthday party location options are limited–there’s a bowling alley, Burger King, a small food court area at the hotel, and rooms with tables that can be rented at the community center. However, when I discovered that the fire station allows kiddos to have birthday parties there… Well, there was really no point in entertaining the idea of any other location!
Luckily, my boys are pretty easy-going, and it was fairly easy to convince the other boy that even though he doesn’t want to be a firefighter when he’s a Big Boy, we can have their party there. I booked the fire station more than 2 months in advance–I couldn’t run the risk of the place not being available–and I started planning. The only downside to the firehouse is that the space where the party can be held is very small, so I had to keep the guest list short and activities pretty low-key. Also, winters are COLD here in Korea, so everything needed to be indoors. On the bright side, the kids are allowed on the firetrucks, and they’re even allowed to try on REAL firefighter gear.
I scoured Pinterest for birthday card designs, and even though my husband thought I should just order pre-made ones and not create more work for myself… Well, I have trouble listening! I wanted a card (and ultimately a theme) that reflected the city of Seoul. I found the perfect silhouette of the city here (which can be purchased for very reasonable price), and got to work!
Once the invitation was designed… Then came everything else! Food and drink signs, a silhouette/backdrop, a birthday banner, and everything else! The only thing I didn’t do myself this year was the birthday cake because A) my oven here in Korea is about 1/4 the size of an American oven and I nearly lost my mind last year baking everything for my daughter’s first birthday party, and B) my boys picked out a cake that was far, far beyond my skill set! Luckily, the amazing baker behind Cooks Cakes created a cake and cupcakes that not only looked amazing, but were so, so tasty! Unfortunately, she’s leaving Korea soon, but hopefully, she will be whipping up wonderful things for clients at her next destination!
One of the things I purchased rather than making myself for this DIY party were printable photo props from PaperBuiltShop on Etsy. (I highly recommend them! They have lots of super-cute printables including invitations, banners, party packages, and of course, photo props.) The digital file comes with detailed instructions for printing at home or at a professional print shop if you prefer. I printed mine at home on card stock (only because I wasn’t able to get high-quality matte photo paper on short notice), then laminated them before hot gluing them onto bamboo skewers (sharp end at the top!). Kids and parents loved the photo booth, which I set up with my iPad using a great app called PocketBooth. The photos come out in photo booth-style: a strip of 4 pics, and I was later able to email the photos to parents.
Other activities that I had set up in our tiny little space were cookie decorating and drawing thank you pictures for the firefighters. I purchased the R & M Fire Truck 5 Piece Cookie Cutter Set
from Amazon (so cute!), made the cookies a couple days in advance and just purchased cookie icing that came in a tube, ready-to-use. For the thank you coloring/drawing sheets, I just designed and printed them (download available below) and set up a little table with a bunch of crayons. Easy peasy!
And finally… For party favors, I purchased the I Want To Be A Firefighter book from Amazon as well the Fun with Fire Trucks Stencils (Dover Stencils), tied them together with yarn, and added a thank you note that listed some firefighter-related online resources for kids and parents to enjoy together!
Stuff I Made:
Firefighter applique T-shirts:
Materials: white t-shirt, scrap fabrics (in red, black and yellow–old t-shirts work great!), stencils for florian cross and number, iron-on adhesive/fusible web (I used Thermoweb Heat n’ Bond Lite, which requires you to sew over the fabric, but Thermoweb also makes a no-sew version that works very well if you don’t want to sew), sewing machine (optional if you use the no-sew iron-on adhesive)
I purchased the t-shirts several months ago when they were on clearance for $2/each, and I had plans to stencil/paint Mr. T on them… But I’m glad I didn’t get that far because the white shirts with the black collar were perfect for their firefighter shirts. I used scrap fabric that I had on hand for the suspenders and the florian cross and yellow felt for the number 5. The suspenders were just long strips approximately an inch wide and cut to match the length of the t-shirt. I cut and ironed on all the pieces, then sewed around all of the appliquéd pieces to secure them in place.
Buildings on Fire Backdrop:
I used foam board that conveniently had a black side. I cut the silhouette out with an exacto knife, but the edges of the foam board revealed the white “foam” in the center, so I cut narrow strips of black construction paper and hot glued it down (be careful not to get the hot tip of the hot glue gun too close to the foam. It will melt the foam!). The windows were made with squares of yellow construction paper and glued down with a glue stick (great for gluing paper because the paper doesn’t ripple). The “fire” was made with a simple cutout of flames printed on card stock and hot glued on.
Cupcake Tower of Fire:
I used various mixing bowls from my kitchen to trace circles on foam board, then I cut the circles out with an exacto knife. The bottom/base layer of cans were two tuna cans duck taped together, and the middle and top were diced tomato cans (one can per layer). I covered the cans with black card stock, and hot glued the cans to the foam board. Then, I hid the white foam center of the foam board with black ribbon–more hot glue! I added some yellow, orange and red crepe streamers to cover the cans/pillars (also great for hiding any mistakes you may have made–the cans not being exactly centered or having to rip the hot glued cans off the foam board because you accidentally glued them to the wrong side of the foam board…). And to top it all off, I broke a wooden chopstick in half, covered it with crepe streamers, then glued on another flame cutout. Voila! A cupcake tower of fire!
Signs, banners, badges, coloring pages, thank you cards galore!
FREE PRINTABLES–OH MY!
Although all of my items were based on the Seoul city skyline, I’ve made a “generic” set of printables for your firefighter loving kids’ pleasure! I printed everything at home with my trusty little HP printer, and despite the massive amounts of black ink that I used, I still saved a bundle by not having everything professionally printed. A nice thick card stock worked just fine for the paper (only the water bottle labels were printed on regular paper). Other DIY-ers suggest using glossy photo paper to print labels for water bottles because of the moisture/condensation, but since I didn’t have to worry about it–it’s cold and dry here in February–I just used regular paper and it worked out just fine.
**All of the files are in PDF format. A few of the files can be opened in your choice of image editing software or even just Microsoft Word to add personalized text. I’ve added details about fonts that I used where applicable!**
**If you are printing at home, be sure to set your printer page settings to BORDERLESS 8.5×11 letter size or the edges will not print!**
You can add personalized text to the invitation. I used RocknRoll Typo font (free download) for the heading text in my version of the invitation and Andrea Karime font (free download) for the party details (date, location, rsvp information).
Download birthday invitation
The Birthday Banner is a 14 page PDF file with one letter per page. You can simply cut the letters out and string them with ribbon (or yarn if you’re a yarn hoarder like myself!) or you can cut the letters out and glue them to colored paper before stringing them together for something extra fancy!
Download happy birthday banner
4) please take one sign (for party favors)
5) blank sign (customizable using RocknRoll Typo font)
Junior Firefighter Badge:
I printed the junior firefighter badge on regular card stock, cut them out, then glued them to a sheet of red construction paper, cut them out again, laminated them and hot glued them to a brooch pin! Phew! It sounds a lot worse than it actually was.
Download junior firefighter badge
thank you card (2 cards per sheet)
water bottle labels (5 labels per sheet)
Photographs courtesy of Zayda Barros Photography