How to Throw a Daniel Tiger Birthday

by - Tuesday, August 22, 2017

daniel tiger trolley toddler birthday party

Our son, much like many toddlers out there, is obsessed with Daniel Tiger. He loves Trolley. He loves Miss Elaina. He loves Baby Margaret. He seems less excited about Owl, which is just as well, because that bird is passive aggressive and no fun. He loves it enough that I have spent too much time wondering why Mom Tiger never loses her shit and what her maiden name was.

This year, everything for his birthday was Daniel Tiger-themed. We looked for ideas for the party, and there wasn't as many good ideas out there as I would have expected, but we did come up with some fun stuff. As much as you need for a room full of toddlers.

I hate that birthdays, much like Christmas, can just become about "what do you want?" Is that what celebrating is? Getting stuff? Instead, we are trying to focus on having great parties and fun surprises so that birthdays can be about family, friends, and making memories. I feel like that is a much larger gift we can give to our kids than some toy they won't remember.

I think we have found the perfect balance for birthdays. 

One Party
One Experience/Surprise
One Gift

That's it. He did get two cakes, so you can see where my priorities really are. 

I know it sounds crazy. Most parents want to get their kids a giant pile of gifts for their birthday, and I get that, but really, your kid already has a ton of stuff! Not to mention, you can't do a thing about grandparent or extended family gifts, so if you keep it simple, it means less stuff added to the hoard. I am all about simplifying to lessen our environmental impact as a family. We don't have to do perfect, but it is more important to me that he grows up in a healthy, clean world than that he gets everything he wants now. I want my kids to have a better life and less stuff.

Plus, when you are only giving one gift, you put way more thought into what that gift would be. We bought The Bub one Daniel Tiger trolley, and he was so excited about it that he didn't want to open any other gifts. To me, that is way more of a success than a huge pile of things so he doesn't know where to look. Plus, his birthday gift cost us a whopping 26 dollars.

toddler daniel tiger birthday experience gift making memories

Instead of wasting money on toys that will just get lost in the shuffle, we bought him tickets to Daniel Tiger Live! We yelled "birthday surprise!" the whole way there, and he was so excited when he figured out what we were doing that it actually made me tear up. He just kept saying "Daniel Tiger off the TV" and yelling hello to the Trolley. The show was dumb, truly dumb, but it made him so happy.

The Party Decorations

To plan the party, we tried to think of decorations and such that would be fun for the kids. We saw some real life trolleys like these and got inspired-

daniel tiger birthday trolley
from The Daily Hostess
from ready set parenthood
We decided to go for this idea literally the day before the party, so it really wasn't too tricky. We chose to do one they could actually play in so it wasn't just a cutesy decoration, but a fun thing to play in and around.

 We wanted it to be something they could get in and out of, so we used two boxes already in our (very messy, please forgive) basement. We also used red acrylic paint and red, black, and yellow construction paper. A few pieces of tape and some glue. We didn't buy anything new, so the project cost 0 dollars.

homemade daniel tiger birthday party trolley in progress cardboard box

First, we figured out where to cut the holes. I spaced it out with a ruler, 3 inches from both sides and one and a half inches on either side of the center (so the middle bar was also 3 inches). Important- figure out the top, bottom, and side spacing, but only cut the actual shape for one. You can repeat it and make sure everything is even with a lot less fuss.

 I drew out the shape I wanted for one, then The Boy cut it out, and we used the cut out as a stencil for the other 3 spaces. We also cut out a front window and a back door with about a 2 inch lip on the bottom to help hold the box together.

homemade diy daniel tiger trolley cardboard box birthday decoration

The top is just another box opened and stapled on. After this, we painted the sides red. It took multiple coats to cover the black lines well. I think covering it in paper would also work, but it will last less time as an actual plaything.

diy daniel tiger birthday trolley cardboard box homemade party decoration

To finish, we covered the top box and the "seats" with yellow construction paper. We used tape, but I would recommend glue I think. You can see in the back that we kind of wrapped them like a Christmas gift. If I did it again, I might just trace the shape and cut it out. The roof is red construction paper, and we did one long black strip around the bottom. We cut out wheels as well, but the did not look great for our set up. It might be just the thing for yours. That really depends on how your box is shaped.

The Cake

For the cake, we knew exactly what we were doing. People on Pinterest made beautiful Daniel faces, but come on! Loyal viewers of the show know what Daniel Tiger's cake looks like:


So, I knew it would look crazy, but it was a fun challenge. 

daniel tiger homemade birthday cake tiger


I could only find one other example of a mom making the smush cake, so I basically worked this one out on my own. The cake (half spice, half vanilla) is a 6 inch round and a regular rectangle shape that I cut in half, the used the extra parts for the ears, tail, and hands.

It was not the most beautiful cake, but I feel like it was accurate to the show! I can see my mistakes, but it stayed up, and people liked the taste of it. My biggest advice is to cut a big divot into the body cake to give the head a place to balance. Also, use homemade buttercream which when cold has enough body to sort of hold things together. The parents weren't blown away by my skills, but The Bub thought it was pretty cool.


The Details


balloon substitute paper puffs bright colors daniel tiger

We used tissue paper puffs instead of balloons. Balloons are terrible for the environment, so if you want to leave even a teensy bit better planet for your kid, I highly recommend doing these bright puffs instead. They are quick and easy to make, add that same pop of color, and can be made from recyclable tissue (we use Brand New Tissue which is made in the USA and is totally recycled). Way better and actually a little more original too.


We also made trolley garlands (trolley really is his favorite part). I cut out one by eyeing it out, then cut out the little seats from yellow paper. I just traced the original pieces over and over, and we taped them together. It was a little more time-consuming, but still not bad and they came out pretty.


For tableware, we just used our regular plates and cups (for the toddlers, they use the Bub's Re-play bowls and plates). We do use recycled napkins instead of our usual cloth, but otherwise, we manage just fine with our regular stuff. To make it a little more fun, we had Tranquilo paper straws which are exceptionally cool, recycled, and contribute their profits to ocean clean up!

Alright, I hope you have a grrific party, toots! (I had to do one, come on) I hope your toddler enjoys it as much as ours did!

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2 comments

  1. This was actually really helpful for me ❤️

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  2. I love how you focus on the memories not the presents. It's easy to get excited as parents and go overboard with gifts, but I wholeheartedly agreed-the time together is what I'd rather shape our boys' lives with, too. Thank you for this sweet post!

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