A Barbie Party

I never liked Barbies growing up, but my girl loves them something fierce. So a Barbie party it was to celebrate six years–an easy decision and one that was talked about well before this weekend. “My Barbie party,” Nella pointed out every time she saw her invite taped to the fridge. Lord knows I love to throw a party, and silly details like picking balloons and finding a cute party dress satisfy me maybe more than the average bear; but the ultimate goal in planning my kids’ birthday parties is always love. I need a good place to let my overflow spill over, and a party celebrating their birth seems a good place. That and I love a good cake. The other part I love about kids’ parties is the celebration of friendship. That huddle of kids crowding around the cake, party hats all lopsided, eyes glued to the birthday kid when they’re not scanning the cake for the biggest piece with the most frosting; precious little voices all on different notes while they sing, yelling the CHA-CHA-CHA part after every “to you”–and that pause while they excitedly wait for their friend to make a wish and blow out the candles? It kills me. It just feels so…supportive–a celebratory lovefest launch pad for all the years to come. Hey! We’re here! Circled around you, smiling, celebrating you because you were born and we’re so happy you’re here. I hope my kids always feel that–even if it’s just a couple of good friends who fulfill their need to be seen, celebrated and perhaps supported someday in their choreography efforts for dances to the latest Top 40 hits at weekend sleepovers. That’s all I ask.

Nella is a normal six-year-old who loves her friends but occasionally has a few social quirks that could be A: Down syndrome related, B: personality related, C: a kid being a kid. Since we don’t know which it is (there’s no stud-finder for that beam), we do our best to cover all the bases–provide her opportunities that present an encouraging, loving environment and yet challenge her to learn, play and exercise good age-appropriate social and communication skills that will prepare her for the real world. Basically, we don’t know what we’re doing but we sure as hell try to do our best. For a birthday party, that translates to keeping Nella’s party on the small side. So we invited a few kids from her preschool class, a couple close friends and hosted the party at our clubhouse to encourage participation (so she wouldn’t just run off to her bedroom with Ivy). When it comes to parenting in general, and especially with decisions regarding special needs, there’s no map. We simply try our best, and that means lots of times doing things that don’t work the first time and then fixing them. For her party this year though, Brett and I both looked at each other when it was over and smiled. We did it! The perfect amount of people, the sweetest space, the right energy, the perfect balance of challenging her and letting her be. It worked. She was beaming. Participated. Ran off and played with her friends–friends she’s mostly quiet with in class. Talked. Made things. Answered questions. Pushed Lainey’s hands away when she tried to help her open gifts because she wanted to do it herself. And smiled this subtle yet confident grin all through the Happy Birthday song that reassured me in the most powerful way.

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Then again, maybe it was the Barbies who pulled this off. With as much time as they spend with our girl, they’ve gotta know her pretty well.

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Alright, I’ll quit blabbing. Pictures, pictures. I give you…a Barbie party.

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Hosted by Nella’s bevy of Barbies she named herself: Grocery Store, Poop, Hair, Beekea, Joann, Paquel and Lake.

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(I found a cute “Barbie”/retro girl stamp I didn’t realize I had in my desk drawer–it worked great to decorate the Pirate Booty bags. I think it’s from Joann’s.)

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We had three Make Stations.

Bottle Cap Necklaces…

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Make Your Own Bottle Cap Necklace Kit and Precut Barbie Images

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Design your own Barbie dress…

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(I fell in love with these white Barbie dresses that were perfect for decorating!)

The girls chose from an assortment of embellishments–fabric flowers, ribbon, sequins, bows and rhinestones–and bedazzled their dresses using Tacky glue.

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And the Barbie Shoe Find-it Game:

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I pre-made bags with ten shoes and a key to make it easier.

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The kids loved the rice (all the details on this found here). They played with it well after their find-it games were finished.

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And our Barbie photo box was a big hit too. I saw this on Pinterest and knew Nella would love it. I used two large boxes purchased at Staples (I couldn’t find the right size in our garage), and Brett helped me tape them together and use an X-acto knife to cut the opening. I painted it pink, added the Barbie text and taped on a Mattel logo I made from poster board. It wasn’t as complicated as I thought it would be, and other than my neighbor admitting she saw me in the driveway and wondered what the hell I could be making this time, it was a piece of cake.

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Want to know how to pick it up a notch and get the kids all laughing at a birthday party? Pick me! Pick me! I KNOW THE ANSWER TO THIS ONE!

Let Cake Topper Barbie slip a nip.

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Pretty sure it was my kid who did it, but nevertheless…giggles followed and I was all Dear God Would Someone Please Pull Her Dress Up. But not before I took a picture, of course.

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My friend Amy whipped this cake up in her kitchen because she’s the real Cake Boss.

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Notice Dash loved playing in the rice so much, he chose it over cake.

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And my sweet friend Kim, right here in Naples, made our favorite barrettes for each of the girls to take home. (she’s offering 20% off to her shop with code NELLA20).

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I’m a little pink’d out for the week, but we had so much fun and it was really great to see Nella surrounded by her friends, her Barbies and so much love.

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Leave a Comment
  1. This is so awesome! Was a sweet and fun party for your girl.

  2. love these ideas – totally stealing for my daughter’s 6th birthday – thanks so much for sharing!!

  3. Just showed my 6 year old all these fabulous party pictures-now she wants to have a similar party-but with American Girl Dolls! Don’t think I’ll be giving any away as party favors though 😉 LOVE all these party details-so festive-and Nella looks beautiful. Hope she had a wonderful birthday-and thanks for the discount for those cute hair clips-just ordered!

  4. Just … wow. :)

  5. That photo booth is amazing!

  6. jessica Minor says:

    Amazaballs! That looks like so much fun! Happy Birthday big girl!

  7. You are the party boss! Amazing and so clever! You rock!

  8. Oh goodness…. this theme is adorable!! I love all your bday parties ~ but this one is absolutely my favorite. The photo booth ~ ~ too cute!! The Barbie dresses… the cake… the gift bags… the gift Barbies… everything perfect.

    Love all the pics.


  9. Madisyn Andrea says:

    You always do such a fantastic job. It looks like they all had a blast. Maybe you should consider event planning as a small side job? I’d hire you! Love and miss you guys! -Madisyn

  10. “There’s no stud finder for that beam” – ain’t that the truth about so much related to kids!

    I don’t know what it is about cardboard decor and birthday parties, but cardboard wins every time. We made a small cardboard castle one year. It was almost as a big a hit as the horse and carriage rides. Love your Barbie box!

  11. Oh Kelle… I’ve been reading your blog for so many years now, and it still brings me to tears constantly. Happy tears. The amount of love you put into every little detail!! Incredible. That was a beautiful party for beautiful Nella. Your kids are so lucky to have you.

  12. what an awesome birthday party!

  13. So fun, great pictures!

  14. This brought back memories of my Mom’s birthday surprises for me and my friends, Barbie imbedded into round cake that became her dress! Nella will remember her pink party forever! 🎀

  15. Amy albert says:

    Help please!!! How did you dye that rice????? Love this idea!!! Thank you!

    • I’ve dyed rice before for a similar “find it” game for some of my students — you just use food coloring and 1-2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol (which helps the color “stick” to the rice — put it all in a large plastic bag and move the rice around until it’s all colored — I then dumped out the bag onto a foil lined baking sheet to dry — the drying also helps with the rubbing alcohol smell

  16. Love the barbie names, and the way you listen so exquisitely to who your daughter is and to what makes her feel loved and understood.

  17. Well I loved Barbies growning up..there was not much else in the 50’s:)
    I love this party you gave everyone ..celebrating Nella..
    What the hell you were making turned out fantastic..Again beautiful pics..children..people, and shared ideas.


  19. I have to admit, I’m really bummed there was nothing named after Poop. C’mon, poop pudding? poop pirate booty? Poop cake? Poop the tail on the donkey? I mean, that’s a goldmine 😉

    Jk, super sweet party for a super sweet six year old!

  20. Aww this looked like a really fun pink Barbie party! Love the attention to detail especially the super-sized Barbie box and the embellish a dress activity :-)

  21. Danielle Lukes says:

    What a great party!! Fave picture is of her leaning on her hand on the couch with the other hand holding her cup! What a precious little girl you have! Happy 6th Birthday Nella!

  22. You never cease to amaze me! We so need a little girl in our family. We only have three boys. So far.

  23. Such a neat idea for a birthday party! We had a son born with Down syndrome three years ago and that’s when I found your blog and read your book. Ever since then I have adored the name Nella. We had our first baby girl four months ago and named her Nella :) Amazing to think if our 3 year old sweet boy was not born, we would not have a Nella either! Your pictures always bring me so many smiles! :)

  24. This was such a cute party that I think my 21 year old daughter would still like it! 😉 Your “enough pink” comment brought back memories, as well. My two boys, who were 3 and 4 years older than their sister, would always ask if we could skip the “pink aisle” when we shopped for toys. Nope! I, too, loved pink after two boys, of course! Great pics. and happy 6th to Nella!

  25. I love everything about this & Nella’s party turned out great!! Also, you’ve made me feel completely ok with going a little over the top for my son’s birthday this coming weekend! :)

  26. Lisa Showalter says:

    I LOVE this!! 💕 🎀💝 I always enjoy your photos and posts. But the pure joy of Nella’s face and the fun of this party is so sweet! Lucky kiddos ~ lucky parents.

  27. jennifer b. says:

    I feel this exact feeling at my son’s birthday parties. That feeling of looking around an realizing what an amazing village of people he has loving him.

    Nella’s face in that first picture with the cake just slays me. My son (who turned 6 in December) still gets that look … that mix of delight at being the center of attention tinged with shy embarrassment at being the center of attention. I hope that look lasts a few more years.

    I so appreciate all the detail and care you put into your kids’ birthday parties. The love of making your little one happy and the fun you having doing it are palpable! That Barbie photo booth is adorable.

    Wishing Nella many more happy birthdays!

  28. Dear Kelle: I absolutely couldn’t just read this and comment to myself as I usually do…….this time all my compliments needed to be told……. You are extrodinary Kelle, I absolutely love how you put the love in your little Nest! Honestly, I was just smilin’ from top to bottom as I read and peeked at your BDay photos of Nella’s BDay Party……….truly, it was ‘Everything Nice’ and you can times that by a zillion! Nella’s a Sweetheart and couldn’t be cuter in that 6 year old ‘wee self’ of hers!
    God Bless your amazing Momma skills Kelle — over the moon amazin’!

  29. You are the absolute best mom ever. You also inspired me to order 3 deer dolls because I can’t stand the cuteness anymore and not own one. I don’t even have a grandbaby yet and I ordered one. My 92-yer-old demented mother has been holding one of them for days. My world is a lot more fun sharing you beautiful blog and beautiful family. Keep up the good work!

  30. Love! What a great party..

  31. This is sweet — I always love to read your “party posts.” You have the best ideas and I love all the small details. This looks like it was such a fun day :o) I am the sister of a man with Down syndrome, and I know that things like birthday parties-especially with friends — can become more difficult as age increases. I hope that Nella is always surrounded by this much love, laughter, and support, and that her smile is just as bright and beautiful.Happy 6th Birthday to your Barbie girl <3

  32. Tamara Lambert says:

    That is the cutest idea I have ever seen! I am so glad everyone had so much fun! Beautiful ideas, Kelle! I love your blog!

  33. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful party for your precious Nella. You are an inspiration to all of us mommies. I wasn’t going to make a big fuss for my baby girls 10th birthday, but how can I not celebrate the fact that she is turning a decade old!!! Thank you for the inspiration to celebrate life!!!! Blessings to you and all your family!!

  34. I have no idea how I found your website. You have a beautiful family. You are truly blessed.

    Nancy (Missoula MT)

  35. Where did you find the white barbie dresses?

  36. Kelle- I have been following your blog since you were pregnant with Dash. I absolutely love your family. the amount of joy and warmth that your words and pictures bring to me is incredible. You outdid yourself with this party . Everything was beautiful! Nella looks beautiful and so loved and happy .. the photo booth ! Priceless.. the pink, the rice, the dresses and the take home Barbie’s , absolutely PERFECT! happy sixth bday Nella .

  37. Such a precious idea! I’m sure she’ll remember this next year =]

  38. Bella star says:

    Great job,
    All of the kids look like they had a blast. I have loved Barbie all my life so the barbie cake I can remeber more then once growing up. I even had my grandmother make for my girl. Some of the best memories growing up. One thing I loved that you did was have the do the design on the dresses. I bet that keep them pretty busy. Please tell me the truth, how many candy sparkle was left around a week later? 😃and what would you used if you had to do it again?
    Keep up the good job and many blessing to you and your lovely family.

  39. The book called Pinkalicious would have fit right in! Awesome party!

  40. Where did you find Nella..name in script?

  41. shinny Elizabeth joy says:

    My belated birthday wishes for the sweet barbie girl.Dear, kelle you are such a great mom …..you made her day cheerful and colorful. Your kids will be the luckiest to get a mom like you….especially for nella…I love your family….so much..especially the way you make your family colorful…I’m really curious to know what is next…The whole pink barbie party was awesome…nothing more to say…you just did it…..

  42. My name is Becky, I am in my first year of The Developmental Social Services Program in College. I have chosen your blog as one of my supports for an in class assignment.

    You had mentioned the phrase, Age Appropriate, words that have been a dark cloud over my head. Without experience and first hand knowledge, I was telling myself that not letting an individual to play with what they want to play with, just because of the age group it fits into, would be wrong. As humans we are to be happy. We should be teaching society to include and accept each other, whether we are different or the same. An expectation for everyone to be “normal” and fit in with everyone else, is crazy.

    You have opened my eyes, both through respect and reality. We can’t expect society to change. The only thing you can do as a parent is prepare and support your child. Build their courage, knowledge and dignity. You are an inspiration and a hero.

    Thanks again,


  43. This is just absolutely THE cutest party, ever!!!

  44. You are an absolutely amazing woman and awesome mom! This post has really inspired me. Thank you!

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