Thanks for coming to my party, here's a present...
June 20, 2011 5:17 AM   Subscribe

Instead of crappy party favors in a plastic bag, we're giving away locally-produced t-shirts to the kids at my son's 5th birthday party. Problem: what to put on them?

After a slew of birthday parties this spring, after which he comes home each time toting a plastic bag or made-in-china tin bucket filled with crap we don't need that probably cost $10 per kid, I've decided to go a different way. For party favors, we're giving away t-shirts to all the kids that are being screened locally. (cost per shirt: $4.80+tax) The problem is I can't figure out what should go on them.

I don't want them to say "[name]'s Birthday Party". The shirts are red, with white printing. I can do any graphic image or text so long as it is a single color. Front or back only (no 2-sided designs).

Some ideas that we've generated:
- a simple kite image. (venue has a kite logo, but I haven't been able to find any simple, free kite art that I like)
- B is for Birthday (with cartoon bees around). (He likes bees, and the venue has a bee display as part of the "ranger station" room where the party will be held).
- a big number 5 (but not all the kids at the party will be 5 or turning 5 - some will be older - so I don't think they'll want to wear a shirt with a big 5 on the front).
- A big cupcake or birthday cake image (but too party specific?)

Of these, I like the kite the best, but I'm not totally thrilled with it, mostly because I can't find a graphic I'm really excited about.

So, hive mind - what would you put on these to make them the most awesome kid t-shirts ever?
posted by anastasiav to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Don't have a graphic idea, but kids love writing on each other's shirts so maybe get a bunch of fabric pens so they can sign them / write messages on them as a keepsake.
posted by maxg94 at 5:21 AM on June 20, 2011 [7 favorites]

In my mind, the kite gets closest to coolness here. You should go with an image that's evocative of the event, but non-descript enough that a kid would feel awesome wearing it around other places. If you're doing some sort of activity for the party besides cake and presents, a graphic which evokes that?

On the other hand, kids grow out of t-shirts fast.
posted by Apropos of Something at 5:32 AM on June 20, 2011

I'd tone down the 'birthday' theme, because it'll reduce the likelihood of them ever re-wearing the shirt, making it about as wasteful. I'd focus the design on your kid, so that you have a shirt the partygoers will rewear again, but will remember that they got it at your kid's party.

And, why not ask your son what he'd like on the t-shirts? His answer may be something like TRANSFORMERS BUT WITH MONSTERS UNDER WATER, but my guess is the kids invited to his party will have a similar tastes.

Then, once you have that, post something in, and get somebody to design it for you.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:34 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Could you get your child to design the t-shirt? You could work with them for an afternoon drawing kites and similar until you come up with an image that would work on a t-shirt.
posted by Acheman at 5:34 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

How about "I went to "Billy's" Party and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!" ;)
posted by Hanuman1960 at 5:42 AM on June 20, 2011

I'm sorry, but when I was five years old candy > clothes any day. Just saying.
posted by lobbyist at 5:46 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

I agree with the idea that the birthday boy should design the shirts. And if he comes up with one of Transformers but with monsters underwater, I may want to buy one.
posted by JoanArkham at 5:47 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

For my daughter's tenth bday, we put a large "x" (roman numeral for 10) on her shirts. Everyone thought it was clever...Big "v"'s might be a little brainy for the younger set but it's different and a teachable moment...the kids will learn something new..

And, I did a dollar hula hoop for everyone for said daughter's 5th. HUGE girlfriends still comment on that being the perfect favor.

Happy B-Day!!
posted by pearlybob at 5:53 AM on June 20, 2011

If you can do individual designs/words rather than the same on all, how about each kid's name (in a cool font!) on their own shirt? My son once received the same thing as a party favour.
posted by methroach at 6:02 AM on June 20, 2011

How about "I went to "Billy's" Party and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!" ;)
I don't think young kids will get the reference...

I like the kite idea. Are you good with graphics programmes? Get a free picture and vintage it up, or make it into a fake Polaroid. I can see some parents might see cakes as too 'girly' so if there will be a lot of boys there it might not be popular with some.
posted by mippy at 6:08 AM on June 20, 2011

I'm sorry, but when I was five years old candy > clothes any day. Just saying.

Oh, I know. There will likely be candy also. But hopefully no crappy plastic toys, removable tattoos, pencils, and other assorted dreck that comes home in the typical party bags.

Part of the deal with the shirts is that the event is at a children's museum where they'll be moving from place to place, so if we encourage them to put on the shirts when the event starts it will help keep them together.

@methroach: All the shirts have to be the same, unfortunately.

I like the idea of seeing if I can get him to draw something (his current drawings all run to Jedi Lightsaber battles, unfortunately) - please keep the ideas coming, though!
posted by anastasiav at 6:18 AM on June 20, 2011

Part of the deal with the shirts is that the event is at a children's museum where they'll be moving from place to place, so if we encourage them to put on the shirts when the event starts it will help keep them together.

for some reason when I read this I thought you meant a "science museuM", and my brain immediately said "dinosaurs!" Then I read that it was a children's museum.

But my brain is still saying "dinosaurs!" Because...I think all kids go through a phase when they dig dinosaurs.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:36 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

We do this for my son every year. It's really cool to see the old shirts still in the hand-me-down rotation of younger siblings. The first year we did it we just did a guitar, the second year a robot, and the third year (his fourth birthday) we asked him what he wanted on his shirt and he said, puzzlingly, "A ghost playing a really rocking guitar". So that's what we did.

I say ask your kid what they want, and then go with it (or have a designer/illustrator friend go with it), regardless of what it is. It's their birthday, after all.

More specific to your question, bees really are pretty cool, and graphically compelling enough that it wouldn't be too hard for you to make a cool bee design.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:36 AM on June 20, 2011 [9 favorites]

Use a fabric pen to write different words on each T-shirt, front and back. Then let the kids pose for pictures like living refrigerator magnet poetry.

Or: get a Solar System diagram on th eback of the shirt. Use a fabric pen to write "Sun" on one shirt and name of a planet on each other shirt (add moons, comets, as necessary to match the number of children). Have the planets orbit the Sun in the appropriate order and at approximate logarithmic distance. Inform the kids that "Mercury orbits close and fast, but Neptune creeps along slowly far away." Have the comets streak into the Inner System and orbit the Sun in extreme elliptical orbits. Birthday child can play the Sun, or a spaceship visiting each planet in turn.
posted by orthogonality at 6:47 AM on June 20, 2011

A fake concert t-shirt, with the back having tour dates on it, which are all the attendees names and birthdays.
posted by Joh at 6:50 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

At a 3-year old birthday party last weekend, several cans of T-shirt spray paint and white t-shirts kept is simple and easy.

Each kid with adult assistance would 'twirl' a place on the shirt with pinched fingers (I tried to find instructions online but failed). Spray, and then repeat with a different color in a different place, and it looks a bit tie-dye, but without the mess/hassle.

It was a cool souvenir, and easy-peasy to setup.
posted by scooterdog at 7:48 AM on June 20, 2011

Hey, dirtdirt. How did you make the shirts from the design?
posted by monkeymadness at 7:49 AM on June 20, 2011

mostly because I can't find a graphic I'm really excited about.

I'm gonna venture that your kid knows what 5 year olds like better than you. There's nothing wrong with Jedi lightsaber battles, and it doesn't have to be a "teachable moment." Sheesh! How about a shirt with 5 bees on it?
posted by rhizome at 7:51 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

To expand on my previous comment, what I would do if I were trying to get a kid to design a t-shirt would be to sit down with them, and give them a lot of sheets of smooth, heavyweight paper and a thick, black pen (to make sure that the drawings are graphic enough to work well on a t-shirt). I'd be aiming to get them to do about a dozen drawings, at least. I'd start off by letting them do a couple of spontaneous drawings. Then I'd give them some prompts - some quite specific, like "Hey, can you draw me a kite?" and some quite general, like "Draw me the best birthday party you can possibly imagine ever in the whole universe." Then I'd talk to them a bit about what things would be cool to have on the front of a t-shirt, and encourage them to draw some of the ideas they had. I might give them some materials to help them out - if they were having problems drawing a kite, for example, I'd show them some pictures of kites after the first go and see if they found that helpful. I might even draw alongside them, to make them feel less self-conscious but also to help them with things like figuring out how a kite string fixes on. I'd set aside a decent amount of time for this process.

At the end of the process I would have a stack of drawings, and I'd go through them fairly ruthlessly to pick out the one that would work best on a t-shirt. It might be that there was a complicated drawing where one detail - like the sun in the corner - would be great on a t-shirt. I'd blow it up to the right size and take it to the printers. Then when the t-shirts came back, I'd be all 'Hey, that drawing you did is great on these t-shirts! You designed all the t-shirts for your birthday party! Now all your friends are going to wear them! You are so cool!'
posted by Acheman at 8:13 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

dinosaurs. robots. sharks. transformer robot dinosaur pirates in space with lasers for eyes. that are on fire.

I'd ask your son what he thinks the coolest t shirt ever would be and go with that. I would avoid things that are brand specific though (like pokemon or iCarly or whatever it is kids these days like).

In short, don't overthink this. It doesn't have to be something YOU are excited about, it has to be something five year olds are excited about. The sillier the better!
posted by inertia at 8:52 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

@dirtdirt: that's awesome! (Now I'm feeling, ridiculously, as though nothing I come up with will live up to your high standard!)

@acheman, rhizome: the issue with him designing the shirt is that his current drawings are all very dense (in terms of content). I'm willing to give it a try, but I'm not sure he'll be willing/able to produce a simple enough drawing to reproduce well on a shirt.
posted by anastasiav at 9:04 AM on June 20, 2011

This may not exactly answer you question, but for my daughter's 5th birthday we had everyone tie-dye their own t-shirt. I prepped and tied them and had everything ready ahead of time so it was very quick and left time for plenty of other things. I got supplies from Dharma Trading Company and it was a big hit. I would be happy to give more details if this is something that might be a possibility.
posted by TedW at 9:23 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I saw a great handmade shirt for that age range (and for a birthday, I believe) that had hashmarks (can't find the picture, sadly). Might be interesting and more accessible than Roman numerals.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:31 AM on June 20, 2011

How did you make the shirts from the design?

Photo-emulsion silkscreen. Long story short, if you are not hung up with the shirts being absolutely flawless, you can get pretty good results at home, with readily available stuff. Here's what looks like a reasonable tutorial - there are a bunch more. There is a learning curve, and there is some gear you'll need, but it is within reach of anyone willing to work on it. If you care, feel ree to memail me and I'll detail more closely the way I do it.

Anastasiav: thanks! But yeah, your right: that's ridiculous. You can do this, and it'll be killer.

Actually, thinking about density in his drawings, is there a way you could isolate and blow up a detail from one of his drawings? That can look really terrific - one character that is a half-inch across in the original blown up on a copy machine to the size of a full-page turns out looking really bold and graphic and cool. Something to think about, anyway.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:34 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sweet idea, and thanks for the link dirtdirt. I found this tutorial using just spray paint. I might give this one a dry run, and move on to actual screen printing if it doesn't pan out.

To actually address the original question, I'd say to sketch (or have someone else sketch) your son's own ideas. If one of my girls wanted a monkey riding a dinosaur I would totally run with it. I would also not leave it up to them to draw it, but it depends on the look you're going for.
posted by monkeymadness at 10:05 AM on June 20, 2011

If he likes sharks, trucks, and Star Wars, then put groups of five of each thing, scattered all over the shirt. A shirt is a great idea.

We're doing two boys' parties this weekend (7 and 9 years) and I am hoping we can make little popsicle-stick catapults since the big turnout at one precludes building birdhouses together.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:58 AM on June 21, 2011

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