Sophie’s Zoo-Themed 3rd Birthday Party

| | |

Sophie turned 3 on October 16! It’s hard to believe she’s been a 3-year-old for a month already. Where has the time gone? Like we do every year, we had an early birthday party for Sophie (her birthday falls right in the middle of our busy harvest season around here!). But it’s still just as special – plus, I’m of the opinion that having your birthday party on a different day than your birthday just spreads the celebration out more! How fun! 🙂

Celebrating a couple weeks later on her actual birthday, with a fun sprinkle cake! 🙂

Sophie’s been requesting a “zoo party” all year long, so I went with the theme she wanted! It’s fun to be planning a birthday party for a child who’d specifically requested the theme (I picked her woodland animals party myself. Last year, she requested a horse party.)

As far as the planning went for this party, I soon learned that simply searching for “zoo party” inspiration wasn’t helpful. I eventually found that supplies and inspiration for a zoo party overlapped well with party supplies for a “jungle party” and “safari party.” That helped a lot! So, if you’re planning a zoo-themed event, remember that you can glean inspiration from jungle or safari-themed parties as well!

RELATED READING: Sophie’s Woodland-Themed First Birthday Party

In today’s blog post, I wanted to share some photos from the birthday party, as well as the food and decor. (When I plan a party, I center my planning around food and decor. Since this was a family party with mostly adults, we didn’t play kids’ party games and instead focused on fun themed snacks and good conversation!) We kept Sophie’s party very small this year, only including the handful of people who were already in our little social “bubble.” Regardless of party size or the pandemic, we sure had a sweet time celebrating our 3-year-old! Sophie felt so special and loved. 🙂

Planning a Zoo Party:

About a month or so before Sophie’s party, I started looking on Pinterest for decor ideas as well as zoo party food inspiration. I can’t emphasize enough how great Pinterest is for gaining inspiration or for curating the overall “feel” you’re looking for. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Pinterest is a great starting point for ideas, but you won’t always be able to find exactly what you see – and probably shouldn’t anyway, because it can really add up!

I also kept ideas for food and decor on my Evernote account (a free note-taking account/app that syncs across devices). I perused the Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and Target websites (and Amazon, of course!) and was able to order some items well in advance.

Sophie’s birthday falls right in the middle of the crazy busy harvest season (mid-October) so we host her birthday party early in October each year in order to ensure that Bjorn can be there! We also had campaigning going on this year (with Bjorn running for the Minnesota House of Representatives), so we ended up having her birthday party at the very end of September! Whatever timing works for your family, right? Your child will feel celebrated and loved regardless. 🙂

I like to design things myself when I can. I love using my free account at to make invitations. For Sophie’s woodland-themed first birthday party, I had purchased some gorgeous deer and forest clip art from an Etsy shop called Flora and Bear. And for her horse-themed second birthday party, I found some beautiful watercolor horse clip art from an Etsy shop called Paper Sphinx. It was totally worth it both times, so for this party I knew I wanted to do something similar again.

For this year’s zoo party, I found these gorgeous watercolor clip art safari animals on Etsy! I used these to design Sophie’s invitation over on

Here’s what her invite looked like, when I was finished designing and tweaking it! I like how an invite hints at a party’s theme – it makes the anticipation extra fun, I think! If you’ve read my past party posts, then it may look a little familiar to you – I guess I have a certain style I like to go for with invites, haha! (Of course, this had the address and “RSVP to:” phone number at the bottom but I’m leaving that out for privacy purposes.) (PS – with such a small group of family being invited this year, an invite wasn’t really necessary, but again, I love how they encompass the party’s theme and I save them every year!)

Zoo Party Food and Drinks

I was so impressed – when we were doing the final setup on the day of the party, my sisters-in-law helped come up with names for each of the treats! They came up with some really good labels for the food table, as you’ll see below!

The food table
  • Cupcakes. I didn’t have custom cupcakes made. These are from the grocery store – Hy-Vee makes seriously good cakes! I used the clip art animals I’d bought to design and print little cupcake toppers. It was just another nice way to incorporate the zoo theme! I love purchasing clip art online because I can really get my money’s worth out of it when I use the clip art to create other pieces of the party decor, like these cupcake toppers.
  • Nutter Butter cookies. (“African Bush Elephant”)
  • Gummy worms. (“Amazon Tree Boa”)
  • Pretzel sticks.
  • Fresh veggies. (“New Zealand Giant Rabbit”)
  • Zebra cakes. (“Plains Zebra”)
  • Chicken salad in croissant sandwiches. This is a super easy chicken salad, and has become a favorite of all of ours to have at little parties like this: I just use cans of canned chicken, mayonnaise, salt and pepper, and a tiny splash of apple cider vinegar! Bjorn also minced dill pickles and added them to our chicken salad, which turned out really well! And serving the chicken salad in croissants really elevates it into more of a “party food.” I wanted to serve something that felt more like a main dish, since a mid-afternoon party can kind of span lunchtime or suppertime for people.
  • Pirouette cookies. (“Giant Panda”)
  • Grapes. (“African Spurred Tortoise”)
  • Tiger Paws cereal snacks.
  • Frosted animal crackers.
  • Ice cream cake (my mother-in-law graciously offered to pick one up for the party, and she had Dairy Queen design a special giraffe cake for Sophie!)
  • Pineapple Orange Punch. I believe we ended up tripling the recipe. One recipe didn’t make enough punch for our big punch dispenser, but once we tripled it, we were good to go! And it was delicious. I’d definitely make this punch recipe again.

Zoo Party Decor

  • “Please Feed The Animals!” sign. I designed this in Canva using the clip art I’d gotten from Etsy, and then taped it up inside a simple frame!
  • Labels for the food. I made these in Canva, as well – another great way to keep the theme’s consistency by using the clip art – and my sisters-in-law came up with fabulous labels for the food at the food table!
  • Green garland. I think I picked this up from Target in the past. I just draped the garland across the table to add some leafy elements to the zoo theme.
  • Toy animals. I used plastic toy animals we had on hand. My favorites are always Schleich brand animals – the elephant on the food table, for example, is a Schleich animal. They always look so realistic!
  • Streamers. I twisted streamers all around the ceiling of the living room and dining room. Streamers are so easy, and add so much to a party!
  • Sloth/jungle plates and napkins from Target. I also got a sloth and leaves banner in the party aisle at Target. I hung that in the doorway between our dining room and kitchen. The simple sloth and jungle decorations were a good addition to the overarching zoo theme!

Sophie knew her party was coming up that day, but at the last minute asked me if it could please be a surprise party. 🙂 So when she woke up from her nap and we got her dressed, Bjorn brought her downstairs and we all shouted, “Surprise!!” 😀 She absolutely loved it. To Sophie, it was the perfect surprise party. That makes me smile just thinking about it.

That’s about it! I hope you enjoyed seeing our sweet Sophie’s 3rd birthday party! And if you’re planning a birthday party – or even a zoo party for any reason – of your own, I hope this post brought you a bit of inspiration or ideas for your own gathering! Thank you for reading! 🙂