A working mom herself, Leah Otto has a natural gift for planning parties, and at the urging of friends and family, she opened Giggle Tree Events, where she caters theme birthday parties for kids using quality materials and costumes instead of printed plastic and paper party decorations “that just go into the landfill,” she said.
As with most hobbies that turn into vocations, Otto’s heart is in her party planning, which stemmed from parties she threw for her own children, sons Ezra, who will soon be 7 years old, and Lucas, who is almost 2.
“For Lucas I’m having a 100 Acre Wood Winnie the Pooh party, with a butterfly hunt, Tigger activity area and Play Doh,” she said.
Toddlers don’t like costumes much, she said, but older kids love to play dress up, and Ezra’s most recent party had a wizard theme. Otto did research on Harry Potter and came up with “potions” to make and games like Pass the Sorcerer’s Stone.
“They all wore wizard hats and really nice capes, and I decorated the house with fabric with stones on it all over the walls to look like a castle,” she said. “For favors, we had wands and magic tricks to take home.”
Coming up with activities for each theme is not easy, Otto said, but the kids get into the spirit of things whether in a room in their home or in an outdoor party canopy tent, which she provides.
Giggle Tree’s pre-planned parties are listed on its website, giggletreeevents.com, or you can call Otto at 596-8176. The most popular party by far, Otto said, is the Princess Dress Up Party.
“I bring dresses for all the girls to wear and the canopy is decorated in a very pink way,” she said. “I have to kind of like canned themes, but I also have people who say, ‘Can you do something with bugs?’ – which she has.
The basic fee of $200 for a pre-arranged party includes set up, all activities and cleanup after the party is over.
“All the mom has to provide is cake and ice cream,” she said. “We set up two hours before, leave and let them have fun, and come back a couple of hours later and clean up.”
All of the costumes, which she buys wholesale from Little Adventure Costumes, are high quality, as are all of Otto’s props, she said, and the price is reasonable considering how much parents spend on decorations, games and favors, not to mention the time involved.
“I used to work long hours as a working mom, and when it comes to kids’ parties, moms don’t want to do all this, they don’t have time,” she said. “They’re working but still want to throw an awesome party, so we let them host the party and they get all the credit, and then we come and clean it all up.”
On the Giggle Tree website, the $200 Princess Party for eight children includes:
• Custom printed invitations mailed to guests
• Delivery, set up and break down of all party decorations
• Decorated canopy (if outdoors), banquet tables, linens, chairs and chair covers with sashes
• Dressing area for kids. Boys wear knight costumes and girls wear princess dresses that come with jewelry, feather boas and real crystal tiaras.
• Craft projects including a Princess Necklace Beading Project and a bean bag toss through a wooden castle
• Pink lemonade and theme cupcakes
• Personalized water bottles.
The Pirate Party sounds fun too, with pirate costumes for everyone, a “treasure dig,” and a Decorate the Treasure Chest craft project. And at the Garden Fairy Party, little girls can wear fairy costumes and boas, play musical toadstools and make fairy tiaras from flowers, beads and ribbons.
Some items cost extra, like the Candy Station or specialty favors, such as fabric crayon rolls that moms can pop in their handbags to use later to entertain little kids on trips or in restaurants.
“They’re really affordable and handmade and something they’ll use for a long time,” Otto said. “I try to think of creative things you won’t see at every birthday party, like plastic Winnie the Poohs.”
It was that creativity that gave Otto her start when she started Giggle Tree about a year ago, and she’s since expanded to parties for teens in any theme they want and including a dessert table and all the linens, dishes, centerpieces, color scheme, favors, and a memory/wish tree or box, for $350.
Otto said now that she’s gotten started, she’s not sure where Giggle Tree will go, and she’s considering her options, but for now she’s glad she can work from home while her children are small. She said she might expand more once they’re both in school.
“People have asked me if I want to put weddings together, and I’ll look at that down the road,” she said. “I could possibly even have a storefront, so instead of going to their house, they could come here. But right now I feel blessed that I get to have fun doing this.