Lions and tigers and Oz movies, oh my! With the recent release of Disney’s “Oz the Great and Powerful” and the expected release this year from Summertime Entertainment of the animated “Dorothy of Oz,” we think it’s the perfect time to plan a birthday party down the yellow brick road.

Click your heels three times, and follow us to Oz for step-by-step instructions on how to throw a DIY birthday party that will have your child and his or her guests over-the-rainbow.

The Big Surprise
Some of the best advice we can pass on for party planning is this: Always plan an element of surprise that no one will be able to stop talking about. For this party, costumes became that element of surprise. Kids love dressing up, and it is far too much fun to be limited to Halloween

We asked guests to come dressed as their favorite character from the classic 1939 version of “The Wizard of Oz,” and encouraged parents to keep it simple and use what was on hand. A gray T-shirt with a red heart glued on the chest becomes a Tin Man. A pink princess dress already owned becomes Glinda the Good Witch when you add a homemade foil crown. Part of the fun is the creativity, so while we loved seeing several Dorothy’s appear at the party, a yellow T-shirt turned Yellow Brick Road via magic marker was one of our favorite costumes.

The Invite
Beautiful invitations can be expensive, but they can also be completely free. We used PicMonkey, an easy to use online photo-editing program, to create our original invitation. We then created a Facebook Event, which allowed us to build a little “buzz” over the party. We also sent electronic reminders to read or watch “The Wizard of Oz” before the party.

Of course, you could also print your PicMonkey invitations and mail them if you prefer the more traditional route. Check it all out at picmonkey.com.

The Table
We used colors from Judy Garland’s traditional Dorothy dress -- blue and white -- as inspiration for our table’s color scheme. To fill in space between all of the goodies, we placed up a couple of “Wizard of Oz” books on the table as well as some brightly colored flowers.

No-Sew Party Pennant
Materials Needed: Scrapbooking Paper, Doilies, Ribbon, Hole Punch, Scissors

Cut scrapbooking paper into triangles and punch two holes in each triangle. Thread ribbon through the holes and space out triangles as desired. Fold doilies over ribbon.

No-Sew Table Cloth
We purchased 4 yards of blue gingham fabric from a local craft store and used double-sided hem tape to create an instant tablecloth for under $10.

Milk Bottles with Poppy Straws
Empty (and washed!) Starbucks Frappuccino bottles make great “milk bottles.”  We made little red “poppies” out of tissue paper to add a little whimsy to our straws.

The Munchies
Auntie Em’s Lemonade
“Over the Rainbow” Fruit Platter
Yellow Brick Road Lemon Bars
Tin Man Turkey Sandwiches (cut in the shape of a heart)
Ruby Red Cake Pops (cake pops covered in sparkly red sprinkles)
Lollipop Guild Lollipops

The Cake
No party is complete without a cake, and this is an especially fun one.  It looks complicated, but the truth is it’s just a normal white cake mix with a little food dye mixed in (shhhhh….we won’t tell anyone). 

Emerald City Rainbow Cake: Rainbow cakes are always a hit with kids, but we took the idea one step further by creating an Emerald City for the top of the cake using green rock candy and some yellow fondant.

Create a layer cake and use food coloring (gel food coloring works best) so that each layer is a different color.  Top with your favorite buttercream frosting. Insert green rock candy sticks at varying depths to create the “Emerald City.”

Quick Tip: To make sure your layers are even, use a food scale to make sure the batter is equally divided.

For the yellow brick road, roll out a little yellow fondant (we ordered a tub of Fondarific from amazon.com) and drape over the cake to create the road leading to the Emerald City. If you’re feeling fancy, use a sharp knife to etch in “bricks” onto the fondant. We added some pretty yellow ribbon around the bottom of the cake. Finally, we added a mini rainbow pennant (available at Target) behind our rock candy “city.”

We used the recipe on the Betty Crocker website for the cake and frosting, which is completely peanut free and safe for kids with allergies. Go to bettycrocker.com and search for “rainbow layer cake.”

The Games
Keep the munchkins entertained with these classic party games tailored for the Emerald City.

Create A Horse of a Different Color: We set up a craft station in the living room that included coloring sheets so that the first kids would have something to do while we waited for everyone to arrive. More adventurous souls can use watercolors -- we stuck to markers and crayons. As the kids finish their creations, create a “gallery” on a wall. Free Horse Printables: massdym.com/1169/horse-coloring-page

Cowardly Lion Mask-Making: Cut the centers out of yellow paper plates. Cut up pieces of construction paper and glue around the outside of the plate. Tape a craft stick to the back of each mask.  Rawr!

Hot Air Balloon Photo Booth: Find a large cardboard box and use a  brown magic marker to make it look like a hot air balloon basket. Then, tape a few helium balloons to the back and take pictures of the kids inside of the “hot air balloon.”  If guests did not arrive in costume, they can use their new Cowardly Lion Masks. Tip: Mail a photo of your guest taking a balloon ride along with you.

Pin the Heart on the Tin Man: Tape long strips of white paper to a wall. Using tin foil, a pair of scissors and tape, assemble your Tin Man and affix to white paper. Tape a red paper heart to his chest. Cut out enough hearts from red construction paper for all your guests, and write each person’s name on one heart. Put a piece of double-sided tape on the back of each heart. Let kids take turns trying to place their heart on the Tin Man’s while blindfolded. Variations: Pin the broom on the Wicked Witch, Pin the Brain on the Scarecrow, etc.

Pass the Ruby Slipper: Gather children in a circle and play your favorite song from “The Wizard of Oz: while the kids pass the slipper around the circle. When the song stops, whoever is holding the slipper is “out.” Last kid remaining wins and gets to take the ruby slipper home.

Fashion Show: Let the kids strut their stuff to “The Wizard of Oz” soundtrack. Awards can be given for “Best Tin Man,” “Most Creative,” etc.

Storytime: A great way to tie everything together (and also quiet everyone down for a moment!) is to sit down and tell the story of “The Wizard of Oz.” We used the commemorative pop-up edition illustrated by Robert Sabuda (available on amazon.com).

The Favors
We wanted to give each of the guests his or her own basket with a little dog inside, just like the one Dorothy carried.  We made a play on the Wicked Witch’s threat to Dorothy and wrote, “You Get 1 My Pretty, and a Little Dog, Too!” on a chalkboard propped on a card table we used to hold the favors. Each basket included a Certificate of Good Friendship from the Wizard himself, a book of stickers and a little stuffed dog. We used rainbow scrapbooking paper and cardstock to create the tags.

Source List:
Baskets: Dollar Tree, $1 each
Dogs: Dollar Tree, $1 each
Dover Little Activity Book Wizard of Oz Stickers: amazon.com, $1.50 per booklet
Wizard of Oz Character Rings: (to hold Certificate) by DecoPac, amazon.com, $4.50 set of 12.

Playlist
Create a Spotify Playlist to play in the background during the party. We based ours off of the original motion picture soundtrack, available on amazon.com.