When my one-and-a-half year-old opened a box set of Hairy Maclary at Christmas, I had every intention to put them away for when she was older. Words such as “footle” and “bumptious” were no more likely to be in her storehouse of words than they were to be in mine. I had to summon Google definitions on some of the vocabulary! But, a few days post wrapping paper and ribbons, she stumbled across the books and requested that we read them. Reluctantly, I obliged, little knowing how our family would fall in love with the mischievous mutt from Donaldson’s Dairy!

 

At first, she browsed the pictures and quickly said, “All done.” But, after a week or two, they became her go-to books to peruse at her leisure. I nervously handed them to her, worried that she often wanted to look at these flimsy paper pages during unsupervised independent play.

Post-caesar, I lived with a baby on my chest propped up on the bed. Days went by that my toddler spent at my side surrounded by a mountain of books. But each day without fail, the yellow box would be upturned and out clattered ten multi-coloured Hairy Maclary‘s. By the end of two weeks, phrases such as “Buuut…pittery-pattery, skittery-scattery, ZIP around the corner came Zachary Quack!” or “Hercules Morse as big as a horse, Bottomley Potts all covered in spots…” and the like were on repeat in my mind. I found myself tapping out these phrases like morse code in my head while I showered or ate dinner. Soon, I didn’t even need to look at the pictures. The words from each page were etched in my head as they were in hers. It didn’t take long before the names, with impressive precision, were part of her daily vocabulary! Some dozy Sunday afternoons, we’d make room amongst the beloved stories on the bed and we’d each have to read one. And by “read” I mean we each held one story in our hands and then the toddler would decidedly say, “Again!”  and her narrative would have to be read out loud.

So, when I decided what we would do for her birthday party – something I planned worryingly long in advance – Hairy Maclary was a no-brainer!

But, how to pull off a Hairy Maclary party was another story all together! There are precious few Hairy Maclary resources available. Interestingly enough, there are a couple of party printables on the website but nothing much else to speak of. My sister even tried to source a Hairy Maclary shirt as a present to my two-year-old to no avail.

 

So, my preschool brain and my right brain joined forces and came up with some creative and cheap ideas to create a Hairy Maclary party.

 

FOOD

I am not keen, especially at this age, in giving my child carte blanche to help herself to copious amounts of sugar. I love knowing that my friends feel the same. On a tight budget, sweets and treats are thankfully expensive. So, even if I so desired, the confectionery would be out of our price range. Unfortunately, so were many of the healthy options such as cheeses, crackers, strawberries and so on. So, this was my take on some sweet treats and a few healthy options to balance them out. I baked almost everything which is less candy-coated than shop bought treats but is still a sweet spoil.

  1. Hairy Maclary’s Biscuit Bones – I made a really easy butter biscuit and opted to use margarine instead of butter as the price of butter has skyrocketed in South Africa and more than doubled in price in the last 5 years. I didn’t have a bone cookie cutter so I made one out of a strip of cardboard rolled up in tinfoil, taped together and shaped into a bone. The bone was far from perfect and I had some interesting looking biscuits but it worked.
  2. Hairy Maclary’s skimmers – The skimmer (or frisbee as we would call it) was orange. So, naturally, slices of orange made the perfect skimmer and added a healthier option to the array of eats.
  3. Hairy Maclary’s Meringue Hats – I dyed the meringue blue and used an icing bag that I already had and piped the meringue into a hat shape. (Unfortunately they ended up looking a bit like excreted dog food but, thank goodness for blue food colouring and a label stating what they were intended to be!) If you don’t have an icing bag, I wouldn’t buy one. Just do what you can with a teaspoon. (An a bonus is that the recipe for the biscuits only requires egg yolk so I didn’t end up wasting egg yolks as I normally do by putting them in the fridge with every intention of using them later but turfing them.)
  4. Hairy Maclary’s Dog Tails – Fling chips are a healthier option in the chip department as they contain no tartrazine, no added MSG and they are baked instead of fried. I also bought them on special!
  5. Hercules Morse’s Carrot Sticks – pretty self-explanatory. Julienne carrots and you have sticks.
  6. Scarface Claw’s Whiskers – Pretzel sticks here cost me ten bucks. A cheap and reasonably healthy option.
  7. Muffin Maclay’s Face – this was our really sugary treat. And boy, was it sugary! But, this was something my daughter could help with with and is an old favourite from many of our childhoods -a microwaved marshmallow squished in between two Marie biscuits. I laid the Marie biscuits out on a plate, my daughter placed a marshmallow on top of each biscuit.We counted and spoke about colour. We spoke about how many had a marshmallow and how many still needed one. We watched them grow in the microwave . We learnt about self-control – push gently!!! And she helped from start to finish and sampled in between! It was super easy and took us twenty mins. I then iced the top with white icing (made from only icing sugar and water) and popped on a cranberry (that I had leftover from baking) on the top as Muffin Maclay’s nose and, voila!
  8. Cranberry Noses – As I said, I had leftover cranberries from baking so I decided to use them up. Another reasonably cheap alternative is raisins.
  9. Popcorn – my preschool/right brain failed me at this point and I had no inventive ideas as to what this could be but it’s a cheap, easy, moreish and well-loved party snack.

With each snack I had a coloured card that I made on Canva and used Prestik to “plak” them onto the bowl.

And, just in case you were wondering, the parents got exactly the same snacks with the exception of a more adult option of Lays Lightly Salted Crisps. They also had oddly-shaped bone biscuits and blue meringues. I did put some Flings on the table for them too because, if you’re anything like me, the kids table is often just as, if not more attractive (before chips are sucked and soggy and biscuits have teeth marks)!

THE CAKE

I could have gone all out here and got someone to make the cake, complete with plastic icing figurines of Hairy Maclary and his motley crew! But in the end, I opted for what was probably the cheapest option. Homemade with laminated pictures of the characters stuck on skewers and prancing across the icing. Yes, I have the luxury of a laminator (because pre-school teacher!) and a kind friend who let me use her printer for free. I wanted to have a bone cake but did not want to waste money on hiring a bone mould. So I had three options…

a.) Make a roasting pan cake and place a bone shape cut out of paper over the iced cake. Then put sprinkles everywhere else. Remove the paper leaving the bone shape with only icing. Or the reverse.

b.) Make a roasting pan cake and then attempt to carve it into the shape of a bone – a crumbly, badly-proportioned mess.

c.) OR put “homemade bone cake” into a Google search and it pops up with this.

At the last minute, I changed from Option B to Option C! And it worked like a charm! It would have worked even better if I had baking paper to line my dishes with (yes, I used four normal smallish glass ramekins and a a ceramic loaf pan type dish). I am pretty impressed with how it turned out!

And, my daughter had Hairy Maclary “toys” to play with afterwards!

ENTERTAINMENT

To be honest, I cheated a little in this department. The kids were all under two-and-a-half and we have a jungle gym. So I didn’t plan any activities bar introducing her friends to the Hairy Maclary characters.

We had story time before the party started. I stole this idea from a friend who did The Hungry Caterpillar for her son’s birthday. It was great! The kids enjoyed the story and, because of the repetition, they could all join in!

ADDED BONUS: OUTFITS

Again, I cheated in this department! My sister, who lives in New Zealand, had bought a Hairy Maclary baby vest for our 5 month old and, thankfully she still just fitted into it on the party day. However, as I have said before, we could find nothing for my brand new two-year-old. So, I phoned a friend! I took a shirt from my daughter’s cupboard that she had already been wearing for a few months (and one I paid R24.99 for from Pep!) and asked a talented friend to paint Hairy Maclary on the side. Normally I wouldn’t bother with clothes but, if you have a skilled and willing friend and a used t-shirt (and the baby who would be wearing a theme-matching outfit to her sister’s party) it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass.

So there you have it! A happy Hairy Maclary obsessed two-year-old!

If you’d like to plan a theme-party and need another brain to work on some ideas, send me an email at wearingallmyhats@gmail.com and we can chat!

Keep a look out for the recipes I used coming soon on my blog.

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