How to throw a party animal-themed kids’ birthday like Sister Parish Design’s Eliza Harris

Party scene set with a quilted tablecloth, animal-themed kids' birthday decorations, and a chocolate cake.
Paperless Post > Party decorations > How to throw a party animal-themed kids’ birthday like Sister Parish Design’s Eliza Harris

How does one go about throwing an animal-themed birthday party that’s aesthetically pleasing to both kids and adults? It’s no secret we often have different tastes—what with the former’s propensity for tossing toys and bits of food on the floor, and occasionally decorating walls using crayons and marker, and the latter’s inclination towards… literally anything else. But where there’s a will (and some creativity!), there’s a way.

To find out, we enlisted the expert help of Eliza Harris, Creative Director of legendary interior decorating firm Sister Parish Design—whose eponymous founder was Harris’s great-grandmother. Founded in 1933, Sister Parish (later renamed Parish Hadley) became one of the world’s foremost names in design when then-First Lady Jackie Kennedy enlisted their help in decorating the Kennedys’ private quarters in the White House in 1960. 

These days, Sister Parish Design crafts and sells beautiful heritage textiles and wallcoverings inspired by the extensive archives of Parish Hadley—and judging by Eliza Harris’s own home, it’s easy to see that a love for playful, colorful patterns with serious personality runs in the family. “As Sister once said, ‘Expressing personal feelings and memories is the essence of decorating.’ My personal style is based purely on feeling, memory, and the stories that I want to tell in my own life,” she explains.


Left: Kids' birthday party table set with rainbow and animal-themed decor. Right: Woman, Eliza Harris of Sister Parish, adds finishing touches to her kids' birthday party table featuring animal-themed decor. Photos by Grace Wilcox.


Using a smart combination of her own belongings and elevated party animal decorations and supplies she handpicked from Paperless Post Party Shop, we asked Harris to design an exciting animal-themed birthday party that people of all ages could appreciate. Read on as she shows us how to craft the perfect habitat for kids to go a little wild. (P.S. Looking for animal birthday party invitations? Start here.)


Animal birthday party ideas with Eliza Harris

Use textiles to quickly transform a party space.


Left: Light pink birthday party invitation featuring rows of quilted hearts. Right: Woman, Eliza Harris of Sister Parish, serves her son chocolate cake while wearing a colorful quilted dress. The table is set with a quilted tablecloth and animal-themed birthday party decorations. “Plaid Hearts” by Paperless Post; photo by Grace Wilcox.


Tapestries and tablecloths can work miracles.

“I love to focus on texture in addition to color when I mix and match textiles,” says Harris. “I often cover my tables in quilts and blankets for a more layered and luxurious effect. I similarly love to cover furniture in multiple textiles. For example, I might cover the back of the chair in a cotton chintz and the front of the chair in a heavy flannel. For a children’s birthday party, it’s time to bring out your block prints, vintage quilts, and performance fabrics to create a colorful, whimsical, and celebratory atmosphere.” 

Seating (for all ages) makes the difference.


Left: Long table featuring a series of mismatched chairs. Right: Kids' birthday party invitation featuring colorful party hats, coming out of a blue envelope. Photo by Emily Steffen Photography via Style Me Pretty; “Party Hats” by Ashley G for Paperless Post.


Provide chairs for all sizes of guests to relax when they’re on safari.

“For the little ones, I love mini chairs,” Harris tells us. “You can usually find them at flea markets and antique stores, and then arrange them around an ottoman or a coffee table to create a seating area. Also, don’t forget about the adults! It’s equally as important to create a comfortable and inviting seating area for the parents. Once, we built a tent inside our dining room for a friend’s one-year-old. The key is creating little worlds, and not overwhelming anyone.”


Choose decorations that are reusable—or regenerative. 

You can use them year after year.

“I live in the country, so I love to pick flowers and cut branches from around my house. I’m constantly scouring flea markets for more vases and pitchers to fill during the warmer months,” says Harris. 

As for balloons? “I don’t typically splurge on them because they aren’t reusable. I much prefer the decorations I bought at Paperless Post Party Shop. And I think a small present for each child is a nice touch. I loved the little animal gift bags from Party Shop.” What party favors are inside the gift bags she’s giving out? “YumEarth Organic Candy!”


Animal-themed kids' birthday party favors including two gift bags, one with a lion decoration and one with an alligator decoration. Multicolor Mini Party Hats and Rainbow Surprise Balls by Meri Meri, available in the Party Shop.


Pick out new items that pair well with what you already have. 

It’s the best way to stay within your budget and buy things you actually like.

“The animals on the streamers and party bags I found at Party Shop had a sophistication to them that made these items easily mix in with my own tabletop items,” Harris explains. “I also loved all of the bright, bold colors on the plates and glasses, which made it simple to select tablecloths and napkins from my own collection.”


But don’t forget—this is a children’s party, so choose décor with them in mind. 

Let kids be kids, and indulge in some of their tastes, too.

“My son Rees loves lions,” Harris says. “The mini animal toppers for the cupcakes added a lot of personality to the table and really got him excited.”


Think beyond the tabletop. 


Left: View from above a kid's birthday party table set with rainbow plates. Colorful honeycomb decorations hang from the ceiling. Right: Animal-themed kids' birthday party invitation coming out of an orange envelope. Photo by Grace Wilcox; “Animal House” by Rifle Paper Co. for Paperless Post.

It’s good to give your guests something to look up to.

“Hang decorations from the ceiling!” suggests Harris. “The big paper fans I found at Party Shop were absolutely perfect. And they come in a range of sizes and colors, so you can play around.”

(Does your kid love colors? Check out these rainbow birthday party ideas.)


Plan the menu like a kid would.


Left: Pizza-themed kids' birthday party invitation coming out of a turquoise envelope. Right: Pizzas made in the shape of two octopus. “I Want the Biggest Piece” by Mr. Boddington for Paperless Post; Image via Fork and Beans.


If your child’s palate is limited, now isn’t the time to push the boundaries.

Harris’s recommendation: “Pizza and chicken fingers. Keep it simple!”


Keep little ones busy with kid-centric activities.

Harris’s (and Rees’s) favorite? “A scavenger hunt.” 

Click here for more fun kids’ party game ideas.


Patience and kindness go a long way (but a nice garbage receptacle doesn’t hurt, either). 

Yes, the outside counts. But what’s inside matters most of all.

“In addition to making your home look charming and inviting, the key to a good party is making everyone feel welcome,” Harris says. “A large dash of authentic hospitality is the biggest hosting tip I know.”

However, there is *one* thing you shouldn’t forget to secure:

“An attractive trash can is important too. Especially for a kids’ party!” 


Purchase thoughtfully and intentionally, even for something short-lived like a children’s party.

It’s a piece of her great-grandmother’s legacy that Harris treasures most,

“My great-grandmother taught me to invest in well-made pieces and to shop slowly. She believed that you should always buy what you love, even if you don’t necessarily have a place for it yet. Just like Sister Parish, I value the work of the hand and the story behind how an item is made and who made it.”


Kids' birthday party table set with a quilted tablecloth, rainbow plates, tiny party hats, and colorful cups and napkins. Photo by Grace Wilcox. 

Thank you, Eliza!

Ready to plan a party animal birthday for your child? Start by finding the perfect animal-themed invitations at Paperless Post—then head to our Party Shop for coordinating decorations and supplies to make it unforgettable.

Click here to shop all of Eliza Harris’s party animal decoration picks, available now at Party Shop.


Browse Animal-Themed Invitations


Hero image by Grace Wilcox.