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Kids Costume Party

Playing dress up

Strike a pose! Snap, click, shoot! Working both sides of the camera is a kick for kids at the Great Photo Fest. This party focuses on children's love of dressing up. Provide the backdrop and the costumes; arm your guests with Polaroid and disposable cameras; stand back; and say "Cheese."

Invitations and thank-you notes

Buy a book of paper dolls and write party details on the back of the punch-out clothes.

Create pop-up invitations: Buy blank note cards and matching envelopes. Draw and cut out a camera (slightly smaller than the card) from colored oak tag. Cut a strip of oak tag, one-half inch wide and four inches long and fold it accordion style at one-quarter-inch intervals. Tape one end of the strip to the back of the camera, the other to the inside of the card, so the camera "pops" out.

Develop photos taken at the party and send them with handwritten thank-you notes.

Decorations: Your model guests will be stars for the day, so cut large stars out of cardboard and paint them silver (or cover them with aluminum foil) and hang them around the room.

Transform the room into a photo studio with lights, a full-length mirror, and a makeup table. As a backdrop, use a white sheet or buy a roll of solid-colored "seamless" photography paper from your local photography store. You can leave your backdrop plain or paint it with a scene like a New York cityscape.

Scour your closets and local thrift stores for all the props and old clothes you can find  -- flashy dresses, hats, scarves, cowboy holsters, capes, umbrellas, boas, shawls, pocketbooks, wigs, ties, and more. Put them on a rack or in baskets so kids can rifle through them.

Activities

Have each guest put together an outfit. (You might want to have an extra adult on hand to help with hair and makeup.) Encourage them to set up funny scenes using the props. Then, start the Modeling Session. Give guests disposable cameras (make sure you write each child's name on his camera  -- that way when you have the pictures developed, you'll know whom to send them to). Have kids pose solo and in groups as the other "photographers" shoot away. You can snap Polaroids of the models in their different groupings so guests will have pictures to take home in their albums. Throughout the party, let kids take candid shots of the day's events  -- the sillier the better!

Play "What's Different"? One player leaves the room. While he's out of sight, other players exchange one part of their costume so that everybody is wearing something different. When the player returns, he has to remember who was originally wearing what.

Divide guests into two teams for a Fashion Dash. Provide each team with the same outfit  -- a Hawaiian shirt, a grass skirt, a ukulele, and a lei, for example. The first player on each team dons the outfit as quickly as possible. Then, after she's fully dressed, she takes off all the clothes and passes the outfit to the next player in line. The team that finishes dressing and undressing first wins.

Have kids create a Photo Finish Album by decorating plain albums with collage materials  -- pictures from magazines, feathers, glitter, and more. Add some of the Polaroid photos from the Modeling Session.

Goody bags: Guests go home with their albums. In a few days, they'll be delighted to find your thank-you note along with the photos they took.

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