Retro Robots

Robots are RAD.  Most kids I know think so. Most grown-ups I know think they’re pretty cool too. I’ve always found those vintage wind-up, tin toy robots to be so whimsically appealing from a design standpoint…and have just wanted an excuse to collect some to play with. So when Isaac asked for a robot party for his 3rd birthday, I jumped at the chance to get all robotic.

Both of our boys LOVE robots…how could they not?  Like I said, ROBOTS are freakin’ RAD! Who hasn’t had that childhood fantasy of having a robot that could simultaneously and expertly ace your homework, cook meals AND do your chores, while you concentrated on attaining Atari high scores? (As if that didn’t already date me)…Rosie from the Jetson’s, Astro Boy, Transformers, Voltron, and yes, even Vicki from Small Wonder…those are some cool robot pals to have on your side, right?!

Isaac was barely two years old when he became completely captivated by Transformers, Iron Man and Buzz Lightyear, I know the later two are not “technically” robots, but their special armor. with all the bells and whistles, has some robotic attributes…I think that counts, right? So rather than having just a Transformers party or an Iron Man party or a Buzz Lightyear party, we decided to lump all his favorite characters into one retro robot-themed party.

As usual, with my crazy painting schedule and finishing up all my wedding season projects, suddenly the deadline for creating and mailing out Isaac’s invitations crept up on me out of nowhere. I was already less than four weeks out from the party date and had not even thought about the invites (I know, bad considering that I’m a stationery designer). I literally designed and produced these invites in two days.  It took one day to get the metal cd cases ordered and delivered from Paper Mart. While I was waiting for those to arrive, I designed, printed and cut/prepped the paper portions.  

I found retro/vintage robot images to use, had hubby snap a picture of Isaac’s face for the robot, and made an accordion-fold card that would “spill” out of the robot’s chest like sheets of old school computer printer paper (I designed it to look like that old dot matrix printer paper with the feeding holes on the sides). The panels of the accordion fold had all the birthday party information, along with pictures of Isaac.  The back of the accordion fold had images of his favorite robots: R2D2 and C3PO, Buzz Lightyear, Bumblebee, Iron Man, Wall-E, Iron Giant, Rodney Copperbottom and Astro Boy.  Circle sticker labels were used to print an assortment of retro robot stickers for the inside of the metal cd lid (these stickers were also printed for the goodie bags and decorations),…as well as the address labels for mailing (yes, they were mailed out as is in these cd tins).  A coordinating band with printed silhouettes of robots was wrapped around the tin to keep it closed for mailing.  To give it a more industrial look, I printed tiny images of screws and bolts on label paper, then used a hole punch to punch out screw-sized stickers to embellish the lid of the tin.  

The wording was fun: “Attention all robots and armored heroes…the launch date is fast approaching for the release of Isaac Version 3.0.  Operational Instructions enclosed.”

*All of the following photos (some unedited) by Lot116 Photography.

Using the graphics from the invitations, I created signs and banners to put up throughout the house.  Isaac’s actual birthday is Halloween, hence the creepy spiderweb wreath.
“Computer” font letters were printed over the robot silhouette background and layered onto card stock, then strung together with ribbon for the birthday banner.

Besides streamers and color coordinated balloons and plastic table cloths, I printed assorted robot images from Isaac’s invitations and had Robots and Iron Giant playing on both televisions in separate rooms. Here’s what we served for the menu (with the themed food names):

Chips/Dip (Memory Chips)
Nachos/Chips/Salsa/Jalapenos/Guacamole (Machine Oil/Lube)
Marshmallows and Pretzel Sticks on Brownies (Brownie Mallow-Bots)
Cookies (Browser Cookies and Silicon Wafers)
Mini Corn Dogs (Spare Parts)
Onion Rings (O-Ring Gaskets)
Pizza (Circuit Board)
Fruit and Veggie Platter (Cellulose Composites)
Juice Boxes (High Voltage “Juice”)
Waters  (Hydrogen cells or Hydropods)
Sodas/Beer (Unleaded and Leaded Robot Fuel) and  “R/C” Cola
Red Vines/Licorice (Wires)
Nuts/Trail Mix (Nuts and Bolts)
Jaw Breakers and Assorted Candies (Circuit Breakers)

Fun names for the food indicator signs…wafers and cookies…
…red and black licorice…
…jaw breakers and assorted candies…
Robot plates and napkins from the $1 section at Target.  The rest of the food was served/displayed on aluminum platters, baking tins and bowls.
I drew a couple of silly robots on the bathroom mirror…this one is just above the toilet (that’s why he’s looking off to the side)…
…This one is waving “hello” as a reminder to wash your hands…


Kids love crafts and I always try to have a few creative activities to keep the kids busy when they first arrive, before we start the games. I didn’t realize that the “Build Your Own Robot” assembly line would be such a hit!  It was a lot of work to prep for (read the captions below for the how-tos), but the kids really enjoyed it (and so did their parents)…and the robots turned out so cute!

Coordinating signs to announce the activities…
For the robot forms, I found 4″ mug-sized boxes from Kelly Paper (they were discontinued, so I got them on clearance for 25 cents each) and spray-painted them with silver metallic paint.  The “legs” are plastic hair curler/rollers that I bought at the 99 Cents Store and covered with aluminum foil.  You get about 8 rollers per pack and each one has 2 pieces, so it’s enough for 8 sets of robot legs. The “heads” are green floral foam blocks cut (each block yields about 3 heads) and covered with aluminum foil.  The foam works great for sticking in the pipe cleaner antennae. 
I set up the benches with the robot forms, pipe cleaners, puffy poofs, googly eyes, robot stickers, popsicle sticks, crayons, glitter glue and screw/bolt circle stickers that I printed.
Glue guns were available (with parental supervision of course), for more heavy duty gluing.
The Birthday Boy in his Iron Man suit, working on his robot. 
Some of the grown-ups really got into the robot assembly project.
A terrific robot by Cash, with a little help from Momma.
PJ ponders her cool creation…
Super cute robot by Lucy… 
Hot off the production line…yay for robots!
Let the games begin….
Signs were posted about a lost robot named “Robo”…this tiny wind-up robot was hidden throughout the house and the first kid to find him would receive a reward.  Then Robo was re-hidden for someone else to find.
Bailey and Brianne found Robo! Isaac’s birthday is on Halloween, so the kids are always encouraged to come in costume.
Replace the chip on the motherboard…I printed out a robot graphic (tiled to 8.5″ X 11″ sheets of cardstock) and red circle stickers with the kids’ names.
Musical chairs….of course with “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto” by Styx (which is currently the boys’ favorite song, even though this party was over a year ago).
Robot piñata!
Go Wonder Woman, Alexi!

The cake, by the always amazing Jeff Arcio of Rhino Cake Co., needs no introduction or description. The pictures say it all.  This cake was phenomenal!  Not only did it taste fantastic, but it was as big as Isaac!

That’s our Jeff…he’s THE MAN! He seriously needs his own cake show, he’s so talented and it’s amazing to watch him create these edible masterpieces…
He can barely reach the candles, the cake is so big!
Yay, Isaac!  I love how excited and delighted he is about his birthday cakes!
How cute are these robot candles that my sis, Julie, found on clearance at Target?  Basically, as soon as we decide on a theme for a party (usually the day after finishing up one party), my sisters and I start hunting for items to coordinate with the future party theme. Julie always finds the coolest stuff…for cheap!
I told you it was as big as Isaac!
The goodie bags were robot claw arms that my husband found in bulk on ebay for about $2 each.  A pinwheel was tied to each and robot print sandwich bags (from Target $1 section) were filled with novelty items from Oriental Trading Company: sticky hands, tattoos, foam robot stickers and custom robot stickers that I printed onto circle labels.  
The tag for the goodie bags….”Thanks for the fun, robot girls and boys.  Here’s something to help you pick up your toys!”
Once again, big thank you to my “dream team” (my family –  Aaron, Julie, Mary, Mark, Charlie, Tyan and Maylie; our friends – Jeff, Allison and Makala) for helping us pull off another AWESOME BIRTHDAY PARTY!


  1. Leticia says:

    Awesome job!!! I love everything about it. Im going to use this idea on the invitations. Where do I get the blue robot template with the option to add the picture? what about the accordion fold card with dot matrix printer paper? So genious. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Leticia,

      The robot invitations are my original custom design (I’m an invitation designer, so I do this for my business). For the blue robot with the picture, you can try finding robot clipart or vector artwork online and then superimposing the photo using Photoshop or a photo editing program. If that’s not an option, you can print out a robot image and the cut out your child’s picture to paste over the face portion of the robot. For the accordion fold card, I created the dot matrix paper using a photo I found of actual dot matrix printer paper.

      Hope that helps! Good luck and let me know how yours turn out.


  2. caroline goldman says:

    Wow. Awesome party. Where did you get the paper plates?

    1. Thanks, Caroline! It was such a fun party! The paper plates were from Target 3+ years ago…they had a robot themed collection of paper plates, napkins, paper cups, even the candles.


  3. Angela says:

    What did you use to paint the robot on the mirror? I would love to use this idea for my sons’ 3rd birthday party in a few weeks. Thanks!

    1. Hi Angela,

      I used a washable indoor/outdoor paint marker called Window Chalk by Chunkie. Crayola also makes washable window markers and crayons that come in assorted colors (and would probably be easier to find for your party). My kids love the Crayola window crayons and have fun drawing on our sliding glass back door all the time. Have a wonderful party!


  4. Anonymous says:

    now that is awesome robot party! starting with the invitations those were great super cute. To top it off the cake its unbelievable i thought it was a stuffed robot. Overall great party.

  5. Anonymous says:

    wow your talent and creativity is mind blowing!!! I love everything that has to do with invitations but your bot-invites were so cool! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Adriana says:

    Awesome party! My son's 2nd birthday party is in May and we are having a Robots and Rockets party. Thank you for all the great ideas!

  7. Meghan L. says:

    These ideas are incredible! I'm in the process of thinking up ideas for my son's 4th bday party in May with a robot theme. Definitely going to steal some of your ideas!