The magic of a butterfly birthday bash at Franklin Park Conservatory.

Simple and sane. Who knew that was possible for a birthday party packed with 6-year-olds? But that's what Heather Buchanan pulled off when she created a magical Butterfly Birthday Party for her daughter May's sixth birthday. Let's take a peek at what she did and get some ideas for our own birthday-party planning.

The Setting: Franklin Park Conservatory. Heather reserved one of the meeting rooms on the ground level to serve as home base for the party. As members of the conservatory (annual family membership starts at $60), they got a discounted rate of $284 for the two-hour use of the room, linen rental and admission for up to 15 children and 15 adults to the Conservatory gardens.

The Guests: Nine little girls, including May and her 3-year-old sister Paige, and two boys. Invitations were ordered through Fine Stationery, an online provider; $58 bought 20 invitations and envelopes printed on a colorful cardstock and a pre-printed return address.

The Decorations: The tables had "butterfly bouquet" centerpieces (cardstock butterflies attached to green crafting wire) set in tall, glass vases with a Styrofoam core inside and a "grass" wrapping. The refreshments table had pink, green, orange and yellow cardstock butterflies and the cut-out letters "May Is 6" threaded along a black grosgrain ribbon.

The Food:
Blueberry and strawberry skewers A bowl of pretzels A plate of cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese cubes A plate of sugar cookies with royal frosting Juice boxes (apple, pearand tropical punch) Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla butter-cream frosting, topped with butterfly cutouts on toothpicks How do you take your cake?
Heather said she's become a big fan of serving cupcakes at kids' parties: "It's easier than cutting up and serving a cake." She kept preparation simple, too, making her own cupcakes with an extra-yummy topping of homemade butter-cream frosting and a butterfly decoration.

Present-Opening Protocol
With this age group especially, Heather said she prefers not to have the birthday honoree open presents at the party: "Kids don't always know how to react at this age. They might blurt out that they don't like something or they already have it." And then there's the "I want a present, too" blues that has undone many a birthday-party guest. It's best to keep the kids busy and well fed, Heather said, and save the present opening for later.

The Schedule:
When the guests arrived, they were offered a press-on butterfly or bug tattoo. From there, it was onto the three party tables where craft projects had been set up: tissue-paper and pipe-cleaner butterflies; placemat pictures to decorate with butterfly and bug stickers; and big butterfly templates to decorate with markers and sticky-backed Styrofoam pieces. After craft time and some nibbling on snacks, it was off to the upstairs lobby area where the children could check out the butterfly cocoons, then hike into the Conservatory's Pacific Island Water Garden where this year's butterfly display was in full swing. The popular Blooms and Butterflies exhibition takes place each year from about mid-March to early July. Then back to the party room for the birthday cupcakes, more nibbles, crafts, games and singing. Upon departure, each child got a white-paper goodie bag filled with a bug-jar kit, a bug-magnifying glass, butterfly sunglasses for the girls and butterfly super-balls for the boys. Where to get what you need:
Invitations from finestationery.com Oriental Trading Company (orientaltrading.com) for the craft-project supplies. Archiver's, a scrapbooking supply store at 3876 Townsfair Way at Easton, for all the cardstock and cutting tools to make the butterflies. Factory Card & Party Outlet, 3707 Easton Market, Columbus for the party hats Michael's Craft Store (multiple locations) for the green crafting wire, glass vases, sunglasses and super-balls. Franklin Park Conservatory, 1777 E. Broad St.. Call the Events office at 614-645-1800. The Conservatory also offers catering for children's birthday and tea parties, starting at about $10 per person.