"The Polar Express" is a favorite holiday story for kids and families. The book and subsequent movie inspire several creative options for a theme party. The story centers around a child questioning his belief in Santa Claus. A dream about a train headed for the North Pole rekindles the wonderment and joy that go along with this special season, making the story an enjoyable theme that works well for winter birthday parties and Christmas parties alike.
Each child has a ticket to board the Polar Express train in the book. Create homemade ticket-style invitations for the party guests. Gold paper works best for the invitations. Print the party detail on the gold paper and cut the paper into ticket shapes. Instruct the guests to bring their tickets along with them to the party. Have an adult "conductor" punch each guest's ticket once he arrives at the party.
Set up a toy train in the party area to illustrate the train theme in the movie. Let the toy train run throughout the party. For an interactive train element, create your own Polar Express from appliance boxes. Ask an appliance store if you can have two or three large appliance boxes. Cut out windows from the boxes along two of the long sides. Paint the boxes to resemble the Polar Express from the book and movie. The kids can pretend to ride on the Polar Express at the party.
Add other decorations to transform the party venue into a magical destination for the kids. Add strands of Christmas lights along the walls and ceilings for a glowing decoration. Cut out paper snowflakes and hang them from the ceiling. Stack a lot of wrapped Christmas presents around the party area. You can use actual wrapped gifts or simply wrap empty boxes. Make signs such as "Welcome to the North Pole" or "Polar Express Station" to hang around the party venue.
Reading "The Polar Express" is a good way to start the party. A Santa's pack relay gets the kids moving after sitting still for the story. Each team needs a Santa bag or a pillowcase and a pile of presents. The first player on each team packs the bag with all of the gifts, runs around a cone at the other end of the area with the bag and back to the starting line where she dumps the wrapped packages. The next player loads the gifts back up and repeats the race. The first team to finish wins.
Wrap up the party with a visit from Santa himself. Each child gets a chance to talk with Santa Claus. Have Santa pass out jingle bells similar to the ones in the book. You can also have Santa hand out the party favors, such as a copy of "The Polar Express" for each child. A special cocoa mug with a packet of hot chocolate is a fitting party favor.