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How to Throw a (Fun) Baby Shower

5 party ideas that won't make your guests sleep like babies.

1. Theme: A Day at the Spa

Turn the party into a total pampering event. Perfect for a mom who's pregnant with her second child (who already has the baby necessities) and could use some babying herself. Ask guests to bring gifts to help mom chill out: a spa gift certificate, pajamas and loungewear, eye masks, or rich hand-and-body lotion. Give everyone a pair of slippers to wear for the afternoon.

Refreshments
Serve up spa cuisine, like cucumber-flavored water, smoothies, fruit salad, yogurt parfaits, and a vegetable frittata. Dessert is not only allowed -- it's required. Spas mean indulging, and chocolate is the best way to do so. Have high-quality chocolates on hand and pair with juicy strawberries to make them seem healthy.

Decor
Put on tranquil nature music or an instrumental CD to keep the mood mellow. Light scented votive candles. For centerpieces try a small vase filled with plush washcloths or bath beads (they can also serve as favors) or Zen sand gardens.

Activities
Relieve guests from playing games and, instead, treat them to special services. Hire a professional masseuse to give 10-minute back or foot rubs and a manicurist to paint nails or do polish changes.

Favors
Use a pretty ribbon to tie up a stack of up two or three colorful glycerin soaps to use for their showers. (Get it? An actual shower!)

2. Theme: A Star Is Born

Shower mom and her bump with all of the attention a famous actor would get. That doesn't mean you can't gossip about odd celeb baby names and who has and hasn't bounced back after giving birth. Lay down a red carpet and have a video camera set up to catch guests' arrivals on film (they can have their 15 minutes of fame and record a good-luck message for the new family).

Refreshments
Celebs are used to being fawned over -- especially when they go out to eat. Serve up some star treatment with fancy finger foods like lobster salad on toasted baguettes, imported olives served along crumbly chunks of real Parmigiano-Reggiano; get great recipes here. Or buy prepared goodies that can be heated up or served cold (shrimp cocktail anyone?). Boost the party food profile with a virgin signature drink named after the guest of honor.

Decor
Lights, camera, action! To put the guest of honor in the spotlight, you should have one -- a spotlight, that is. If real lighting is an issue, you can make a fake one out of construction paper (no lightbulb needed) and hang it across the room along with gold and silver stars made from aluminum foil and shiny gold paper. Get the mom-to-be a director's chair and a feather boa (hey, it's a festive day). Now to the paparazzi: Leave disposable cameras throughout the room and encourage people to pose and primp for the lens -- or catch them off guard. As for the action, well, it's the fun that will ensue when a bunch of women get together to celebrate.

Activities
Every star needs a one-of-a-kind wardrobe, right? Set up a table with white cotton onesies and some fabric markers, paints, and appliques. Have guests create a couture line of clothing for the little VIP.

Favors
Burn a CD with the best baby songs (for adults) around like "Baby Love," by the Supremes and "Always Be My Baby," by Mariah Carey. Design a cover with a photo of the mom-to-be and the date of the shower. If planning in advance, ask her to pose with a big gold star on her bump.

3. Theme: The Zodiac

Hey, baby, what's your sign? Whether you believe in astrology or not, it's entertaining to see how you stack up to personality traits that have been written in the stars. Use the mom's due date to figure out what sign the little one might be born under and play up anything to do with it (Leo the Lion, Taurus the Bull, etc.). Design cute horoscope tags for everyone so names and signs can be recognized (you can represent Gemini with a pic of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen to get some laughs).

Refreshments
Aquarian water infused with sliced strawberries, mini Taurus burgers, grilled Pisces (use tilapia or salmon; they have lower mercury levels), and baked ziti. Okay, that last one might not have anything to do with the zodiac, but it's easy to make and serve. Don't forget the side salad!

Decor
All of the signs of the zodiac can be found in constellations. Give the room a dreamy star look with strings of twinkling white lights. Show some innovation with the centerpieces and represent Cancer the crab as a stack of California rolls with crabmeat (works as a great appetizer too).

Activities
Ask guests for their birth dates when they RSVP and print out profiles that can be read aloud. Create a "wish upon a star" station where guests can leave their wish for the baby. Cut stars out of midnight blue construction paper and provide a silver marker for writing messages. Create a simple mobile using straws or small dowels and attach the stars.

Favors
Astrology assigns an element to each sign: fire, earth, air, and water. Send guests home with a candle scented to match one of these categories. Suggestions: cinnamon, pine, lemon, and ocean.

4. Theme: Little-one Luau

Whisk everyone away to Hawaii with a dose of the islands. Greet guests at the door with a lei and a silk flower to wear behind the ear. If the lady of the day went to Hawaii on her honeymoon, make sure the photo album is out for everyone to see and encourage people to swap stories of their Hawaiian adventures. Play music by native artists such as Don Ho, Jack Johnson, and Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo'ole.

Refreshments
What's the best beach drink? We say mai tai. Fill a big glass bowl with the virgin version of the juicy concoction and add fresh slices of orange and pineapple (be sure to have a bottle of booze for the nonpreggo peeps). Little paper umbrellas are a must. For food, serve a macadamia nut- or sesame-crusted fish and a cold noodle and chicken salad spiced with fresh ginger. End the day with a cake topped with shaved coconut and served with mango or guava sorbet.

Decor
Play up the tropical angle. A simple potted orchid makes a sophisticated centerpiece and can be raffled off or presented to the hula-hoop winner at the end of the event (see below for hula details). A pineapple can serve two functions -- it looks funky on the table and can be cut up and served later on. If you're not too averse to kitsch, finish off the arrangement with a Hawaiian-print tablecloth or place mats.

Activities
Hire a hula dancer and have her teach everyone the native dance. Or host a hula-hoop contest. See who can keep their hips swinging the longest. Wearing a coconut bra and grass skirt is optional. Buy some colored construction paper and make cutouts in the shape of a fish (any underwater creature will do) and use a hole punch to make a hole at one end. Ask everyone to choose a fish and write a good wish on it for the new parents and baby. Then string the wish fish together so they can be hung in the nursery.

Favors
Any season is a good one for thinking about the beach. Send guests home with a cute customized beach towel or cocoa butter body creams.

5. Theme: Bedtime Stories

Help build the baby's library by centering the party on books. Suggest guests bring a copy of their favorite childhood page-turner, whether it's for a baby, a toddler, or an early-stage reader. All extras can be sent to a local women's shelter. And if someone wants to add in a book on tape for mom, it would be much appreciated; she probably won't have time to pick up anything with big words in the near future.

Refreshments
No Stone Soup required. Nothing goes better with bedtime stories than milk and cookies. Or what about a tea party? We love to sip herbal teas when curling up with a good book. Offer an array of tea bags and those fancy sugar sticks, plus some home-brewed iced tea. Small tea sandwiches -- with the crusts cut off -- are easy to prepare, and you can use just about any filling you like (PB&J, cream cheese and cucumber, turkey and cranberry relish). Try to mix in foods derived from titles and authors like Blueberries for Sal (blueberry muffins), "Lemony Snicket" (lemon meringue pie), or Goldilocks and the Three Bears (porridge, or maybe some oatmeal squares).

Decor
Each table can be designed after favorite authors: Dr. Seuss, Beatrix Potter, Shel Silverstein, or Maurice Sendak. Or try characters like Madeline, Curious George, Frog and Toad, or Olivia. Use actual books that guests can browse through or stuffed animals that represent favorite childhood friends. Collect cute bookmarks and hang them from rope and clothespins strung on the walls.

Activities
Name that character! Head to the library and check out popular children's books (of past and present). Make color copies of key illustrations and hold them up so everyone can take a stab at identification (not out loud, of course, but written down). The winner can receive a gift card to a local bookstore.

Favors
Consider blank journals for writing future bestsellers or a book of crossword puzzles for word-lovers.

-- Grace Jidoun