Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rockin' Kids' Parties Part III: Food and Fun!

Starlet and her guests enjoying some party pizza!

Welcome to the third installment of my Rockin' Kids' Parties series (FINALLY!)! Starlet's party was wonderful, and she and all the kids (and the adults!) had a great time. Here are some ideas to help your next party be just as fun!


- For a character party, I say go with your theme! For example, for my daughter's Dora party last year we did mexican- quesadillas, chips & salsa, etc. It was fun and the kids enjoyed the variety. A princess party could have little tea sandwiches, a dinosaur party could have dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, and for a construction party you can have your guests "build" their own sandwiches- just be creative!

- Another option is to keep it simple! This year to simplify we just picked up some $5.55 pizzas from Little Caesars. Relatively inexpensive, and kids love pizza. We had cut up veggies with ranch dressing for dipping and some chips on the side.

- For a first birthday, I think it's fun to do all finger food- that's right, break out the fruit puffs and cheerios! It's a fun way to celebrate your little one.


- Crafts- For Starlet's party I found some really cute miniature wooden picture frames in a little kit with markers to color them at Michael's for $1.00 apiece. Since there were only going to be 7 kids, I decided that would be a fun and relatively inexpensive activity. When the kids arrived, I had our kid-sized picnic table set up in the kitchen with the kits arranged on it at each place, so when the kids came in they could sit right down and start coloring. It was a good way to keep things settled while everyone was arriving, and allowed the kids to kind of "connect" at the start of the party. My master plan was to take photos of Starlet with each guest for them to put into their frames, but...well, things don't always go as planned when you have 7 kids under the age of 5 running around!
For Monkey's tools party, I had intended to have the kids build little houses out of notched popsicle sticks (found in the craft section at Wal-Mart) but things got crazy so we didn't get around to it. That's why I recommend doing a craft at the beginning of the party.

- Games- There are the classics- Pin the Tail on the ______, Pass the Present, Duck Duck Goose, etc. I went to one party where they put candy in balloons and the kids each got a paper sack and had to pop the balloons to get the candy out. Then the hostess gave an extra prize to whoever collected the most balloon pieces at the end- clever clean-up!
For a first birthday, you can have even more fun with the games- do some baby relay races, in which participants have to transport items from one basket to another by crawling across the room. 
Another fun one for a first birthday is Baby Portrait- sit your birthday boy/girl in their high chair in the middle of the room, then give each person a slip of paper and a crayon. They have only 15-20 seconds to draw a portrait of the baby, and then they must pass the paper to the person on their right. They will then have another 15-20 seconds to work on someone else's started portrait. Continue passing 1-2 more times until the portraits are complete. We did this at Starlet's first birthday party and she loved being the center of attention, and all the adults were cracking up at their portrait creations!

-Treasure Hunt- Treasure hunts are a staple at our birthday parties, because they're a fun adventure and it's a creative way to give out the goodie bags at the end. For Starlet's party, we framed the treasure hunt around the Dora show- I made a Map, and we played the theme music before we started. As we went along, I said the Dora-isms, like, "Great! We've crossed the rickety bridge (a line of dining room chairs down our front hallway) and we've made it through the spooky tunnel (the dining room table covered in sheets) and collected our shapes (scattered on the floor of the tunnel), where do we go next?" Answer? "Bubble Forest!" (the kitchen, where the bubble machine was madly shooting out bubbles that the kids were supposed to pop, as the iPod player played the "Popping Bubbles" song). The final stop was the "Magic Door" which was just the laundry room door right off the kitchen that had a sheet of foam on it with shape outlines. Each child had to stick their shape they had collected from the tunnel in its spot on the magic door, and then the birthday girl could open the door to reveal their treasure- goodie bags! 
Monkey's birthday is in May, so the weather is much more conducive to outdoor play. For his treasure hunt I made picture clues, and gave them one clue to start- a picture of a swing- and when they went to the swing they found another clue- a picture of a trampoline- and so on until they found the treasure. 
You could do a treasure hunt to go along with any theme or character- the important part is to play to the kids' imaginations. The more excited and enthusiastic you are, the more fun they will have with it. Turn everyday objects into magical things- like my rickety bridge and my bubble forest! 

- Time Capsule- We did this for Starlet's first birthday, but it could really be done at any age. I got a big #10 can (like a coffee can) and decorated it as her time capsule. I left out some note cards and pens so that all of our friends and family could write notes to her that she could open on her 16th birthday. After the party was over, I added some of the leftover decorations, some photos I had taken that day, and of course the portraits we had done in our game. Now when she has her Sweet Sixteen, she will have an additional, extra special gift to open. :-)

Final Words of Advice

- It's easy to get carried away when planning a party- create a budget, and stick to it! When possible, keep it simple. For the goody bags I used large pink plastic cups ($1 for a large pack) and clear cellophane bags (leftover from something else). I filled the cups with bubbles (3 for $1), kaleidescope-type things (4 for $1), candy necklaces for the girls and bugs for the boys ($1 for all), lollipops ($1 for a big bag), and stickers ($1 for a book with 4 sheets, and I cut up each sheet into fourths). The kids loved them and it was a nice way to say thanks for coming!

- Make a schedule. It sounds silly, but it will help you keep your sanity to have a schedule and stick to it. As mentioned above, times when I didn't plan, my ideas didn't always happen. It's best to think through the order of events at the party to make sure things go fairly smoothly. For Starlet's party, we did the craft first, then lunch, then presents, then cake, then the treasure hunt. That's what worked best for us- decide what will work for you and go with it! 

- Have fun, and be sure to pay attention to the guest of honor to make sure he/she is having fun too. If your little one gets overwhelmed in large groups, keep it small. If they are particularly possessive of certain toys, put them away before guests arrive. Take a few moments throughout the party to take your little one aside and check in with them to make sure they're okay. It can be stressful having a birthday!

I hope these ideas have helped you plan your next birthday bash! Have fun and let me know how it goes!

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