I am a big fan of birthdays, and having some kind of celebration makes it special. From small and cozy to an all-out extravaganza, there are many ways to honor the birthday kid. Kidoinfo has a great list of resources and ideas on how to have a party. Decide what works for your family and don’t stress over what you think you should do. I wrote about choosing a birthday theme in the past and today Katy Killilea writes about having a birthday party at home (one of our family favorites).
What happened to having a birthday party? My first grader’s classmates have been taking turns hosting parties at Big Fun, big-box venues: Radical Rick’s, Monster Mini-golf, Fantasyland. It seems we go to one of these parties a few times each month. Hey, I have no quibble with the fun the kids have and do not mean to criticize parents who choose these venues for parties. I am, of course, grateful for the many afternoons of entertainment my son has enjoyed. (And please don’t stop inviting him. It’s not his fault his mother is like this.)
But. When it came time for us to have a birthday party this spring, we planned our usual little shindig. Doing so felt almost aggressively retrograde. And I worried that our back yard party would flop. That the kids would be bored without the delights to which they had become accustomed: glow-in-the-dark monsters, an animatronic bear strumming a guitar every twenty minutes, or laser tag. An additional worry: would we just seem cheap? (I do not know the cost per child for one of the Big Fun parties, but I’m pretty sure it is more than the cost per child for cake, pizza, pineapple, and grape juice/milk, and a bag of fifteen multicolored balloons.)
I do not know how to decorate a cake to look like a Barbie princess, nor do I have clever party ideas to share (our not-so-clever yard party games are described below). Instead, I want to report that our very simple party was fun. We played games, the kids played on the swing set, ate pizza on the patio, zipped over a pit of poisonous snakes (or were they dead leaves and random sticks?) on a trolley strung between two trees. It differed from a regular playdate only in that there were more kids, and there was a handful of adult-directed games, ahem, “events.” Oh, and there were cupcakes, and the singing of the song that no birthday party can be without.
The kids we know, I am happy and relieved to report, are not yet so jaded that they can’t just play outside and enjoy one another’s goofy company. Start with a birthday boy or girl and add some friends, a watermelon, a pizzeria that delivers, and cake, what you get is a pretty great birthday party.
Yard games we used:
1. Arm tangle (photo, above left). Equipment needed: none. Kids stand close together in a circle, eyes closed. Everyone grabs someone else’s hand in each of their hands. The challenge is to untangle the arms and form a circle without letting go of any hands. (Usually involves twisting under arms, stepping over, etc.)
2. Door mat (photo, above middle). Equipment needed: none. All of the kids have to stand on a doormat at the same time. That’s it.
3. Balance beam (photo, above right). Equipment needed: log, bench, stripe of masking tape. Everyone balances on the beam. Then they are told to rearrange themselves (by height, age, etc.) without stepping off.
4. Tarp flip. Equipment needed: a tarp or picnic blanket. Everyone stands on the tarp. They are challenged to flip the entire thing over without stepping off or using their hands.
Have a cupcake idea? A party game to share? Just want to rave about the food at Fantasyland? Please share your comments.
Let There Be Cake…
Coming soon: Birthday cakes on Flickr
Photo: Katy Killilea