Monday, March 11, 2013

Garden Party

 My baby boy just turned four on Saturday. In the weeks leading up to the day, I had it in my mind to throw him a small party at home. Since he has lots of cousins, I invited them (and just a couple of school friends) over for an afternoon tea party, but didn't have much planned to fill the two hours I'd allocated for the festivities. I started panicking a couple of days prior to the party, and in the end came up with a garden scavenger hunt for silver dragons eggs (plus one golden egg), followed by tea and cake, and finished off with a homemade pinata. It was lots of fun-some outside playtime and inside eating time, a bit of mayhem (which no party should be without) but not too overstimulating. If you want to see how it all got thrown together, and care to steal any of these ideas for throwing a last minute kids birthday party, scroll down past the photos for a checklist and instructions.

While we were waiting for the guests to all arrive (we had twelve kids in all, including my three), I gave any kids who wanted it a chance to feed and hold our lambs. Here is my niece Willow holding Violet (named after another niece in America).
Rather than wait til everyone left, Michael got right down to the business of opening his presents as they came. His cousins helped out with the right amount of oohing and ahhing.

When everyone had finally arrived, I got the kids outside for the scavenger hunt. Earlier in the day,  I had hidden 35 dragons' eggs (rocks that I spray painted silver, and one painted gold) around the garden. There was a prize for the child who found the most eggs, and also for whoever found the golden egg.

 The silver stones looked so beautiful hidden amongst the trees and bushes!

 The hunt is on!
They found all of the eggs/stones in about fifteen minutes. If I had this to do over, I would've hidden something like fifty or sixty eggs, to make it last a little longer. 
To the victor goes the spoils. Little notebooks wrapped in butcher block paper and tied in red cotton ribbon made up the scavenger hunt prizes. Charlie won both prizes. Typical.

After tea (supper to my American amigos) and cake, it was pinata time. While I was getting ready for the party, I asked Molly, our friendly neighborhood babysitter, to decorate brown paper bags for the kids so they could collect their pinata candy. I suppose I could've had the kids decorate their own bags, but we didn't really have time, so I'm glad Molly helped out.  

Next we went back outside, and each child got a turn to whack the pinata. Henry held it up by the string, and nearly got hit a few times. Hanging it up is probably a safer option.

After the mad scrabble for candy, of which there was not too much, we were just about out of time. I passed around a grab bag with individually wrapped little toys inside, one for each child, and sent them all on their way. Was Michael a happy birthday boy? 
Yes. Yes, he was.

Here is how I prepared for the party:

1) I bought some pretty spring colored paper plates and napkins, and dug out the plastic cutlery that I had saved from Charlie's party in September.
2) I picked up the party favor toys, like a bag of jacks, a deck of Old Maid cards, a wooden pop gun, etc., I got almost everything from a shop near me that carries a lot of toys from House of Marbles; most were £5 or less, none were plastic.
(The classics never die. Michael and Charlie have been playing pick up sticks non-stop for two days, and Jake is becoming a jacks expert.)

3) I started making the pinata. I blew up a balloon, put it in a vase and covered it with a layer of newspaper strips dipped in flour and water paste (roughly two parts water to one part flour). I let it dry overnight.
Future pinata, above.

1) Added a second, then third layer of newspaper strips to the dry layer of the pinata. Let it dry again (sped up the process with a hairdryer).

2) Also for the pinata, bought a couple of bags of chocolate mini eggs and gummy candies (here you can easily find the kind with no artificial colors, which is such a relief to me). I would've preferred to add those fruit sweetened lollipops instead of gummies, but I couldn't find any at the last minute.

3) Made a simple chocolate cake, using the last box of Barefoot Contessa Ultimate Chocolate Cake mix I had left from America. Baking is not my strong suit, so I didn't bother with making it from scratch. I decorated the edge of the cake plate with little flowers, to hide my bad frosting skills.

4) Bought some sausages and pasta for childrens' tea. Also some carrots, cut up into sticks, and cucumbers peeled and cut into wheels. Pasta was offered plain with cheese, or with pesto. If you don't already have them on hand, pick up a bag of brown paper lunch bags, for the pinata candy collecting.

Finished the pinata, which I filled with candy, and decorated with strips of yellow and blue tissue paper, stuck on in alternating layers from top to bottom using a glue stick. I poked two very small holes through the neck to thread a string through for hanging. There must be a better way to do the string, but I didn't think of adding it until after I had finished making the whole thing.

1) The party didn't start til four in the afternoon. It was Jake's idea to use rocks for the scavenger hunt. I needed something that we already had a bunch of lying around, and it took my nine year old to point out the rocks. I remembered my leftover can of silver spray paint that I used for the wooden sceptres for Charlie's birthday. I ran around the garden, collected about thirty five rocks, rinsed them off, dried them in the oven, and spray painted them all silver. Then I decided to make one big, golden egg. I coated it with glue and glitter. It was barely dry in time.

2) Write the name of each partygoer on the brown paper bags. To help quell the ants in the pants of your kids while they wait for the party to get started, ask them to decorate the bags. Or you can put one bag at each place setting, and have the kids decorate their own upon arrival. Also while waiting for things to get going, blow up a bunch of balloons and threw them around the house for everyone to play with. There are still a bunch of them floating around here. 

And that is that. Do you have any easy, last minute birthday party ideas you'd like to share? Please do. I've only got three months til the next one comes along!

1 comment:

  1. It would be right to involve your kids in making the arrangements for a dragon party, as it would help them to explore their creativity, make them feel happy, and turning them into responsible individuals. Saving your own time will be an added benefit.