You’ve got another birthday around the corner, or maybe your little one just wants to play hostess. Either way, it seems like every year the stakes are raised on childrens party themes. Bigger crowds, larger venues, bounce houses rented and caterers hired. But in the beautiful sun of spring, it’s hard not to want to simplify and take advantage of the season and its offerings. Here are some ideas for simpler, but no less exciting, kids parties this spring.
The Treasure Hunt
This one’s a classic, and flexible in terms of setting. Choose a large park with lots of grass, trees and play-structures; the beach, if you’re near the coast; or just spread the hunt across your own neighborhood. Wherever you place it, a treasure hunt will get the kids outside, exercising and charged to use their critical thinking skills.
First things first, sit down and figure out your route. How many clues do you want to place? Remember that you will have to write some sort of riddle for each location, so don’t overextend yourself. On the other hand, if you’re feeling particularly creative, go crazy!
After you’ve determined how many clues you want to place, write your starting clue. Your starting clue should lead the kids to their next clue (you’ll then write a clue for each location).
Perhaps you want the kids to go, first, to the jungle gym. For younger children, the clue can take the form of an image – maybe monkeys playing around (“how do monkeys play?” “they climb and swing in trees!” “what if there aren’t trees?” “the monkey bars!”). For children who are just learning to read, a simple “Go where monkeys play,” might do, but to really challenge yourself (and the kids) trying writing the clue in a rhyme or in the form of a riddle.
Finally, choose a treasure. Especially if the hunt gets difficult for the kids, they’ll need a reason to keep playing (and thinking!). The treasure can be home baked cookies, your party bags, even the birthday cake and pile of presents. Anything that’s exciting enough to keep them interested (and sometimes surprises are the most exciting of all).
We all know kids have a lot of energy. Now multiply that by all the kids in your child’s class. So, at party time we have to ask, how do we harness that energy? The Party Olympics theme is great because you can plan a list of activities and engage in as many, or few, as you have time for. It also gets the kids moving and engaged in friendly competition.
Game ideas for party olympics include sack races, three legged races, hula hoop competitions, jump rope competitions, ring toss, spitting fruit loops into a bowl (good for less athletic kids), or even quick skit competitions for the more creative. The list of possibilities is as endless as your imagination – and research ability, the internet is full of these.
Try to have small prizes (printed awards work great) for each event, and make sure every child gets a prize. Expanding outside of the standard 1st, 2nd, 3rd places into “Silliest Faces,” “Loudest Laugh,” and “Best Team Player” really helps make all the kids feel special and successful.
Garden Tea Party
Okay, this one might be a little more specific, but whether because of Alice in Wonderland or those wonderful costume dramas, most little girls (and some boys) dream of hosting a real tea party. This is a little more low key, though it still takes advantage of the sun. Borrow some card tables and set them up in the back yard with tablecloths (or white, floral sheets if you haven’t got enough real cloths). If you haven’t got lace, or you don’t want it ruined, buy a few packs of doilies at the dollar store. Most children will love these just the same.
A pot of tea for each table is essential, and well decorated (if sturdy) tea cups for each child. The secret to tea treats is, make them small. Sandwiches – peanut butter and jelly will do fine – with the crusts cut off and divided into four triangles, scones, mini cupcakes, tiny tarts, Madelines half dipped in chocolate. Again, the list can be as long or short as you like and as adventurous as you feel ready for. The internet is full of tea recipes, so explore!
Finally, and most importantly, make sure you give the children an opportunity to don the right attire. At its heart, a tea party is a dress up party. Include “appropriate dress” on the invitation, but then make hats, gloves, shawls, anything you can get your hands on, really, available at the door. If there are a couple boys, make sure you have ties ready. After the eating is over, the kids will have fun swapping outfits and continuing with the make-believe.
Whatever the theme you choose, represent it on your invitation. A good graphic only enhances your young guests’ anticipation.