Sunday, May 4, 2008

Green Birthday Party

I promised a lowdown about EGirl's party last weekend and I may now be close enough to recovered to actually write about it! We were unbelievably lucky since it was supposed to rain, and I stubbornly refused to have an indoor backup plan (our house isn't big enough for a kid party and I really wanted to be outside!). Fortunately, the 50% showers that were forecast? Pfffft. Not a drop.

My favorite party activity was the singing of Happy Birthday. We have a cherry tree in our front yard, and every year it blooms just before EGirl's birthday. She's long heard the tale of how the tree shook down a pink petal carpet to welcome her to the world. We came home from the hospital, carrying her in our arms in a tiny bundle (to be sniffed by her wagging dog), and the tree rejoiced. She knows it blooms just for her. Well, PapaBird secretly collected a duffel bag of fallen petals, and when the children were singing, spirited the crowd over to him and had EGirl's friends throw giant handfuls of petals in the air like confetti for the last bars. As everyone sang, "Happy Birthday to you," it rained pink petals all over EGirl and her cousin TGirl (they are exactly one year apart and share a birthday).

Most people writing in wanted to know about party favors. I'll go there first. I got all intensely absorbed in figuring out how to work my Freecycled sewing machine in the week before the party and made beanbags (thanks to the Artful Parent for the idea! it was actually supposed to be a great project for a child learning to sew so I figured correctly that it was about my speed).

I used old blue jeans, some lovely rose-patterned canvas fabric I bought about 3 years ago when I was daydreaming about making doll clothes for EGirl's Waldorf mini-me, and some of EGirl's crib sheet fabric from an old ripped one I've been hanging onto. Yes, I am a packrat. And now? Fuel to my fire. Everything can be upcycled! Ahem. Anyways, we used them to play hopscotch (brought sidewalk chalk to the park) and the kids got to pick one beanbag out and bring it home. I am going to go out on a limb and say that the children may not have been as backflippingly excited about the beanbags as I was (I figured out how to make my sewing machine work!!), but they did enjoy the hopscotch.

Other party favors? We used our hoard of baby food jars to house jelly beans (bought in bulk at Costco). We made homemade playdough (with glitter!) in several colors and put it in a huge bowl. The kids ripped hunks off of the mound and stuffed it into wax paper bags, adding more glitter if they felt the urge. We made paper coupons that said, "Ticket To Tickle Town!" And, instead of presents, we had a book swap. Everyone brought a book (some wrapped, some not, some used, some new -- we brought a bunch of backups just in case) and I put them all out in a pile for the kids to choose from en masse. Everyone ended up with a book they liked to take home. (This idea, btw, worked out much better than the "no presents but your presence" tactic that we've used in years past).

Activities? We played with a parachute, hit a thousand innings of T-ball, blew bubbles (pack rat alert: I have saved every wand from every bottle we've ever gotten, plus you can use pipe cleaners if you're running low). We actually tried a bunch of homemade bubbles (glycerine + dish soap) the day before, which was very interesting for CBoy but not so effective on the bubble blowing front. We actually (gasp! siren alert for infraction of Buy-Nothing April) bought a couple giant bottles of bubbles for the party (mea culpa, our only purchase besides food!).

My mom made us a homemade soccer ball pinata which we filled with Hershey's kisses (food?! should have been fair trade too, alas). Our intent was to a)avoid the interminable whacking we've endured at most every party wherein the poor birthday child wigs out because there is no way a small person can enter Pinata Innard Heaven without turning into a whirling dervish and b)to devise a non-violent, non-competitive pinata. Usually, pinatas are pretty freaking resilient, inspiring tiny person steroid abuse. Oh, how the pendulum swings. Our pinata? Not so sturdy. We'd envisioned swift kicks passing the pinata from child to child. It split on the first kick! Note to self: listen to your mother (she questioned the pinata's structural integrity early on and urged multiple applications of newspaper and flour paste over the course of several days, for those of you trying this at home. 'Awhich we did not do).

Our party took place at a park next to a rockin' playground so we spent a bunch of time on the swings, carousel horses, and climbing giant ladders.

For the final event (drum roll please) we had a treasure hunt. Each kid (parent assistance needed) got a frame made of 2 pieces of glass (Clips from IKEA - 99 cents for a 4-pack but we already - ahem, packrat - randomly had 20 in the art supply closet so HAH! no purchase there). Treasure hunt! Treasure hunt! Squeeaaallll! We handed out construction paper backgrounds in assorted colors cut to fit the frames. Husssh. I explained that the treasure hunt directions were to go find a treasure in the field. A beautiful flower, a leaf they particularly liked, a special piece of grass. They scampered in all directions. Then the children pressed their treasure into their frame and wa-la! Party favor and activity all in one.

Random green birthday tips? We skipped juice boxes in favor of a big cooler of lemonade (used assorted paper cups from old birthday parties, but might supplement our stash of IKEA plastic cups for the future -- we already have enough for the soccer team and wash/reuse them every week). Used up random paper goods (Winnie the Pooh meets rainbows!) but will probably go for a set of easily stored reusable plates in the future. Used old plastic forks/knives -- some IKEA, some takeout, some old birthday party utensils -- and saved them to rewash/reuse.

All in all, the lesson was simple. Kids have fun easily. They don't need much to enjoy one another's company. Building on their curiosity and active play is key. Hope some of these ideas are helpful!

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can vouch that it was a great party! And a certain neighbor, just turned five herself, would have turned backflips over the beanbags if she were able.

MamaBird said...

Ah, the hoster of the Blueberry Festival weighs in! Great party there, folks, outdoors at a playground *as well* with a blueberry (think actual fruit and blue sequins) motif. Which is another amazing idea for those of you trying to go simple: kids like themes (and not the color-of-the-streamers-kind) -- use your creativity like this parent did to make your child feel like they are in a magical world.

Tech Savvy Mama said...

Congrats on such a wonderful birthday party and thanks for sharing! You have completely inspired me to use what we have in the house for Captain Computer's 2nd birthday this summer. Between being a former first grade teacher with boxes of craft supplies and my pack rat tendencies, we should be set for years!

Green Me said...

I love the idea of a soccer ball pinata! One of my friends coaches a kids soccer team and I bet that will be a hit! Bean bags are also a great idea. Unlike the plastic fak-o party favors they've made for years they'll probably actually last and get used! Great job -- sounds like it was fun for all involved!

MamaBird said...

Tech Savvy Mama - I can't wait to hear what you pull out of your supplies - I relied *so heavily* on our first grade teacher (GrandmaBird) for ideas!

Green Me - agreed on the plastic fako toys, they are always chokable to boot. Our friend at OrganicMania has a great rant about cheap plastic cr*p!

Lynn from organicmania.com said...

Love it, love it, love it! :)

Mrs. G. said...

You are so creative. I'm glad the party was a success. That is one beautiful tree.

MamaBird said...

Thanks OrganicMania and Mrs. G -- and yes, we are *so* lucky to have that cherry tree.

Cindy Fey said...

Beautiful! Thanks for all the great ideas!

Nora Bee said...

It sounds great. To have your daddy shower you with flower petals--what a nice memory!

Melissa said...

Great party and great ideas. I have two birthdays to plan this summer. My son is getting older now, so we will probably do a party with his preschool friends this year opposed to a family-only party. I might have to borrow some of your ideas, t-ball and bubbles for sure.

bipolarlawyercook said...

This is wonderful-- I am going to go make a treasures of the season hanging this weekend-- I've got a few of those glass frames hanging around right now. You are brilliant.

Grandmother Wren said...

What a fun party! And I love, love, Love! the book swap idea. I'm going to borrow that one for Miss Maya's birthday in August. Thank you!