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Kids Birthday Party Help!

 
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Hello Permies.

Help please! I need some ideas! I want to decorate a kids birthday party. Here are some qualities:

1. Spectacular.
2. Eco-friendly/Zero Waste
3. Cheap/Free/Useful
4. Outdoor friendly

My son will be three so it's a milestone one for him. I figure it's important more as an experience than anything. Please recommend fun games with home things! We're not having a group of three year olds here, think family games. A birthday experience for him in our yard.

The limitations of the current social restrictions limit our options, but not substantially. I don't shop at Amazon so if you can recommend a reasonable online store, especially in the PNW, I'll take a look.
Now that stores are opening, I might venture out but want to keep trips short and to the point, and prefer to not.

So if you have any advice for kids parties, please share! My son would love a bunch of balloons, but I am against them and would love alternatives. Maybe bubbles? A bunch of balls? What's impressive?
 
gardener
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One of the things we did as kids and that I have carried on with my nieces and nephews, is dress up adventures. Dress up in costumes and go fight the monsters, rescue people, etc. Everyone has different abilities (magic, fighting, scouting, etc) that they make up themselves, although younger kids sometimes need ideas. This could be done with super heroes, characters from movies, etc.

I am usually the leader and story teller just to help give a little structure and because the kids enjoy it like a bedtime story, but mostly I go with the flow and know when to wrap up because the kids are tired.

Costumes can be crafted from all sorts of things in the house or thrift store finds, weapons can be simple or ornate. You can pack fun birthday treats from home or take store bought treats you don't normally buy. (We never ate boxed cereal and we still remember fondly the time our gramma donated a box of it for our travel rations.)

We didn't have money as kids but we kept ourselves busy outside for hours with these adventures.  
 
Bihai Il
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That's an excellent idea, Sonja. I'll see what kind of silly things we have around for costumes. We can make some silly hats or something too.
 
pollinator
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  • Follow a treasure map.
  • Have a scavenger hunt.
  • "Gross" stuff: Explore worms and bugs and find out how they turn trash/ waste into soil/ plant food.
  • Gather seeds/ cuttings from groceries or the wild.
  • Build something useful. A scarecrow or a bean teepee might be age appropriate.
  •  
    Bihai Il
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    More good ideas, T, thank you. I have seeds to plant and don't care how/where. We also have building supplies like poles, sticks, rocks, we can add old clothes to build whatever. Nice and open-ended, but could be constructive too.

    And grossing people out with worms is always fun. Roly polys, snails, ladybugs, butterflies, bees, earwigs are plentiful. Maybe we could do an I Spy Scavenger Hunt type thing with that.
     
    master steward
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    For cheap party favor you might check out Dollar Tree's online store.  Everything is a $1.00 though you have to buy a case so the price varies based on what you pick.  It looks like they have some that are an assortment.

    This is just a search of "Party Favors & Games" just to give you an idea of what they offer.

    https://www.dollartree.com/party-supplies/party-favors-games





     
    master steward
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    My son and daughter LOVE parties (they're 6 and 3). Their favorite thing to do is get a bunch of flowers and pretty leaves and bring them inside and strew them about. So, if your son thinks flowers and plants are cool, you could do a lot of decorating with those! (Think back to Victorian and before times, and how decorations were mostly with seasonal colorful plants. Flowers wreaths and bouquets, strands of holly and ivy, etc).

    They also LOVE balloons. So, for my husband's birthday, I printed up a bunch of pictures of balloons and hot air balloons. My kids loved coloring them (my daughter scribbled though probably 10 of them!), and I hung them all up around the house. They didn't care that they weren't floating balloons--these were colorful and fun! You could also use cardstock and just cut out a bunch of colorful balloons and hang them up

    Another thing that's like balloons, but not nearly as wasteful, is balls. My kids love balls! And, they make a nice outdoor toy, too. Bubbles are a HUGE hit with kids. If you can get a bubble machine, that's awesome. When my niece had her 1st birthday, my son was 3 and spent the whole time just running through the bubbles. When I worked with preschoolers, another worker said, "balloons are like crack for three year olds." I don't think they were too far off with that statement! If you can get those giant balloon wands for them to make giant balloons, that'd be super cool!

    For games, we like playing Wildcraft (attention spans are short, so we usually just play going up to the top of the mountain, and not back down, and I often kind of rig the game so the kids hit the shortcuts to get to the top fast, ha! They often don't notice if you "accidentally" move them 4 spaces instead of 6, and they cross the log bridge to get their sooner). Wildcraft is a lot like Candy Land, but with learning about herbs to solve ailments you get along the way. My daughter is 3.5, and can already ID most of the herbs! It's not just on amazon, you can get it through Learning Herbs and from Mountain Rose Herbs and probably other places, too.



    Candy Land is another fun one (once again, stacking the deck isn't a bad idea if the kids have short attention span, ha!)

    Three year olds are pretty easily impressed with life. They don't need a ton of organized games...and often don't care about them or get much out of them. If you have a class of three year olds, you can get them to do Duck Duck Goose...kind of. It's hard...and mostly chaos. They have more fun just playing and running around. So, I wouldn't worry about doing super fun games...just make super fun places and things to play with. Tee-pees, forts, etc. You could build a few things outside quick and easy and incorporate them into any kind of treasure hunt story....though, with your child just turning 3, don't be amazed if this kind of goes over their heads.

    If your kid likes trains, you could make a giant "train" by setting a bunch of chairs in a row and putting blankets on it. Or make a fort the same way. Or make an obstacle course with different things for them to run and jump and crawl through. Little kids love that!

    I second the idea of a treasure hunt, too! But, of course I say that because I did a treasure hunt for both of my kids when they were around that age. It's actually a bit above the age level for a 3 year old (I did them when  I taught preschool and hid a treasure chests for both 3/4 year old class and 4/5 year old class, and the three year olds were totally lost, but they still loved finding the treasure). Both my kids were a bit lost when they had theirs, but still loved it (my son really loved when we did one for my daughter, because he was old enough to really understand it, and now they take turn hiding treasure and having the other dig it up).


     
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    Birthday Parade
    For our year three birthday parties we made a parade. Party guests brought a “vehicle” such as a tricycle, wagon, stroller, pull toy. Party-goers decorated them with stuff we provided: bandanas, flowers, leaves, sticks, stuffed animals. They either drove in the parade on their trike or pulled/pushed their animals in the wagon/stroller. Or an adult pulled them in the wagon. We had a long driveway and marked the middle with chalk so there were two “lanes” to look like a road. They went around and around many times.

    Cupcake Walk
    We also did a cupcake walk-a hybrid of a cake walk/musical chairs. We drew chalk circles big enough that a human could stand within and drew a few more than the number of expected guests. You could use rocks/sticks. In the middle of the circle we drew a letter of the alphabet, but you could place something from nature as long as each circle contained something unique. I had a bowl with bits of scrap paper that had alphabet letters written in each one. Like calling for Bingo. You could write the nature objects on the papers.  

    Make cupcakes or other treat
    Guests stand with their own circle
    Play music
    Guests follow each other stepping/jumping/hopping from circle to circle in the same direction (or not)
    When music stops, everyone stops on a circle
    Pull out a slip of paper and call out a letter. Winner gets a cupcake and continues to play.
    Keep playing until everyone gets a treat.
    I rigged it and when I pulled the paper, I just called out the letter I wanted to so every round had a different winner.
    Nobody gets “out” of the game and everyone wins!

    Bubbles
    We made homemade bubbles with dish soap and glycerine, which made tough, long lasting bubbles. We put bubble solution in a plastic tote a few inches deep and made wands with wire coat hangers. We also used kitchen utensils that had holes, like slotted spoons, sieves, salad spinner. The best wand was a baseball cap dryer rack. We all dipped “wands” in the tub and spun around making looooong bubbles. Here is a link to making bubbles with or without glycerine and lots of outdoor activities https://artfulparent.com/bubble-printing-bubble-snakes/
    F4ED00CF-5A51-4F14-8DB9-7A956A05E96B.jpeg
    Cap drying rack
    Cap drying rack
     
    Posts: 9
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    The wool game
    When I was little the highpoint of a Christmas visit to my Grandma or Aunty Joan (sisters) was a game they'd prepared before we arrived and must have taken some time.
    Using a ball of wool or string, you tie the end to the "prize" which you hide, then unwrap the rest around under and through every bit of furniture and part of your house you can. The harder and tinier the hole you can get it through the better. If it can go in and out and back again of cupboards, under beds what ever. Each participant has a different colour so you can get them tangled together, and it is a kind of race but each string has a prize.
    It will obstruct wherever you put it, doorknob to under bed to hallway to etc. Grandma used pretty much her entire upstairs :) With a very long length it will take a while, because you have to wind it back up neatly as you go back into a ball. It gets a bit nervy especially if you can see it's heading into that cupboard over there and not come out again so that must be where the prize is but I must keep winding it back up aaarrrgh!!
    What is weird is how fun it is despite being really quite slow. The more twists you put in the more fun. My son loved it at about that age :)
     
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    Pre-covid life was a LOT of entertaining for our household, albeit adult varieties since the only children we have are fluffy and have four legs.  The zero-waste is really hard to achieve, at least for me.

    Favours:
    I would suggest sugar cookies or truffles or something else (chocolate peanut butter cups?) as a party favour. They can be gifted in little paper bags or folded kraft paper squares.  The treat inside gets eaten and the packaging is compostable.

    Single use party items:

    I have an enormous amount of glasses, so people dont need to use plastic cups. I've been trying to work out more environmentally friendly ideas for plates and cutlery. The glasses take up a lot of space, and I just cant expand any more dishes or cutlery, so last year I was trialing compostable, eco-certified sustainably harvested wood vaneer plates and cutlery.

    I think they have been treated with a simple food grade wax, and guests have rated them as very good for the plates (held up under hot, cold, sauces and juicy things), although cutlery was  so-so. Spoons were good, knives were okay but very short blades, and forks were poor, as the tines were very short and too thick and blunt. They were harder to use for meat and salad.  Might be good with cake or other soft food. There might be more than one company, with different shaped cuts, so maybe there are better ones to be found.  I confirmed these were safe for green bin collection in my municipality.

    I HAVE seen "compostable" plastic cups and plates, but after calling the municipality, these arent compostable anywhere in my province! They can only be composted in special industrial composting facilities, that arent rated for our municipal collection. For the province they pull them out of the recycling or composting streams and they get diverted to landfill. Definitely have to watch the labelling on items. :/

    For inexpensive real cups and plates, you could try searching the goodwill or salvation army (I dont know if they are open given covid shutdowns, at least in my province). Maybe these could also be the party favours? Each child could pick out their own cup or mug to use when they arrived and keep it when they leave? (Could maybe tie little fabric ribbons on each one with different colours so they dont get mixed up?).

    Bubbles sounds pretty fun, my nephews were always excited by them at that age. Coloured paper is inexpensive and maybe  less environmentally damaging than plastic streamers or other stuff. Maybe you could cut out fun shapes to tie up with string?

    Not sure about distanced activities. The bug hunt and other activities might be good to keep small ones at a reasonable distance.

    Good luck!
     
    Posts: 15
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    My three children were all born within the same week...we call it birthday week.  We throw a big birthday bash for the three of them each year!  I always have them help me choose a theme...which helps me decide on the games and snacks and 'feel' of the party.  I like it to be super 'down home,' waste free, in line with our values, but epic in its own right.  I would start your planning with what your son loves.  Our parties have had the following themes: superheroes, lego, carnival, spies, trains, olympic games.  I have been surprised at what my children remember most from our parties.  It seems that it is the dramatic ideas, tiny details and overall feel of the day that make it magic, so they are what will stick with a child.

    Great, easy, no waste games include: potato sack (feed bag) races, egg and spoon races, relay races where you need to change clothes/accessories at the end of the row, how many socks can you put on challenge (adults can wear mittens to level the playing field), scavenger hunt, treasure hunt (following a set of sequenced clues to find a treat...everyone can win if you have different sets of clues for each team and the prize was enough for everyone), water relay (carry water in a small cup to fill a bucket, team with most water at the end wins), obstacle course, three-legged races, etc.  Unless your child does not like competition, in which case this would be a terrible idea!  I try to choose games I can adapt in some way to support my overall theme.  For example, we did a variety of races at the superheroes party, where children earned a 'badge' at each stage for completion, so it wasn't a competition.  I broke it up into different skills they would need to be a good superhero, and explained at each station what they were learning and how (ie - agility at an obstacle course).  I love drama!

    If you wanted to go with a nature theme, you could hang nature items around your home using twine, or if the party is outdoors, decorate the trees.  Have guests bring some things from where they live to use to decorate your space together.  We have made communal mobiles during solstice celebrations and hung them from tree branches.  They are beautiful made of pine cones, feathers, leaves, evergreen boughs, etc.)

    If you live in a place with lots of natural materials, a 'nature's tea party' theme could be really fun.  Adorning your child (and yourselves!) with nature crowns or sashes is a wonderful activity.  It makes for wonderful photographs as well.  If your child likes to build forts or shelters make one as a group using sticks, sheets, or whatever and decorate it too.  If your child doesn't like building forts, you could prepare this ahead of time.  Tiny details are what make special events magical for children, like using twink-lights inside the fort, or candles, or flower petals or even special 'sashes' to tie back the 'door.'  You could host the 'tea party' inside it!   The tea party could include adornments of edible flowers (not sure where you're from, but violets are in season now here and would be lovely to decorate the table or plates, or the top of a cookie).  Guests could bring a favourite tea, teacups, or teapot to use.  Part of the party could be a 'sweets decorating' buffet, where you use cookies or small cakes and have each person decorate their own...children LOVE to decorate edible things :). We don't eat refined sugar, so if it were for our gang, we might decorate with cocoa-avocado-honey icing (you could leave out the cocoa in one batch to make green like grass!), raisins, nuts, dates, etc. to keep with the nature theme.

    Can you tell that I LOVE planning parties??

    A party becomes special because of the people who attend, the care that goes into planning and executing the details, the honouring of your son with presence and the memories made with the magic that is created when all of these things are combined!  
    Have a wonderful day with your son and family <3
     
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    If you have a large territory, you can play hide and seek. Always played this in childhood, but if there are a lot of children, I suggest Kozaki the robbers. This is a Russian game of the type of hide and seek, where after you find a person, you also need to catch up with him. It may not be relevant, but it will fit in the future
     
    Bihai Il
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    I'm overwhelmed with good suggestions. Thanks everyone, keep 'em coming.

    And I love that a lot of these can be done anytime for any reason.
     
    pollinator
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    One year (I think I was 7, so around 1987) my parents did an "old fashioned" birthday party for me.  I don't know if they were a little skint at the time or if it was just because I'm a history nerd and loved all kinds of old-timey stuff, but it doesn't matter because it was cheap and fun.  One girl who was there mentioned it to me years later; it was a really good memory for her.

    I don't remember everything, but the first activity when everyone was arriving was decorating paper bag puppets.  

    Games (some might be memories from school, girl scouts, or other parties; it was over 30 years ago):
    --egg on a spoon race, maybe a relay?
    --a relay with passing an apple held under a kid's chin to another kid's neck/ chin, without using hands
    --dropping clothespins into a glass milk bottle from waist height (harder than it sounds!)
    --eating marshmallows off a string suspended from a washline, without hands
    --beanbags
    --something with butts and balloons; either putting a balloon between two kids' butts and making them pop them (first team to do it wins?), or having a race where they have to keep the balloon between them and not drop it.

    Food was standard picnic fare: hot dogs, pasta salad, chips, watermelon, etc.  I don't remember the cake, but I'm sure it was homemade and probably chocolate (my mom's chocolate cake is my favorite cake in the world).

    Goodie bags had home-baked cookies, an apple, Necco Wafers and Mary Janes, and those woven straw finger trap things.  Pretty sure there were wooden nickels, because I have a memory of a kid who had never seen or heard of one.  There might have been wheat pennies, too.  I might be getting this confused with something else, but I think there were metal snap barrettes with little ribbon bows sewn on them, made by my grandmother (that party was all girls, since we'd just moved and I really only knew the girls from Brownies).

    I'll ask my Mom later if there's anything I missed.
     
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