Is your home too small to accommodate ten 7-year-olds running around? Or are you the kind of mom who wants to be more hands-on with party activities. Maybe your budget won’t stretch this year to rent a party place. Then take your celebration to the park! It’s the perfect venue for built-in entertainment, room to roam and the best part—you won’t have to clean your house before or after the event.
“As the mother of a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, I’m in the middle of those busy birthday party years,” said Melissa Kovacs. “Some weekends we have two or three. From the dozens of parties that I’ve gone to this year, I've definitely seen a trend away from home parties.”
If you’re looking for a place to party, then consider these nine mom-tested, kid-approved ways to take your celebration outdoors.
1. Build-Your-Own Sundae. Everyone loves a bowl of ice cream. At this party, the guests (with mom’s help) swirl on the whipped cream and choose their favorite sprinkles, candies and syrup to put on top. “I was so glad I had this party at a park,” said Kovacs. “The spills and thrills of toppings and ice cream were thoroughly enjoyed, and I didn’t worry about the mess.” Inexpensive plastic sundae or fountain cups filled with ice cream-themed goodies make a delicious favor.
2. In the Jungle. For the cost of a panel of plywood and some poster paint, you can create a jungle-themed wooden stand-up. Invite guests to put their head through the hole to pose as a monkey (or any other animal you choose to paint). You can include the photos in the thank-you notes. Party favor ideas: children's passes to the zoo, animal crackers, stuffed animals or stickers.
3. Holiday/Special Event Birthdays. Does your child have a birthday near a holiday or a special event like National Go Fly a Kite Day (April 26)? Let the holiday be your theme. Consider a patriotic party for those early July birthdays or host a costume party for your child born in October. Easter weekend dye eggs and decorate springtime cupcakes with green coconut grass and jellybean eggs. Turn Mardi Gras into a party with beads for the kids and serve King Cake instead of birthday cake.
4. Going to the Dogs. Hire a hot dog vendor to serve kid-sized and regular hot dogs. Supplement lunch with individual bags of chips, drinks and a fruit salad. The food is served hot, and you can mingle with the guests instead of worrying about barbecuing. For more fun, pair this idea with a circus or carnival-themed party.
5. Hip, hip, hooray. Hire a couple teens from the high school cheer squad to come and teach the girls a cheer. Fun favors for this energetic party include make-your-own pom-poms or megaphones. Don’t have daughters? The same idea works with any sport —football, soccer, baseball. Contact the high school coach to hire a varsity player to come and teach your guests how to dribble a soccer ball, throw a baseball or catch a football.
6. I’m Sherlock Holmes. Kids love eye-spy games and that’s what makes a spy-themed party a guaranteed winner. Fold newspaper to form your own version of a deerstalker hat. Each guest is given detective kits (magnifying glass, a list of clues, a clue notebook, pen) and sent on a prearranged, supervised scavenger hunt through out the park.
7. Old MacDonald. Bring this long-time favorite song to life with a farm-animal themed party. Invite everyone to wear overalls, sit on hay bales and make a corncob pipe. Inexpensive bandanas doubled as party bags with plastic farm animals inside.
8. It’s a Fairy Tale. Hire your teen babysitter to dress up as a fairy reader to entertain the guests by reading books about Tinker Bell or Abby Cadabby to the kids. Silver or gold glitter in small bottles can double for fairy dust. Magic wands and crowns can be made easily. For boys, have a fireman, engineer or cowboy reader and select stories that match your theme.
9. Pooch Party. If your child is an animal lover, this is a great way to celebrate. Dog-themed music can play in the background while guests decorate dog-shaped cookies. Give partyers a jar of homemade dog biscuit mix, with a bone-shaped cookie cutter attached to make biscuits for their dogs. “My daughters and I had a lot of fun making these for our dog, Abby,” said Kovacs. “A great way to spend a rainy day indoors.”
Still can’t find a party theme that suits your child. Go to your bookshelf or DVD collection to get the ideas flowing. Madeline, Olivia, Lily's Purple Plastic Purse, Winnie the Pooh, Thomas the Tank Engine or any other favorite book can map out a fun theme. Alice in Wonderland (Mad Hatter tea party); Mary Poppins (be sure to include lots of chalk drawings and carousels in this one); The Land Before Time (stuffed dinosaurs can roam the park).
Claire Yezbak Fadden is an award-winning columnist and freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @claireflaire.