Hello smart creative people that live inside my computer: I would like to talk about birthday parties. Riley turns six at the end of the month and we will be celebrating this weekend at the cabin in Oregon. We’ll mostly just be hanging out with family, so it won’t be a Great Big Huge Affair With a Rented Bouncy Castle or anything, but this year I’d like to do something a little more fun than my usual summer birthday method of slapping down some colorful paper napkins next to the cake and calling it good. The cabin is a great place for a kid to turn one year older, but the travel logistics and rustic accommodations make it a little challenging to set up a design-blog-worthy party decorating theme, even if a person had talent for such things, which I most decidedly do not.

Do any of you have any ideas for making a low-key family get-together a little more special for the birthday boy and everyone else? I think there will only be one other kid there, aside from JB’s brother’s brand-new baby; and maybe 6 or 8 adults total. We’ll probably just sort of assemble in the backyard during the afternoon, and while this location features plenty of natural decorations already . . .


. . . I’d still love any thoughts on Making Things Festive. Games, food or drink suggestions, themes, crafty thingsā€”I’m all ears.


68 Responses to “ISO: birthday tips”

  1. Amy on August 23rd, 2011 8:41 am

    silly string and waterguns

  2. EB on August 23rd, 2011 8:53 am

    For my daughter’s birthday this year we did a s’mores and hot dog roast over the fire pit. For favors, I put together little s’mores kits with enough fixin’s for two s’mores and stuck craft dowels in the marshmallows, put everything in a clear treat baggie from Michaels and closed with a ribbon. I think I also printed a clever little poem on oval labels and stuck them on the bags. It was fun and cute and easy.

  3. Leah on August 23rd, 2011 9:15 am

    We’re big on simple-one year I hid lemons in the backyard and when I announced it to the kids, you would’ve thought I’d hid puppies or something-they were so excited to find them! Another easy one is blow up a photo of your child’s face and make it into whatever version of pin the tale on the donkey you like, for instance, we did Pin the mitten on Snowman Tate for his 1st bday, pin the party hat on birthday girl Avery for her 5th bday. It’s easy to tailor to a theme. Scavenger hunt has also been very popular, we hid sand buckets with the 1st clue, then as they followed the clues around they added in gummies, bubbles, crazy straws, box o’ raisins, squirt toy, candy necklace. Much fun was had by all… Jello Jigglers are also big fun and not hard to do, colorful and kids love em. As a kid one of my best bdays was when my parents had the ice cream truck come to our house!! Enjoy!

  4. Kristin H on August 23rd, 2011 10:30 am

    We played a game at our last birthday that the kids LOVED. It’s Shrinking Islands, and it’s a game like musical chairs. You get a blanket and a cd player. Everyone marches around the blanket while the music plays, and when the music stops everyone has to jump on the blanket. Anyone who doesn’t fit is eliminated. Then everyone gets off, you fold the blanket in half, and do it again. And again and again and again, until everyone is trying to stand on a tiny little square of blanket and holding each other to try and not fall off. It’s fun and (obviously) easy.

  5. sheilah on August 23rd, 2011 10:35 am

    I don’t have any suggestions for you (looks like you’ve got quite a lot already) but I just need to say that, DAYAM!, your last couple of posts have made me miss the NW.

  6. kristylynne on August 23rd, 2011 10:42 am

    Does he like pirates at all? I was at an island over the weekend and saw a b-day party being set up. The dad rowed out to a little island nearby and buried a treasure box there. They had made pirate ship sails and a flag and attached them to a rowboat to row the kids out. I imagine there were treasure maps involved. I didn’t get to see the kids’ reaction, but I thought that was the best idea ever.

  7. Shawna on August 23rd, 2011 7:30 pm


    Also, things that light up: patio lanterns/christmas lights to light the party area when the sun goes down (bring extension cord), glowsticks/bracelets, and super-long sparklers to hold and wave around! My kids go nuts for those sorts of things and they’re portable and super-easy.

  8. Shawna on August 23rd, 2011 7:33 pm

    Oh and I tried to make my own pinata. I used a warm paste which expanded the balloon as I was making it, then it shrank when it cooled and got kind of wrinkly. My husband and roommate privately referred to it as “the scrotum” and we ended up just buying one at a party store and filling it with candy. Some things just aren’t worth the effort.

  9. elz on August 23rd, 2011 7:58 pm

    Water Balloons, parade (everybody makes costumes and decorations), fireworks (if he’s ok with the noises?). Have fun.

  10. melanie on August 23rd, 2011 8:04 pm

    Pinata!! Fun for kids and grown-ups both.
    We did decorate your own cupcakes (just threw a bunch of different cups of candy and sprinkles on the table with some frosted cupcakes) at my son’s party this year and the boys all loved that – I bet even adults might be down (who can use the most gummy bears/make the most weird disgusting cupcake combo ever…?)

  11. Holly on August 23rd, 2011 9:37 pm

    I did not read all of the posts, but I’ll share what was by far one of the most popular b.day parties we had for my stepson. We did all “old school” birthday games from when I was a kid. Kids now have never seen simple games like:

    1. “egg toss”
    2. “water balloon toss” (read: water balloon toos turned all our war),
    3. marshmallow bobbing (tie marshmallows dopped in lines along a string and have 2 adults stand on either end shaking the main line – the kids have to stand with their hands behind their back and try to get the marshmallows off the string – nearly impossible to do and HILARIOUS to watch. The stings can be different lenghts to accomodate different size people)
    4. 3-legged race
    5. pinata
    6. squirt guns
    7. musical chairs
    8. Red light, green light

    Why video games were ever invented I’ll never know. We seriously got TONS AND TONS of compliments on these silly games. Some parents have never seen them before, but that’s what we grew up doing in New Jersey.

  12. nicolien on August 24th, 2011 1:59 am

    My parents used to take us to the riverside where we ‘accidentally’ found a bottle with an ‘old’ map (paper made to look old by dipping it in tea and burning the edges), ‘lost by pirates’, with just enough clues to let us find the spot to dig out the treasure a few meters away in the sand. The wooden box actually said ‘treasure’ or something like that, and it was filled with candy coins and candy jewellery. I remember at one of our birthdays there was even an ‘old man’ (the neighbor in disguise) walking around the beach ‘trying to find the treasure he had buried there when he was younger’, to help us find the right spot in the sand in case we wouldn’t figure out the map. It made it even more real!

  13. mosted on August 24th, 2011 7:54 pm

    Before I even looked at the comments, treasure hunt came to mind. I will never forget the Xmas my kids got their trampoline…too big to wrap?? I made a photocopy of the picture on front of the box…put it in a number of different sized boxes…small to large, then hid it and made them follow clues to find it. It was a huge success and every Xmas since then, we do the same thing for one of their bigger presents, they love it, and they are now teenagers!! (late teens)Doing it outside would be fantastic,lots of places to hide!!

  14. Amy on August 25th, 2011 1:30 pm

    BUBBLES! We did the backyard party with potatoe sack races, treasure hunt, etc and it was a huge hit. Customize cupcakes with a picture taped to a bamboo skewer (did this for my mad scientist son’s party…stuck his head on a clipart mad scientist and didn’t cost me a fortune!!)

    Love the string idea…totally stealing that for next year!

  15. Karen on August 26th, 2011 5:13 am

    This isn’t a very time consuming activity but it is a tradition in our family and the younger kids love it. We call it the spanking machine. All of the non birthday having people line up with their legs open, and the birthday child has to crawl through as fast as they can while people take gentle swats at their bottoms. The kids find this hilarious.

    I love all of the ideas on here. I bet a treasure hunt and a water balloon toss would go over really well. Have fun!

  16. Marje on August 29th, 2011 12:54 pm

    You got great suggestions! I like the “make ice cream” one especially.

    Options for that:

    or just use 2 different sized coffee cans for a similar result, and roll it around a circle of people.

    Use your mad google skillz to find recipes. Super yummy, and really fun for kids. :)

  17. beth on September 10th, 2011 5:34 pm

    We always had a peanut hunt…. you put handfuls of roasted shell-on peanuts all over the place – crooks of trees, randomly in the grass etc. Each person gets a paper lunch bag and everyone races to find them all. It was hard too bc they blended in so well with outside. When it was over, each person counted their stash and the person with the most peanuts won. So much fun. Of course, now you’d have to worry about peanut allergies.

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