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 . . .

4944982575_772da0b140

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

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
68 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rose
Rose
10 years ago

Two words.

Scavenger Hunt.

Reading (and chickens)
10 years ago

I’m about as crafty as a four-thumbed eagle, but kites = awesome and fun for everyone. If that fails, maybe you could make everyone papier mache their faces into masks.

aimee @ smilingmama
10 years ago

What if you had the guests wear/do something silly? Like get everyone sick-on mustaches or have everyone wear a crazy mis-matched outfit?

Dr. Maureen
10 years ago

This month’s Family Fun magazine has a bunch of fun-looking party-type games that appeal to me, and I’m about as anti-design-blog a person as you can get. Well, I’m not against other people doing design-blog stuff, I just don’t want to. But they’re things like “Run across the yard carrying a tennis ball on a pie plate” or something, but I think more fun than that. Cheap supplies, little organizational skill required.

Lawyerish
10 years ago

One word: pinata!

Here’s another fun activity that I’ve seen done really well: Buy a bunch of different colors of yarn or sturdy string (one color for each participant). Attach a treasure (small toy, bag of candy, etc) to one end of the string and then wind the rest of it all over the yard — around trees, up and down stairs, under furniture, crossed with the other colors, etc. Each kid has to follow his color string, winding it as he goes (so no cleanup afterward!) and follow it to the end, where the prize awaits!

Melissa
Melissa
10 years ago

+1 on scavenger hunt, and it doesn’t have to be too complicated at all for kids to love it. And I am totally stealing that yarn/treasure thing from lawyerish.

Also, to kill time and avoid overwhelming my kiddo with people saying, Here! Open my present first!, we do musical gifts. It works kind of like musical chairs. Sit in a circle, everyone holds the gift they brought. Start the music and pass the gifts to the left; when the music stops, he opens whichever gift he’s holding.

And if you don’t mind the sugar high, my kids’ all-time favorite party activity is making sand art in little jars using… wait for it … the candy in pixie stix. The dorky, sugar-addicted adults I hang out with like it, too.

marilyn
10 years ago

I have no idea if the cabin’s close enough to any town to make this feasible, but for my 6th or 7th birthday, my parents got a magician to come and it blew my little mind! She did lots of things that probably seemed a little Gob-esque to the adults, but us kids LOVED it.

Cheryl M.
10 years ago

The treasure hunt idea totally rocks, and from the looks of it, nature is on your side for this idea already!

Also, if you don’t mind a mess, and warn them to wear clothes that can get dirty, there’s some awesome “outdoors-messy” party ideas here: http://www.bostonmamas.com/2008/07/marvelous_messy_party.html

I haven’t dared throw one of these myself yet, as my boys’ birthdays are in January and February, but from what I understand, they’re a huge hit, and the kids LOVE them!

Rachel
Rachel
10 years ago

How spry is everyone? Potato sack (or pillowcase) races, three legged races, egg races, pin the tail on the donkey…all are just as much fun as adults as they are as kids.

Nik-Nak
Nik-Nak
10 years ago

Water balloons and super soakers? If my kid’s birthday was in the summer and there were only mostly going to be family and adults there I think I’d stage an all out water war.

H
H
10 years ago

Awww, it is funny for me to read this today because as of today, I am no longer the mother of a teenager. My youngest turns 20 today and I’m kind of sad about that. It looks like you already have some great ideas and I’m sure the party will be a lot of fun for all.

Shannon
10 years ago

I recently did an old-school b-day for my 7 year old with party games – twister, pin the tail on the donkey, balloon races, etc. The adults had as much fun as the kids – “funnest kids b-day EVER!” according to my facebook page – and then an easy bookmark craft and instead of goody bags, a gift card to our favorite funky bookstore. It was kinda nerdy but it was fun. I can envision 3-legged races and that kind of stuff too. Good luck!

Alley
Alley
10 years ago

Well, what’s Riley into lately? That’ll help with any thematic designs. Thinking about what my cousin’s done for her kid’s birthdays…

Last year R was into How to Train Your Dragon, so the kids colored shields that my cousin had cut out and stuck handles to, threw wet sponge balls at a big wooden dragon the birthday boy had helped make (easier than water balloons and fun for the kids to get wet), and there was a pinata. This year R was into pirates, and the party was held at a park, so the kids all wore bandannas and just ran around on the playground equipment all day. There was a pirate-y Happy Birthday banner, pirate flags in the cupcakes, balloons, etc.

NancyJ
NancyJ
10 years ago

I vote for some simple games – two teams racing back and forth with m&ms in a spoon, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Pinatas good and tell the adults before hand that they are participating as well. No sitting around watching – everyone gets involved!

Tressa
Tressa
10 years ago

Looks like a great place for a fishing derby!

Kirsty
10 years ago

In my experience of birthday parties, balloons and bubbles ALWAYS seem to work; also the games ideas mentioned above (scavenger hunt, treasure hunt, traditional games like pin the tail, which can be adapted to Riley’s latest “thing”, for example we did “pin the pony tail on the Rapunzel”) and stuff like egg-and-spoon. At a friend’s daughter’s 6th last year, they had “spaghetti races”: put the participants in pairs, give them a piece of uncooked spaghetti and have a race between all the pairs (if the spaghetti breaks, they have to start again). It seems ridiculous, but the kids (and parents) played for what seemed an eternity, with much laughing. There was, however, a shit ton of spaghetti in the grass afterwards so I dread to think what it would be like if it rained (we don’t get much rain here thankfuly!).
Decorate-your-own stuff is always fun too (cupcakes, cookies, pizzas…).
Hope you have a fun day!
And Happy Birthday to Riley – 6 is a really fun age!

aileen
aileen
10 years ago

Build a raft contest? With each kid with a set of adults, then see who gets the furthest on the river? Give everyone the same basic set of materials.

Junni
Junni
10 years ago

Definitely treasure hunt. The age-old take 10 steps north to the big tree, turn left and crawl for one minute to the rock, etc. then lightly bury a treasure box (or hide in some bushes). Put silly fake gold and jewels in the box. My parents did that for my birthday once and I still remember it!!

Kris
Kris
10 years ago

Riley is your sensitive kiddo, right? Just a thought, but maybe ask him what he wants to do. Throw out a bunch of ideas – treasure hunt, paper mache, pinata, crafts like make your own newspaper hat or paper bag shirt, card games, board games, party games like pin (tape) the tail on Dylan or Daddy, bingo, or even an ice cream social or cupcake party – and let him pick a couple of favorites.

At six, I think he’d appreciate being asked to participate in the planning. (:

Nolita
10 years ago

Scavenger hunt was the first thing to pop into my mind… and then the baby seal pinata…did you ever do that?

How about Root Beer Floats (to fill up 17 seconds of the party)?

Do you have a zipline there? I could totally see your family having lots of fun with that!

Nolita
10 years ago

I don’t know this would work with only a couple of kids there but we’ve had a couple of parties where we did the “Make the Pie Fly” game from Nickelodeon. Cheap paper plates with cheap whipped cream and an iPod with a nifty song to pause (we used ‘Hold on Tight’ by ELO). This was so much fun to watch – http://nolitamorgan.blogspot.com/2009/06/pie-in-sky.html

Lori
Lori
10 years ago

My kids (all adults now) always loved the obstacle/skills course set up in the backyard. Just use what you have and make it age appropriate, but have some things that will take work too. We have done everything from somersaulting across the yard to rope jumping to knot tying to target shooting. Through the years the target shooting started with bean bags thrown thru a hole cut in a piece of wood (preK) to paintball shooting (highschool). And remember: KISS – Keep It Simple Silly! Also, kids love it when adults participate. And everyone gets a prize.

Eileen
Eileen
10 years ago

Go to pinterest. They have great ideas. Just enter it in the search, and pics linked to blogs will pop up with insanely wonderful ideas!

Amanda
10 years ago

Since there will be lots of adults to supervise, this could be fun. A friend of mine hosted a solstice party with all the families in the neighborhood, and we lit these lanterns after the sun went down. It was gorgeous and the kids thought it was really cool and magical.

I googled them and found this link:
http://shop.wishlantern.com/White-Wish-Lanterns_c_1.html

Kelly
Kelly
10 years ago

Is there something the Bday boy is good at? Can you have a family competition doing that? We have family Wii bowling tournaments every Christmas and they are fun. Maybe have a fake fart competition? or some kind of obstacle course that ends in cream pies to the face?

Erika
Erika
10 years ago

I agree with the Water War idea. My son’s birthday is in June so we always do something including getting wet. One year we had everyone bring water guns, we supplied lots of water balloons and IT WAS ON!!!

Trina
Trina
10 years ago

Looks like most people are suggesting the same thing I am.
1) Scavenger Hunt (for stuff that you would find outside
2) Egg toss/water ballon toss
3) Pin the tail on the donkey
4) Simon says (with the birthday boy as simon)
5) 3 legged race

These are all things that friends of mine did that have summer birthdays when I was a kid.

gillian
gillian
10 years ago

i worked as a camp counselor one summer and for one of the big scavenger hunts the kids searched for ‘gold’ (which were gold spray painted rocks) -they went INSANE.

Ashley
Ashley
10 years ago

I did the same thing for my 4-year-old this year; we were in a similar setting with all adults but I wanted her to feel like she’d had a “real” party. We got a pinata and she LOVED that. I second the idea of a scavenger hunt and other games your boys could really get into (and the grown-up boys, let’s be honest). That and just really focusing on the birthday kid I think will make him feel really celebrated. Happy birthday, Riley!!

adequatemom
10 years ago

Scavenger Hunt!

Also, Google “nature theme birthday parties” for more kids’ activities. Decorate birdhouses? Oooh, or make those pinecone/peanut butter bird feeders … Have fun, and Happy Birthday Riley!

Maggie
Maggie
10 years ago

Looks like many others also suggested it, but the scavenger hunt is a great idea. I also like the water battle idea. As for themes, you could just do colors to keep it simple. My daughter did orange and blue, we had orange and blue Gatorade, these vintage sodas from trader joes with orange and blue labels, orange and blue plates and utensils, cupcakes, balloons, you get the idea. Balloons are also a great cheap decoration. Good luck and post pics!

patricia
patricia
10 years ago

I love the scavenger hunt and obstacle course ideas! Your kids will, too!

Nichole
10 years ago

Your readers are smart. And also outdoorsy. I was going to say ice cream sundae buffet.

Victori, BC
Victori, BC
10 years ago

Pirate themed party! By the looks of it, you guys have a great piece of property to play with. Hide some “treasure”, hand out some “maps” and off the kids go!

velocibadgergirl
10 years ago

I 2nd / 3rd / 24th the scavenger hunt / treasure hunt ideas, especially since you guys geocache already. Perhaps you can enlist the help of the family to pre-bury a treasure for the boys to dig up?

Ashley
10 years ago

Costume party, treasure hunt, pinata, and silly string?

eileen
10 years ago

2 words tye dye!!!!

Alina
10 years ago

I’m getting ready for my daughter’s first birthday and I’ve found some really great ideas on Ohdeedoh.com. It’s a design site and they have regular posts about parties: http://www.ohdeedoh.com/ohdeedoh/category/2596/my-party

eileen
10 years ago

Here is a twist on the old fashioned pillow fight. We do this at 4-H camp and everyone from the littlest ones to the adults (I use the term loosely when it comes to summer camp)! Supplies needed:

Box of zip lock sandwich sized bags; get the good ones, not the cheap store brand.
Safety pins, 2 for each person playing, found diaper sized pins or the next size down work best.
2 eggs per person playing.
Have everyone bring their pillow outside.
Big Beer Plastic Cups/or lunch bags
Small prizes, pieces of wrapped candy, suckers, balloons, bubbles, funny pencils and erasers (dollar store)
One “big” prize for the winner (whatever you choose, can be a stuffed animal, Giant Candy Bar, Silly String, etc. depends on what you want to spend and also you don’t know if a kiddo or an adult will win)

Put an egg in each bag and zip closed. Use the safety pins to pin a bag onto each person’s pants, about hip high. If you use the waist band as a guide it is about the right height.
Hand each person a big plastic “beer” cup or a small paper bag with a piece of candy or 2, maybe a balloon and one other small piece of candy or gum in them. Have them put their names on their cups with s sharpie and put aside on a nearby table maybe?
The rules are simple, no hitting above the waist, and everyone has to freeze when they hear the whistle bow (or if someone can whistle loudly). The no high hitting is easy to enforce because nobody is aiming any higher anyway. Then count to 3 and have everyone start swing their pillows at each other trying to break the eggs. Depending on how many you have playing, you can just go until everyone has broken eggs except for one person. We have found it more fun and the game lasts a bit longer by letting them go for about 20-45 seconds and then blow a whistle to freeze everyone and to make sure everyone who has both broken eggs is out. They should be told once both eggs have been broken, they need to sit outside of the play area (hence the cup with goodies in them) and enjoy watching the rest of the game. Sometimes they don’t even realize both eggs have been broken in the craziness. Blowing the whistle also gives you a bit of control on how long the game will go. If it goes too quickly it isn’t as much fun. You can buy a few little prizes (think lollipops, bubblegum, bottles of bubbles, dollar store toys/games, beef jerky, etc.) that can be given out at each whistle blow to those who still have at least one intact egg. They can add it to their treasure/prize cup and continue on. Then have one “big” prize at the end for the Big Winner. You can use your own imagination on how to run this. It is nice for the people/kids who get knocked out first to have a little something to nibble on or play with while the rest of the game plays out. We do this for Tribe Points at camp, but candy always works too! Sorry this got so long, sheesh it really is a pretty easy and super fun game to play! Good luck.

eileen
10 years ago

wow, kind of embarrassed at how long my post was, sheesh the game doesn’t take that long!

Linda
Linda
10 years ago

YOU GUYS ARE SO AWESOME. I have been furiously taking notes all day. Thank you thank you thank you!

Sue
Sue
10 years ago

Scavenger hunt & a Bonfire. My boys always love a fire & smores are never turned down. They also like cheesey games- such as the clothespin drop.

Erin
10 years ago

We just had a piñata at a family party and my six and a half year old nephew LOVED it. We got the $12.99 version off Amazon and stuff it with candy and small toys and it was a huge hit with him (and the grown up dudes had some fun with it too). Love the scavenger hunt idea and especially the hilarious mustaches idea.

Laura
Laura
10 years ago

The first thing that popped into my head was: piñata! Everyone of all ages likes beating things with a stick, right? Also, costumes make any party more festive. Maybe get capes for everyone (etsy), or just pick a theme and have everyone dress up how they want, but it will definitely make the party stand out from the weekend as a whole. As for themes: obviously his favorite thing would work, super heros or whatever, but also something silly like “christmas” or “babies” would also be funny for him. And you can get the piñata to match the costume theme. Good luck and have fun!!

Rachel
10 years ago

Pinata. When my kids were littler, making them was part of the (messy) fun. (Round shapes work best, if you’re doing the balloon-and-newspaper method.) We would make them tough so that they were fun for the grownups/bigger kids to hit, too, but we would strategically make sure that a stronger person left it just damaged enough that the littler kids could be the ones to finally break it.

Scavenger hunt. My mom is a genius with these. Sometimes she plants stuff around her 17 acres for people to find; sometimes she makes the list of things that are around anyway. Sometimes the list is a list of descriptions, and anything that fits the description qualifies. Sometimes the clues follow one upon the other, and every group has its own set of clues. Sometimes the hunt is just for the birthday person, and the last clue takes you to a present, generally one that’s too big to wrap.

Sabrina
Sabrina
10 years ago

Wow, these are some amazing ideas!! I am bookmarking for the next party I have to plan. And the egg-smashing pillow fight is genius. And the fake moustache idea is really making me laugh for some idea.

So, I must be a really shitty party planner. But when I read your question, I was immediately thinking of things about the BIRTHDAY specifically, or to make Riley feel special. My thoughts included letting him do something that he would have NEVER been allowed to do as a 5 year old. Create a rite-of-passage type event? (And it’s probably best if Dylan doesn’t know it’s happening??) Having no idea what you guys normally do when camping or what is allowed… Let him stay up super late and go on a moonlit hike? He leads the pack, holding the lantern? Let him sleep in a tent all by himself?

It sounds like this is going to be one awesome party–hope you guys have a really great time.

Lori
Lori
10 years ago

Did anyone suggest making ice cream? That always blows little kids minds.

Jon
Jon
10 years ago

Photo scavenger hunt – make a list of things the kids need to find and photograph and send them away with a cheap digital camera.

Treasure hunt – it takes some setup to write clues and lay out a course that sends kids from place to place. When my son was too young to read, we did one where I took photos of hiding places and cropped them down so it was a little hard to tell what it was then printed them all out and hid each little photo as clues. It’s easiest to lay these out if you start at the finish and work backwards.

Kids love balloons – a whole lot of balloons. If you can fill an entire room with them he’ll lose his shtuff.

AnnieR
AnnieR
10 years ago

I like both the obstacle course and scavenger or treasure hunt. Obstacle course would obviously include something for JB to spectacularly jump over… Scavenger hunt could be nature themed to take advantage of the surroundings…

eileen
10 years ago

good idea lori, they could make the ice cream in the coffee cans that get kicked around in order to “churn”.