Many mothers are excellent birthday party planners. They develop an age-appropriate theme and source out coordinating invitations, party décor and a local venue. The exact sequence of the party is documented in a flow chart, complete with plan “b” (and even plan “c”) options. The equivalent of a car payment is spent on party food and gift bags.
I am not one of those mothers.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish I was. My kids would probably like me more if I knew all their friends’ names (I don’t), could effectively execute a 20-kid extravaganza (I can’t) and was willing to spend a small fortune in an effort to keep up (I’m not).
So instead, they have me – a loving, doting mother who avoids all mentions of birthday parties until the kids bring it up.
This year, the kids surprised me. When the subject finally came around, they insisted on simply having a few friends over for a backyard birthday party. At first, I was taken aback – you mean we don’t have to invite everyone in the class? We don’t have to rent out the local Bounce ‘n Play?
However, the more we chatted, the more it made sense to me. At ages nine and seven, they had already established deeper friendships with a few classmates, allowing them to select those they wanted to celebrate with. And, I believe there’s something more intrinsic at play: boys have an innate desire to show their friends where they live, their possessions, their lifestyle. Finally, with so much time spent indoors in front of electronics, it feels good to connect with friends outdoors, where kids can burn off energy and enjoy seasonal activities. So, I agreed that they were each allowed to invite 3-4 friends, and I would take care of the rest.
Friends, I outdid myself. I’m so happy with how things turned out!
But rather than gush about my mom-ing prowess and expertise (ha!), I thought I’d teach you my ways. And so I present to you: Five Simple Tricks for Backyard Birthday Party Perfection.
1. Go BIG on one piece of entertainment. The kids will likely be outdoors for a minimum of two hours, so there needs to be at least one thing that will keep them entertained for the majority of the party. If you have a pool, you’re in business! However, other great options include renting a bouncy castle, hiring a magician or another child entertainer, propping up a large tent (or “fort”), setting up sponge bomb/ water balloon stations, or creating a fun obstacle course. The name of the game is to keep them moving to expend all that excess energy.
We’re lucky to have a brand new trampoline, so we used that as our go-to entertainment. It was a hit! The kids could have bounced and jumped for hours (and did – I had to officially “close” the trampoline so we could move on to other things!).
2. Go small with other toys and activities. It doesn’t have to be fancy, people. Think recess: sidewalk chalk, mini putters, balls in various sizes, bubble makers and fidget toys like yo-yos, Rubix Cubes and spinners. These should be available for anyone to grab when it’s not their turn with the big entertainment, or for when they are ready to move on to something else.
3. Have a cooling off station. Outdoor parties, especially ones during summer months, carry a small risk of sunburn or heatstroke. Of course we know how to protect our children’s skin with sunscreen, but recognizing the symptoms of heat exhaustion can be trickier to pinpoint. So, always have an abundance of cool water on hand, and encourage kids to take a breather in the shade (or indoors) if they need to cool off.
4. Don’t go nuts on fancy party foods. (Figuratively and literally, since we want all kids’ parties to be nut-free.) Let’s get real, here. They’re kids! They will literally eat the most basic of foods like chips, burgers, hot dogs, ice cream and fruit. That’s the menu! You’re welcome.
5. Have a statement beverage. Of course you want an O-M-G drink! Keep the food simple, but go all out on a special party beverage which they’ll be raving about for days (weeks!) following the big event. I wanted to create a punch that would incorporate a kid-favourite like Allen’s Mellow Apple Juice along with a bit of “I totally spend all day on Pinterest” panache. I think I nailed it with my Apple Pie Punch!
The punch calls for only five ingredients which you may already have on hand. Easy-peasy! This recipe makes 14-16 servings, but you can easily adjust the contents to make more or less.
1.89 L Allen’s Mellow Apple Juice
2 L ginger ale
2 McIntosh apples, chopped
1 pint vanilla ice cream, softened
ground cinnamon, for garnish
Fill your serving cups or glasses with one part Allen’s Mellow Apple Juice and one part ginger ale, reserving about an inch of space at the top. Add a heaping tablespoon of chopped McIntosh apples to cup. Top punch with a scoop of softened vanilla ice cream and sprinkle with cinnamon.
The sweet, mellow apple juice is contrasted with a splash of spicy ginger ale, which is then rounded out with creamy vanilla soft serve. The drink can get a little messy if you’re too aggressive with the ice cream, but trust me, kids won’t mind.
All in all, birthday party success – an afternoon of fun, good friends and great food – and I didn’t break the bank!
Is this the year you go back to basics with a backyard birthday party?
This post is sponsored by Allen’s. The opinions on this blog, as always, are my own.