Last November, we celebrated my son’s fourth birthday party and we had so much fun. Fun. I keep using that word, and it makes me sound lame, but it was pure and simple fun. I’m not sure how I pulled off taking a bunch of four-year-olds into the woods, letting them play on a rickety foot bridge over a creek, and then turned around and let them have pointy sticks and be close to fire, but I did – we all did. Not only did we survive, but we had a great time.
‘Camp’ is a pretty unusual theme, but it just made sense for us. One of my son’s favorite things to do is go for a hike in the woods behind our house, and he’s been asking to go camping for months, so it seemed like a no-brainer to make this his birthday.
I have to say, this party was a lot easier than I thought it would be. This is why I’m posting about it – at the end of the day, after everyone had gone home, I looked around and said “Man that was fun!” It didn’t cost a fortune, we all had fun, and I was able to enjoy it just as much as my guests. It was so much easier to host a full-blown kid party than I thought it would be.
I kept the invitation simple – just a burlap background with simple writing on it, and printed at the drug store one-hour-photo lab. You can read more about my invitations in this post.
Party day came, and we were so excited! We hung primary color bunting across our back yard and our front porch, and covered tables and our kitchen island in primary colored table cloths (the plastic ones for easy cleanup).
Can I say one thing about the plastic bunting? It was actually the inspiration for the color scheme, mostly because it was $1 for a nine-foot length. We bought 5. They are still hanging in our backyard and I love them. It’s giving color to my otherwise winter-gray backyard. And I’m probably annoying my neighbors so, BONUS!!! Just kidding, I love my neighbors, and I’ll take down the bunting once there’s some green in the yard.
We set up our back yard to have different activities that you’d do if you were at camp:
First, my favorite: These canoes made from cardboard boxes were so cute and fun. The kids had a blast racing and running around. We sectioned off our side yard by hammering some 50-cent dowels into the ground and hot gluing some blue plastic table cloths to them to create a ‘lake’ area. Ideally, I would have filled the area with blue balloons, but a couple of our guests abhor balloons and the popping noise, so I was nice and refrained.
A camp party planned by yours truly would not be complete without a craft station, right? Surprisingly, it was a big hit! We made pinecone birdfeeders, and it was really easy to set up. My son and I foraged in the woods for pinecones a couple of weeks before the party. Then, I tied some yarn from my craft stash to them so that the kids could hang them. I set them up in a basket with a squeeze bottle full of corn syrup, a bowl of birdseed, a box of zip top bags so the kids could have something to take them home in, and a box of wipes for cleanup. The kids squirted corn syrup on the pinecone and scooped birdseed over it so it would stick. The whole thing cost $6, and I have a ton left over. Normally, they’re done with peanut butter, but I wanted to avoid any allergy issues.
We also set up what we called ‘marksmanship’ which was really just a bean bag toss game that we had that we tied between two trees. To round off our camp, we set up some sports equipment, and of course, the playground was available.
I didn’t schedule the activities. I welcomed everyone, and they were all free to play and go from station to station as they pleased.
After we played for a little bit, we took the kids on my son’s favorite hike down to a stream and let them play in the woods for a little bit.
My son loves hiking in the woods behind our neighborhood. It was so cool to see my son, who can be shy at times, be so proud and comfortable as we hiked down the trails. I had planned to just go to the stream, but the neighborhood kids know the area well and all ran down the stream to a cracked, rickety footbridge, so all the kids followed down and we spent most of our time with our hearts in our throat waiting for a kid to fall in the water and/or the bridge to fully break. But nobody did, and the bridge survived. And I think the kids loved it.
After the hike, we headed back to the house for hot dogs (super easy prep: baked in the oven at 350 in disposable roasting pans until heated through, and then kept on the warm setting until needed), chips, cupcakes (store-bought!), and my favorite part of the whole night: the s’mores bar.
Y’all. We need to talk about this whole ‘s’mores bar’ thing. I’m here to tell you to think outside the graham. Somewhere in my planning, it struck me that it doesn’t have to be graham crackers. I started to think about different candy and cookie options. Why only grahams? Why only plain chocolate? And then I had to go for it. I had graham crackers, chocolate chip cookies and shortbread cookies. And for the candy, I had regular chocolate, snack size peanut butter cups (not the small ones that are sold in a bag, but not the regular size you’d get at the candy stands in the checkout line) and rolos. I could have gone crazier. I thought about having sliced bananas, strawberries, nutella, sprinkles to dip them in… but it was a camping-themed party for four-year-olds, and I went simple(ish).
I hope that if I make it to heaven, I’ll be greeted with this, my favorite combo: chocolate chip cookies with rolos and the requisite torched marshmallow. Behold the beauty:
Confession: I was so wrapped up in the party that I forgot to take pictures of the s’mores bar(and pretty much everything else), so I totally made myself a s’more just so I had a photo for this post. We all suffer for our art, don’t we?
Setup couldn’t have been easier. I just set everything out on my countertop, lit a couple of sterno fuel cans, and said “Everyone, enjoy!” And they did. You know how a lot of parents normally don’t try cupcakes at parties and act all like “Oh, I’m too grown up for that. I’ll let the kids enjoy.” ? Well, they won’t pass up a s’more bar.
This was such a fun and easy party, the way all parties should be. And the best part of it was that my son had an awesome day.
Before I wrap this up, I want to thank the ladies at All Wrapped Up Parties for this awesome post about why you should consider hosting a party at home, because it got me to finally click ‘publish’ on this post. As I read it this morning, I was fist-pumping in the air going “AMEN SISTAHS!!” So thank you, Julia and Alexis!