Tag Archives: birthday

Super Simple, Super Fun Camp Theme Kid’s Party

Camp Connor Collage

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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!

Super Fun Mid-Week Kid Birthday

So my little boy has turned three years old.  Wow. I cannot believe he’s grown up so quickly! I have to say, I was a little stumped about how to celebrate his birthday.  Three seems to be a big year – they are finally old enough to really enjoy all the fuss, so it’s really fun to celebrate.  But how?

As much as I wanted to give him a real party (and had almost the whole thing planned out before the baby was born), I realized that it was too much for me to take on at the time.  But I still wanted to make him a cake and celebrate.  I just needed the perfect inspiration, which was escaping me.

After asking around on facebook, a friend who thought I was having a party suggested setting up a cupcake bar so the kids could do whatever they wanted to do to their cupcake.  And I liked the idea of him decorating the cake, but wasn’t quite 100% sold on it.

Then it hit me how absolutely perfect that was.

I mean, what does a soon-to-be-three-year-old want more than anything in the world? Especially one whose whole life has been turned upside down in every which way within the past two months?

Control.

What my son likes most in the world right now – more than Cars stuff, chocolate chip cookies, trains and playing in leaves combined – is calling the shots, and with good reason.  In the past few weeks, his whole world has been flipped about ten times over.  All his friends moved to a new classroom without him, his favorite teacher left the school, he’s been potty training and let’s not forget about a new baby in the house and the constant in and out of visitors that’s resulted from that and then to finish off this crazy time, he’s moved up to the next classroom which is structured completely differently from his previous one.  Just in time for the craziness of the holidays… it’s no wonder he’s trying to make everything go his way.

So I ran with it.  I decided he’d have as much control of his birthday as he could.  The day before his birthday, he helped make his cake.  Cooking is one of this favorite activities, so he was in heaven.  I made it even more personalized by dividing the batter and letting him choose colors to dye the batter and then letting him fill the cake pans by pouring spoonfuls of the different colors so we got a crazy supercolor marbled cake.  That night, I frosted the cake.

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The following day – his birthday – I set up the cake on the table with all sorts of stuff to decorate: glitter gels, Cars sugar decorations, edible dinosaur decals, sprinkles and tiny chocolate chip cookies the size chocolate chips.  When he came home from preschool, he saw his birthday table and his eyes popped open wide.  Just what this mama wanted.

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We decorated the cake while dinner was cooking (and I use the term ‘cooking’ very loosely – I popped a frozen pizza in the oven because pizza is his favorite and I’m not superwoman so I wasn’t about to cook from scratch that day).  We had so much fun and he was so proud of having done up his cake. And as an added bonus, we got some quality family time in what would normally be a hectic weeknight where we didn’t really connect.

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What do you think of this confectionary masterpiece?

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