Another year wiser (anytime)

February 16, 2008

In honor of my recent birthday (which, to M.’s dismay, was celebrated without a party), I thought I’d list the 10 best kid birthday party ideas I’ve heard over the past year, with the caveat that I haven’t actually thrown any of them. My kids have early summer birthdays, when everyone’s still so excited about warm weather that the kids are ecstatic if I just toss out a sprinkler for them to run through and supply plenty of corn on the cob and grilled cheese sandwiches.

However, I empathize with parents of winter-born children around here. Up where I’m from in North Dakota, a February birthday meant a no-brainer for parents: a sledding party. In St. Louis in the winter, parents have to get a little more creative. And they do — these ideas are just ones I’ve heard of, and I’m sure there are gazillions more online. There are also a couple dozen local party-planning services and we-do-everything venues, but I’m only going to list two of those here. One of them starts off the list, and it’s unique in that the kids who attended the party there are still talking about it four months later.

10) Bounce U. The 5-year-old host vows that all of his parties will be at the South County exercise emporium. (There’s also a franchise location in Chesterfield.) The chaperoning parents seemed to get into the activities almost as much as the invitees. In keeping with the low-cost spirit of this blog, if I’m going to spend money on a party, the kids had darn well better think it’s the best party ever!

9) Geo-caching. Often described as scavenger hunting in the 21st century, it requires a hand-held GPS device (or several, if older kids will be divided into teams) and some advance planning to stash the goodies, usually in a park. It can be tailored to any age.

8 ) Murder mystery dinner. The mom who hosted this had her hands full with fourth-grade girls, but it would work for other age groups and for boys too. The stories can be purchased or downloaded online, or you can script your own.

7) Glow-in-the-dark theme. I happened across this idea while searching out glow-in-the-dark string to make a dreamcatcher for M., who was sure that was all it would take to prevent nightmares. Someone assumed I was hosting a birthday party and started sharing tips about craft projects (there are many) and locations (because not many of us have appropriately dark rooms other than closets). Of course, if you’re doing this one as a slumber party, it’s easier after sundown.

6) Wii-fest. This is probably what I’d do for a winter birthday — it’s a low-maintenance, high-satisfaction party (although not particularly creative, I’ll grant you.) Those of us who still don’t have the system will be happy, and those of us who do have it most likely aren’t totally sick of it yet.

5) Cooking class parties at Dierbergs. This is the other venue I mentioned, and while it’s available for bookings (an excellent idea if you’re not into having a dozen kids trash your kitchen!), if you’re trying to keep costs down by hosting your own cooking party, pay close attention to the kinds of dishes Dierbergs prepares for its age-appropriate classes.

4) Party tailored to a sporting event. Over the summer, a teenage girl whose birthday happened to fall during the week of a big boxing match had her parents sign up for a pay-per-view screening of it. They treated it as any other big game party (Super Bowl, World Series, etc.) but without the adult beverages. And as a bonus to the young hostess, the boys thought it was a very cool idea.

3) An Olympic theme. This one is especially timely since the games are coming up this year. Instead of “real” sports, participants play somewhat silly games: running a homemade obstacle course, doing a standing high or long jump, balloon volleyball, and any of those crowd-pleasing team games like pass the lifesaver on a toothpick. With requisite “medals,” of course.

2) Immediate family only. A friend doesn’t throw any birthday parties — she celebrates the day as a family-centric event, with the birthday boy or girl (or mom or dad) calling the shots. So the males might have to do tea at a doily-infested shop, and mom might have to swallow her prejudices and spend a mealtime at Chuck E. Cheese. And the kids had to put up with their father’s pick in July: an evening at the horse track on his lucky date, 7-7-07. Well, not so lucky, as it turned out … but it was a memorable choice on many levels!

1) A Richard Nixon theme. I had to save this one for the grand finale because there’s video proof of the mom’s excellent follow-through on her 4-year-old daughter’s request. It’s a nice reminder that anything can make a great party, as long as you’re not daunted by conventional thinking!

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One Response to “Another year wiser (anytime)”

  1. Tom Stanley Says:

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Tom Stanley

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