My daughter’s birthday is at the end of April, which in our part of the world is well into spring. For the past five years that we’ve lived at the edge of the forest in North Vancouver, we’ve been able to have at least some of Sadie’s party outside. And we always have active birthday parties at our house.
So here are five tips for how you can host an active birthday party for your kids.
1. Start with birthday cake
This may seem weird, but who says you have to save the cake for last? No parent wants to pick up kids who are just beginning a sugar rush because they’ve just packed themselves with cake and ice cream at the end of the party. We always start with birthday cake. It’s something that every kid can’t wait to get to, for one thing, so why not get it out of the way? The only way this works, though, is if the kids get a chance to burn off the sugar right away. Which is where tip #2 comes in …
2. Get outside
After cake, we head into the forest, along a fairly simple trail, where the sugar can take effect without the girls being cooped up and going crazy. Even if it’s raining — it happens in Vancouver from time to time — the forest is the best place to be, because the canopy acts as a big umbrella.
Not everyone has a forest to escape to. Maybe you’ve got a public park, or a school, or even your own backyard.
We do as much of the party as possible in the backyard. In part it’s because we’ve got a small living space. In part it’s because the post-party clean-up is easier. In part it’s because the kids prefer to be out there whenever they can. One year they just ran around. One year we taped paper along our fence and they “painted”.
3. Plan body-moving activities
Kids can’t burn off sugar if they’re just sitting around, so we come up with games and activities that get them moving.
When we start our forest walk, there’s an open picnic area that we pass by, which is a good opportunity to play troll tag. That’s where the girls have to move from one safe area to another without being caught by the troll. You can guess who gets to be the troll. This is also a game that works great in playgrounds.
The forest is also a great place for scavenger hunts. I call out various nature artifacts that the kids have to go find examples of: tree stumps with moss, or a plant with a yellow flower, or a log with a bracket fungus on it. We don’t actually collect anything, we just take note of them. I don’t need any more sticks in our yard.
4. Provide some healthy snacks
About an hour after cake we set out healthy snacks to balance out blood sugar levels. Otherwise the crash is unbearable for everyone. Fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt, cheese, and plenty of water all help sustain energy for the rest of the party.
5. Get creative with the loot bag
Instead of the traditional loot bag, we come up with different take-home gifts for the partygoers. These are even better if you can get kids at the party involved in making them.
One year we sent them home with a flower they had planted. Last year they all got to tie-dye a t-shirt we provided.
This year, I thought giving the girls a hula hoop would be fun. Sadie thought that would be a great idea, because it would justify having a hula hoop contest at her party. Sadie is an accomplished hula-hoop artist and her confidence in the activity is one reason she loves to do it. And all of her friends had fun with the activity. The entire group of them were amazingly good at it. And they were thrilled to take their hoops home where they could practice some more.