Like every other year for the past 6 years I went against all sense and logic and decided to host Noah’s 6th birthday party at our house. For the record it should probably be stated that we have had a history of bad luck with such events. For his second birthday at Deer Park we were attacked from begining to end my a killer south-easter that saw his Barny Cupcakes strewn all over the park in a what looked like a mammoth sand storm. For his third birthday we planned a killer Soccer Party with soccer nets, games, the works! We really didn’t anticipate rain in early March never mind torrential rain that lasted the entire afternoon forcing us to welcome 50 soaking-wet people into our apartment for cover. It was probably that party that swore me off hosting kids parties for life – a combination of kids swinging from my chandelier and smashing cake into my white carpets I’m not sure.
The following year, having learnt valuable lesson in simplifying my life we headed for the Jolly Rodger pirate ship at The V & A for a pirate party. A couple of party packs, a boat ride followed by a burger at the Spur proved too good to be true as far as entertaining 12 energetic little 4 year olds is concerned. And the best part? My kid loved it. Of course, I thought I had learned my lesson, but having two years to recover since that mammoth indoor soccer party, I began to feel the urge to test my humour once again and the following year went against my own inner voice and hosted his Super Hero party on our lawn. To be honest, this one was probably one of my favourites and probably the reason my faith was restored in hosting a kids party of that size.
Which bring to us up to the present. Now of course it just so happened that I landed myself up in hospital the week we had planned to host Noah’s camping party last weekend. I mean of course my body had to choose that week to call it quits on me and surrender itself to needing more than a few day in bed. The saddest part was that I was so excited about this one, having already spent an entire Saturday morning dragging my family through Builder’s Warehouse in my need to making cool signs and fishing poles. My husband could write an entire separate post about how we spend our Saturdays compared to how we did seven years ago. It’s sad if truth be told. Yet being the hell-bent type of person I am I invited the show go on.
This what what I envisioned our party to look like :
Theme – Camping – A evening of Scavenger hunts, camping games, bonfires and braaing under the stars.
Games, Food and Activities
- Feed the bear. Basically you draw a huge life-size bear and cut a whole in his mouth for kids to throw small fish into.
- Gone Fishing – magnetic fish in small pool with magnetic fishing rods.
- Tug of war
- Scavenger hunt to find things in nature – the first to fond everything on the list wins a prize. I made cute snack packs for them to tae on their “expedition”. In an army bandana I tied up some chips, a juice and chocolate an died it to a stick with their names on it.
- Camping stories and songs in the tent
- Trail Mix bar – Instead of bowls of sweets and eats all over the table I bought 5 console jars and filled each one with different “trail mix” – chocolate covered peanuts, cereal, gummy bears, pretzels, smarties and fish biscuits. Basically the idea is that each child fills their own packet with sweets.
- Burgers and borrie rolls. What’s a camp without a braai??
- Snack packs tied to sticks.
So how did I see things panning out vs how they were executed?
My thought was that when all the kids arrived they would get their scavenger survival pack – we would take them on a walk around the garden where they could tick things off their scavenger list and afterwards unwrap their packs, tie their awesome bandaners on their cute little heads and enjoy their treats. Once returning to the main “campsite” we would play “Feed the bear” and “Gone fishing”, followed by a killer game of Tug Of War and their perfectly timed hamburgers would be waiting for them after a prize giving. They would eat their dinner inside the huge 15-man tent while “someone” would play some camping songs on the guitar. Once they all ate all their food with no complaints, they would make their way to cut the cake and sing Happy Birthday to the boy of the moment. And then of course to top it all off with some extra sugary delight they would fill their bags of trail mix sweets to take home.
Want to know how things actually worked out for us with 50 guests?
Well of course, the evening started off with a slight drizzle and too much wind to even set up the tables properly. In addition, my signs couldn’t be knocked into the ground in the places we wanted them because, well our lawn is more like a grassy dessert than a the lush lawn we are used to. We couldn’t find the polls to the big 15 man tent we planned on putting up and all the kids all arrived at different times – some hungry, some tired, some just completely happy to run around with little need for entertainment. Rounding them up for the scavenger hunt was a mission that required speaker phone and crap load of patience. Once they all received their lists they were off like the wind, forgetting their survival packs behind. Of course like most kids they all lied through teeth about what things they actually found on the list, all 28 of them ticking off a butterfly despite there not being a single one in our garden in weeks. Bless.
We completely forgot/ran out of time for tug of war and the fishing game, however I can say with pride that our ‘feed the bear” game was an absolute hit! These kids lined up for well over half an hour and took it pretty seriously.
By now the kids were starving and half the meat still wasn’t cooked. By the time the meat was cooked half the rolls and toppings had already been consumed by hungry little children. Ok let’s bare in mind it was well after 6. Still, they all seemed to enjoy their meal and their energy seemed to pick up. Of course they hadn’t eaten any sweets yet as their snack packs were untouched, so the inevitable nagging started for them to get tucked into the trail mix bar. That activity lasted all of 2 minutes as every last sweet was quickly consumed. And then the cake was left til last.
I must say this is one thing I have proudly mastered over the years and I’m happy I went ahead with making it instead of buying a ready made one last minute.
The snack packs were handed out as party favours as the kids left, not what I had in mind, but I guess they didnt know that and they loved them anyway. And of course the prizes were all still in the packet once everyone went home.
So would I do it again?
For days after the party I would have told you “No” but heres the thing guys – Its way too good a party theme to not want to try again in the future! I would however do some things differently. For those who like this idea here are some tips to avoid making the same mistakes we did.
- Start earlier. I had it in my mind to make it later so we could enjoy the novelty of it getting dark but i think its was too late for some of the kids. As kids get older it’s totally possible to an evening party though so just be sensitive to the ages of all the kids involved.
- Stick to older kids only and don’t feel the need to invite every single sibling. We made it a family event so we could hang out with friends and be together as families but let’s be honest, in the chaos i don’t think I finished one conversation.
- Don’t braai or if you do get to all done well ahead of time. I though i planned it well but we should have lit that fire at 3! In hindsight, we would have done hotdogs – one less thing to oversee.
- Get someone who is good at rounding up kids and giving instructions and put them in charge. give them a whistle and special “I’m in charge” hat – hell give them a speaker phone! Kids can follow instructions well, that’s if they can focus over the chaos and noise. Give this person a list of all the games and timing and this will ensure the games you planned are actually played and enjoyed.
- Remember that the kids don’t really give two shits about all the bells and whistles and as much as they add to the party, it’s not the end of the world if they don’t look they way you want them to.
So while it may have been a huge labour of love kind of party and not worth the mission in many ways, it was worth every bit of effort when my son come up to me for days afterwards thanking me and declaring “Thanks so much mom, it was the best party in the whole world!” I mean at the end of the day that’s what its really about right? And he’s still talking about it 🙂
Of course in all the chaos I barely managed to take any decent photos buts here’s an idea of what our camping party looked like….
This game was really so much fun and ket the kids entertained for ages! My clever friend Jules helped me with the beautiful bear, it’s rad right?
The quality of theses pictures are just shameful but for the sake of my precious child I had to document what he thought to be the best party in the world 🙂 Let me know what you think, have you done this theme before?