How To Make Funs & Influence Little People.

Finn turned 6 in October and he is so chuffed. I am too – another wonderful year of his company. He’s doing great; loving school, meeting new mates and having adventures of his own, which is fantastic and to be encouraged, even if he leaves us behind sometimes. This was brought home to me at soccer last term; defending his goal he booted the ball so sweetly that it sailed over the heads of all the other preppies on the field and straight into the other goal, at least 30 metres away. All his team mates cheered, ran in and hugged him, along with some from the other team … a real Bend It Like Beckham moment… and I missed it! I was apparently parenting somewhere else – I heard about it later from one of the dads.

I was so proud of him, but the buzz was tempered by the realisation I won’t see firsthand every amazing thing my boys will do as they grow up. With every birthday the wholly dependent babies they were are another year further away. I figure that’s pretty common with parents; celebrate the people our babies are becoming while also missing the babies that they were? I may just be a bit clucky at the moment; a new baby has arrived in our circle and the squirmy cuddles, warm bubba smell and sleepy smiles are bringing the memories flooding back.

Don't you just wanna eat him? Look at that noggin. circa January 2009.
Don’t you just wanna eat him? Look at that noggin. circa January 2009.

There’s still parenting to do; they’re still young enough to think we are (kinda) cool and (kinda) fun to have around. Like… at birthday parties! We invited his whole prep class of 28 kids (after seeing others do it and inwardly shuddering and thinking are you nuts?) – but it’s his first year with these guys and we wanted to include everyone. I was quietly grateful that not all could come though; 18 was quite sufficient. We kept it simple; timed it for after lunch, set up in the carport with a few light snacks, lots of drinks (it was friggin’ hot), a kickarse party game and finished up with a footy-themed birthday cake.

By far the most prep went into the entertainment, which indeed kicked arse – a treasure hunt! It was based on one that Mum and a friend did for my 10th birthday, and that I still remember it 30 years later is testament to just how awesome it was. That and the fact that during the hunt I tripped on a low fence and slid across a gravel road on my face. Anyway it was a great way to keep the kids outside, show them around the garden, challenge them, and have some fun!

What You’ll Need:

  • Some nice sunny weather. If it’d rained for this, our one and only game, the party would’ve gone down like a lead fart.
  • Some outdoors space to run around in. We are lucky to live on an acre block but smaller scale would work too.
  • A variety of single-sheet packets of stickers, $1 – $2 each from the Reject Shop. 1 per child, but get extra boy ones – I was pleasantly surprised at the number of girls who dived on the motorbike stickers.
  • A couple of multipacks of individually wrapped choccies/treats. 2 per child, plus a few extra. Note to self: If the party’s going to be on a hot day either get treats that won’t melt, or give out straws.
  • Glowsticks; 1 per child. Preferably not the skinny ones as you don’t want them snapping and using up their glow prematurely.

    I bags any spares.
    I bags any spares!!
  • About 5 water bombs per child. For us that worked out to be about 100, but I did twice that because I got pretty good at it… by the end I could fill and tie a bomb in under 12 seconds. (Get bombs with longer nozzles for tying or you’ll be there ’til your child’s next birthday.)
  • A bunch of tins etc to use as targets and somewhere to line them up.
  • 1 balloon per child. No fancy helium, just breath. Tied off, then tied with half a metre of kitchen string and kept somewhere safe from your kids for the next 1.5 days.
  • A supersized picnic blanket
  • Some driveway chalk. And a driveway.
  • One small gender neutral gift for a prize at the end. $5 maximum.
  • Named party bags, 1 per child. The easiest bit!
  • And for the clues, empty toilet rolls, coloured scrap paper to wrap them in, and your bestest handwriting.
Don't you just wanna eat him? Look at that noggin. circa January 2009.
I made 10 clues; for 10 stages. Didn’t want them to be too easy and have the kids finish the hunt in 5 minutes, nor did I want them to be too hard and make the kids lose interest in 5 minutes. The beauty of this game is you can choose the number of stages, the prizes for each, and each kid fills their own party bag, which is great because that’s one less thing I have to do.

There was a fair bit of prep, but it was worth it. I wrote a to-do list (including other stuff like making the cake, ensuring the loo was presentable etc) for the three days prior so party day was quite relaxed. In fact, the only stressful bit was having to delay the start and try to stop the kids exploring on their own and running in excitedly yelling that they’d found treasure in the garden NOOOOO!!

When we could finally start, getting the kids together was like herding cats. Cats with ADHD and buckets of ants down their pants; by the time we managed to wrangle them all to the carport they were primed and pumped and raring to go. At this point my mate Ange sprinted down the driveway to grab shoes from her car and all the kids spotted her and took off like greyhounds after a bunny.

I gave out the named party bags, and, with my 10th birthday faceplant in mind gave the kids some advice prior to starting so as to ensure each child would feel involved and in a fun safe environment. Like, don’t run too fast, don’t push, don’t throat punch, stick together as a team, try not to trip and impale yourself on a stick, if you find the next clue wait until everyone catches up to open it…

And they be like…

house level eyeroll
Oh FFS!!

At least I tried.

Gave them their first clue.

What am I? I am a tiny house at the end of a road. I have a hole in the front and a door at the back. The postie gives me letters and parcels to look after.

An easy one to start off with. Clue duly located, opened and read to everyone. So far so good.

Well done, you found the MAILBOX! From here walk down the hill, looking for your next clue. It’s in some very special trees. As well as flowers, and LOTS of big yellow fruit, they have grown you a present each.

In the orchard I had cunningly hidden the clue in the middle of a bush, then tied the stickers in the branches of our fruit trees.

Our stunted-yet-overachieving lemon tree.
Our stunted-yet-overachieving lemon tree.

They took a while to find all the stickers, and even longer to find the clue.

When it looked like they were about to crack the shits and give up I gave one of them a helpful nudge.
When it looked like they were about to crack the shits and give up I gave one of them a helpful nudge.

Well done, you found the ORCHARD! Hop and skip over the bridge (stay away from the troll!) and find your next clue where a tree used to be.

The kids are stumped.
The kids are stumped.

Had to help with that one, it was a Tough Mudder – level obstacle for people under 4 feet high.

Well done, you found the BIRDBATH! From here walk up the hill to the gravity field!! It’s round, black and green, and if you stand in it and push with your legs you will fly! Search around the gravity field for something soft and wet that you can throw. You’ll need these for your next mission!

They were starting to get a little hot and tired by this stage, and a bit tetchy.

"MUM THERE'S NO CLUE HERE!! "Have you looked everywhere?" "YES I'VE LOOKED EVERYWHERE IT'S NOT HERE!!!"
“MUM THERE’S NO CLUE HERE!!
“Have you looked everywhere?”
“YES I’VE LOOKED EVERYWHERE IT’S NOT HERE!!!”

I must admit to having been a little sneaky with this one – I duct taped it to a spring under the trampoline like a little toilet roll bomb. They found the bucket of water bombs okay though, and I dragged it down the other end of the lawn for them.

An assortment of unbreakable household rubbish, sloshed with red acrylic paint and weighed down with a bit of water. Plus one clue.
An assortment of unbreakable household rubbish, sloshed with red acrylic paint and weighed down with a bit of water. Plus one clue.

This was by the far the funnest part, and just what we needed to cool down.

READYAIMFIRE!!!
READYAIMFIRE!!!

The kids had really good arms and as the targets were all knocked down well before the ammo was used up it became a free-for-all. John and a few other dads appeared and we all had a massive water fight; when the bombs were gone I grabbed the hose, filled some buckets and icecream containers, and we used plastic cups to throw water on each other. One of the older girls got me good down my back but she forgot something; I had the hose. Rory’s best mate kept pouring entire cupfuls over him, to the extent that he got pissed off and left to get changed. Some of the watching (and laughing) mums copped a few shots from their loving, caring children who I’m sure only wanted them to feel included, and one of Finn’s classmates dumped an entire bucketful of water over her own head. It was anarchy! And the kids loved it.

Steam thusly emancipated, they found their next clue amongst the rubble of the shooting gallery;

Jake's clue

This is our mate Jake. He loves birthdays as much as the next kid but due to a brain injury can’t run around with them, so he helped by giving out the glowsticks and handing over the next clue. This works for including toddler siblings as well – just pin a clue to their back. (Um, depending how fired up the kids are by this stage you might want to bodyguard them during that bit. Nothing will ruin a fun mood quicker than an 18 month old getting ‘stacked on’ by a rugby team’s worth of older kids.)

You found JAKE and made him laugh! Good job! Under our house lies a tiny beach. Find it and dig carefully to find treasure and your next clue.

I’d buried 18 Freddo Frogs and Caramello Koalas in the sandpit, plus the next clue. They were all close to the surface but with 18 kids tunnelling like wombats I’m sure half of them ended up about 20cm deeper. At the two stages where there was treasure (read: choccies) to find, the kids were allowed only ONE each. They needed reminding each and every time, so I found it easier to just crashtackle those with more than one, steal the chocolate and give it to someone else.

Well done, you found the SANDPIT! Somewhere in the garden is a circle made of stones. Finding the clue might be tricky, but the treasure should be easy.

Rocks and trees camouflage chocolate wrappers surprisingly well. The older kids had the hang of it by this stage and helped the younger ones find their treasure.

It's ok, I cleared out all the snakes and spiders beforehand.
It’s ok, I cleared out all the snakes and spiders beforehand.

Well done, you found the FIRE PIT! You’re nearly done! Head back to the start, and find your balloon – which you must pop using only your bum! Every balloon has a clue, but which is the real one??

Those 18 balloons I mentioned earlier? Each had a folded bit of paper inside, and the strings were taped to a picnic blanket so the grass wouldn’t pop them. All but one said “FAKE” but you could write anything you wanted in there. Embarrassing stories about the birthday boy, jokes, joke fortunes and so on. Some of the kids heard the clue at the firepit and opted to lay low until all the balloon popping was over; I have added a new phobia to my general knowledge: globophobia. The others raced back up the driveway to bounce their little butts off.

Butts didn't work, but it was bloody funny watching all the rolling, space hopping and diving going on. Then it got mean; knees, feet and fingernails.
Butts didn’t work, but it was bloody funny watching all the rolling, space hopping and diving going on. Then it got mean; knees, feet and fingernails.

This is the real clue, for your last mission! Grab a piece of chalk and draw a birthday note or picture of Finn on the driveway. Finn’s favourite will earn a special prize, so do your best!

I loved finishing up with this one. The kids were pretty tired and the sun was searing hot on the asphalt but they all drew Finn something.

And these gorgeous artworks lasted approximately 2 minutes before Water War II started.
And these gorgeous artworks lasted approximately 2 minutes before Water War II started.

All up a great time was had by all; lots of laughing, screaming, running, some tears, more laughing, and cake. All the ingredients to make your birthday party a raging success! Phew. Next year Finn’s getting dinner and a movie.

– Michelle

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