The Birthday Party

This year I decided to go with a Sesame Street theme for Champ’s birthday. It was his first birthday party with kids his age over, and it was a blast.

This will likely be the only party he has with over a dozen kids, plus their parents attending. Not that it wasn’t super fun, and it honestly wasn’t overwhelming, but next year I’m guessing Champ will be at an age in which he has formed tighter bonds with a few kids. I’ve heard the idea of inviting one child per age of the birthday, so next year we will plan on inviting 3 or 4 kids.

invite

The invitations

Everywhere I looked online said it was bad taste to include any mention of gifts, even if it’s to say you don’t want any. Who are you to tell people what to do with their money? People like giving gifts—don’t deny them that joy. Et cetera.

So I decided to call it an ABC party. I asked parents to bring their favorite cookie recipe and a list of three of their favorite books. Then I’d compile the list and distribute it to all the parents. We got a ton of ideas, some people didn’t feel obligated to bring gifts, and others brought really great ones. Champ loves them all, and he’s slowly, slowly coloring thank you notes for his friends.

abc

I designed the invitations, of course, and printed them at home. I designed some cookies based on a Cookie Monster coloring page, printed those out, cut them out, and included them in the invitations. Parents wrote the list of books on the back.

cookie

Presents from us to him

We don’t want our kids to be materialistic, so we limit how much we give them. I’m really big on gift giving, so this has been hard on me, but also freeing. Here are my rules for buying gifts for our kids:

  1. Is it something my child would want or need?
  2. Is it a good deal? (I make a note to never pay full price)
  3. Is it clothing?
  4. Do we already have something similar?
  5. Will it last through at least one other child?
  6. Is it educational?
  7. Is it open-ended / can it serve more than one purpose?
  8. Will it foster imagination and creativity?
  9. Is it something that promotes group play or family time?
  10. Is it something worth buying (as opposed to borrowing or making ourselves)?

We bought him a bean bag chair that was PERFECT. He fell in love with a huge one at my aunt’s house and when we looked, ones of a comparable size that weren’t overstuffed cost $70–$200. We bought what I’ve dubbed “the prune” new at Dock 86 for $30.

prune

We also got him a LeapPad game, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, to teach him math; a dry-erase book for practicing letters; a Look & Find treasury book; and the Disney animated Robin Hood on Blu-Ray.

Champ also received birthday money this year. We took out 10% for him to give to church, 10% to put into savings, and let him pick whatever he wanted with the extra money. When he starts to get an allowance, he can tithe out of that, so we won’t take 10% out of his gift money for church, but we will still have him put 10% of gift cash into savings.

He chose a water blaster, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask, a Toothless figurine (from How to Train Your Dragon), a play camera, and a tape measure.

From friends, he got play-doh sets, puzzles, a football, books, construction sets, gardening tools, bubbles, sliceable play food…and he’s been playing with all of the toys for the past few weeks. It will take us a while to get through the books!

Party games

What do you do with a dozen preschoolers? I had three mostly unstructured activities for the kids: Homemade Play-doh inside and a Cookie Monster cookie toss and “parachute” game outside.

This is the recipe I used to make a big batch of play dough, but next time I’m going to try this one, which is only slightly different and makes a smaller batch.

Here’s the Cookie Monster cookie toss game. I got the idea from here, but made up different rules and made and painted the cookies with this recipe for dough. The kids loved it, and liked the point system even more when I told them how many points they got.

cookiethrow

How to Play:

1. Have kids line up behind one another, with the box facing the first person.
2. Give 3 cookies to each of the first few kids in line.
3. Each child gets three tosses per turn.
4. Award 1 point for hitting the box, 2 points for getting in the box, 3 points for going through the mouth.

I made a ton of the fake cookies. Some of them cracked while drying, and some broke while throwing. The ones that turned out best were not made with cookie cutters. My advice: shape the dough into balls and squish rather than rolling out and using a cookie cutter. And do not flip them over as they are drying. I turned mine because they were starting to warp, but that just made them crack when they warped back the other way. Warping isn’t much of an issue if you don’t use cookie cutters.

For the parachute game, I bought 100 ball pit balls here and a sheet from Goodwill. The kids grabbed the sheet and shook while I poured the balls onto the sheet, then they flew up like popcorn. We tried it twice before letting the kids just throw the balls everywhere. It was a bit too much structure for some kids that were really excited, and would drop the sheet to try and jump into it. Couldn’t blame them for wanting to be in the middle of that!

games

We made a game of picking up all the balls. With some kids I told them to pick up by color, but we just made it a race with most of them.

Party Food

Here’s what we had for treats:

  • Ernie’s Rubber ducky punch with lemon sherbet (where on earth can you get the pineapple flavor?)
  • Oscar’s trash (store bought chex mix on sale)
  • oscar broccoli tray and strawberry elmo tray
  • Big Bird cupcakes
  • Chocolate Chip cookies
  • “Slimey” sour gummy worms
  • Elmo’s goldfish

Captain also made some pizza bread (Italian loaf, toasted, with pizza sauce and cheese and toppings, heated in the oven)

plates-puzzlesI totally forgot about the fruits and veggie plates until guests started to arriving, so two of my dear friends put them together. The eyes were condiment cups from Culver’s with blueberries for the pupils. Oscar’s were filled with ranch, and Elmo’s were poppy seed dressing. The puzzles were hand-me-downs from my brothers.

I bought freezer pops for all the kids, but just realized they are still in our basement freezer. Oh well.

The cupcakes were my first attempt ever at frosting cupcakes with a frosting bag. hahahahahaha. Candy corn for the beak, and candy eyes from here. You can get them from Walmart or Michaels, too, in the cake decorating aisle.

bags

Favors

For the favors, I bought bright colored bags ($5 for 12) and added paper cutouts to make them look like muppets.

Inside:

  • a small container of play-doh from Walmart 10-Packs ($6 for 10)
  • a couple cookie cutters (ABC and 123) from this set of 50 for $17.50,
  • a snack size bag of mini-cookies (Walmart brand, 100 calorie variety)
  • a mini rubber ducky ($6 for 12)
  • a punch balloon

They cost about $3 or $4 per bag. I ordered from Prime or bought locally, so I didn’t pay shipping.

Well, I was hoping on including the book and cookies list here, but this has taken a huge chunk of time to compose, so I’ll have to do it later. I’ll link back here once it’s online.

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Best Free Podcasts for Kids

After a week of sickness and another week of catching up on work from said week of illness, I have been more lax than usual about Little Champ’s screen time. I can’t tell you how many times he’s replayed the ending of Rio or the prison break scene in Kung Fu Panda 2 or the entirety of Winnie the Pooh on my mobile phone.

It’s going to take a bit to break him of his new addiction, but today I took a few moments to find some kid-friendly video podcasts and story book podcasts to add to my phone, since I’ll be removing his entertaining, but not particularly educational, movies.

I found one blog post with a list of the blogger’s favorite audio podcasts to listen to while traveling. Click here for the post. All of the podcasts listed are also available on itunes, so while you could click through the links and search for their links to a specific itunes page, it’s easier to just do a search IN iTunes for those podcasts. I subscribed to all of those podcasts and downloaded a few extras. Note, when searching for Big Story Time, search for “bigstorytime” and you’ll find the podcast. I’m especially excited for Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, which is indie music for kids. Champ isn’t used to audio podcasts, so I’ll start playing these in the mornings while getting his breakfast ready. We have some of the books read in BigStoryTime, so we’ll flip through the books while listening to those ones.

Sesame Street has FREE VIDEO PODCASTS. This is what I’m hoping will satisfy Little Champ’s desire for visual stimulation while also stimulating that brain of his.

Nick Jr. has free video podcasts, too, but when browsing through, it looked like half of the videos were trailers for television shows (Please.) I did download a few Blue’s Clues shorts and the Clean Up Song, with a couple others, but I didn’t subscribe.

iTunes also has a series of Winnie the Pooh shorts! Pooh’s Game and Pooh Meets Tigger are both free. Others are $2. Each short is about 2:30 long, some longer. Eeyore’s house is $10 and also two and a half minutes, so I’d suggest downloading the free ones while you can and wait to see if the others lower in price!

I’ll test out the podcasts and get back with a review. I also downloaded a few more free apps for the kiddo, so once we test those out, I’ll post my favorite toddler apps as well!

Wish me luck as I wean this kid from extended screen time back to a decent amount.

What are your favorite apps or podcasts for kids? Or have you been more successful in shielding your child from entertainment than I?