BY ANDREA EVERHART
With a family of five, we spend a considerable amount of time planning birthday parties. Since coming up with a theme can be hard, we keep a party-planning journal. When my girls begin rattling off random grand plans, I direct them to the notebook.
Over the years, we have compiled some fun ideas. Here are a few favorites which can be tailored to all ages, including adults. After all, our birthdays count, too!
For the Young at Age—Jungle Animal Party
Rather than turning your home into complete chaos with a live petting zoo, have guests bring their favorite stuffed animal and plan party games around them.
Make a menu of jungle fare such as nuts, berries and leaves (lettuce wraps), goldfish-shaped crackers, elephant ear chips (freeze dried apples) and zebra-striped cupcakes.
Keep décor simple:
- Jungle Entrance: Hang green streamers at the front door like a leafy screen and black-and-white streamers along hallways and the party room wall.
- Jungle Animals: Decorate the table and food with small plastic animals (can usually be found at a local dollar or craft store) and place stuffed animals on display throughout the party room.
Play animal-themed games:
- Musical Chairs: Use stuffed animals for this classic game by having kids place them in open seats when the music stops. Play songs such as Old McDonald Had a Farm, Five Little Monkeys or Pop Goes the Weasel.
- Memory Game: Use the animal décor for a memory game. Place 5–10 animals on a tray and set it out for kids to view for one minute. Remove the tray and hand kids a pencil and paper. For one minute, have them write down all the animals that they saw on the tray. (Allow kids who can’t write yet to draw the animals, and add a few minutes to the timer.)
- Animal Hide and Seek: Gather the stuffed animals that were brought to the party and hide them in a couple of designated rooms. If you don’t have an older helper, then kids can take turns hiding other kids’ animals. Once a guest locates their animal, they can help others.
Provide extra stuffed animals for children nervous about having their furry buddy temporarily taken. You also may want to snap a photo of where each animal is hidden in case you have a memory like mine!
Face painting or balloon animals can be tied into the theme, too, if you know someone crafty. As the party winds down, put on a movie, such as The Jungle Book or We Bought a Zoo, to calm the kids and reduce chaos when it’s time to leave.
For the Big in Mind—Photo Scavenger Hunt
If you have kids who feel too old for a traditional birthday party, plan a Photo Scavenger Hunt. Recently, my family hosted a scavenger hunt at the mall for kids, ages 10 to 15.
First, we met in the food court, went over the rules (including a reminder that enthusiastic guests be respectful of store owners and shoppers) and broke into teams led by an adult. Each group was tasked with posing by each item from a printed handout of things that can be found in the mall, such as:
- Stand by a mannequin and imitate its stance.
- Pose with a pocketbook with flowers on it.
- Photograph everyone holding a spatula.
- Pose with one team member wearing a purple tie.
- Fit your team into a photo booth and snap a pic.
- Freeze in running motion by a treadmill.
An hour later, we returned to the food court for cake, snacks and photo viewing.
For the Young at Heart—Adult Art Hop
Scavenger hunts aren’t just for kids. Since we live in such a dynamic area, opt to host a birthday party exploring. The Winston-Salem Downtown Arts District is perfect to snap some unique photos. For ideas of sites to put on your scavenger list, check out the self-guided tour which can be found at dadaws.net.
Afterwards, gather for dessert and drinks in one of the many restaurants nearby.
Other areas for Scavenger Hunt Parties:
- Central Library
- Downtown Kernersville
- Tanglewood Park
- Old Salem
- Reynolda Gardens
The next time you have a party to plan, keep notes of all your ideas. Even if they don’t fit your initial shindig, they may be perfect for a future celebration!