Monday, September 19, 2011

Budget Double Birthday Party Celebration

Pirate treasure map for our
"Tape the X on the Treasure Map" game,
"Pin the Tail on the Donkey" style
My boys have birthdays a few days apart. They're 2 years apart, but because they are home with me and not in daycare only with kids their exact ages, their friends are a range of ages, and often they play with the same kids, or with the same sets of siblings.
I figured that instead of making 2 birthday parties for my kids, promoting jealousy between them and the dilemma of just who gets to be the center of attention, and which friends to invite to which party, I'd just make my kids a joint birthday party.

Today, we had a really terrific party. The weather was perfect, the environment pleasant, activities great, company terrific, and the cost stupendous.

This birthday party was sugar free, gluten free, dairy free. And yes, we had cake. Frosted cake.

The total cost of the party was what I paid for 1 cup of honey, 1 cup of black beans, and 5 eggs. Pretty much nothing.
But that doesn't mean the party was lacking in any way. In fact, I think the party was one of the most rocking parties I ever attended. The kids all had a terrific time, and so did the adults!
What did we do?
Well, the party planning only started yesterday morning. Correction- a week ago, when I went grocery shopping, I knew already what type of cake I'd make, so I bought any ingredients I didn't currently have in the house. Other than that, the schedule and activities were only decided upon yesterday morning.

The kids invited to the party were between 2 and 7 years old. (9 kids total-3 sets of siblings- along with their 3 moms and 1 dad.) I was a little stumped at first what to do with the kids, as I wanted something simple enough for the younger ones to enjoy, yet complex enough that the 5-7 year olds wouldn't be bored out of their minds or think was stupid.

What I came up with all ended up falling within one theme. Treasures and treasure hunting. And so, it became a pirate birthday party. Yes, the fact that it took place on "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" was pure coincidence, no joke.
No, no pirate decorations other than the large pirate treasure map hung up to be used in our game later on. The entire party took place in the dirt expanse in front of my home. (Our house is too tiny really to host many people comfortably in its 454 square feet, not to mention that I didn't want to have the inevitable post party mess in my home.)

The party started off with the kids arriving. Because my somewhat sheltered non TV watching kids and their friends didn't really know what pirates were, I taught them that pirates were people who lived on boats, wore bandanas tied in funny ways, and searched for hidden treasures, often using special maps to find the treasures. (No, I mentioned nothing about pirating other people's ships and all the negative side of pirates. Why talk about that when we can just be cool treasure hunters?)
After my short explanation to the kids, I offered that whoever wanted to dress up as a pirate by putting on bandanas, tied pirate style; most of the kids did so and continued to wear their "costume" until the end of the party.

Lee has been collecting Popsicle sticks for the longest time. We colored them with different colored markers, and then, before the party started, scattered them in the rather large patch of dirt and trees in front of my home.

For the game, the kids scoured the area to see how many Popsicle sticks they could find. (Kind of like an Easter egg hunt, only with Popsicle sticks.) At first I was thinking of "scoring" by seeing who could find more of specific "rarer" colors, but decided against it. The point was to make it fun, not a competition, so I decided against it, but if you want to do this activity with older kids, you can assign points for each different color, with more points being assigned to the rarer colors, and the winner is the one with the most points at the end of the game.

Little pirates searching for treasures in the dirt.

After that game, we did something just a bit more sedentary. 
Along the same lines of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, we did "Tape the X on the Treasure Map." 
I made the "treasure map" for free. Last night I went to my step dad's birthday party, and at the end of the party when they were going to toss out the sign they made in his honor, I asked to take it home. I used the other side to make the map.
To make it look more "authentic", and "aged" and "piratey", I burned the edges of the poster board. Pyromaniac me had just a leetle bit too much fun playing with the fire to do that. :-D
The X's were made with a few pieces of red construction paper that I already had in the house from when I had my at home daycare 2 years ago!
For those that don't know how to play this game, you blindfold a kid, spin him around, and then steer him in the direction of the picture made on the poster, and then they try to tape on their X (or tail, or clown nose, or whatever game you're playing) onto the designated spot. After everyone has a turn, the winner is the one who has gotten it closest to the target.
I didn't blindfold the 2 year olds- they had a hard enough time getting their X's taped on even with being able to see the target!

The little pirates playing the game.
After this game, we played a scavenger hunt. 

Yesterday I went to different "landmarks" and recognizable areas within 200 feet of the entrance to my home and drew pictures of them. The point wasn't to be as artistic as possible, but to make sure that the pictures were recognizable as being those specific places. (I took it as a compliment to my "skill" that the kids were all able to identify exactly what the pictures were, even the ones that I thought would be harder to guess.)

I then cut those pictures out and today, about an hour before the party, planted clues along the way. First clue was a picture of the grape vine near our house, which led us traipsing to the grape vine to find the next clue. At the grape vine, the kids found a picture of a certain neighbor's entrance to their yard. (That neighbor had 2 kids attending our birthday party.) We went there together to the neighbor's entrance where we found a clue leading to a light post, and from there to the dumpster near the house, and from there to the passion fruit patch, and from there to a bus stop, then to another neighbor's yard, then to our clothes line, then to another neighbor's yard, and then to a bulletin board, where we found one last clue- a picture of Mike.
When we got to Mike, he was holding our treasure! A game of hot potato/pass the parcel with our treasure wrapped up inside!

We then played a fun game of hot potato, with each kid unwrapping one layer of newspaper when the music stopped and he had the package in his hand. As more and more layers of wrapping got ripped off, the kids saw that the treasure wasn't as large as it had seemed to be at first. When they came down to the final layer and saw what the treasure was--- it was homemade chalk, enough for everyone! 
They then had fun coloring on the sidewalk while I went inside to get the cake. After the party, the chalk was theirs to keep as a party favor.

The cake, as noted above, was gluten free, dairy free, and white sugar free. I was thinking of making a whole post dedicated to it, but I wasn't in love with the end results, even though everyone else was! People had thirds of the cake, and even the pickiest eater I know with lots of sensory issues snarfed it down! So it wasn't a flop, even if the cake wasn't as perfect as I wanted it to be.
The cake I made was a black bean chocolate cake, which I got from here. The only change I made was I used coconut oil instead of butter, and added an extra tablespoon of butter. I think I also went a bit heavy on the cocoa powder- I didn't put in level tablespoons; I put in heaping tablespoons. The cake was fine, but it was a bit dryer than I would have liked, and it wasn't so sweet either. (What did I expect? Half a cup of honey in a whole cake isn't so much sweetener.) But hey, no one complained.
The frosting was made from coconut oil mixed with honey and cocoa powder, and then frozen until it solidified enough to spread nicely.
I made an X (to fit the theme) out of coconut flakes. (I cut an X in parchment paper, lay it flat on the cake, sprinkled on the coconut flakes, then removed the parchment paper, in case you were wondering.) 
No, there was no writing on the cake. No fancy flowers or happy birthday wishes. Kind of hard to do something like that when making a sugar free, dairy free, food coloring free frosting. The kids didn't seem to mind.
And no, no candles. I don't think my kids knew the difference. Candles are wasteful on a cake, and anyhow, I don't like the idea of (probably not chemical free) wax dripping onto my food.

After the cake, the party goers left, and the party was over.
We had a really terrific time. :-D

And I have to give a shout out to my mom and step dad who got Lee the most terrific birthday gifts. They got him a set of games called "Hello First Grade" that has so many different educational activities inside. Games that teach patterns, teaching to write and to draw, to sort things by shape, color, size, etc... Noting small differences, puzzles, categorizing, sequencing, addition, subtraction, etc... Wow, and I'm sure I left out lots.
I love gifts that have dual purposes. This gift is fun for Lee but also is a great homeschooling tool. I'm sure without it I could have found other ways to teach these things for Lee, but I'm glad that the gift from his grandma and step grandpa was something very valuable like this. So much better than a remote controlled race car, for example, that a kid plays with for a little while, but then it breaks. This gift will certainly be used over and over and over and over.
If you were wondering what Mike and I got the kids, we got them additional knock off Lego sets to what they have. They use the Lego they have so frequently and so adeptly, and I see just how much it is developing my kids' creativity and fine motor coordination, not to mention finger strength and attention to detail, so Mike and I decided to get them some more. They were really excited by these gifts!

How do you celebrate birthdays in your home? Would you do a double birthday party, or no? How much do you generally spend on average on a birthday party?
What do you think of our party activities that we did?
What type of presents do you and your kids appreciate most? How do you generally decide what to get your kids as birthday gifts?

Linking up to Simple Lives ThursdayWFMW 

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