How to plan a birthday for kids?
June 6, 2007 7:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm helping to plan a birthday party for my girlfriend's daughter, and I need some serious help. We're talking five or six girls, all 8 - 9 years of age, all coming together on a Saturday afternoon. How can I help make this an awesome party?

Of course, awesome is a relative term when dealing with 8 year olds, I guess. But look, so far we have a croquet set and a badminton set we're going to setup in the back yard. To me, this seems insufficient. Is it a good idea to provide activities? I have this notion that if I just leave all the kids to play, they will soon break into groups and the normal kid jealousy and fighting will begin and things will dissolve into chaos. So, it seems like keeping them all busy and involved is a good idea - but croquet and badminton seem like they'll get old in two seconds flat.

So what are some other activites? An egg toss, maybe? Am I right to try to provide more in the way of rigid activities? I'm trying to remember all the birthday parties of my youth, and honestly, I'm floundering.

I'd like to not spend too much money, if at all possible, but chiefly I would like this day to be fun for all involved.
posted by kbanas to Human Relations (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I think that some kind of craft is a good can pick up plain white t-shirts and fabric paint at any Target-like store, or you could do tie-dying. It gives everyone something to take home at the end of the day and it's a good creative outlet.
posted by handful of rain at 7:49 AM on June 6, 2007

I never much liked party games, unless they were individual word-game or puzzle type things. I guess watch out for shy kids. These sort of situations can be pretty awkward for them, especially really competitive games or games which must be played in teams. Most likely there will be kids who will want to run around, too, so try to allow time for both to do their thing.

Neutral options include the above-mentioned craft project--bucket o' beads and yarn, decorating flip-flops with torn fabric strips, t-shirts, foam door hangers--check out your craft store, you will see the cheap and endless possibilities. Or let them all cook/bake or decorate cookies. Anything with an end result that ends up being a reward in and of itself.

A scavenger hunt around your house and yard would take a little planning, but keep it simple and it could be a huge success.
posted by rhoticity at 8:00 AM on June 6, 2007

I don't know how involved you want to get activity-wise, but when my girls were that age, we used to throw "theme" birthday parties for them. There were two that still get talked about (and their friends still talk about): a chef party and a pirate party.

For the chef party, we bought kid-sized aprons from the craft store, and used Tulip paint to write each girl's name on them prior to the party (you can also get paper chef's hats from the party stores). When each guest arrived, they'd get their apron and then sit down at a table and decorate the apron with provided fabric markers. This is useful because not every child arrives at the same time, and there are always stragglers, so you can't really start cooking right away. As the girls would finish their aprons, we'd take a picture of each girl wearing her new apron.

Then, decide on a menu. We had the girls make pizza from scratch using pre-made pizza dough, and then toppings. After the pizzas were assembled, we made coffee-can ice cream. This a GREAT activity for a small group of kids in the summer, as it involves rolling a can back and forth between kids, and often includes lots of giggling. The ice cream tastes really awesome, too. Then, the kids eat their pizza and ice cream. Take-home gift is a pre-made "cookbook" with the recipes they made inside, and the picture of them in their apron on the cover (we had to use a polaroid camera because it was instant, but now you can use digicams and a printer at home).

For the pirate party: buy lots of dime-store goodies, like beaded jewelry and lip glosses. Hide them in places around the yard (the "treasure") before the party. Write or draw maps and clues for the girls to find the hidden goodies. We also went to the craft store and bought some small,inexpensive wooden chests, sequins and plastic "jewels" and acrylic paint pens for the kids to decorate "treasure chests" as they arrived. Then, they were able to put their booty into the chests as they found it. The chests then became the goody bag at the end of the party. You can also buy lots of fun and goofy pirate gear at the pirate store - eye patches, pirate hats, bandanas. My husband and I dressed up like pirates (he blackened his teeth with that makeup stuff). The pictures from that party are really funny.

We found that with structured parties like this, you need to build in some unstructured, goof-around time too, usually in between the structured stuff and the presents-opening. Nobody likes to go to a completely "programmed" party.

Have fun!
posted by Flakypastry at 8:06 AM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

You definitely need more than badminton and a croquet set. At that age, many girls will have no idea how to play those games, and may have very little interest. When you have more than three kids together, structure is good. If you're really clueless, there are books about this. I used to have this one, which I really liked. I think it emphasizes thrift, too. You can probably even get it out of the library.

One of my favorite birthday-party activities ever was one my dad constructed for my birthday around that age. Each of us got the end of a string (color coded with pipecleaners or something), which eventually led to a loot bag (lollipops, small toys, whatever). But in order to get there, we had to untangle our strings from the mass of other strings, which were crisscrossed with each other and around various pieces of furniture, etc., in our basement. (Envision a big spider web.) Lots of fun, unusual, and cheap.
posted by CiaoMela at 8:46 AM on June 6, 2007

Here is a fun game to play: Each person gets a hardcover book, a piece of paper and a pencil. You put the book and piece of paper on top of your head, and then try to draw a pig on the piece of paper. You could choose another animal if you wanted. You have like one minute to do it. At the end of the minute, everyone looks at their pictures and gets a good laugh, and the best one (either chosen by the group, the birthday girl or someone else) gets a small prize (a candy bar, a flavored lip balm, etc).
It is high-larious....
posted by FergieBelle at 9:04 AM on June 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Badminton is way too hard for most 8-year-olds, I think. At that age, my daughter would have loved a cheap back yard pool set up. A wading pool or two, maybe some squirt guns, that sort of thing. Crafts are a good idea, but nothing too compicated; foam door hangers would work fine. Theme parties are great, and kids get a real kick from dressing up, and especially taking home party favors. For my daughter's tenth, we did a luau theme, strung some party lights in the back yard, got leis for everyone, and sent everyone home with a plastic tiki mug, and the kids had a great time; our total budget, including food, for 8 kids was $100.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:29 AM on June 6, 2007

Do not underestimate little, silly games. I think I've used these examples before:

* put a bunch of cotton balls in a bowl. Blindfolded, the kid has to scoop the balls out with a spoon into another bowl. It's funny to watch. Whoever gets the most wins a prize.

* line em up, give them a knife with 10 or so unpopped popcorn kernels on it. Walk from point A to point B. Winner gets a prize.

* take an empty glass bottle (I think we used coke bottles, but now that seems like it might have been too small. Maybe a two liter? or a wine crafe? You'll have to experiment), put it in front of a chair. Girls kneel on the chair and try to drop clothepins into the bottle. Winner gets a prize!

*bobbing for apples, maybe?

The key is, these are all easy, require no real skills, and are funny to watch. Plus, it's a good bet they haven't done them before. 20 years later, I've still got friends who talk about these games and how funny they were.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:46 AM on June 6, 2007

Have them make pizza from scratch! You make or buy the sauce ahead of time, and get them to mix the dough as the first activity. While it rises, they can play one of the games you already have. When it's done rising, they can punch it down, knead it, roll it out, spread the sauce and cheese, and each pick what toppings they want. You can provide them with all kinds of topping options: olives, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, pepperonis, whatever. Each kid can make her own personal sized pizza, and you can make a full size cheese pizza too, in case some of them turn out disgusting. Then kids can go do some more play while the pizzas cook and cool a bit (grown ups do anything with ovens), and at the end of the party everybody gets to eat what they made.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:59 AM on June 6, 2007

I feel dumb, flakypastry had the exact same advice. Anyhow, we did pizza making when I turned 9, and kids were still talking about it years later.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:00 AM on June 6, 2007

As others have said, crafts. I loved making beaded necklaces and that sort of thing. Glitter. Girls love glitter.
If you have the money, you could always get a pony (as in, get a party rental agency to bring you a pony + staff) and give the girls lead-lines. Girls love ponies.

Three-legged race (funny if you have a nice grassy lawn). Egg-on-spoon relay race type things.

I guess I've got nothing but messy suggestions today . . .
posted by bluenausea at 10:37 AM on June 6, 2007

Some I remember from summer camp:

Build a giant ice cream sundae. Buy a length of gutter from the hardware store and line it with foil. Supply ice cream, bananas, cherries, strawberries, nuts, sprinkles, chocolate sauce, caramel, and lots of cans of whipped cream. Assemble it first, take photos of the masterpiece, then dig in (with more photos of the carnage). Much fun.

Rent a helium tank. Get a supply of plain mylar balloons as well as multicoloured latex ones. Have plenty of permanent markers on hand, and let the girls decorate the balloons, with a responsible person manning the tank. Remember to have plenty of ribbon and some type of weight to put on the end (binder clips would probably work). Lots of fun, and something to take home.
posted by happyturtle at 10:59 AM on June 6, 2007

When I was that age, Frozen Toes was a favorite party game. It's incredibly simple. Get a great big bowl, fill it with ice, and toss in a bunch of marbles. Sitting in a chair with the bowl at their feet, the kids get about a minute to grab as many marbles as possible with their toes and toss them out. Winner gets a prize. Harder than it sounds, and much more fun :)
posted by changeling at 11:17 AM on June 6, 2007

I went to a shaving cream party once- basically, everyone got a can of shaving cream, and we ran around spraying each other. Mess = fun. You could also do games- make the best shaving cream dress, do the best shaving cream beard. And I imagine you'd be able to get cans at the dollar store.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:42 PM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I just wanted to thank everyone for their wonderful, wonderful suggestions.

I've got a lot to go on, and am confident in my ability to now throw the bitchingest birthday for 8 year olds ever.

Thanks so much!
posted by kbanas at 12:45 PM on June 6, 2007

This is helping me out for my son's 6th birthday party on Saturday, too. Thanks!
posted by Lucinda at 3:40 PM on June 6, 2007

Buy an assortment of beads and stretchy elastic thread and have the little girls make their own bracelets.
posted by orange swan at 8:05 PM on June 6, 2007

You could get a reasonably priced Beading kit with big beads. If you make each of the kits slightly different, then they could share beads among themselves to create really unique designs.
posted by kathk at 4:20 PM on September 10, 2007

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