Family life

The art of the stay-at-home birthday party

Tracy was all set to celebrate Anna's seventh birthday at an indoor play place. But Anna was having none of that.

By Tracy Chappell

The art of the stay-at-home birthday party A simple butterfly craft kept the girls entertained, as did cupcake-decorating (below).

We are partied out. We celebrated Anna’s birthday all weekend long, with her friends, our friends, and both sides of our family — but not all at once, like usual.
We’ve never had a kids-only party before. Anna hasn’t wanted one. She loves going to parties at play places, so when I suggested she have a kids’ party this year, I assumed that’s what she’d want. I knew it would be pricey, but was looking forward to a less labour-intensive celebration. But Anna wanted none of that. She adores our usual tradition of having all our friends and family at our house for one big bash and didn't understand why we couldn’t just invite all her classmates, too. Ummm… no. That party is already a little crazy, and squeezing in an additional dozen squealing girls wasn’t going to happen. When we talked about it, I realized the key was that she wanted her classmates at her house. So that’s what we did.
But what to do with said dozen squealing girls? Since I’d never hosted something quite like this, and we’d just returned from our trip, I turned to Pinterest for help. I didn’t come up with a theme, so we just winged it (ha ha): I managed to find a relatively easy butterfly craft, and had most of the needed items already (score!). Avery and I did a practice run the day before to make sure it was going to work, which I’d highly recommend — because of that, I learned it was a good idea to pre-paint the clothes pegs and just leave the decorating and assembly for the girls.
Anna insisted that freeze dance and pass the parcel were on the agenda (I had stocked up on some Littlest Pet Shop figures at a Zellers closing-out sale to use as prizes). I also found this game, which turned out to be so much fun: Tie a balloon to each girl’s ankle and, without using their hands, they have to protect their balloon and try to stomp on others’ balloons and burst them, until there is only one inflated balloon left. We decorated cupcakes, which was also a big hit. I found a great idea on Pinterest to help with the ice-cream situation (am I the only one who finds that ice cream scooping complicates the whole cake distribution process?). You put cupcake liners in a muffin pan and put a scoop of ice cream in each spot, then pop the pan back in the freezer until you’re ready and the portions are set to dole out. Brilliant! Except that I actually forgot about the ice cream until after the girls left…

The art of the stay-at-home birthday party  

The last thing we did was a scavenger hunt for the girls’ loot bags. This is something I usually do at our parties, but wasn’t going to for this one. It’s a lot of work to figure out funny, clever clues to guide pairs of kids on quests through our house, and I was running short on both creativity and prep time. But when I mentioned to Anna we weren’t going to do it, she was devastated. So I found time, and the kids thought it was hilarious. Before we knew it, two hours had passed and the parents were at the door to collect their little darlings.
This was a great age for this party, because the girls are capable of handling glue and instruction, plus they took their time with the cupcakes and really wanted to create special designs (before devouring them!). One thing I forgot about was that the girls would inevitably all need help at the same time. I was so grateful my friend L came early and stayed to lend a hand, and that Sean was here, or it would have been hard to keep things moving along.
Even keeping things pretty simple, the girls all had a blast. Anna was so thrilled. Was it a lot of work? Totally. But it was also a ton of fun, and worth every lost hour of sleep. It was sweet to have all of Anna’s friends in our home and, in the end, I was very happy we went this route.
Now I’m sure I’ve started something! I’d love to hear your favourite food and activity ideas for our next at-home birthday party.

This article was originally published on Mar 12, 2013

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