As the days grow shorter and it’s not quite as hot, the realization has set in that September will be here before we know it, and Miss Maya will be starting school. Hence, I find we’re spending more and more time outdoors, trying to soak up every last second of summer.
A summer birthday means you can take the party outside… and that’s exactly what we did for Maura’s 3rd birthday bash in late July. Having a fantastic backyard playset allows for effortless fun. That, good food, and great guests made for a memorable party! Here are some highlights from our afternoon that will hopefully inspire you to throw your own backyard picnic party.
For the kids: I made sack lunches and set out blankets in the grass. Each brown paper bag was labeled with the child’s name and contained half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, applesauce, Dora fruit snacks, a handful of animal crackers, and a juice box. In hindsight, little packs of sliced apples would probably be less messy than the applesauce.
For the adults: I ordered sandwiches from Panera. Did you know they cater? We got an assortment of different sandwiches, with potato chips, pickle spears, and plenty of plates, napkins, and plasticware. They also have delicious (and huge) salads. The new Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil salad is the best! Place an order over $100 and they’ll even deliver it for free. I’ve always loved their food, and was very impressed with their catering service.
I also diced up some watermelon and tossed in a cup of blueberries for a quick and colorful fruit salad. As far as drinks go, I kept it pretty basic. Besides the juice boxes for the kids, there was plenty of iced water and pink lemonade to go around.
It was a hot day, so to cool off later on I made sure there was a big box of Popsicles in the freezer!
Knowing well we’d be outside for a few hours, I set out a big bucket filled with bug spray, sunscreen, antibacterial wipes, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and some rolled up towels.
The kids started out by playing on the playset and in a sprinkler, until it was time to eat lunch. Water balloons and a Slip ‘N Slide would also be fun. Make sure to put that in the invitation – that there will be water play – so parents come prepared with a change of clothes for their kids.
After lunch, I pulled out a big parachute and tossed some mini beach balls on top. I don’t really see the fun in it, but kids just love parachutes and you can usually find them at reasonable prices. Our 12-foot one cost around $25, I believe, and it’s great for both indoor and outdoor play. A challenging scavenger hunt would be another entertaining activity, as would a game of hide ‘n go seek. There are plenty of places to hide in the Highlander playset!
Next it was piñata time! I saw this sunshine smile piñata and thought it was absolutely perfect for Maura’s party. The kids saved the paper bags from lunch to put their candy in. Maura was the first one to hit it, of course, and after her was her sister, waiting patiently. All it took was two hits from Maya and the piñata broke in half; candy flew everywhere! My advice? Don’t buy a round pinata. LOL. A few of the kids at the end of the line started crying because they didn’t get a chance to hit it, but they quickly forgot once they saw all the candy. Plus, the perfectly intact piñata face made for some cute photo ops!
To wind down, we sat in the grass and did a craft. I bought Design Your Own! Picnic Sticker Scenes, also from Oriental Trading, a fun activity appropriate for preschoolers.
I’m not real traditional when it comes to cake. Take my ice cream cone cupcakes, for example. Those were a huge hit at Maya’s 3rd birthday. Or was it her 4th? Anyhow, (that’s one of the most popular posts on this blog, by the way!) this time around, I decided to try cake pops, though Maura did have a small cake just so she could blow out the candle!
I bought a special cake-sicle baking pan and used a box of chocolate cake mix. Just stuck a popsicle stick in them when they came out of the oven… super easy to make! I set up two ‘stations’ and made the kids get in line. At the first one they applied icing to their cake pop, and at the second, they chose from a variety of toppings – colorful sprinkles, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, etc. The best part? Easy cleanup. The kids just tossed their sticks in the trash. Their faces? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother story!
All the kids went home with mini beach pails filled with a matching shovel, rake, and scoop, mini bubbles personalized with their name, cute sunglasses, a piece of sidewalk chalk, and a couple of lollipops (in case they didn’t get enough piñata candy!). It seemed to be a hit, at least with my kids, and drove home the theme of the party – outdoor play!
Are you spending lots of time outdoors this summer?
Disclosure: As part of an ongoing relationship, Backyard Discovery provided my family with the wooden playset pictured above, and covered my BlogHer ’10 conference expenses.