We don’t have any real birthday traditions in our home. With so many kids in our family, we have a birthday or two almost every month of the year. With changing seasons, a lot of activities and several moves over the years, there has just not been a certain way that we do birthdays.
We do have one tradition, our birthday kid treasure hunt. When the important kid of the day wakes up, they have a birthday balloon in their room with a note and a clue. The house is filled with clues and the ‘treasure’ at the end is new birthday clothes for their special day. It’s the first present of the day until we celebrate later.
Birthday celebrations range from dinner out to a special dinner at home, from switching days we celebrate to birthdays on the road. A few times, the stars have aligned to be able to throw a real birthday party with friends. Freddy’s 8th birthday was one of those times.
Freddy’s birthday is in July and I had already started planning for his birthday before the last of my new kids arrived. That didn’t change anything… I just included them in the planning and the fun.
Freddy has high functioning autism and has struggled with anxiety, focus and behaviors in school from pre-school on. But by 2nd grade, though he still struggled, he was a popular kid in his class. His intelligence and creativity put him in the middle of all kinds of activities and experiments that his peers would never have thought of and they were always fascinated and delighted with things he would come up with. His teachers played a big part in creating environments that were not only inclusive but celebratory of differences.
Anyway, he had a host of friends who wanted to come to his party, so we invited the whole class. It being summer, only about half the kids came because many families had vacations and other obligations. We had about a dozen children from Freddy’s class (and a couple of younger siblings), plus the eight kids I had at home at the time. We decided to go big with activities inside and outside of our home. The weather cooperated (which is always iffy in Seattle) and we had a blast with an e
The Obstacle Course
Our home at the time was up on a hill with a large balcony overlooking the front yard. Along the entire edges of the yard, up from the street and driveway
DIY Note: I’ll try to add different ideas along with our story. There are things you can buy that will get the same gross motor/fine motor/eye-hand coordination effects that we created. But finding things you can use at home is just as fun!
After the kids climbed up the ivy hillsides they found a stretch of hoops to jump through down the front yard, and they had to pick up the last hoop to hula once before moving on. Coming back
In lieu of hula hoops for jumping, try carpet squares or circles made on the lawn with ribbon or rope or even rings on the ground made out of sawdust or dry elbow macaroni.
In lieu of leaping over flower bed edging, perhaps you have some orange cones, or make low walls (only about 6-8 inches) out of Duplos, or put out several larger stuffed animals that they can leap over. Maybe you have a jump rope or two that they can use instead of leaping over something.
On the trampoline, my daughter timed one full minute of any kind of tricks or jumps each kid wanted to do. We had them go one at a time, but later, for free play, we allowed 2 or 3 kids at a time.
No trampoline? Do you know anyone with a mini trampoline? How about an exercise ball that they can sit on and bounce? Maybe an Xbox station with Just Dance? Or maybe a jump rope station with 2 turners? Double Dutch if you have older kids with skills?
From there, we had nailed random 2×4’s
No Deck or climbing wall? Ladder up against a tree? Maybe a stair climber exercise machine? Or just a plain old staircase? Kids love to climb!
On the deck, we had a variety of scooters and bikes and the kids were to pick a set of wheels and make two rounds on the deck.
All kids love wheels, right? any thing that will let them scoot around a patch of real estate of some kind will serve the purpose for this station
Then the kids headed inside to cross the balance beam…..
We actually had a homemade balance beam in our living room for many years. Hard core gymnast was always working on her routines. But you don’t need a real beam to have a balance station. A curb? A log? A wall? Or… if you have kids in the house, investing in a low beam (or making your own – my brother-in-law used railroad tie and carpeting) is a good thing.
After crossing the balance beam, the kids had to navigate the ‘lasers.’ It was red yarn zigzagged across the hallway to the back door. They were not supposed to touch the lasers at all and one of the parents had a bell to ding if a laser got ‘tripped.’ LOL
I personally don’t know anyone with real laser tripwires. Red yarn won the day. But I can see if someone had a bunch of laser pointers that they could set up for this. THAT would be really cool.
Out the back door, and to the side of the house where they had to pull a wagon filled with 50+ pounds of stuff, down the side of the house and back. It was interesting because some of the kids pulled the wagon, some chose to put the handle up and push it. And two buddies decided to work together (smart kids!)
I’m sure most families with kids have a wagon. If not, how about a dolly with some boxes on it? Or a loaded up stroller? Make it heavy enough to be a challenge to push or pull, but not too hard so that it’s not fun.
My daughter, Clara, made a belly crawl station using our picnic table and benches and lawn chairs and a lot of blankets.
This station was a real DIY… reminiscent of all the forts we build continuously inside and outside for story time, make-believe, doll houses, etc. Of course, if anyone has one of those worm-like tunnel toys, that would work, too… maybe two or three end-to-end.
After they came out the end of the ‘tunnel,’ the kids had to squeeze through a ‘spider web’ that one of my daughters made between two trees.
We used web straps from the van that we used for tying things to the top of the car. But any kind of rope would work for this station.
The wickets were numbered and led the way to the end of the yard where they had to climb/slide down the stone wall to the driveway.
Croquet is croquet and I can’t think of anything that would replace it… except maybe a different yard game…. corn hole? a frisbee target? horse shoes?
You may/may not need the section about getting participants from the back yard down the wall in the upper left of the above photo. We used our gymnastics mats and our little plastic slide to get the kids off the wall. The blue tarp then was just covering a rocky patch to that little blue car. The car was our sandbox.
Over to the sandbox to dig for beads in the sand. They were pretty glass beads and the kids were welcomed to dig for as many as they wanted to keep. The boys whipped through the course and got their one obligatory bead each time they came around. The girls had more fun searching for different beads.
Any sandbox will do. Or maybe a large bucket filled with Orbeez beads that the kids can dig their hands into? Or any kind of container filled with sand or any kind of sensory materials. And it doesn’t have to be pretty beads… maybe gold coins or plastic dinosaurs… anything that would strike the fancy of your child and age group of kids.
We sent the kids over to the swimming pool where they were supposed to use a squirter (a water gun of sorts) to push a balloon from one side of the pool to the other. It was a nice, hot July day, so the squirters occasionally hit real people, too. Ok, ok… A LOT of real people (with permission). 🙂
If you don’t have a pool of any kind available, maybe a large, flat storage bin (like an under-the-bed bin?) and use ping pong balls or plastic checkers pieces that will float and still use the water squirters, or perhaps blow the items across? Be creative!
Since it was a hot day, we made the water play the last station, except for a round of hopscotch down the driveway that led the kids back to the rope climb up the ivy hillside to start over again if they wanted.
Most of the kids went around the course 3-5 times in the 90 minutes we had set to play. Then they started just picking areas that they wanted to go enjoy again and all were definitely ready for lemonade and cake for the last 30 minutes of the party. It was such a fun afternoon!
We sent home some tired, happy kids that day.
One more note… it sounds like a lot of work, eh? It took us most of a day and a half to get it all put into place, but we had SOOOO much fun setting things up that it wasn’t work at all. Proof? Check out Beatrice and Dixie setting up the pool.