We’ve got a great mothers group (and yes I realise that’s a bit odd from one of the fathers, but parents group just doesn’t have the same ring to it!). Not only does it provide a great opportunity for the kids to make friends but it also does two things that I think are absolutely crucial for parents. The first is that by sharing the inevitable ups and downs of parenting it normalise that it’s a hard thing to do and that none of us are perfect parents. The second, is remind us that (as research shows) not only is perfect parenting a myth, but it’s also not necessary for a healthy well balance child (and parent). Anyway, I digress away from the point of this blog. One of the by-products of having this great group, that was initially brought together based on the birth date of their children, is that there is definitely a birthday season.
We tried to make our birthday party as low impact as possible (see party time) but I have to admit I was pretty excited by some of the ideas from the party we went to on Saturday, partly because they were fantastic low impact ideas and partly because the crafty aspects are completely beyond me. It’s been fantastic to see so many of the birthday parties shun over-packaged, over-coloured and over-sweetened artificial goodies in place of popcorn, fruit and fresh baked treats. This was no exception and from the joy that was on Pips face as she sat herself down on a mat with some popcorn it was evidently a hit. The popcorn, freshly made and in a Tupperware, was decantered into small paper cups while the cake was placed in little wooden bowls (as shown by my slightly confused looking kids). This just seemed so appropriate that it was hard not to be impressed. It reminded me of a story that we were told on an Indian train, that at one point meals were served on the trains wrapped in banana leaf with rough earthenware cups of tea. When you finished with them you just threw them out of the window and they would be eaten by the cows. I sort of got the same feeling, with either a shredder for compost or maybe even rent-a-goat (yes, it does actually exist!) you could well come away with little or no rubbish. It’s sad that in both birthday parties and on Indian trains the standard move to disposable plastic goods seems to have become the way forward by default.
The games involved egg and spoon races using (what I’m going to guess) were home-made bean bags and wooden spoons covered in fabric. But the ‘piece de resistance’ was the lolly bags, amazingly bright and sewn from off cuts of fabric. These were filled with items including some tiny origami cranes, a writing pad and some crayons. So my hat goes off to Suzy (and the other mums) for grabbing the opportunity to make birthday parties that little bit less wasteful and consumer driven and to share some of their great ideas. It’s a great example of building a strong community and sharing great ideas to reduce our collective impact.
I was pretty impressed but would love to hear what great birthday ideas you’ve seen, since with a 2 and a 4 year old, children’s parties have some way to run yet.
When Freya turned 5, I organised a treasure hunt for the party, and it turned out great. I planned a route through the forest, and made up maps at home. The maps were drawn on A4 paper, including Jolly Rogers, compass roses, dragons, etc. Then torn and burned around the edges, crumpled up, and soaked in tea to give them that proper pirate feel. It took a few tries to get it right, but they looked awesome!
Freya got the first map in an envelope in the post on the day of her party, so after looking at the map together, we said we’d take her and her friends out to the spot later on. There, the kids found a small colourful stash containing some goodies and the next map, showing the path they had to take.
While they were captivated by the first stash, I snuck off ahead and placed each stash at the next location, also leaving sticks, pointing the way, and a few monsters along the way too – toy snakes, spiders, etc. (Boo, plastic/rubber, but I’m sure there are alternatives).
It was a cold, wet autumn day, and I remember being worried that it might be too much for the kids (5 year olds. I went with 5 stations, and a total of maybe 4km.), but the time flew by and no kids had any problems with the distance.
Most of all, I loved that the kids never questioned the existence of a pirate treasure in the forest. They just totally accepted that. 🙂
Cool idea. The concept of the activity being the focus as opposed to the food, presents etc is a really simple easy way to move away from the need to purchase lots. I love the mystery of getting the first map in the mail, that’s gold (ow.. Dad pun!) I sat next to a women at kinder yesterday who said that she was having an Alice in Wonderland theme party, that got me thinking about what I would do for such a theme. I get the feeling after your post it may involve a map.
Forgot to mention – of course there was another adult along as well, walking with the kids, and prompting them where necessary. She also knew the route that the hunt was going to take…