Whether you hate hoovering or just want to keep your china intact, you’ve got every motivation to entertain your kids’ friends outside.
Anyone can organise some water games on a June afternoon and hand out ice lollies at the end. Only very clever parents can rustle up a cool outdoors party for their November baby.
Make sure there are no surprises for the other parents, some of whom will be a little precious about the idea of two hours spent outdoors in wintertime. No pretty frocks or awesome fancy dress. Some children have rather expensive clothing sitting at home for particular sports – ski gear or thermal sports underwear – this is useful stuff which will make mucking about a log fire at dusk more enjoyable as well.
Apart from a slightly chaotic Scottish dancing party indoors (and maybe because of it) I’ve organised all my kids’ parties outside and bike races have always been good. You can line up all kinds of different wheels – trikes, balance bikes, those German bobby-cars or the British Little Tikes cars.
Chalk up a starting line and a finishing line in an empty school playground.
Make simple starting numbers with A4 pages and some thread.
Ensure there are chocolate medals for everyone.
If this is for younger children you can hand out points for anything – cycling in the straightest line or being the best at listening to instructions.
For older children you can make this a bit more sophisticated – make them bring their own bikes and look up different bike racing formats like speed trials or cyclocross (where you add small barriers like a skills course).
Bushcraft doesn’t require the wildest survival skills on your part – decide on one cool item for the children to make themselves and apart from that focus on the campfire – an attraction in itself. There are a couple of ways you can make the fire easier to cook on – you can prepare by digging a hole for the logs or you can use stones to make a ring – either way allows you to position a grid or sticks with food. Lots of simple things can be cooked – ordinary bread-dough can be kept in a tin (with space to leaven) and rolled onto fresh twigs which the children have broken off themselves. Don’t use dead twigs obviously.
In my experience children aren’t hugely fussed about the food at parties – the birthday child might have views on the cake but apart from that I would just concentrate on providing a hot drink and some basic stodge. Get stuck into a couple of simple, familiar games straight away. It warms everyone up and after 10 minutes of running around you can gather everyone for something a bit more novel. Hide and seek is obviously very cold whereas some sports drills might be a lot more fun than you expect. Watch your kids’ warm-up sessions at football or rugby or ask the coaches, there’s plenty of laughter during some of their exercises. Having lots of balls at hand is good – maybe they can play football with a rugby ball, which is brilliantly simple fun. Everyone is a klutz and no-one excels!
Finally, if two hours outside sound a lot, mix it up. You can start the children off on an indoors project and bring them outside when dusk falls. Pumpkins have stolen the limelight, but you can carve out aubergines, marrows, large neeps and melons for a monster parade – remember lots of tea lights and long matchsticks. Lantern making is another craft project which ties in with some outside time. Generally, fire, flames and light fascinate all ages and you can take inspiration from lots of seasonal celebrations like Diwali in India or St Martin’s in Germany. Remember, all you’re after for the day is ensuring that the messy food is eaten outside, not in your living room.
Oh, yes, and a happy birthday boy or girl, of course.
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