In September, Caleb and I began chatting about his birthday party. While hiking a trail lined with paperbark trees, hau thickets, and aloha ferns en route to a lesser-known waterfall, we discussed themes and activities. He had great ideas. Could we rent a spaceship? Could we hop in the TARDIS and take everyone to a different time? Finally, we decided upon “dinosaurs.” Things began to flow together and with some help from Pinterest, the party plans took shape. It ended up being a truly fantastic and memorable day. Check it out!
The party preparations began a few weeks prior to the party with a few balloons, some scrap paper (torn into strips), and a mixture of flour and water. Caleb helped me mix the flour and water using an old whisk. He helped tear the newspaper into strips and press the strips into the paste. He’s quite the helper these days and he took a huge interest in the entire process. I got the balloons started with a layer of wet paper strips and he layered the paper on top with minimal coaching. We left a small area open around the ballon knot (or as Caleb calls it, “the bellybutton.”) and placed the balloons on some mason jars to dry, rotating a few times. Once dry, Caleb filled them with candy and then we sealed them off with more papier-mâché. Once dry, I spray painted them a creamy white and splattered them with brown paint. Can you guess what these became?
If you said, “Giant dinosaur egg piñatas,” then you were right!
The past ten birthday parties we attended all suffered piñata failure. As in, the parents either purchased or made a standard piñata which was suspended above a blindfolded child armed with a bat. Inevitably, the piñata would not break and an intervention would be staged by a weary sunburned adult. After seeing this happen repeatedly, I declared that we would skip the piñata altogether if I couldn’t come up with an easier method. Wouldn’t you know that Pinterest came to the rescue? The giant candy-filled egg piñatas were placed on the ground and the kids were unleashed upon them with yellow plastic Wiffle ball bats. They exploded with candy to everyone’s delight!
After we made the piñata eggs, I decided that we needed a dual-purpose volcano. First, I wanted it for the tablescape (because the theme is “dinosaurs” and there simply must be a volcano involved). Second, I wanted the kids to enjoy making the volcano erupt. I used an old plastic water bottle, anchored it to a section of cardboard, and taped crumpled paper shopping bags around it until it had some character. Caleb and I covered the shopping bag clumps with papier-mâché until we had a nifty volcano. We were quite pleased with ourselves! Once dry, Caleb painted the green parts and I finished with brown. Later, I sprayed it with a clear coat so it would hold up to the vinegar/soda combo that would be foaming down its sides repeatedly. That proved to be a very smart move. So, if you decide to do this for a birthday party, don’t forget that step!
Next, I scoured the internet sales sites and harassed my friends for old plastic Easter eggs. After amassing quite the collection, I took them all apart and painted them in batches. I placed them on newspaper and spray painted them with a nice creamy paint. Most of them were no longer hinged like the batch in the picture.
When they dried, Caleb helped me fill them with miniature dinosaurs and dinosaur tattoos (ordered from Amazon.com). I wish I had pictures of the dinosaur egg hunt. It was a blast! Josh took them and hid them in part of our yard, then rounded up the kids and let them race around to find them. He didn’t hide them particularly well because we honestly didn’t want the kids to tromp through our flower beds or rummage in the aquaponics systems.
The dinosaur excavation cups were one of my favorite treats. Each cup contained a homemade gummy dinosaur or two, chocolate pudding, crushed Oreo cookie, and pebble candy. I found the plastic palm trees in the bakery section of our commissary (grocery store) sale bin and was glad to finally put them to use. I stuck a little palm tree in each cup for a final touch. They were charming! I used orange swirl paper cakepop sticks to create little handles for the rice crispy treats and placed each treat in a clear plastic baggy with a twist-tie and a green ribbon bow. The kids loved the cakepop sticks and used them as straws for sipping punch (or as I called it, “Jurassic Juice”) after eating the rice crispy treat. I actually hadn’t thought of doing that was thrilled when my friend’s daughter walked up to thank me for the awesome straw. Also available for noshing: “dinosaur bones” (pretzel sticks sipped in yogurt bark) and “herbivore happy cups” (hummus with carrot & celery sticks). In a glass pitcher, cheddar and green grape kebabs were a nice addition to the spread and no clever titles were needed. We served lunch at the party and went for a build-your-own-taco bar. The T-Rex Mex was a huge hit! There was even a queso volcano made from foil-wrapped cardboard coated in refried beans. The top of the cardboard served as the base for a reheatable glass bowl of queso dip which I refilled regularly. Caleb helped me place his toy dinosaurs all over the table. Some, he told me, were guarding and others were snacking. You be the judge.
Outdoors, the kids enjoyed jumping in the rented bounce house and playing on Caleb’s swing set. Swings are nearly impossible to find on Hawaiian playgrounds. No one seems to know why there are no swings but we assume it’s a liability issue of some variety. The inside of the bounce house was like an oven so Josh set up two oscillating fans to keep the kids cool because they would have gone on jumping until passing out from heat stroke.
Josh had the good sense to bring out the long balloons (the kind clowns make into animal shapes) for the kids to play with in the bounce house, too. Brilliant move on his part! They had so much fun jumping around with those balloons!
We did, however, convince them to come out of the bounce house to do some ice excavation. The day before the party, I placed plastic dinosaur skeletons (ordered from Amazon) and a few sea shells into a Rubbermaid container. I poured blue water (water mixed with food coloring) over the toys and shells until they were partially submerged. I stuck the container in the fridge and once it was frozen, repeated the layer of toys and shells with blue water until it was frozen solid with suspended dinosaur bones and shells. The kids used Caleb’s pretend power tools and salt to go on a Dino Dig! The kids got to put the “fossils” they found in their treat bags. I almost forgot to explain the treat bags. I decided not to spend a fortune on treat bags for the kids. Instead, I pulled out a Sharpe and a stack of paper bags (the kind used for packed lunches). Each kid got a paper bag in which to place their loot (tiny dinosaurs & tattoos from the egg hunt, candy from the dino egg piñatas, fossils from the ice dig, etc.). Each child left with a full bag of goodies that meant much more to them than if I’d filled the bags ahead of time.
And then, we brought out the volcano! I mixed red food coloring into white vinegar and had the kids take turns adding the baking soda into the top of the volcano. They also took turns pouring the colored vinegar into the volcano. They were thrilled! While all of the activities were a hit, this one appealed to every age group. Absolutely everyone wanted a turn making the volcano erupt and the parents loved teaching the kids about the chemical reaction. That’s right, in the midst of a birthday party, we were talking about bicarbonates mixing with acetic acid to create carbon dioxide. Why not? Science is lots of fun.
At last, it was time for cake and birthday singing. Everyone piled into the house to swoon over the cupcakes and cake made by my dear and talented friend, Melissa. Melissa owns a company called Missy’s Cupcake Heaven and if you are on Oahu, I suggest that you contact her for any and all events. She’s phenomenal!
Happy Fourth Birthday, to my amazing son!