Bad blogger, Meg!!
To resolve the suspense: the party ROCKED!
Seriously, it was so much fun.
I did my old thing of running around still setting things up until about an hour before the end – when I finally felt like I was ready to relax and enjoy the party.
Thankfully the main difference this time was that I stopped fighting it and trusted that everyone else was able to enjoy themselves anyway. (I think it also helped that most parents dropped off their kids and left. Kids are WAY easier to impress than adults!!)
I also had the foresight to organise a friend to be the official photographer. I haven’t got those photos yet (can’t wait to see them!) but collected a couple of other happy snaps for now.
The main attraction was definitely the tarp bubble.
I saw this on Play At Home Mom years ago but never got around to setting one up. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure it would keep a bunch of 7yo kids entertained for long but it was a MASSIVE hit. We threw some ballpit balls in there and let them have at it!
There were constantly kids in there, and kids throwing stuff at it from outside, and at one point answering the question “How many kids can fit in here at one time anyway?” I cannot recommend this activity enough as a cheap way to liven up a party!
I also set up an art space under the stairs.
My husband’s grandmother gave us a pile of paper doilies earlier in the year (bless her!) so I put them all out with some stickers, scrap paper, ribbons, glitter, glue, paint, and markers. For the paint I cooked up some cornstarch finger paint – 1 cup cornstarch, 1 heaping tbsp each sugar and salt, 4 cups water. Whisk thoroughly to remove clumps then simmer while still whisking until it looks like this:
I then divided some up into an 18-hole egg tray and squirted some food dye in a few of them and glitter in a few others while leaving the rest blank to allow the kids to mix their own.
Within about half an hour all the glitter had been tipped out, but mostly onto the ground – which just meant they had to roll their creations around on it instead of sprinkling.
The kids looked so pretty by the end! And as an added bonus, all the concrete is going to be sparkly for months. Can’t help but feel happy every time I go out there.
At the back of the yard I set up a “cooking” area, with a selection of expired grains and flour, some squeezy bottles of “sauce” (aka watered down finger paint) a bunch of scooping, mixing and stirring implements, and a toy oven.
The older kids enjoyed squirting sauce onto a tarp we set up for it but didn’t take to this activity at first. It took the younger siblings there to show off its full potential.
YUMMO!! They all got the hang of it by the end though and this ended up being a more calming activity when they needed a break from going nuts in the tarp bubble. (We had a tent set up for impromptu tea parties and quiet play too, but the more sporty boys ended up claiming it as another space to throw balls around at each other. Kept ’em happy so I was happy too!)
By the end, there wasn’t much in this area to “clean up” as much as “hose down.”
After about an hour and a half of free play I grabbed the big tub of ice that had the drinks in it and filled it with water, along with our water play table, and cracked out the sponges and spray bottles. Once they’d gone nuts with that for a bit I pointed out the piñatas tied to the Hills Hoist and started spinning it around while they attempted to soak through them.
I don’t have any photos of this yet, but I’ll do a separate post to share them once I do, because it is hands-down my favourite party activity ever. Sadly both my girls got overwhelmed by the craziness and cried through most of it, but once the lollies and chocolates appeared they got over it pretty fast!
After that we did the cake and I brought out the lucky dip and jelly cups as the parents started arriving to pick up their soaking, stained, sugar-buzzing kids. The general consensus was that it was a roaring success. And the best part?
My daughter thought it was the best party ever.
– I’m getting better at sectioning off my stressy, perfectionist voice and trusting that everything will be good enough.
– Hubby and I definitely work better together when we acknowledge our strengths rather than trying to split things “fairly.” While I was a little miffed at times to be doing basically all the planning and prep, when crunch time hit he definitely came through. He was able to set things up even better than I imagined and MacGuyvered a sound system that really helped keep the mood fun. Plus he stayed on top of drinks and monitored the tarp bubble to make sure things didn’t get out of hand. THEN he absolutely made my day by clearing up afterwards while I napped with our 3yo.
Yes folks. He’s definitely. A keeper. ❤️
– While I did plan far more activities than we ended up using, I am glad I had contingencies on hand. A few of the kids struggled with the “free play” nature of the party so it was good to be able to pull out a new activity when they couldn’t think of anything to do for themselves. That being said…
Things to improve on:
– I still over-spent by at least $100. There was food that didn’t end up being put out and craft supplies still sitting in their packets. It did/will end up being used, but I still would prefer to keep costs down even more for this sort of thing.
– Even MOAR prep! I really do long for the day I throw a party where I anticipate things and have it all ready to go in advance rather than feeling like I’m “setting up” right up until people are leaving. I will do it one day!!
All in all, I was exceedingly happy with this party. I agree with Miss 7: it was our best one ever.
I’ll leave you with a picture of one of my jelly cups. I topped them with a few sweets and stuck a lollipop in the middle. It was the first time I’d ever made rainbow jelly and I must say it was worth putting in the time. So pretty! (Even if you can’t quite see the blue and purple very clearly here…)