The Backwards Birthday Party was a tough act to follow, but Little Hippie helped me devise a theme about 5 months in advance. She asked for three things for her birthday this year: a hula hoop, a family party, and to ride her bike and give out candy to people. I was on board with the hula hoop, but the rest of these requests made me roll my eyes. Most people in this country have been conditioned to avoid people trying to give them candy. And the number of invitees for a core family party of ours tops 30 people. Then, it occurred to me that such numbers would be excellent if we needed enthusiastic candy recipients. Thus, the Parade Party plan was hatched. We would start with the friends party, then invite the family to line the streets for the parade and stick around for dinner.
And so, I give you: The Parade Party.
I did evites for the adults, explaining the situation and the parade route, asking them to arrive a few minutes early to cheer on our little marchers. The kids got a paper invitation containing the What-Where-When, with a note for parents inviting them to watch the parade.
- Decorate the Parade Float: For older kids, building parade floats would be a lot of fun. For the 5-year-old attention span, though, I opted to make the float ahead of time and allow the kids to decorate it. The cake float was made with boxes covered in white paper. Two diaper boxes were taped together to form the lower level, and the middle and top layers were made using two different sizes of shipping boxes. The candle was an empty roll of something that we had in our craft box. The flame, which was made the day of the party by our neighbor, used a bouncy ball covered with different colors of play-dough. The cake traveled on a wagon. I had planned to create a support using a dowel or at least some twine to secure the cake to the wagon, but time ran short. The wind was an issue, and Grandpa had his hands full pulling the float and keeping it upright. Next time, we will not skip that step. The plan was also to take a group picture around the float, but my camera was missing the day of the party. This photo is courtesy of my friend Justin, who was among the many, many people who were forced into service to help run activities:
- Parade Banner:Using the same roll of paper that I used to cover the boxes for the cake float, I made a banner for the parade. The 10-year-old who lives next door was a huge help for this party, and one of her projects was the main lettering on the banner. Each child who attended the party then signed the banner so we had a keepsake. Many also included small drawings. We attached the banner to two poles that we had available – a pool cue and a mini flagpole.
- Parade instruments:I covered 20 formula and oatmeal cans with white paper, threw a tablecloth over a couple of 6-foot tables, then set up a bunch of art supplies alongside the cans. The kids spent a surprisingly long time decorating their parade drums. Even better, the drums not only served as an instrument to play along the route, but also as a convenient method of candy transport. The other instruments were kazoos, handed out at the last possible minute before the parade stepped off. We practiced humming “Happy Birthday” as a group, and then the kids did their own thing. The kazoos were immensely popular. You will be tempted to order the huge box of kazoos from an online retailer. Don’t give in – the cheapy kazoos are exactly that: cheap.
- Filler activities: This was a crafty little party. For the kids who got bored decorating drums, banners, and floats, we had the swingset available, along with bubbles and sidewalk chalk.
- Balloon Bop: Every kid gets a balloon. When the game starts, they throw the balloon into the air and have to keep it from touching the ground by using their heads to bop the balloons back into the air. This activity was an abject failure. The day became very windy, so the balloons whipped right out of our yard. Several of the children gave chase, resulting in a few new gray hairs for me. Balloon shrapnel was spread far and wide across our neighborhood. For any of our neighbors reading this, again, I apologize. However, the kids were stoked about the idea. I think that indoors or on a less windy day, this would have been a hit.
- Freeze dance: This is an especially great activity for the sugar buzz period after the cake is served. Play a song for a bit, hit Pause and tell everyone to freeze. As kids got bored one by one, we suggested giving their present to the birthday girl so that present time would be less chaotic. This plan was foiled by wind and eager partygoers. Either way, though, Freeze Dance rules.
- The Big Parade: Have a few big bowls of candy available for the paraders to throw out a bit. The parade float wagon is an excellent place for the candy. We lined up the kids two by two, which lasted about two minutes into the parade, then it was a free-for-all, and we had some issues with arguments and kids getting away from us. You will want to have rules in place about getting ahead of the group. The best way to do this is to have a grown-up at the front and a grown-up following to keep the slow pokes with the group. I would start with the parade float, then all of the kids, an then the banner bringing up the rear of the processional. We put the banner at the front, but it tore in the wind, and it was also blocking views of our little marchers.
- Farewell: Since parents were invited to watch the parade, we had no issues with late pick-ups. Partygoers returned to our house, picked up a goody bag, got a big “Thank You” from the birthday girl, and headed home with their families.
- Invitations were nearly free – I printed 15 on regular paper and sent them to school, and the other invitations were electronic.
- Food and drink: Plain old sheet cake, made and decorated by the birthday girl and her grandma. $5. Milk and water to drink, $3
- Art activities: Roll of paper (to cover the boxes for the cake float and the cans for the drums, as well as to make the banner). $5. Markers, crayons, stickers, glue sticks, etc. from our personal stash. We used boxes from diapers and various things that had been shipped to us to form the cake. The formula and oatmeal cans were the result of months of asking family and friends to save theirs.
- Balloons: We purchased a party time helium tank/balloon kit from Michaels, using a 40% off coupon. The kit makes 30 balloons. We did not test this, as it was way too windy to have helium balloons at our parade. We did use another pack of balloons to inflate the old-fashioned way for balloon bop, which added $2 to the balloon total. $16.
- Kazoos: $6
- Parade/goody bag candy: $20
- Total: About $55 for 16 kids.
In all, this was a fun little party. Lots of work, but worth it. The kids had a great time, and I had a lot of helpers to keep things running safely and smoothly. I think it would be a blast to do this for a block party or other neighborhood gathering.