We love celebrating birthdays!! And with a bit of inspiration and know-how, any birthday party can be transformed into a magical experience for everyone. For that to happen, it definitely needs a team. The number one organiser and supporter-in-chief was Mark's wife and the girls' Mum, Kimberley. We were lucky enough to have Aunty Denise as one half of the theatrical duo. We also had Great Aunt Lynley play some iconic characters, and Poppa Jim do magic shows. Nanny Sheryl made the incredible cakes, with Uncle Nigel and Aunty Melanie looking after all the party food. So the biggest tip for running a great kids birthday party is to get as many others involved as you can!!!
Our parties always started with the girls choosing a theme. Whether it was Dora the Explorer, Shrek, Blues Clues, Pooh Bear, Superheroes, Kung Fu Panda, Clifford, Barbie and the Three Musketeers, Madagascar, Pirates, Alice in Wonderland, Tangled, Atlantis, Fruit Bats (a New Zealand Hogwarts!), Frozen, Percy Jackson, or Inside Out, each theme was chosen by the birthday girl. And while it may seem daunting, each party was run in a very similar way. It involved partygoers completing small theme based challenges, quite a bit of silliness (especially from the adults), and lots of fun.
We are thrilled to share with you some of our favourite birthday parties. All of the parties had themed decorations, whether posters, plates, or cups. Some were official merchandise that we purchased, some were home-made - it's amazing what can be accomplished with themed labels! For costumes, we did hire what we couldn't put together ourselves. What we share below are the activities that made up the essence of the party.
We hope that you might be able to find some ideas you can use for your own parties!!
We love Dora the Explorer! So much fun and adventure, and a super easy party to organise because the theme dictates the activities. The structure of having three challenges for the partygoers to overcome became a blueprint for many of our other parties.
A Dora the Explorer party must have a map! And someone to front or lead the party. Our "Dora" was Aunty Denise who, yes, had a back pack! Another key ingredient is a mystery or puzzle to solve. Our mystery was that the wizard (Poppa Jim) had gone missing. We had to go on a journey to find out what happened. Our map showed us we had to go over the Troll bridge and through the waterfall to get to the Wizard's Castle.
With map in hand, we sang the map song and 'journeyed' to our first destination, a bridge (a long plank of wood resting on two other bits of wood) guarded by a Grumpy Old Troll (Great Aunt Lynley in costume). We were not allowed to cross the bridge until we solved a riddle the Troll gave us. We worked out the riddle together and then we crossed the bridge one by one. It was definitely a challenge for some!
Our next destination was the waterfall (long lines of blue and silver Christmas tinsel hanging down). We had set this up outside but had to make a hasty change due to rain (ironically). So the waterfall was dangling in a doorway, and we had to walk through one by one. The tinsel was very effective, both visually and as something to walk through!
Our final destination was the Wizard's Castle (just the front entrance made from cardboard). In the castle we discovered the wizard stuck in a spell that had gone wrong. He hadn't gone missing, his mistake had frozen him in place!! Using a clue found in the castle we worked out how to free the wizard and he rewarded us with a magic show. Yay!!
A Dora the Explorer party can be tailored to any environment. Just have fun with the challenges and be imaginative. It could involve crawling through a tunnel (a fridge box), or solving a puzzle (some small jigsaw puzzles or wooden puzzles), or avoiding quicksand (use towels to represent quicksand and everyone has to follow the leader, who makes elaborate and silly moves as they step safely past). It can be anything. Only one rule. Have fun!!
A superhero party is super cool! We hired the necessary costumes for our two intrepid and willing MC's, and made a few props. The costumes are definitely worth the cost to hire, especially if you have two adults willing to wear them! They are walking decorations!!
A superhero party asks partygoers the critical question - do you have what it takes to be a superhero? To find out, everyone is put through three challenges or tests. Do you have the coordination, strength and agility to be superheroes? Coordination was tested through copying fun dance moves to a silly song. Strength was tested through lifting weights. Agility was tested through jumping over tall buildings in a single bound.
First up was the Feat of Coordination! While it may sound impressive, it was a simple 'follow the movement' task to a song. All you need is some simple dance moves and a fun song, and just like that you've got a task for partygoers to complete!
The second test was the Feat of Strength! And it was a highlight of the party. We'd made some weights out of cardboard, which we painted red and black. Mark, as Superman, was the first to try and lift them. Despite straining every sinew and muscle, and grunting with the effort required, Superman could just not lift the weights. But, would you believe it, each and every partygoer stepped forward and lifted the weights as though they were, um, cardboard! They were all so proud!
The third and final test was the Feat of Agility! Superman is known to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Could the partygoers do the same? It was time to find out. Our "tall" building was one of those 3D puzzles, a church. We placed it in the centre of the room and then our partygoers, one by one, stepped forward and jumped over the building. Even Superman was able to complete this Feat!
At the conclusion of the three tests, all partygoers were issued with medals, declaring to the world that they were indeed, superheroes!!
This is another party with activities able to be tailored to any environment. You could have the Feat of Speed, or the Feat of Wisdom.
Only one rule. Have fun!!
The Kung Fu Panda party is stuff of legend! And it's legendary fun too. With the aid of two wigs and two dressing gowns, Mark and Denise became Master Kung and Master Fu. The two Masters were recruiting potential candidates to become the next legends of Kung Fu. The first step was to clothe the partygoers in the correct dress code; headbands (ripped sections from an old sheet, with a sticker on the front!). Once suitably attired the partygoers then had to complete three challenges to see if they had the potential to be the next Dragon Warrior!
The first challenge focused on balance and coordination, and involved a song (of course!!). The first step was to mimic the fighting posses of the Furious Five (Tigress, Viper, Crane, Monkey, and Mantis). Denise introduced the moves that each Kung Fu legend was famous for, and then, with the speakers blasting Kung Fu Fighting, Denise led the partygoers in the dance moves. After the partygoers had the moves sorted, we entered competition mode. We played the song to get everyone moving, but paused it regularly. In each pause Denise would call out the name of one of the Furious Five and the partygoer with the best stance got a small prize (which is more fun than making it a knock-out competition - everyone stays in the activity!).
For the second challenge we purchased some offical pieces of Kung Fun merchandise, two inflatable kicking posts (as shown in the photo board above). Partygoers were assembled in two lines ad then, one by one, they stepped forward and executed their best kick. The inflatable kicking post was sent flying!! It was so much fun everyone did the activity twice, although Mark and Denise needed to be ready to be on their toes to retrieve the inflatable kicking post! Note: You don't need anything official for this task, just an inflatable object that can be kicked!
Our final challenge required the use of a trampoline. It was time for the partygoers to demonstrate their very best Kung Fu moves. After Mark had demonstrated an overly elaborate move, the partygoers each took a turn, with everyone cheering them on. It was legendary!!
Taking inspiration from that all time classic movie, Barbie and the Three Musketeers, we created a party to test whether the partygoers had what it takes to be a Musketeer. We went all out on this party, with hiring the costumes and setting up a large pink castle in the lounge (the castle was made from cardboard). Many parents were bemused when they dropped their kids off and were greeted by Mark, in full Musketeer costume, standing in front of a pink castle!
Following the format established in previous parties, we put the girls through challenges to test their abilities. There was sword fighting practice, with balloon swords, and archery practice, with toy bows and arrows. Then, in appreciation of the creative use of ribbon and hand fans used in the movie, we tested their teamwork and creativity.
The ribbon challenge involved everyone standing in a circle while a long piece of ribbon was used to connect everyone together. Each person had to thread the ribbon through their clothes. Then a ring was added to one end of the ribbon, and the team raced to see how quickly they could get the ring to the other side. That was followed by the hand fan challenge which involved decorating hand fans and using the fans in a dance which Denise led. I'm happy to report that everyone proved they had what was needed to be Musketeers!
Captain Spack Jarrow and his first mate, Honest Jane, were given the difficult task of turning some lily-livered landlubbers into fierce sailors brave enough to traverse the high seas. Treasure there was to be found. And danger too. For just off the map, there be monsters!
Our pirate party started with the customary discovery of an ancient treasure map, one unearthed in rather mysterious circumstances. But before the treasure could be sought, there had to be the recruiting and training of a fearless crew. Training began with the obligatory 'talk like a pirate' challenge. The "ARRRRRR's" were loud and long. And then there was the learning of the sea shanty, with accompanying dance moves. Once the young crew sounded and moved like they were supposed to, their balance had to be checked - "Ye must all walk the plank"
The crew were then issued with their hats, and the map was consulted. The crew searched high and low, venturing out into the surrounding area as new clues were found. The Treasure Hunt had well and truly begun. After much adventuring, the treasure was located and the motley crew returned to feast their success.
A final note of caution, beware the young sailor who quickly gulps down his soda. The deck will very much need cleaning!
Curiouser and curiouser, what do we have here? Is it an Alice in Wonderland party? Why, yes it is. A party which pretty much chooses its own activities, especially if you incorporate some of the iconic characters like Alice, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, and. the Queen of Hearts.
The party started with Alice (played by the legendary Aunty Denise of course) greeting everyone and asking if anyone had seen a white rabbit. The response was a disappointed "no". But then a super-sized white rabbit (Mark in full costume) appeared behind Alice. The kids all yelled "he's behind you!" Alice replied "who?" to which the kids yelled "the white rabbit!" But when Alice turned around the white rabbit had already gone. Alice turned back to the kids, "there's no-one there." This happened at least three more times, with some of the children getting quite excited and a bit agitated that Alice kept missing seeing the rabbit. But finally,Alice met with the white rabbit, who was very late for an important date, and the adventure began.
The first challenge involved the Cheshire Cat, who had someone lost his head. So a game of 'pin the head on the Cheshire Cat' was played. After successfully reuniting the Cheshire Cat with its head, it was time for a tea party with the Mad Hatter (Mark in another costume), who kept wishing himself a very happy unbirthday and who also gave the kids riddles to solve. There was also some 'Eat Me' biscuits to decorate and some silly songs to sing. But then the mood got serious because the Mad Hater noticed that all of the roses on the wall (paper ones) were white. The Queen of Hearts would be very upset. So, with the aid of red crayons, the children hurriedly coloured in the roses. It was just in time too, for the Queen (Great Aunty Lynley) appeared and inspected her garden. Luckily it was well. She called for a game of croquet. So everyone went into the garden for a little bit of fun.
One of the nicest parts of this party was that all of the children got a photo with Alice and the White Rabbit to take home with them. It was so much better than a goodies bag full of candy!
What is Fruitbats? It is the sister school to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, right here in Aotearoa New Zealand, with four unique Houses - Kiwi, Kea, Katipo and Pukeko!!
The party started with everyone sorted out into their Houses, with a formal sorting hat ceremony. Professor L. White Cloud and Professor Pineapple Lumps kept a watchful eye on proceedings. And then the classes began. There was Potions class and Defence Against the Dark Arts. A boggart had been captured in the shed and each person had to face their fears. The boggart as a clown almost got through to its intended victim, but other classmates reacted in time.
And then there were Quidditch tryouts. Coloured hoops were attached to the deck, and everyone tried throwing balls through the hoops, while holding on to their broomsticks. Did magic happen? Oh yes, indeed!!
The protection of demigods is reaching a critical stage. Camp Half-blood is recruiting and holding a Demigod Protection Agency Camp, run by Hip Nos, the god of cool, and Afro Ditty, the goddess of disco.
Camp attendees had to prove they had the skill, knowledge, and courage to protect the increasingly vulnerable demigods. In this line of work, knowledge is as important as skill in battle, and thus the attendees had to first prove they knew the identities of the Greek gods, as well as the type of monsters that threaten the demigods. Quizzes were held. Points were awarded. Prizes were given.
Following the tests of knowledge, the attendees skill in battle was assessed. Could they defend the demigods with the sword? Or shield? Or bow and arrow? Did they know they best way to defeat any one of the monsters they might encounter? The answer? Oh yes!