Encourage your child to help make decorations, cutting down on cost and encouraging reuse of materials around the house. Plus, you might actually get something done while your little ones are temporarily occupied with their artwork. You and your kids might want to make some of these party crafts beforehand for decorations and to serve as examples so that kids can visualize what it is they’re trying to make.
Provide an assortment of colorful tissue paper and pipe cleaners. To make a flower, stack 4-6 sheets of tissue paper. They can be cut into rectangles or ovals around 5″ x 7″ , larger or smaller if you wish. This is not an exact science, and they’ll be pretty no matter what. It works well to accordion pleat the stack of paper on the longer side, but this is tricky for smaller kids and not really necessary.
Gather the stack in the middle and secure with an end of a pipe cleaner. Then, gently separate the petals to make a flower.
Begin collecting paper egg cartons a few weeks before the party, enlisting the help of friends. Allow one carton for kid. You will also need pipe cleaners for legs (6-8 per creature), and other decorative stuff such as markers, construction paper, googly eyes, glitter, etc. You’ll need lots of small bottles of glue to avoid sharing issues.
I am not a fan of the goodie bag full of cheap plastic baubles which end up in a landfill the next week. Here are some ideas for useful, meaningful garden-themed favors for your party:
Seeds: Choose seeds which can be planted now and are likely appeal to kids, so maybe skip the rutabaga seeds.
Kids’ gardening tools or gloves: If you’re really on the ball, you purchased these at the end of last year on major clearance. I have purchased adorable red wooden-handled trowels at Target for $1 each, regular price!
Plants: This is what I did at my son’s 4th party. I purchased a bunch of tiny clay pots at Hobby Lobby and pre-planted each with a pansy plant, in bloom. I provided paint pens (expensive, but really easy to use) for the kids to decorate their own pots: a craft and a favor all in one!
Birdhouses: For my son’s 3rd party, my found a bunch of $1 birdhouses at Hobby Lobby, which each kid then painted. Another fabulous craft/favor combo!
If you are doing a number of crafts at your party, you may not need any further organized games. However, here are some garden-themed party game ideas.
Pin the bee on the flower: You can alter many common party games to have the garden theme you’re looking for. For example, pin the tail on the donkey becomes pin the bee on the flower. Just create a large cardboard “bee” for blindfolded kids to pin/tape onto a larger paper “flower” on the side of your house.
Frog toss: This game also serves double duty as a craft. Provide enough (child’s) palm-sized smooth stones for each child, and paint pens for decorating. You’ll need lots of green. If you’re really into preparation, you could pre-paint the stones green with waterproof paint, and glue on googly eyes (using waterproof glue.) Then the kids just add decorations with the paint pens, saving your green paint pens and possibly your sanity.
Then you paint lily pads with flowers onto the bottom of a plastic kiddie pool (using permanent waterproof markers or paint.) After it’s dry, you fill the pool with water, and the kids toss their “frogs” into the pool, trying to land on a “lily pad.” Whoever hits one wins a prize. Of course, everyone gets to try until they win!
This is your big chance to make a “dirt” cake: that disgusting-looking treat of chocolate sandwich cookie crumbs and gummy worms presented in a clean clay pot. There are a few different ways to do this:
You can either plan on one or two large (clean) clay pots you’ll be serving from, or you can make tiny individual desserts in little 2-inch pots. Then, choose whether you’ll be baking a cake (or cupcakes) directly in the pot(s), or serving a goopier trifle-like dessert of layered chocolate pudding, and chocolate cookie crumbs. And, of course, gummy worms.
You can find bunches of recipes for this on the internet, but here’s what it boils down to:
Whatever size of pot you’re using, make sure you plug the drainage hole! I used aluminum foil to line the bottoms of my pots, and it worked fine.
I successfully baked cakes directly in brand new 8-inch clay pots I’d washed thoroughly before use. I just followed the mix directions (I like the organic brands Dr. Oetecker’s and Whole Foods), and poured the batter into the clean, well-greased pots I’d lined with foil to cover the drainage holes. I set the oven 25 degrees cooler, as I didn’t want the outside to overcook before the center was done. I started testing for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center when the package recommended, but it definitely took a while longer.
I topped the cakes with a thin layer of chocolate pudding (you could use frosting, too,) and then I made gummy worm-sized holes in the top with the handle of a wooden spoon. I poked in the worms so most of them were exposed, and then topped with crushed chocolate-filled sandwich cookies. I used the organic Late July brand , which is delicious, and not loaded with chemicals. To crush, I put them in a heavy plastic bag and then rolled a rolling pin over them until they looked like dirt.
To finish, I poked in a bunch of fake flowers, which are much easier to deal with than real ones. If you do attempt to use real ones, avoid flowers from the florist, as they are generally loaded with pesticides that you don’t want near your cake. You’ll probably want to remove them soon after the birthday song so they don’t wilt depressingly.
If you don’t want to bake a cake in your pot, you can just layer chocolate pudding and crushed chocolate sandwich cookies, topping with gummy worms and flowers.
Hopefully, you’ll have just as much fun at your child’s garden-themed birthday party as your child! Good luck!
Tina Dozauer-Ray is the author of the children’s garden-themed book Too Many Zucchini for Zachary Beany. Her website www.ladybuggardening.com, offers seasonal garden project ideas for kids of all ages. She currently lives and gardens in Louisville, Colorado with her husband and two small children.
If you’re tired of buying day-glo matching birthday plates and napkins bearing your child’s favorite cartoon character, perhaps it’s time to try a more meaningful party theme: the garden. There are a number of aspects of gardening you can latch onto according to your child’s personality, such as bugs for your little fans of all things creepy-crawly and flowers for those who prefer the more refined side of the outdoors.