I took a week off from Blogville while my guys and I took a trip to the beach. I’m happy to report that we had a great trip, and then it was back to reality, and the next big thing to tackle on our To Do List.
Task numero uno being hosting Christopher’s 12th Birthday Party.
Christopher is past the point where he wants a true themed party, like His Majesty’s Barnyard Bash, but he definitely still wants a party. I remembered that someone in an online mother’s group had mentioned a few months back that she created a Nerf Gun Course for her tween-aged son, and that it had been a big hit, so I asked Christopher what he thought of that idea, and he said it sounded like fun. It was right up my alley because being that his friends are in the 9-14 age range, I wanted to do the bulk of the party outdoors. I found some cute ideas for a Nerf party invitation from a message board on Two Peas in a Bucket, and a great idea for a cake from Cake Central, but beyond that, it pretty quickly became clear that there was a big logistical issue that would make this Nerf party idea tricky for me to pull off.
The problem was that we don’t have trees in our back yard. At all. No trees= no hiding places, and furthermore, it means that hanging up targets would require a lot more thought/work. I solicited one of my BFFs, my former work husband Don, who happens to participate in many firearms competitions, and I asked him for his help planning and putting on the event. I envisioned something along the lines of a military inspired training course, with tires to run through and barriers to climb over and hide behind and things of that nature. You know, like paintball, except that the goal is to hit stationary targets instead of each other. Don tossed out some ideas, but again, the lack of barriers and trees seemed to the hold back.
So, I moved on to another plan. Bringing in on site Laser Tag. I didn’t even know that this existed, but they bring everything– guns, vests, obstacles, EVERYTHING– right to you, just for things like birthday parties and Senior Class Graduation Night and Family reunions and things like that. But, alas, yet another obstacle in my way: The company is located more than 2 hours away from our home, and after 20 miles, they charge by the mile and by the hour for the trip out, which would basically double the price.
But, I wasn’t ready to give up that easily. I decided to look on Ebay, to see if I could buy some laser tag stuff. And I learned that laser tag stuff is not cheap– not if you want it to actually work, that is. Plus, it still wouldn’t solve the lack of trees/hiding spaces/etc in our back yard. So, that idea got nixed as well.
Back to the drawing board, and naturally, I turned back to Pinterest. I found a few things, but nothing that screamed out to me as being workable for the age range we would be hosting.
But then, I found this on Martha Stewart’s website. It’s literally entitled “How to Throw an Obstacle Course Party”.
The nine item list sparked memories in my head of Field Days in elementary school. Did you guys have Field Day at your school when you were a kid? It was a huge deal at my school, and it was awesome because not only did you get a day out of the classroom, but you also got to PLAY OUTSIDE. Heck yeah, those were good times. I presented my idea to Christopher and he sparked an ear to ear smile like you would not believe.
And so, just like that, we were throwing an Obstacle Course Birthday Party. And let me tell you, it was AWESOME!!
Decorations were minimal. I made him a birthday banner that we hung on the back wall of the house. We decided to hang it indoors because there was a forecast for rain, which thankfully, held out until later on in the evening.
I made a poster board up with simple rules.
My husband made wooden stakes and stapled the station numbers and the goals for each station onto them. Then we placed them throughout the yard in the designated locations.
I called on a few friends helping us with the set up, which took bout an hour and a half. My friend Don, mentioned above, oversaw the “firing station”, my friend Elena took the photos, and her son Xavier helped out with all sorts of things. Oh, and my friend Melissa’s son arrived two hours early because I wrote the wrong times on the invitation, so we put him to work helping with the course set up. LOL, leave it to me to write the wrong time on an invitation! Thank goodness it was just ONE invitation! During the course, I ran alongside the kids and kept score on a simple score sheet I made in Pages (the Mac version of MS Word), and my husband kept time on a stop watch.
Looking out at "the course".
We set up 13 different stations. Before we began, the kids and I walked the course and went over the goals for each station. The stations were all pretty simple.
Station #1: The kids spun around 12 times with their foreheads on a baseball bat. 12 times for 12 years old! (Supplies: A baseball bat)
Station 2: They moved one rock at a into a box a few feet away until they’d moved 12 rocks. They had to run them one at a time and place them into the box, they couldn’t throw them. My friend’s husband called these “Suicides”. (Supplies: A box or container and objects to move– I used a cardboard box and small golf ball sized rocks.)
Station 3: Crossing a “balance beam”. (Supplies: concrete blocks and two 8-feet-long 2×4’s screwed together)
Station 4: Hopping from one hoop to another to the next station. (Supplies: small plastic hoops purchased from Oriental Trading Company)
Station 5: Digging through a bin of corn to find a hidden Easter Egg. . You may recognize the bin from the sensory play scavenger hunt at His Majesty’s party last month. I just used it, still full of farm toys, and buried a few plastic Easter Eggs within it. Believe it or not, this is where the kids lost the most time. It wasn’t easy to find at all! Once they’d found the egg, they had to pick up a hula hoop and roll it around a bunch of cones to the next station. (Supplies: rubbermaid plastic storage bin, 2 large bags of feed corn, and a small object to search for. You could also fill the bin with sand, dry beans, rice, bird seed… whatever you want! You’ll also need a hula hoop and construction cones. I bought my small colorful cones at Oriental Trading Company.)
Station 6: Ring toss, with time deducted for a “ringer”. (No photo) (Supplies: we had a plastic ring toss set that came with an outdoor yard game set we bought years ago, but you could easily do this with wooden stakes and small plastic rings purchased at the dollar store, or change it up and use horse shoes.)
Station 7: Crawling under a Streamer “tunnel” .(Supplies: this is so easy, it’s just a rectangular serving table with streamers taped over it.)
Station 8: Walking with an egg on a spoon, with time added if the egg broke. (No photo) (Supplies: a tablespoon and some raw eggs.)
Station 9: Jumping rope 12 times, counting out loud. (Supplies: a jump rope.)
Station 10: Bean Bag toss. (Supplies: bean bags, or even small plastic or foam balls, and containers to toss them into. I used empty containers of sour cream, oatmeal, and ice cream as the targets, and gave the kids anywhere from 10-40 second deductions for getting the bean bag into a container.)
Station 11: Jumping Jacks, while counting out loud– 12 of them, of course! (Supplies: NONE!)
Station 12: Using an air soft gun, the kids shot at empty pop cans (weighed down with dried beans and corn so that the wind didn’t knock them over). Don and Xavier stayed at this station to make sure it was done safely, and they also refilled the “clips” in between rounds so that all the kids had to do was put on the safety goggles and take aim. The kids got 5 seconds deducted from their time for each can that they hit. (Supplies: An air soft gun and appropriate plastic pellets, a table or stand to hold the weapon and ammo– we used a tall empty cardboard box– and a table to set the targets on. Our targets were about a dozen empty Pepsi cans.)
Station 13: Blow up a balloon, tie it, and make it pop. Most of the kids sat on them to pop them, but some squeezed them, jumped on them, and one guy even BIT into one! (Supplies: Balloons.)
After they’d completed station 13 by popping the balloon, they ran to the finish line, where they had to sit down in order for their time to officially stop.
The actual times ranged from 3 to 6 minutes, but most of the kids also earned deductions for their performance. The winning time, after deductions, was 2 minutes and 14 seconds!
Afterwards, we fed them pizza and salad. I ordered our pizzas online from our local Papa John’s, and was able to schedule delivery for right in the middle of the party. I could even leave a “comment” for the delivery driver. I took that opportunity to write “Please deliver to the back yard”, pretty much expecting that it would go unnoticed, but sure enough, right at the scheduled time, the driver appeared in the backyard, pizzas in hand! It was so easy, I highly recommend it. When everyone was enjoying their dinner, I presented the winner with his prize: A $10 Cold Stone Gift Card. I did it American Idol style, too, even taking a “commercial break” just before I announced the winner! I had wayyyy too much fun with this party, can’t you tell?
We gave everyone some time to eat, and then the kids ran out for a little more time on the obstacle course before we called them in for cake and ice cream. Christopher chose a “Cookie Dough Delirium” ice cream cake from Cold Stone. I thought it was just ok, but my favorite part of cake isn’t the cake, it’s the frosting, so don’t go by my opinion in that regard. The kids and parents seemed to enjoy it.
We dished up the ice cream into cupcake liners a few hours before the party started, an idea pinned from Real Simple that saved a lot of time when it came time to actually serve the ice cream. I bought peanut butter cup ice cream, too… in a suspicious turn of events, my husband claimed that he”forgot” to scoop some out for the party… and it just so happens to be his favorite flavor… so you do the math on that 😉
I also made Oreo Pops for the kids to nosh on, an idea pinned from Hip Hip Hooray, a blog with dozens of ideas for kid’s parties. I displayed them in a flat foam wreath ring wrapped in streamers.
Lastly, the kids got to stuff goody bags with treats from the “Candy Bar”. They’re a little old for goody bag “toys”, so we went with all edible stuff. M&Ms, Sour Patch Kids, Gum Balls, Reese’s Cups, Skittles, and various candy bars. This was a huge hit with the guys. They loved stuffing their bags.
It was a blast. I got a chance to exercise my inner drill sergeant, and the kids got to run off some energy. The kids and parents all told me that they had a good time, and we had great friends helping us out. Not only that, but the weather couldn’t have been better, and every invited guest not only came, but RSVP’d! High five for good manners!
But the best part was seeing my Christopher enjoy himself so much.
Happy Birthday Baby Boy! May all your dreams come true.