As the sparklers fizzle and the last of the watermelon is wrapped and stowed in the fridge, Americans across the country are now reflecting on the fun they had during their Independence Day activities. For many, the barbeques and get-togethers that were enjoyed over this past weekend mark only the beginning of a long season of similar outdoor fun with friends and loved ones. If you have children of your own or if you plan to host an event or party this summer where children are invited, this post is for you!
Call me crazy here but there seems to be a great disconnect between children being invited to summer parties and hosts actually planning to have children attend. Let me explain what I am talking about. It seems that many adults think that, since summer functions are often held outside and are of a more casual nature, that children can attend, but that seems about as far as their thought processes go. When they do show up, children are often left to their own devices to entertain themselves. This often leads to children getting bored and then acting out which then causes the adults they are with to become agitated. This then usually causes parents to feel torn between the need to socialize and the need to tend to their, now acting out children. I have seen this scenario repeated more times than I care to count and I’ve got to tell you, I don’t really blame the kids for the problem. I mean, a kid can only eat so many barbeque chips in one sitting!
Parents, does my description sound familiar? Hosts, want to avoid the madness? Well have I got a solution for you! Why not make your next summer function a “Messtravaganza”? Now I am sure that our messy little Mac is squealing with excitement as she reads this, but trust me, a Messtravaganza is for everyone looking to host little ones this summer. What is a “Messtravaganza”? Sounds pretty spectacular, doesn’t it? Despite its catchy name, a Messtravaganza party can be as simple as you would like. It simply involves a few activities that encourage children to have their own brand of fun by getting messy separately from whatever boring things grown-up guests are doing.
Below is an outline of ideas for hosting your own Messtravaganza. Use whatever you like and feel free to tweak it in any way to best fit the needs of your function and the guests you will be hosting. While planning a Messtravaganza I would recommend considering two things. First, tell your guests that you are planning messy activities for the children so that they can plan accordingly. Second, you may want to consider hiring a nanny or someone who is really good with kids to be there and run the activities for you so that you can better tend to the rest of your guests.
Parents should be instructed to have children come to the party with their swim gear on; ready to make a mess. When the children arrive, have a special table set up just for them. Having a special area designated just for the kids will keep them from feeling out of place and anxious and it will also show them where they can eat and play while at the party. I recommend having a special party favor bag for each child when they arrive for the Messtravaganza. Inside this favor bag should be items that they will need for the games and activities. For the activities outlined in this blog post, each favor bag should contain the following
- Shaving Cream
- Sidewalk Chalk
- Silly String with a Matching Color of Body Paint
Activity #1, Shaving Cream
Shaving cream activities can be done in any number of ways but should always be done with goggles on. A friend of mine had the group of children at her party stand around a table while she handed each of them a can of shaving cream and told them to be as creative as possible. For my own party, I took this idea one step further and emptied about a dozen cans of shaving cream onto a giant tarp before telling the group of children to go crazy. Judging from the pictures of each, I must say that, either way, the children had a blast. CAUTION: Shaving cream is VERY slippery. Precautions should be made to ensure safety of all participants. Because I have friends who read this blog, I will go ahead and volunteer some information before they have a chance to. Yes. At my party I did participate in the shaving cream mess myself –and yes. I was completely clothed in a dress and jewelry when a slid across the tarp, covering myself in all that foamy fun. There. I said it. Was it worth it? Abso-friggin’-lutely!!
Here’s what happened… One of the children got a little too excited about the shaving cream activity just at the time when I was standing a little too close. The next thing I knew, a hand full of shaving cream was then gracing my front. What else was there to do but dive in? One gal, who apparently doesn’t know me that well, asked me “well, weren’t you worried you would ruin your dress”? After I realized she wasn’t joking, I answered her with this “clothes last what, a season? The memory my children will have of me making that split-second decision to go for it and slide across that tarp will last their entire lifetime”. So let this be a warning to all of those looking to host a Messtravaganza! Wear clothes you can part with or wear a poncho!
After the kids are adequately covered in shaving cream, they will want to wash off. I recommend having one or two sprinklers going as well as a kiddie pool with buckets so they can have fun while rinsing off before diving into the next mess.
Activity #2, Bubbles
After the kids have had fun in the pool and sprinkler/s, they will be ready for another messy activity. I recommend bubbles. Running a bubble machine (either purchased or rented) during this activity is certainly not a requirement, but would definitely take it to the next level and, dare is say, add a little ambiance and whimsy. Encourage each child to use the bubble kits that you have included in their favor bags. When this is gone, you can break out the big guns. You will soon transport your young partygoers to bubble utopia with use of homemade bubble solution and any number of “bubble wands” (basically anything that will trap air within your solution). I recommend reading Stephanie Brown’s piece “How to Make Homemade Bubbles” at www.babyparenting.about.com when preparing for this activity.
Activity #3, Silly String Tag
Having been captivated by the wonderment of all things bubbly, your young guests will now be ready for a slightly more intense mess-making experience. Encourage them to dig through their favor bags for their silly string and matching body paint. Depending on the number of children, be sure that you only buy two or three different colors as these colors will be used to identify teams. After they have covered themselves in the body paint, divide the children up into teams according to their color of paint. Assign any rules you make up that will help ensure safety and optimal fun. After goggles are put on, let the kids have at it in “tagging” members of the other team/s with silly string.
Activity #4, Statue of Liberty Game
This is a really fun game and can be played with minimal materials. Divide the children into two teams. Have the tallest member of each team stand in front of their teammates. Explain to the children that they will be using one roll of paper towels to transform these tallest members to look like the Statue of Liberty. Once the concept is grasped and once you give clues for how each team can unroll the paper towels, let the teams go. Once the teams have covered the tallest members with the entire roll of paper towels, have the “Statue of Liberty” hold the empty roll and have the team put the last piece of paper towel into the top end of the roll, making the torch.
Note: The used paper towels from this game can be gathered into a bag and re-used for household or outdoor cleaning purposes.
Activity #5, Water Balloons
One great thing about kids is that they can always think of about a million different ways to play with any one item. This is something to consider when looking to make water balloons part of your next party. If you are looking for a more structured activity with water balloons, I recommend organizing a “water balloon toss”. If you’re less concerned with structure and prefer a higher level of activity, I recommend putting a bin of water balloons in the middle of an open, grassy area and letting the children’s imaginations fly. Note: Before giving the group of children water balloons, you may want to make one rule that adult guests at your party are off limits!
Activity #6, Sidewalk Chalk
If you still have time and would like to close with some calm at the end of your party, I recommend having the children sit down and be creative with sidewalk chalk. You can give prizes for most colorful, best likeness or any award of your choosing. Another idea is to have the children choose a story (like the story of the three bears) and then have each child draw a picture from that story. Keeping kids thinking about their creations will keep them interested and engaged in this activity.
The list of activities #1 through #6 can be broken up between or be held after activities wherein you want to include all guests of your party, like a meal, a special presentation, etc. To keep the party going over the course of many hours, these bigger activities can also be divided by smaller activities. To do this, I recommend having one of the bigger activities every 1-2 hours and then bringing out a large bucket or bin of some new, smaller activity between these times (i.e. every half hour). Ideas for these smaller activities include hula hoops, jump ropes, water guns or other outdoor toys, cars & trucks, Frisbees, or beach balls. Visit www.orientaltrading.com to look at a number of such items that you can buy in bulk and have shipped directly to your venue.
Whether you use all of the ideas listed above or just use them as an inspiration for your own planning, structuring a party with fun, out-of-the-box kid’s games and activities will ensure that everyone has a good time at your next event. With thoughtful planning, you will keep the children happily entertained while giving the rest of your guests ample time to enjoy the hard work you put into your party without guilt or being pulled away by frustrated children.
Now here’s my challenge to you… Allow this blog post to somehow inspire your upcoming outdoor function. Use your very own pair of smartypants to take your event from being just a blah to just being a blast! Comment back to us and let us know how it went. We’d love to hear from you.
about.com Brown, S. “Homemade Bubbles.”
<http:babyparenting.about.com>. Path: activities, bubbles.