Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Make your Party an Educational Wonderland!

5 Ways to Make Your Party an Educational Wonderland 
by Guest Blogger,  Louise Jones from Learning that's Fun. 

Kids’ parties are so much fun, especially if you’re not the one organising them! I know party planning can be really stressful and hard work, but for others, they absolutely love it and really shine when they plan a party. I’m definitely the shiner. I love parties and often get called upon by friends & family to volunteer as a helper or dress up and dance around with the kids. I love it. But what I also love are the learning benefits for kids hidden in all that glitter and madness. So I’ve put together 5 tips to help uncover those hidden treasures and add a bit of sneaky education to the process.

1. Get Organised

Get the kids involved in planning right from start.  This is perfect timing to catch their imagination and add in some learning activities here and there without them suspecting a thing. There are loads of opportunities in the planning stages to practice reading, spelling, the art of handwriting and some maths.

  • Write the guest list - practice spelling their names
  • Design the invitations - I’m yet to meet a child who doesn’t love using the computer, so design them on there. But if you fancy handwritten it’s a chance for the kids to practice handwriting and get crafty with glitter & glue. Learn about dates, times, addresses.
  • Make a shopping list - again, practice some handwriting, spelling and increase vocabulary. You might have a budget to stick to, so they can practice those maths skills they’ve been learning at school, as well as the hard line that money doesn’t grow on trees!
  • Cook - Get all hands on deck. Cooking and preparing food is great fun for kids and a chance to work on those fine motor skills, not to mention reading recipes, learning fractions and measurements.

2. Choose a Theme

Having a special theme for your party is a great way to make that little more fun. But pirates and fairies are so yesterday. I’ve got a few themes with an educational twist the kids will love:

  • Party Kitchen Rules – just like the TV show, in your own kitchen. Keep it simple, raw ingredients, non-cook recipes and pre-chopped. Turn on the timer and see who comes up with the most creative dish.
  • Art Smart – let their imaginations go wild. Paint, play-dough, clay, coloured paper, pens, markers, art smocks, brushes, whatever you’ve got, bring it out or stock up from the local discount store.
  • Story Town – does your child have a favourite book or genre? Have guests dress up as a character, match food, decorations and games to the theme.
  • Alphabet Soup – this is fun for the little kids. Have them dress up as something beginning with the first letter of their name, make decorations out of letter shapes, arrange your food in letters, grab out all of those alphabet toys the kids have been hiding away and use them for decorations and games. Try games like I Spy or Hang Man.
  • When I grow Up – get the kids to dress up as whatever it is they want to be when they grow up, lawyers, police officers, dancers, teachers, soccer stars, shop keepers, vets, artists.
  • Little Olympics – if your kids are into sport host the Little Olympics. Egg & spoon races, sack races, 3-legged races, hopscotch, shoot hoops, coights, hit targets with balls for points. You could even serve multi-cultural dishes and decorate with international flags of the world. This will keep them active and burn off all those snacks too.
  • Mad Scientist – here’s where you get to make a mess. Jump online and look for some simple school experiments. Be sure to wear your white coats and goggles, and some white curly wigs. Bi-carb soda and Vinegar? Can you clean a coin with Coke? What do those bugs look like under a magnifying glass?

3. Play Games

It’s not a kids’ party without games, but here’s a great opportunity to sneak in some learning benefits without missing a beat!

  • Dancing – it’s not academic, but it’s all about movement, rhythm, creativity and just having fun. De-stress and let out all that built up energy!
  • Story Time – do you know someone who is a great story-teller? Get them over, throw out some rugs and cushions and share some favourite stories with the kids. Get them to make up their own stories to tell too!
  • Scavenger Hunt – everyone loves searching for treasure. So make up a list of A-Z, and send the kids out into the yard, the park, the rumpus room and find something beginning with each letter of the alphabet.
  • Charades – creative thinking here people. Trying to explain something without using words is tougher than it seems.
  • Giant Scrabble – have you seen these on Pinterest? I love the idea, make your own giant cut out letters, laminate them and send the kids out to play giant scrabble on the grass. Adapt it to any board game…anything giant is way more fun.
  • Pass the Parcel – who doesn’t love pass the parcel? But forget the lollie in every wrapper and turn off the music, and go for dares or quiz questions that the kids have to answer in order to “win” the next layer. Who can jump the highest? Who has the longest hair? What’s a baby cat called?
  • Bingo – and finally good old Bingo. You can make your own or buy game sets. Use pictures, words, numbers, maths sums and call out the answers.

4. Food for Thought

This is possibly the most stressful part of having a party. What do you serve? Do you cook, do you buy pre-made, do any guests have food allergies? But what about the nutrition? The food going into those little bodies is feeding their minds too. But that doesn't mean healthy has to be boring. In fact, trying to choose healthier options is about the most creative you can get! And, it’s another excuse to jump on Pinterest and spend a few hours “researching”. So here are a few starters:
  • Celery Boats (cream cheese or peanut butter – remember the allergies)
  • Fruit Kebabs (various fruits on a stick)
  • Fruit Pops (use the moulds and fill with squishy fruits like mango and berries)
  • DIY Ice Cream Sorbet (beautiful in a cone)
  • Mini Pizza (English muffins with your favourite toppings)
  • Mini Subs (Dinner size bread rolls filled with your favourite toppings)
  • Corn Chips & Salsa (cut up pita bread, bake in the oven & DIY Salsa)
  • Popped Corn (if you have an air-popper, the kids will love doing it themselves and filling a big cup like at the movies)

5. The Gift of Learning

And finally, every good party has a bag of treats to take home. Or if you’re the guest, you need a nice gift to take along. So again, take a moment to think about what you’re sending them home with? Is it going to break easily? Will their parents be thrilled to have a bag full of sugary sweets? Like always, here’s another reason to spend some time on Pinterest. (I do really love Pinterest in case you hadn't noticed).

Gift Ideas
  • Board Games – there are zillions of great ones to choose from
  • Books with Benefits – anything you can touch, feel, lift, squeeze, move, sniff, draw
  • Science Kits – want to know what happens when you mix bicarb & vinegar?
  • Building & Construction sets – lego, meccano, ABC blocks
  • Play Money / Money Boxes – playing shops is great fun!
  • School Supplies – groovy calculators, out there bags, cool books
  • Computer Games – educational games for the computer / console
  • Online Subscription – do they have an iPod or computer? Get a subscription to an online educational game like ABC Reading Eggs, Literacy Planet or Moshi Monsters
  • Tickets / Membership – tickets to the museum, the gallery, a special event coming up

Bag Fillers

  • Small / Mini books
  • Dominos
  • Deck of cards / Uno / Snap / Memory
  • Note books
  • Pens / Pencils / Crayons
  • Stationery Supplies
  • Try replacing traditional goodie bags with a lucky dip, or special thank you gift for each child. You’ll still spend the same amount, but they will go home with quality, not quantity.

·  Try replacing traditional goodie bags with a lucky dip, or special thank you gift for each child. You’ll still spend the same amount, but they will go home with quality, not quantity.

So there are my 5 top tips to make learning fun when you’re having a kids’ party. Making things educational doesn't have to be boring, and certainly not hard work, it’s a case of identifying the learning benefits during your normal planning. Even if you focus on one area for the next party, you can feel satisfied knowing that you’re contributing to the education of all the guests in your home, and hopefully inspiring them to be adventurous, to get out there and learn about the world.

Happy Learning!

Louise Jones, Ballarat VIC
Learning Funologist, Learning that’s Fun
Author of “Learning that’s Fun” 2012


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Halloween Favourites

I can't believe Halloween is nearly upon us again, it feels like yesterday that I was writing last years post on this spooky occasion.

It seems the ideas for this theme get better and better every year and I have noticed such an increase in the Halloween products available this year in the shops.  I must admit I love the Trick or Treating and decorating aspect of Halloween so have been excited by the goodies available and some of the cute crafty ideas I have come across. 

Here are some of my fave Halloween themed ideas for kids this year ...

Cute Ghost Donut Holes by Say Yes to Hoboken
Full DIY instructions here.  You could also use this concept on cake pops or lollipops. 
I love kids cooking like this!  So cute and fun.  Adorable cookies by Red Ted Art.  Find the full how to instructions here. 
Cute Halloween pictures made with pasta by Martha Stewart.  These look like a lot of fun! 
This idea is so cool, I wish I had of thought of it!  Rubber glove goody bags, clever!  By Caponsdesserts via Pinterest.   
Too cute & super simple, cotton bud craft by Polish the Stars. 
Fun & healthy Halloween themed food by Sugar Free Kids. 

Paper Plate Spiderwebs by No Wooden Spoons
Super cute and inexpensive to make, these are a great Halloween craft for little ones.  Find full instructions here. 

Having a party & need supplies ?  Check out some of the fun options available from some of the great businesses in the What's on 4 Kids Parties directory. 

Cute Halloween Party Box by Kids Party Bags. 

Vampire Cookie Cutter Set from Partyzone. 

Zombie Cake Kit by Cake 2 the Rescue, many other Halloween styles available. 

Black & Orange Party supplies from Piece of Cake Parties & Celebrations 

Happy Halloween All!!

Kate xx

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Party Planning Checklist

Are you planning your child's birthday party ?  Don't let the planning and preparation overwhelm or stress you out.  Get your party organised with our Birthday Party Planning Checklist. Easy to follow and outlines all the details you need to organise for the special day!  

Follow the link at the bottom to print out your copy to get your party plans underway. 

Party Planning Checklist

3 Months in Advance

   Decide number of guests and create guest list.  (Take into account parents who stay and siblings.)

   Set your party date.

   Set your budget.

   Choose your party venue and/or entertainment
  □   Book party venue if not having at home.
  □   Book party entertainment/entertainer.

   Decide on your party theme.

   Book Cake Maker/Decorator if required.  (Don’t leave this detail until the last minute as some Decorator’s book out months in advance.)

2 Months in Advance

   If using custom invitations/party printables order them now.

   Plan your party food menu and book any catering required. 

   If you are doing a Dessert or Lolly Table;
  □   Work out your design and organize any jars, stands or other props you may need.  (Always do a trial in advance as what works in your head does not always work on the table.)
  □   Order any lollies, cookies, cupcakes or other desserts required for the day.

   Make a list of what supplies and decorations you need and order now so you have plenty of time for delivery. Some items you may need are;
  □   Party Plates, Cups, Napkins, Table covers, Straws, Hats, Utensils
  □   Balloons
  □   Decorations such as Streamers, Tissue Pom Poms, Hanging Fans and Lanterns

   Plan and order your party bags/boxes and any novelty items you want to include.

3 - 4 Weeks in Advance

   Book in any party hire required, such as tables/chairs etc

   Send out your invitations; remember to list an RSVP date.

   If necessary plan your party games/activities and any prizes or supplies you need for this.

   If wanting helium balloons, book them now with your local party shop.

   If using party printables print and assemble these now so they are ready to go for the big day.

   Organise/ask any helpers you may need on the day (to assist with supervision, activities, take photos etc.)

1 Week in Advance

   Confirm any relevant bookings such as venue/entertainer etc and check if there are any special requirements in regards to set up etc.

    Confirm number of guests and chase up any late RSVP’s.

   Make up your party bags.

   Purchase all non perishable food and drinks for the party.

   Plan when you will bake and decorate the birthday cake.  (Your cake can be baked a couple of days in advance and put in the freezer until you can decorate the day before.)

   If you are having your party at home and outside, tidy your yard and make sure you check for and remove any safety hazards.

2 Days in Advance

   Tidy your house and make sure you have plenty of essential items such as toilet roll, tissues and big bin bags for party rubbish.

   Purchase all perishable party food/drink items for the party.

   Charge all cameras and video cameras.

   Get out all your supplies and decorations and confirm you have everything you need ready to go.

The Day Before

   Prepare as much party food as possible.

   Ice and decorate the birthday cake.

   Get out all your supplies and decorations and confirm you have everything you need ready to go.

   Set up/hang decorations if possible (excluding helium balloons and paper items such as printables or banners, especially if outside these have a tendency to bend/curl overnight in the change of temperature.)

   Set up tables/chairs if possible.

The Big Day

   Prepare the remainder of the food.

   Set up your dessert table (do not add refrigerated desserts until just before serving.)

   Finish hanging your decorations and balloons.

   Set your tables.

   Children’s Sit Down Table
  □   Food Table
  □   Drinks Table
  □   Present Table

   Set up your entertainment/activity areas.

    Set out your party bags.

   Heat any food necessary (1 hour to 30 mins before your party.)

Party Time!

   Take photos or ask someone else to do it for you, so you don’t miss important moments like cake cutting. 

   Don’t stress & enjoy!

To download a printable copy of our Party Planning Checklist click here

Happy Party Planning!

Kate xx

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Party Planning Basics

Got a birthday party coming up ?  Before you get down to the nitty gritty party planning details, run through a checklist of the main party elements and create a basis for your party planning.  Having a clear idea of the main details will make your planning easier and less stressful allowing more time to organise the fun stuff :)

1. Decide on how many guests. 

When planning your number of guests take into account your child's age, your budget and where you are thinking of hosting your party.  If you are inviting your child's school friends, also take into account parents and siblings who may also stay for the party. 

2.  Decide on your party venue and/or party entertainment. 

Kid's party venues are endless these days and there options available to suit all budgets. Some options are;

- At home
- Parks/ Playgrounds
- Play Centers
- Sporting Groups
- Restaurants

Party Entertainment Options;

- Magician
- Bouncy Castles
- Travelling Baby Animal Farms
- Fairy, Pirate, Superhero Entertainers
- Toy Hire
- Traditional Party Games

(For detailed ideas on Birthday Party Entertainment and Hiring an Entertainer see our blog posts here.)

3.  Decide on your budget

If you need to stick to a budget, set an amount before you start buying supplies or booking entertainment etc. Making and sticking to a party planning checklist will help you keep to your budget and avoid accidental overspending. 

4.  Choose a Party Theme

Choose a fun theme that reflects your child's interests or favourite things.  Things such as your child's favourite TV character, story book, superhero or colour are great theme options or you could opt for more traditional themes such as Fairies, Race Cars, Princesses Under the Sea or Circus. 

4.  Party Food.

 Make a rough plan of what food you will serve at the party. Try to keep it simple with a balance of healthy and sweet food options.  Remember to also provide food and drinks for the parents/adult guests. 

5.  Birthday Cake

Decide whether you are going to make the cake yourself or whether you are going to order a cake from a bakery or cake maker. 

6.  Party Bags

Party bags/favors are nice way to thank guests for coming to the party and for the card/present they have given your child.  There are lots of budget friendly party ideas for party bags with or without lollies.  Kids love simple things such as bubbles, stickers, temporary tattoos, pencils or small books and these make great party favors. 

Work out your basics and then you can get onto your more detailed planning.   Keep your eye on our blog for our Party Planning Checklist coming soon! 

Kate xx