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a balloon party

C's 6th birthday was a celebration of all things balloon related: helium filled balloons, giant balloons, rocket balloons, punch balloons, water balloons, etc. We held the party at a nearby park and invited a dozen of C's school friends and cousins. C and I drew up a plan for his birthday with ideas for games, favors, the cake, etc.

The part we were most excited about was the Balloon Obstacle Course, which was based on an obstacle course we did back at Martha Stewart Kids. We held the party at a local park since the obstacle course needed a decent amount of space. (Lesson #1: Parties not held at home require a lot more work! Don't underestimate the time involved in just hauling things from one place to another!)

The obstacle course started by crawling underneath two tables (we also used them to hold the gifts). Then the kids ran over a balance beam we made from some 2x4s. Next was the wagon pull, where they pulled the wagon around some balloons. Then they held a balloon between their legs and hopped to the next station where it ended with a bucket of water balloons. You had to grab a balloon from the bucket and toss it into another bucket a few feet away.

(Lesson #2: Sometimes things aren't quite as fun as you think they will be!) The kids were excited about the obstacle course, and they cheered the first 3 or 4 people on with lots of enthusiasm. One child could run the course in about two minutes, but when you have twelve children at a party (plus more siblings who wanted to try the course as well) the kids who had already gone seemed a little bored of it by the time we were done. I think next time I would figure out some way to involve the kids more in the course itself so they aren't just sitting watching.. make one child your timer, another in charge of yelling GO!, have one hand out the water balloons, etc.

We kept the food simple: PB+J for the kids, turkey and basil sandwiches for the adults, watermelon, grapes, pretzels, veggies + dip, and lots of juice boxes. For the cake, I blew up little balloons (like the kind you use for water balloons) and tied them to skewers. It made for a festive centerpiece and the balloons were easy to do the day before. (Lesson #3: Cake is a lot more work than cupcakes. It requires a knife, and plates, and forks, etc. I vote cupcakes next time.)

Favor bags were stenciled with a red 6 and held a few dot candies and a punch balloon. The kids used their bags to catch the candy from the "balloon pinata".

The balloon pinata was my favorite part of the party. I love pinatas, and my children always insist on having one at their parties... but the pinatas never seem to work the way I want them to. The kids usually can't get the thing busted open and one of the adults has to step in and finish the job. The pinata just kind of falls to the ground and we have to pick it up and shake the candy out. And then of course, the pushing and shoving as the kids try to grab as much candy as they can.

Here's what we did instead: you know that carnival game where you throw darts at balloons? We filled balloons with candy and hung one balloon for each child on a wooden board (we covered ours with a plastic tablecloth so a splinter wouldn't accidentally pop the balloons). Each kid had a chance to throw a dart (or two or three) at the balloons until one popped and then they got to run up and grab all the candy from their balloon. The kids loved it and we avoided that moment where one child is crying because he didn't get enough candy (which always seems to happen when we have a pinata).

Note: There's a trick to filling up the balloons with candy. If you try to just shove a few pieces into a balloon before you fill it, you'll be able to fit about 3 pieces before you poke a hole somewhere. We wanted a big explosion of candy, and 3 pieces wasn't going to cut it. My husband, who is an engineer at heart, figured out a great way to fill the balloons up with about 15 pieces of candy. And yes, it involved a trip to Home Depot and a Wet Vac. Details to come.

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Reader Comments (27)

Ohmylord. Can't wait for the wetvac balloon filling post. :)

08.27.2010 | Unregistered CommenterTaylorK

Oooh, I am dying to hear about how to fill the balloons! What a FANTASTIC idea of how to avoid pinatas, yet still have the fun!

08.27.2010 | Unregistered CommenterCare

A balloon party - what a great idea!

08.27.2010 | Unregistered CommenterJocelyn Stott

great idea. how in the world do you manage to pull off such a detailed fiesta with three kids?? you are amazing.

08.27.2010 | Unregistered Commenterjackie

what a lovely birthday!

your photos are always so clear and crisp. i would love to know what camera and lens you use. (apologies if you answered this question before).

love your wonderful blog!

08.28.2010 | Unregistered Commentercthomas

Here's a tip for greater kid involvement during the obstacle course: turn it into a relay. One child completes the pulling-the-wagon section, then has to touch the hand of the next child, who completes the next section. The team's total time is recorded, and the second team tries to beat it.

LOVE that balloon board idea and the balloon theme. so cute!

08.28.2010 | Unregistered Commenteramy

LOVE the balloon pinata. Can't wait to steal...I mean see...the directions for that one :)

08.30.2010 | Unregistered CommenterSara

The cake is adorable and I appreciate the 'detailed' ideas. My husband and I are great at all aspects of party planning- EXCEPT the activity part. Unfortunately neither of us excel in this regard and it's the one aspect that makes me nervous when planning/executing a party.

Thank you for sharing your 'lessons learned' and also the fantastic pinata idea. We do not have any large trees in our backyard, and my kids have missed out on the whole 'pinata component' of their birthday parties:). This is a great alternative.

But, really, I need to have this party... just so that I can make that cake!!

What a darling party! Looks like the kids had a blast. And those invitations are so clever.

Your discussion of pinatas reminded me of one of the funniest things I've ever heard: my sister's friend didn't realize that you had to fill a store-bought pinata with candy yourself, and so when the kids finally burst it, it was totally empty. Can you imagine how embarrassed you'd be?! it kind of cracks me up because I could totally see myself doing something like that.

08.31.2010 | Unregistered CommenterLynne

Wow. Sounds fantastic!!

08.31.2010 | Unregistered CommenterSammi

Another good idea for keeping the kids involved, but letting each run the entire course, is to put them in two teams (or more depending on how many kids there are). This can add a whole new list of activities - coming up with a team name and mascot - and it keeps all the kids engaged and still lets them all do the entire course.

I really enjoy your blog - thanks for the posts.

08.31.2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessie

Oh my gosh, I love this!
I just threw my first kids' party for my 1-year-old son at a park, so I learned the same lesson you did.
Thanks for the constant inspiration.

09.1.2010 | Unregistered Commenterchristine

I've wanted to do a balloon party for one of my girls and I think I've finally convinced my youngest to do it for next year. This party is just super - I love every detail you blogged about from the invitations to the balloon pinatas to the sweet balloons on the cake. LOVE THIS!!!

09.1.2010 | Unregistered CommenterN.

Thanks for this post! I was curious to know how you got the balloons the stick on the board? Did you use nails or adhesive? I planning on doing this next summer. Thanks

09.3.2010 | Unregistered CommenterLicia

What a brill idea!! Balloon party... Especially when you plan it together with your son. Its even more meaningful.. =) And i like it when you give the kids different roles while waiting for others to finish the activities! =)

09.4.2010 | Unregistered CommenterIzzy

I've been procrastinating the planning of my son's 5th birthday party. This is the perfect idea! Thanks for the inspo.

09.7.2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Neddo

what a super fun party idea! love it all!!

09.13.2010 | Unregistered Commenterjenn

My baby boy (then age 6) was at a party one night and they were throwing darts at balloons. He threw his, it bounced off the balloon and came back and punctured his eye. Cute idea but more dangerous than we realize. Cute party though.

09.16.2010 | Unregistered CommenterMom of 3 Boys

Too cute :) love your blog. Balloon party, sounds fantastic!! Happy I found it!
Year Old Birthday Party Ideas

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