Photo: Columbia Pictures
Restaurants, movie theaters and museums have reopened, but outdoor spaces such as city parks are very popular places to party this summer, especially for children. Outdoor parties are a safer option because they aren’t old enough to be young, and running around outside is a stark contrast to school years where screen time dominates. The challenge with planning a trip is that you should be able to carry all the supplies you need, ideally in one trip.
Focusing on parties for under-12s who haven’t yet qualified to help them understand what they need (and leave behind what they don’t need with confidence) , we spoke with five parents and educators who have extensive party hosting experience. Get vaccinated. To avoid boredom, I’ve left out the obvious things like some sort of table, folding chairs, other seating options, and cake so you can focus on something special you might not be thinking about. All the experts we consulted said it’s best to keep it simple, and that includes guest lists. It means you haven’t practiced socializing much. But the most important piece of advice we got was to ask the kids what they want first and go from there.
Packing multi-purpose items makes carrying supplies much easier, says Karen Aronian, an education consultant and mother of two. Because parachutes are weightless, look festive, are great to sit on and offer endless possibilities for fun. And, she says, “you’ll be surprised at how cheap they are. There are many games you can play with parachutes, some of which are as simple as putting a ball on top and bouncing it near another player. It can also be a giant colorful tent for children to sit in. Aronian says parachutes can also be conveniently used to wrap and carry other supplies.
Everyone we spoke to mentioned packing a picnic blanket. Some suggested buying one with a waterproof lining, but you can also get some old, nice-looking sheets you already have. She suggests bringing a pack of white or plain sheets and fabric markers and having the children decorate and write birthday messages on them. You get this kind of keepsake,” she says.
To avoid bringing too much stuff into the park, artist and mother of two Eunice Kindred planned a party around something most kids already have: a razor scooter. Suggest an activity. “I used sidewalk chalk to set up a scooter race track and run a scooter race. I also brought some rolls of crepe paper, tape, markers and construction paper for the kids to decorate their scooters.” she says.
“Never underestimate the power of soap bubbles,” says Lynn-Larroque, who brought a soap bubble machine and bubbles to all the children at her 6-year-old daughter’s recent birthday party. . Both Kindred and Ro say they’ve seen a bubble her machine like this at this spring party as well. They say the machines are especially popular with young children.
If you want something a little more active, this set of bubble wands has lots of different shapes so kids can create bubbles shaped like butterflies, stars, or octopuses.
For older kids who may scoff at teddy bear bubble wands, challenge them to make human-sized bubbles with this set of 4 giant bubble wands.
Several parents noted the near-universal appeal of sports and obstacle courses. Lynn-Larroque recently attended a very successful soccer-themed party with her daughters, featuring her trained soccer coach. She said it was tough trying to get her kids off-screen and back into the real world after this year of hers, but having a charismatic coach out there made the kids happy. He said it was more fun for us. (Professional coaches can easily be swapped for athlete parents if desired.) All you need is a set of mini-cones, a lightweight collapsible soccer goal, and a ball.
Kindred and mother of two Ellen Pandey recommend setting up a separate PlayStation so the kids have options if they want to do their own thing. She Pandey loves these her Swoop Bags that act as both play mats and toy storage containers. She says it’s a great way to set up a toy station with blocks, Legos, or action figures, and an easy way to clean everything up afterwards.
Pandey notes that getting kids to do things they wouldn’t normally be able to do, like drawing all over each other’s faces, is always a big hit. She suggests washable face paint her crayons because they are non-toxic and won’t offend other parents.
Aronian encourages you to use the park as inspiration for craft activities and send your children out to collect leaves, flowers and other pieces of nature that can be used to rub on paper with crayons. You can also turn this activity into a nature scavenger hunt for her. Older children (who have longer attention spans) can also create a small book out of the scrapings.
“When parents are having fun, kids absorb that energy and everyone is more relaxed,” says Kindred. So, to avoid parties where her parents don’t look at their phones, get bored, or socialize, she serves Mom and Dad “Tips Pop” from her Guicy Gems in Brooklyn. Flavored Ice Like popsicles, but with alcohol, comes in flavors like Brooklyn Bellini, Guava Moscow Mule, and Froze. вЂњMy parents really appreciate and love it, and I even got to take an extra one home as a favor for my parent’s party,вЂќ she says.
If you often take your kids to the park or beach, chances are you already own a MacSports cart. The foldable rugged wagon earned half of our list of best beach carts and the top two spots in another similar article, and it’s also worth taking a stroll through Prospect’s park on a sunny weekend. It’s also the cart you’ll see most often when you’re there. Strategist Her writer and her mother Lauren Ro loves that it folds up easily, packs a lot, isn’t hard to move around, and has a tray for drinks.
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