I am not one of those moms that believes in big hurrah birthday parties every year. I love my children to the moon and back, but also know that I would quickly not be able to uphold a high precedence of fancy birthday parties. We’re all about easy, cheap, and lots of fun. Easier said than done, especially when you’re planning a birthday party in the “shoulder season” when sledding is out and the weather is very unpredictable.
This year for J’s 5th birthday, we also decided that making sure the kids were outside at least some of the time (though preferably most of the time) and were active (in a directed and organized way) was crucial to keeping 20 kids (friends + siblings) under some sort of control.
A Biking Birthday Party:
We invited families to join us and meet at the local community center (which also happens to be in our neighborhood.) Children were asked to bring bikes, backpacks and weather-appropriate clothing. Helmets were required. Since we knew that not all the kids invited were as in to biking as our family is, we welcomed anything on wheels and brought our extra scooters, bikes and helmets to share.
We met the families at the door of the community center and broke up into two groups: The “experienced bikers” and the “just getting the hang of it bikers”. Parents were invited and encouraged to follow their children on foot or bikes. Extra supervision is always welcome. Bikers then followed clues around our neighborhood to find small prizes (dollar store treasures) that they put into their backpacks. These were their party favors. Afterwards we all meet back at the community center (right before the rain started) for a simple lunch of hot dogs, fruit and chips and some cupcakes.
How the scavenger hunt worked:
We wanted to the flexibility of having a scavenger hunt that we could easily change around a bit for the different riders. For the slower group, we had them basically go around in a circle in our neighborhood following the clues. For the faster riders, we sent them to find the clues out of order so they would have to bike around more. The leader (myself and Mtn Papa) had the clues in hand (opposed to left at the different drops) so we could send them where we wanted. The treasures were left in the scavenger hunt locations in a ziploc bag beforehand.
Ideas for scavenger hunt treasures:
We had 6 different drop spots. I spent about $30 on favors. You could easily spend more or less.
- bouncy balls
- temporary tattoos
- small candies
- glow sticks
Other ideas I could use next time **see more ideas under “what I would do differently next time”**:
- Special rocks
- small magnifying glasses
- homemade binoculars (from TP rolls)
- small other homemade favors
Ideas for scavenger hunt drop spots:
This is the part that would change most drastically depending on your location and situation. We went around our neighborhood because it is paved, relatively low traffic and we know almost everyone so it helped with great drop spots. This could also be done in a school parking lot on the weekend or anywhere that you could bike around easily without having to worry too much about car traffic.
- At a neighbor’s house (with their permission, of course)
- Hidden on a favorite trail
- Near a landmark (stop sign, neighborhood sign, large rock, etc.)
- In a camper in the neighborhood (again, with their permission)
- Under a tree
Our take on how it went:
We had a great time! Parents (us included) were thrilled to have the kids outside and moving. Having that many kids on bikes was great for a little positive peer pressure for kids that weren’t really into biking.
What we would do different next time:
- Do a better job at encouraging parents to bring their bikes too (some of these kids bike too fast to keep up with them just running)
- For the party favors maybe keep a theme. Here’s just a few ideas I had in hindsight:
- “nature explorer” (nature notebook, magnifying glass, crayons, dried flowers, etc.)
- “biking” (bike bell, bike helmet, biking gloves, stickers for your bike, etc) <– obviously a lot more expensive, but would be super cool!
- “Decorate your bike” (pipe cleaners, puffy paint, stickers, flashing lights, streamers, etc.)
- Have a little better plan on who would go to which clues first. We had to wait sometimes if one of the groups was already at the station. No big deal – we were honestly winging it a bit – but it would have been a little smoother.
- Be prepared for kids just not into biking. We had a couple that ended up running instead of biking, but that was totally ok. They were outside and active and that was our goal.
- After the scavenger hunt have a bike rodeo set up to keep kids biking: cones to practice going around, little ramps to go over, decorate their bikes (if they didn’t do that before), etc.
All in all, we had a great time!
I want to know – have you done an outdoor birthday party before? Anything with bikes? How did it work out? I’d love to hear it (and see photos too!)
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