I’m a big fan of the playground birthday party. It’s kind of no-brainer, when you think about it. Kids+cake+playground=party. Bonus: It’s free, and there’s no blue frosting mess in your house.
Where I live, there is probably a city park within every 5 mile radius. We’re lucky. Most of them have at least one covered picnic area with tables, if not several, and in some cases, charcoal grills. There is usually a playground, and sometimes adjacent soccer fields or basketball courts. A few of the larger Parks and Rec areas can actually be reserved ($), otherwise it’s available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
You have to gamble with the weather…and that will surely give you a few gray hairs in the days leading up to your party. Develop a back-up plan (ideas to come) and consider this PRO list for an outdoor party:
- You can invite as many people as you want! We invited a lot of family friends and included siblings in many cases. The more the merrier!
- No need to develop activities, games or crafts… I promise the kids will have no trouble coming up with plenty of fun running around together. Fun is built right in at a playground/park.
- Clean up is a breeze! Most parks have trashcans, and whatever crumbs you leave behind the birds will gladly handle for you.
- Sidewalk chalk! This was a big hit at our party.
- If there is a grill at the park (or maybe you own a portable one), you can grill hot dogs (it’s cheaper than ordering pizza!). But depending on the time of day, you don’t have to provide a meal. Schedule your party in the morning or afternoon and you can just do snacks.
- A playground makes a great back drop for an adorable group shot of all kids at the party! They can hang all over it – so cute!
- BYOB – that’s balls, not beer. Invite kids to bring their own outdoor stuff – whatever they like to play with.
- It’s free! Unless you choose to rent/reserve a pavilion area (may or may not be possible in your city – look into it.) Of course, your party supplies and treats will cost money, but it’s still far cheaper than a party place.
A FEW CONS:
- The weather. In Texas we have a saying that whatever the forecast is…just wait 5 minutes and it will change. I’ve lived here all my life and I swear this is 100% true. (It must be depressing to be a weatherman in Texas.) Anyway, I’ve hosted several outdoor parties, and never had to cancel one yet! But we always have a backup plan just in case. If your invitations are via Evite or another online system, it’s very easy to send an update to your guests regarding a weather-related venue change. Ideas: Meet at an ice cream place, buy each kid a cone and open presents. Meet at the Mall food court and set up your party plates, tablecloths, cake, etc at a group of tables. (Our mall has a carousel, so that’s a fun bonus.) If your guest list is reasonable you could go bowling or meet for a movie. Naturally, the easiest backup plan could be your house.
- Very often the park pavilions are first come, first served. We always send someone ahead to snag our party spot early. Our grandparents were happy to bring a book and hang out for a little while before got there to set up. So sweet!
- You have to share the playground with the general public. (No big deal.)
- Party favor ideas for an outdoor party: balls, bubbles, jump ropes…things they can use at the party, and fit your outdoor theme. Oriental Trading company is a great source for inflatable balls that are inexpensive and easy to pass out. Dollar Tree is a great place for bubbles. I found these cute colorful balls at Super Target (see pic at right), and some colorful bubbles at a party store.
- Buy a large pallet of water, Capri-Suns, and individual packs of chips and/or fruit snacks. Easy peasy. (I much prefer to give each child their own bag of chips than have all the kids sharing germs in a large bowl. Blechk!)
- A few parties ago I decided to only buy the small squatty bottles of water, instead of the full-size ones. Have you ever noticed how people only drink a little of it, then misplace it, and grab another? We were always throwing away near-full bottles of water after parties. So now I buy the short bottles. Of course people can take another if they need more.
- Bring heavy duty tape in case it’s a windy day. Great for keeping those plastic tablecloths on the tables, or securing balloons. Also bring scissors, matches/lighter for candles, and bags or a wagon to bring home the birthday presents.
- Bring sidewalk chalk, balls, jump ropes, etc. and/or encourage your party guests to bring their favorite outdoor stuff as well. We had a couple of kids bring basketballs and kites. It was so much fun!
- Determine where the nearest bathroom is, if there isn’t one at the park/playground.
- Wouldn’t hurt to bring band-aids in case any of scraped knees.
Our most recent birthday party inspired me to schedule a family and friends potluck soon! Ever since we had kids, we hardly ever spend time with our friends. We’re always saying to one another that we want to get together, but it’s difficult to schedule hosting a dinner party, and expensive to get a babysitter to go out. So, rather than put the burden of hosting on either of us, we’re going to simply pick an afternoon or evening to meet a park, bring some food and let the kids play while we catch up with one another. Easy breezy, and no one has to lose a whole Saturday cooking and cleaning their house to get ready for company!