Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Simple Knights and Dragons Birthday Party

My eldest recently celebrated his fifth birthday with a Knights and Dragons party.
In keeping with my "Quick n' Dirty philosophy" of kids' crafting and activities, I planned a frugal, low-key celebration that, despite being postponed twice and nearly rained out, nevertheless came off remarkably well.

As always, over-thinking and over-planning is a serious temptation for me, and during the initial brainstorming stage I was in real danger of making myself crazy by biting off Way more than I could chew while also retaining my trademark calm and patience (heh heh!) - especially given the extra demands my very challenging 1-year-old is putting on me. Thankfully, I got 'hold of myself and scaled back Multiple times before the event actually occurred.

Here's what we did:

We invited our entire homeschool co-op, which consists of 15 kids: 4 1-year-olds, and the rest between age 3 and 6.  While this is a pretty big number, it was essentially non-negotiable given that I was taking over the co-op time!
In the event, one family called in sick and a second was already out of town for the Memorial Day weekend, so we had only 6 kids over 3 - which was a nice, manageable number, really.
It's also worth mentioning that the mothers remained in attendance and provided much of the "crowd control!"


I wanted to do a scavenger hunt. I had this vision of beautiful photographic clues (since few of the kids are readers yet) that would lead them from location to location, picking up clues and magic potions along the way, until they finally found the magic sword to slay the dragon. I even imagined moving the hunt from the nearby park back to our yard on foot...
This was making my head spin. Aside from potential vagaries of weather, I just couldn't imagine 11 young children remaining organized long enough to make such a thing work.
As I was bemoaning this fact to my husband and brainstorming possibly breaking the group into teams that would each move through the clues separately, he said "No, no. Too complicated. Just hide a bunch of "dragon eggs" in the yard and set them hunting. When they deliver a certain number to the "fairy," they'll be given access to the magical sword's hiding place (up top of our backyard play structure.)  Simple as that.
"Well, Duh!" I said, and with the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders, eagerly adopted his plan. Which worked perfectly, I might add!
(For once I was glad I'd been slow on disposing of this year's crop of plastic Easter eggs, since they're not in the stores outside of April!)

Once the sword was located, it was used to "slay" the paper mache dragon, as described in my DIY Dragon Pinata post.


I went with basic cupcakes and ice cream.
Although the party was at 11 am (our standard co-op meeting time), I chose not to provide lunch.  Too complicated, messy, and time consuming. Although people were starting to get a little hungry before we finally served the cake, I stand by this decision. I just wish I'd planned a few more snacks!
The cupcakes were from a mix; the frosting was from a can. Dead simple. I baked a day or two before and froze them until the morning of the party so they'd be easier to frost. The ice-cream I pre-served into tiny dixie cups and stored in the chest freezer until game time - a strategy I sincerely recommend if you have the space!
Oh, and we ate outside. Always eat out side if you have Any choice in the matter! I mean, it was raining and we still ate outside huddled under the gazebo!
The cupcakes were decorated with a couple of waffle cones I intended to look like castle turrets. I don't know if that really came across - it looked fine in any case. I also sprinkled them with a little colored sugar (hint: make it yourself by adding - guess what - food coloring to sugar. Seriously, it's That Simple.)
The real decor was tiny cork knights and princesses I crocheted from this pattern. This is the only element of the party that makes no sense whatsoever from a frugal, quick n' dirty perspective. It took several weeks of my evening free time to make all those little guys.  But, crocheting is a favorite leisure activity for me, and I'd started in on my army of cork knights well before the plan to use them as party favors took shape.
If I'd been in a hurry, I expect that a quick internet search or even a dollar store could have supplied some miniature action figures to fill the same roll.


Along with a handful of candy from the pinata, each guest got to take home his or her knight or princess.
In addition, each family got to take home a "Potion of Peace"- a clear bottle of rheoscopic fluid that's really fun to watch swirl around. Check out my tutorial here. Again, I admit that the mica flakes made this just a little more expensive than a truly frugal favor might permit, but I frankly was looking for a good excuse to order the stuff in fun colors from eBay! :) And there was left-over mica that I hope to find a use for eventually.

The Plan Meets Reality 
As we know, no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy, and this one was no exception. Drizzle kept more of the party indoors than I'd hoped, and waiting for late arrivals kept me adjusting the order of events - even inserting an emergency extra indoor egg hunt - on the fly.
But you know what? The kids very clearly did not notice. They were there to play with their friends, eat cake and ice cream, and beat on a pinata as a fun bonus. Any little hiccoughs were far beneath their notice.
I am very glad of the limited scope and flexible activities I planned, and my son is simply content that he got to beat on something with a wooden sword! (Oh yeah, and Legos. One of his friends gave him Legos.  Happy kid!)

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