Easily thrown outdoors on a warm day or inside when the weather chills, a camping-themed birthday party gives you myriad opportunities to decorate for optimal effect, to cook to kids and parents’ palates, and to kindle the kind of memories made around the campfire — without having to pack for overnight or spend a fortune.
Here’s how to bring the spirit of the great outdoors into your living room, backyard, or nearby park:
• Pitch a large tent and fill it with pillows and sleeping bags to create a fun place to play and hang out.
• Cluster all your large potted plants around the party periphery.
• Make a campfire: Crumple red and orange tissue paper together and put it in a pile, then stack three or four logs over it. Encircle the fire with rocks, if available. If your party space isn’t in direct sunlight, place a couple of LED lights under the tissue paper to make the fire “glow.”
• Set a rustic table: Cover the buffet table with a plastic gingham tablecloth, decorate with pinecones, rocks, or other found items from nature, and serve snacks in pots with bandanas tied around the handles — as if they’re too “hot” to handle.
Keep it simply delicious!
• Serve hot dogs for kids and Hot Dog Melts for parents.
• Offer potato chips and carrot sticks to go along with Onion Chip Dip.
• Set out a self-serve cooler with “bug juice.” Simply combine tropical fruit punch mixed with a powdered strawberry drink mix or another flavored drink mix, like Kool-Aid.
• Win over campers with s’more cupcakes by topping Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting, then sprinkling the tops with ground graham cracker crumbs and garnishing with a mini chocolate bar. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Jamiesrabbits)
While a tent and open space for playing is enough to keep kids busy for a while, you may want to plan one or two camping-related activities.
• If you’ve got access to the outdoors, consider a local hike and scavenger hunt art project (give kids brown paper bags, tell them what to collect along the way, then have them glue their finds to paper as an art project when they get back to base camp). You could also conduct relay races or a water-balloon toss. (Photo courtesy of Istock/nicolecioe)
• Indoor camping adventures can include sand candle crafts (provided you’ve got space for a couple of tubs of sand, someone to manage the wax, and good adult supervision), ghost stories around the “campfire,” and sing-alongs.
Forget filling bags with plastic trinkets that quickly end up in the garbage. Instead, send home campers with a couple of mementos from the party: s’more makings (one graham cracker, a piece of chocolate, a couple of marshmallows, and a skewer), mini flashlights, and a handful of glow in the dark stars that partygoers can put on their ceiling when they get home.