Category Archives: parenting

Happy Halloween, Birthday Ghouls and Boys!

Happy Halloween!
Image from eurobricks.com

Was your child born on October 31? Throw a Halloween birthday party mash-up for your little ghoul or boy!

Add our secret ingredients, entertainment by playparty.net and DIY race car driver and LEGO brick costumes. Celebrate with a few tricks and lots of treats. Here’s how…

 

Race Car Driver Halloween Costume

Book the Ultimate Race Car Party.  Then, go from 0 to 50 in a jiffy with this easy homemade costume from Real Simple.

Materials

  • Track suit or matching sweatshirt and sweatpants
  • Baseball cap or painter’s hat
  • Black and white checkered duct tape
  • Black masking tape
  • Race car iron-on patch
  • Race car stickers
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • White ribbon (about 2 yards)
  • Black ribbon (about 2 yards)
  • Dowel

Jacket

Affix a length of the checkered duct tape down the middle of each sleeve. Use the black masking tape to make a horizontal stripe across the middle of the jacket. Glue the iron-on patch to the front of the jacket on the top left side.

Pants

Affix a length of the checkered duct tape along the side seams of each pant leg. Start from the waist and work your way down to the hem.

Cap

Decorate the front of the cap with the checkered duct tape, black masking tape and race car stickers.

Flag

Cut strips of black and white ribbon to the desired length of the flag. Weave the ribbons together and glue at each end. Cut off excess. Cut and sand the dowel. Glue ribbon flag to the dowel.

MetroWest-Mamas added a few special touches of their own.

More ideas for kid's race car driver costume
Image from metrowest-mamas.com

Shoes

Sneakers or slip-ons go great with this costume. Checkered duct tape and race car stickers are optional embellishments. Even better if your kid already has a pair of Lightning McQueen sneakers or slippers!

Trick or Treat Bag

As a birthday present for your little speedster, get the Neat-Oh! Hot Wheels ZipBin Wheelie Car Case. The perfect accessory, it completes the race car driver costume and holds plenty of Halloween goodies. When Trick or Treat is over, it’s a storage case and two-lane race track.

 

LEGO Brick Halloween Costume

LEGO Brick Costume
Image from countryliving.com

Book the Best LEGO Birthday Party.  Then, check out Country Living‘s directions for turning an ordinary cardboard box into a fun costume for the LEGO brick lover in your house.

Materials

Cardboard box, about 16” W X 29” H X 11” D
Utility knife
Packing tape
8 round craft boxes, 2” H X 4” diameter
Wood glue
Spray paint

Instructions

1. Cut off the bottom flaps of the box with a utility knife. Tape down the top flaps.

2. To create openings for your child’s head and arms, trace a dinner plate on the top of the box and saucers on each side of the box. Cut out the holes with the utility knife.

3. Place the box on a flat, hard surface. Use wood glue to affix the round craft boxes — without lids— in a 2 X 4 arrangement, as shown. Make sure the bottoms of the craft boxes face out.

4. Allow the glue to set. Then, spray-paint the entire box a bright, glossy color. Let dry and apply multiple coats as necessary.

 

Happy Halloween!

 

Visit us again soon for more kid’s birthday ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness Isn’t Measured in Dollars: Fun and Frugal Birthday Parties

birthday-party-park_655w-web

The U.S. economy is steadily expanding but for many workers, paychecks barely keep ahead of inflation. During these financially challenging times, smart moms and dads carefully monitor household spending.

A birthday party needn’t be an extravagant affair.  You can create a fun and fabulous event for your child at a reasonable cost.  Here are a few tips from playparty.net.

1. Sharpen your pencil; be realistic. Figure out how much you can afford to spend on the party. Then, stick to your budget.

2. Use your home or another low-cost location as the party venue. For example, the neighborhood park is free and offers plenty of space for the kids to play.

3. Consider scheduling the party on a week day. Ask prospective vendors if they offer discounts for events held between Monday and Friday. (Hint: playparty.net’s Mid-Week Discount saves you $50.)

4. Before selecting a time for the party, think about the type of refreshments you’ll serve. Does your budget permit you to provide a meal? Or are snacks a better fit? Meals are appropriate for parties held between 11 AM and 1 PM or between 4 PM and 6 PM. If the party is scheduled for mid-morning or mid-afternoon, snacks may be sufficient and acceptable.

5. Send invitations electronically if you have email addresses for all of your guests or their parents. (Hint: Check out paperlesspost.com, evite.com and punchbowl.com.) Not only will you save on postage and stationery, but on-line services make it easy to track RSVP’s and send reminders.

6. Try to prepare most of the refreshments yourself. (Hint: Don’t be afraid to ask family members for help. Your child’s favorite auntie would probably be thrilled to make the birthday cupcakes.)

7. Purchase food, such as crackers, pretzels or fresh fruit and vegetables, in bulk.

8. Serve beverages, such as juice or soda, from large bottles instead of purchasing individual-sized containers.

9. If possible, use items that you already have at home as part of the decorations.

10. Buy decorations and other party supplies from a discount store.

11. Prizes and party favors are optional. If you choose to provide them, keep in mind that they needn’t be elaborate or expensive.

12. Use paper bags to hold party favors. During the party, have guests decorate the bags.

13. If your child wants to celebrate his/her birthday at an amusement park, allow him/her to invite just one special friend.

14. Remember what’s most important about marking your child’s birthday — honoring his special place in the family, and reminding her how much she is loved.  Savor the sweetness of the day.

 

Contact us for more birthday party tips and to book the Best LEGO Party or the Ultimate Race Car Party .

Racing Dreams: From Go-Karts to NASCAR

Racing Dreams , an award-winning documentary by filmmaker Marshall Curry, follows Annabeth (11 years old), Josh (12) and Brandon (13) as they compete for the championship in the year-long World Karting Association National Series.

On its face, Racing Dreams is about NASCAR, the second biggest spectator sport in the U.S.  “But really,” says Curry, “It’s more about adolescence. It’s about… trying to figure out who you are and who your parents are, what you want to be when you grow up, and what love feels like.”

Weaving through the pack of contenders at 70 miles per hour, the young drivers dream of racing in NASCAR some day. They agree that, “Being a NASCAR driver is the coolest job you could ever have.”

On and off the track, each navigates the treacherous road from childhood to young adulthood.

For Brandon, go-karting provides respite from family troubles.  “When I come to a race, I don’t even think about what’s going on at home. Everything goes away. I don’t think about anything except racing.”

Annabeth explains, ”When you’re 11 or 12, your whole life is filled with people telling you what to do. But when you’re racing, you’re totally independent.”

“You have to be a person that can make a decision and not look back,” adds Josh.  “That’s how life goes.”

 

Watch Racing Dreams.  You’ll love this dramatic, funny, poignant film.

 

Mike’s Top 20 Tips for Planning a Happy Birthday Party

Dear Mike,

Help! My little munchkin Taylor is turning 4. We had small family gatherings to celebrate birthdays 1, 2 and 3 but this year I’d like to include Taylor’s pre-school friends. I’m nervous because I don’t entertain a lot and I don’t know the other parents very well. How can I make sure the party will be a success?

— Hazy on Hosting, Southern California

Ask Mike

Dear Hazy,

Planning a party can be enjoyable.  It just takes a bit of time, a bit of organization and a bit of creativity.  Start by checking out this Step-by-Step Guide.

Here are my top 20 tips for coordinating an event that’s fun for everyone — your birthday munchkin, your guests and especially you, the proud parent and happy host.

1.   Remember that your child is the reason for the party. As much as possible, involve him or her in decisions about the theme, guests, activities and food. Don’t worry about trying to impress the other parents.

2.  Kids’ birthday parties typically last about two hours. Don’t schedule the party during your child’s usual nap time.  Specify start and end times on the invitations.

3.  For younger children, it may be best to have the party at home. Little kids usually feel more comfortable in a familiar environment.

4.  Be mindful of the season. If your child’s birthday is in August, avoid the heat by holding the party in the morning or late afternoon. If festivities will take place outdoors, check that there’s adequate shade, or consider renting a tent.

5.  If you’re planning an outdoor celebration for a child born between November and March, reserve a back-up venue in case it rains.

6.  Book entertainment that’s age-appropriate. The Ultimate Race Car Party is perfect for 3- to 6-year olds. And 4- to 8-year-olds love the Best LEGO Party.

7.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Enlist your spouse, babysitter, relatives or neighbors for assistance. An extra pair of hands is especially important if guests will be dropped off by their parents.

8.  Remove pets from the party area. Some children are allergic to or afraid of animals.

9.  Tie balloons to your mailbox or use other decorations to mark the party location.

10.  Play music to create a festive atmosphere.

11.  As guests arrive, invite them to do arts and crafts.  Some children need time to transition into party-mode. A little later, playparty.net will kick-off the Ultimate Race Car Party or Best LEGO Party. Afterwards, serve refreshments and the birthday cake. Let the kids wind down as the party ends.  Guide the birthday child in saying “thank you” and giving party favors to each guest as he or she departs.

12.  Serve kid-friendly refreshments. Simple, familiar foods like hamburgers, hot dogs or sandwiches are good choices. Consider ordering pizza to be delivered — it’s much easier than preparing the refreshments yourself.

13.  Avoid serving any food containing nuts or shellfish, as many kids are allergic to them.

14.  Place trash cans and recycling bins in strategic locations to simplify clean-up.

15.  Ensure that the party site is safe for kids.  Be especially attentive to potential hazards such as vehicle traffic on the street, a pool, steps or stairs, decks or balconies, glass doors, windows and chemicals.

16.  Check and restock your first aid kit.  Put extra ice in the freezer or ice chest. Bandages, antiseptic spray and ice will come in handy if a guest gets a cut, scrape or bruise.

17.  With younger children, be prepared for possible melt-downs. Their moods can change suddenly. Keep a box of tissues handy.

18.  If babies will be present, make sure that party favors are large enough not to be a choking hazard.

19.  Be flexible. If  kids don’t like an activity, move onto something else. On the other hand, if a game is unexpectedly popular, allow kids to continue to play. The goal is for guests to have fun, not to check-off items on an agenda.

20.  Enjoy this special milestone in your child’s life. Celebrate the unique person that he is. Show her how much she is loved. And most of all, have fun!

A BIRTHDAY PARTY TO REMEMBER

jacobsbook

When Jacob was in third grade, his class studied autobiography.  As a part of the unit, he was asked to write an autobiography —  his very own “Story of Me”.

The first time I read it, I savored every word.  I laughed out loud as Jacob sweetly chronicled his birthday parties — a Sesame Street-themed party when he was four; the Ultimate Race Car Party for birthday number five; a “Dress Up as a Dinosaur” party for his sixth birthday; and when he turned seven, the Best LEGO Party at fabulous Charles H. Wilson Park in Torrance.

Now, years later, Jacob is a young man and from time to time, I enjoy re-reading his “Story of Me”.  My heart is filled with love and gratitude as I realize how much these celebrations meant to Jacob when he was a little boy.

With a bit of planning, you too can create a fun and memorable birthday party for your child.  Here are a few tips to help you along the way.

A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO PARTY PLANNING 
WHEN? THINGS TO DO TIPS FROM PLAYPARTY.NET
4 to 6 weeks before your child’s birthday
  • Set a budget
  • Identify a date, start time and end time
  • Decide on the number of guests and make a guest list
  • Pick a theme
  • Choose a location and make a reservation if necessary
  • If you plan to hire entertainment, make a reservation
  • If your child is a racing fan, go with a race car theme and book the Ultimate Race Car Party for entertainment
  • If your child loves LEGO, build the party around LEGO bricks and book the Best LEGO Party
  • Take advantage of our Mid-Week Discount by scheduling the party on a weekday
  • For convenience and affordability, hold the party in your yard or at a nearby park
  • Select a back-up site in case of bad weather. Could you use the garage, living room or family room?
2 to 3 weeks before the party
  • Send out invitations and set up a system for tracking RSVPs
  • Select games, crafts and activities
  • Decide if you want to provide prizes or party favors
  • Plan the menu including food and drinks
  • Order the cake if you don’t plan to bake it yourself
  • Ask others for help
  • Communicate a warm welcome with a cheerful invitation. Click these links for examples of fun LEGO party invitations and Race Car party invitations
  • By booking the Ultimate Race Car Party or the Best LEGO Party, you can check “games and activities” off your To-Do list. Hurray!
  • Create a menu based on the theme. Click here for creative Race Car party food ideas.
  • For a LEGO party, feature food shaped like LEGO bricks. Serve rectangular sandwich stackers, block-shaped JELL-O Jigglers, musubi and skewered cubes of cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon and pineapple.
1 week before the party
  • Decide on the order of activities
  • If necessary, do a trial run of the games and activities
  • Select and design decorations for the party area
  • Make a grocery list
  • Buy plates, napkins, balloons and other supplies
  • Confirm your reservations for the party location and entertainment
  • Kick off the festivities with games and activities. Then, move onto lunch or snacks, piñata, cake and ice cream, and party favors.
  • Let the theme inspire the decorations. Click here for suggestions for LEGO party decorations.
  • For a Race Car party, turn a hallway into “lanes” with a black plastic runner and white masking tape. Place orange traffic cones around the lanes. Make traffic lights by painting empty shoe boxes with black spray paint. Then, glue red, yellow and green paper circles onto the boxes. Ask the auto parts store for empty cases of motor oil or engine additive. Stack them up to boost the automotive vibe.
2 to 3 days before the party
  • Call guests who haven’t yet responded
  • Shop for food, candles, candy and party favors
  • Check the camera
  • Assemble the party favor bags
  • Click here for suggestions for Race Car party favors. Home-made car-shaped cookies are also popular with kids.
  • LEGO toys are the perfect favors for a LEGO party. You could also use a mold to make chocolate LEGO mini-figures.  Wrap the mini-figs into individual packages or place them on top of butterscotch brownies or Rice Krispies treats.
1 day before the party
  • Clean the party area and remove hazardous or fragile objects
  • Bake or pick up the cake
  • Order take-out food, if applicable
  • Discuss appropriate party behavior with your children
  • For younger children, practice saying, “Thank you”
  • Prepare a space about the size of a two-car garage to accommodate the Ultimate Race Car Party or the Best LEGO Party.
  • Decide if you want to publish party photos and videos on our Facebook page, YouTube channel and website.
On the day of the party
  • Inflate a balloon and tie it to your mailbox or porch
  • Move pets out of the party area
  • Decorate; set-out materials for games, crafts and activities
  • Set the table; put candles in the cake and make sure you have matches
  • Set aside paper and pen for recording gifts
  • Bring out a recycle bin for disposing of wrapping paper
  • If necessary, help the birthday child to get dressed and ready for the party
  • We’ll arrive 30 minutes before the party begins to set up the Ultimate Race Car Party or the Best LEGO Party.
  • Red and black balloons complement the Race Car party theme. Cover the table with a black-and-white checkerboard tablecloth and accessories like toy tires, mini-trophies and “chrome” items. Display the party favor bags in a tool box or tool chest drawer.
Party time!
  • Position yourself and the birthday child near the front door to welcome guests as they arrive
  • If a parent is dropping a child off, confirm the pick-up time and emergency phone number
  • Take photos and videos
  • Have fun!
  • Want to give the kids more time to play?  Consider Optional Overtime.
  • Ask your guests and their parents for permission if you’d like to publish your party photos and videos.
1 day after the party
  • Help the birthday child with thank you notes
  • Relax and enjoy the memories
  • Send your photos to us and we’ll create a photo album for your party and publish it on our Facebook page.
  • Send your videos to us and we’ll publish them on our YouTube channel, Facebook page and website.
  • We’ll send you the links so you can share the fun with your guests, family and friends.

Merry Birthday-mas?  The Joy of Holiday Birthdays

If your child was born between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, you’ve probably encountered at least one Scrooge who considers holiday birthdays a curse or a tragedy.  Pay no mind.  Holiday birthdays are delightful!

christmas-birthday-cake

Remember:  We celebrate birthdays to rejoice in the life of someone we love.  So, focus on your child’s preferences and make the occasion memorable.  Establish your own family
traditions.  Let your kid shine on his or her special day.

Keep reading for ideas wrapped up just for you, courtesy of Playparty.net, about how to make holiday birthdays magical.

Rituals are important

H. Ann Myers advises parents to “make birthdays equal”, especially when there are two or more children in the household.  Be sure to include the rituals that are part of all other family birthdays.  Serve birthday cake and sing “Happy Birthday”—even if it’s December 25th.

Allow the birthday child to set the menu for the birthday meal.  Linda DiProperzi has two rules for post-Thanksgiving birthdays:  (1) no leftover turkey; and (2) no pumpkin pie with a candle stuck in it.

Create a “Birthday Zone”

If you’ve decked the halls with boughs of holly, create a “Birthday Zone” somewhere in your home.  Linda suggests hanging  banners in the birthday child’s bedroom, or putting balloons in the bathroom and writing “Happy Birthday” on the mirror.

Time shift the party

It’s not easy to plan a birthday party at the end of the year.  Some of your child’s friends will be away on vacation or busy with Christmas festivities.  Sarah Dees recommends “having a party a few weeks before or after the birthday” to avoid the holidays.

A half-birthday party is another option.  Some parents have a small family celebration on the birthday and a bigger party in the spring or summer.  Rose Richmond has three
children, all born in December.  When they were old enough to make a decision, Rose permitted each child to choose when and how to celebrate his or her birthday.  Rose’s kids
enjoyed planning their own birthday activities.  You might find that your daughter wants a June swim party while your son hankers for a backyard camp out in September.

Laura Amann provides perspective. “No one solution is perfect for everyone. Some kids resist celebrating on any day but their actual birthday, while some enjoy having a day that doesn’t involve the holiday.  It may take a few years to get it right.”

Consider other activities

Sarah believes that “kids don’t need a party every year”.  She “saves the big parties” for when her sons are five- and ten- years old.  Other birthdays are celebrated with a fun,
casual outing such as a visit to the zoo or lunch at a favorite restaurant.

Sarah also describes a tradition of family members gathering to view photographs and home videos.  Each person in turn shares something he or she loves about the birthday child.

Rose takes the birthday child to his or her favorite place and invites friends to join them there. “One year we took all of the kids ice skating.”  In lieu of gifts, Rose asks “everyone to come and spend time with the birthday person.”

What about gifts?

Gifts can be tricky.  Some December-borns feel that combination Christmas-birthday gifts are unfair.  On the other hand, receiving two rounds of gifts within a few weeks can be overwhelming, especially for younger kids.  Every family eventually finds a way to resolve the gift-giving dilemma.  Here are a few examples.

Laura says, “Everyone deserves separate birthday recognition.”  Never use holiday wrapping paper for birthday gifts and don’t put birthday gifts under the tree.  If the birthday falls on a gift-giving holiday, Linda suggests, “Carve out some special time when only she will be opening presents.”

For Christmas, Ann and her husband give smaller gifts to all of their kids.  In their household, birthday gifts are larger, more personal and more meaningful.  “The birthday gift has to be thoughtful, an expression of love, a message that we understand our son’s individual personality.”

Sarah keeps all of her kids’ birthdays “simple as far as gifts go.”  With her youngest son who was born on January 3rd, she planned a family activity for his birthday and postponed gift-giving until his half-birthday in July.

You may need to intervene if Aunt Mary gives a combination gift to the child with the holiday birthday while siblings receive separate gifts.  Sarah suggests tactfully asking Aunt Mary to combine gifts for all of the children in the family.

Wrapping it up

Celebrate your child’s birthday AND the holidays in the way that’s best for your family.  As Ann says, what’s most important is to “put your child first and make him or her feel
special.”