Idea No.


Construction Party -3yr- Toolbox Docorating



January 2007


Gail in Deerfield, WI, United States

Special Mention

Construction Party

For my son's 3rd birthday, we had a construction party. 

Invitations were just simple.  I downloaded a picture of Scoop from Bob the Builder and used the caption, You're Invited to a Construction Party!" Inside it said: "Bring your construction clothing (something with holes or paint or stains or axle grease) and some after-I'm-clean-again clothes to go home with. There's a lot of work to be done so bring your muscles and your smiles and have fun!  Don't forget your parents. They're going to be put to work too!" 

We decorated our porch with yellow orange and black streamers and made a big happy birthday sign out of butcher block paper. We made little yellow and black construction signs taped them to bamboo sticks (found at a lumber store for $2) and stuck them along our walkway up to the porch.  "Birthday Party This Way" "Construction Zone Ahead" "Little Men At Work".  Inside we had a yellow tablecloth over the table with an orange plastic table skirt around the bottom of the table that I found at a rummage sale.  In the middle of the table we had the birthday cake covered with a black tablecloth that I cut just big enough to hide the cake for unveiling later (looked like a pile of dirt). We had birthday helium balloons all around the table held down by small toy construction trucks on the floor. 

For activities I planned toolbox decorating and house constructing. I was going to do a tool treasure hunt after we decorated the toolboxes but ran out of time to plan for it.  In my efforts to get all the little stuff done for the party I ended up not being able to find a large box from a store to use as a house. So I found some cardboard boxes (that used to have windows in them--VERY sturdy) at a lot where a house was being built and I asked if I could have them. They ended up being perfect for what I finally came up with.  I unfolded them to be completely flat and they all had an extra piece of cardboard in them that was going to be perfect for the roof because they were notched.  Either I was unbelievably lucky or unbelievably creative because I was able to produce four walls--two short two longer--without cutting since the folds were in just the right spots and overlapped nicely for added sturdiness. 

Actually I did have to slice off one of the overlapping parts so the other flap could be the door.  I put two-inch strips of Velcro on the inside of one wall top and bottom and the outside of the overlapping part of the next wall top and bottom so when it was all Velcroed together it formed a rectangle. I cut notches out at spots on top of the walls to match up with the notches that were in the roof pieces and put some extra Velcro in spots to help support the roof and that was enough to make sure things didn't cave in.

I put the house together with my husband before the party to make sure it would work and then labeled each piece (A top A bottom B top B bottom etc) so the notches on the roof would match up correctly with the wall pieces--like putting together a model. I cut out 5 window openings each the same size and then frames from white cardboard to go around the openings. I poked holes through the frames and through the spot on the wall where the frames would attach around the window opening--one in the upper left corner and one in the lower right. (The boys were going to be supplied with plastic screws that would fit in these holes so the frames would stay on the house.)  I labeled these too so the holes would match up.     

After the guests arrived (five friends) I had everyone decorate their own plastic toolbox (found at a dollar store) with construction stickers and I included letters so they could put their names on them (parents helped). Each boy had a work apron (Home Depot) with their names on (I did with yellow 3d paint) a toy hammer saw screwdriver and pliers in their toolbox along with a few plastic screws with nuts (tools acquired from rummage sales months before the party).

Next I had my husband pull out the disassembled pieces of cardboard that we had up on the porch and he threw them on the ground and said "Okay boys time to make a house."  The boys were looking at my husband like "Hah?"  We tied everyone's work apron on and put their tools in the pockets. He recruited the parents to help and made it sound like a real construction effort for them. "Danny you bring over Wall C. Mikey you slide Wall D over to this side. Now hammer them together.  Good work men!" 

Together everyone including the boys had the house velcroed together in about 5 minutes.  They loved how big it was--about 6 feet by 3 feet--and how the roof sloped up and down like a real one. They had a blast putting the windows on with their own tools and hammering and sawing here and there pretending to fix the house up. Then we brought out the tempera paints putting each of 5 colors in a separate bowl.  We put three foam brushes (bought 15/$1 at a craft store sale) in each color and told them to try to put the same colored paint brush back in the same paint color when they were done with it. Didn't go too badly.   

In my mind I just pictured them painting the outside of the house then playing inside but then one of the boys went inside and started painting which I freaked out about a little because I thought they'd get paint all over their clothes if they played in there. But one of the parents reminded me that they were in their paint clothes anyway. I've never seen something entertain a three year old for so long. If they weren't painting they were playing in the house. Even the 9 year old sibling of one of the boys who just came along for the fun of it was having fun with the painting. Several of the parents joined in too and added their own artwork. 

We had hot dogs and hamburgers for lunch with pickles goldfish potato chips and applesauce.  The birthday cake was actually brownies broken into chunks and piled on a big tray--like a pile of dirt. My son had a plastic Tonka crane truck (which he never used much) and the 3" wide bucket on the end could be lowered and lifted with a crank lever. So I cleaned it really well and set it up next to the brownies.

After the unveiling of the cake the boys used the crane to serve themselves dessert. They lowered it to the tray scooped some brownie pieces in with their fingers (tried a spoon but it was too awkward for them) cranked the bucket up swiveled it over to their bowls and lowered it again. The parents thought it was a hoot. The boys maybe had a little too much fun with it because their serving sizes were a little large.  I had whipped cream available too but none of the boys added it to their "load".  I think chocolate syrup might work as a topping--maybe in little cups for dipping.

The boys took home their toolboxes with tools aprons and a helium balloon.  And the construction house was on the porch for weeks being played in until it finally gave out.  A very inexpensive party with big fun. I think this would be a great party for 4 year olds too.  "

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