Farm Birthday Party -3yr- Bob for Apples
Elizabeth in Elon, NC, USA
Farm Birthday Party. About the same time that we started planning our son's 3rd birthday party for Nov 1, my in-laws bought a tractor to take care of some land that they own. Between that and our son singing Old MacDonald Had a Farm a few dozen times an hour inspired the Farm theme. After much looking around, it was actually about the same price for us to throw a huge bash at home as having a small party at a rental facility. On a beautiful September afternoon, I dressed our son in overalls, a plaid shirt and a fishing hat. We moved the tractor in front of a hay field and put Aaron on the tractor to let him play. We snapped a couple dozen digital pictures and took the best, most impish picture and made invitation postcards with Aaron on the cover.
We invited 12 2-4 year olds, their parents and assorted younger siblings. We have a friend with horses who was willing to come give horse rides. She is a detective, though and was unfortunately on call the evening of the party, so she wasn’t able to bring her horse. I knew this was a possibility, so didn’t have Horses as a leader on the invitation. I did advertise a hay ride. My father-in-law hooked a wagon up to the tractor and took the kids around his pond and 7 acres of hay field. (They live next door to us) We have a nice size back yard, and a small house. We prayed for dry weather. But we reserved our church fellowship hall for a rain location, because our house is not designed for large crowds, at all.
We got a beautiful 83 degree November Indian summer day. The party ran from 4:00pm to 6:00pm and included dinner. The timing was very important, because our son is very nap dependant and we have declined some birthday parties because they were smack in the middle of naptime. I also figured that would get everyone awake from their naps before coming to the party. Sun set was predicted for 5:30 that evening, so we had some darkness to contend with.
We set up 6 tables in our side yard, under a maple tree, with all the leaves unraked for atmosphere. We borrowed about 30 Straw bales from a friend who is a landscape contractor. We used 16 of them for benches (covered with old sheets) at the tables. We covered the tables with plastic checkered tablecloths (OTC.com) in varying colors. We put pumpkins cut in half on the equator and supported open with red painted dowels with leaf floating candles (OTC) for some light late in the evening. We served Chili (hardy, cheap, and DO AHEAD), baked potatoes, vegetable tray and chicken fingers thrown in for the picker eaters. We set up my father in-law’s covered trailer with a cardboard façade of a barn on the back with the ramp down at the bottom of our driveway. It had a sign that said Welcome to Old MacAaron’s Farm Birthday. There was a side door that opened into our back yard. Inside the trailer, there was a table with a bag of game tickets for each child (printed on business cards) and a bandanna (OTC) My husband’s grandmother (who never met a stranger in her life) greeted the children and their parents as they arrived.
For decorations around the yard, we had a scarecrow (borrowed a used Halloween costume from a friend and stuffed it and stuck it on a stick) a couple of straw bales and the games. We all wore bib overalls and planned on wearing flannel shirts, but it was 83 degrees, so tee shirts worked nicely. We set up several games as stations around our yard, with adult relatives running each activity. We planned to have activities from 4:00-5:00 eat at 5:00, then cake and presents. We had a slop the pig game where I printed out a 3x4 feet blow up of a pig coloring page I found online, somewhere. I just printed it on plain paper and taped it together. Then I glued it to card board. I got a huge roll of industrial Velcro at Sam’s Club (a must have at kid’s parties!) I put the soft side on the pig’s mouth and put the hook side on 6 ball pit balls. After each child got 3 hits, They each got their main favor bag. For the 2-4 year olds, each had a beanie farm animal, a sheet of farm stickers, an ink stamp, a few tootsie rolls. The pig was stuck to the side of Aaron’s wooden play structure with more Velcro. We had an egg gathering activity in a playhut tent maze. I put a little straw down in the tents and put Easter eggs with a farm theme sticker and a little eraser (both OTC). Each kid was allowed to find a certain number of eggs.
There was an apple bob. Since it is cold season and the primary guests aren’t particularly large mouthed or coordinated, we had a blind folded hand grab apple bob. My brother and sister in law ran this game. They had a cutting board, apple wedger and caramel apple dip at their station. I made fresh caramel popcorn and set out party mix on the tables in bandanna lined baskets to look like chicken feed. It was definitely not necessary because it was mostly untouched because people didn’t notice it because of the games and everything else. It could have been much less. The last game was a fishing hole. I took a punchball balloon (dollar store), put it in a small ziplock, squeezed the air out, and then put it in another ziplock with some sand to weight it. I put soft side of Velcro on the bags and the hook side on a metal paint roller cleaner (curved DULL hook shaped thing with holes on it that I found in the basement) I tied the hook to a dowel and put plastic tub beside the sand box so my dad could pour the sand back into the sand box when the kids caught their fishes.
The last activity was the hay ride. We had 2 small incidences surrounding the hayride. One little boy fell down boarding the wagon at the start. He wasn’t hurt but frightened. We started the hay ride when the other activities started to wind down. It was also a transition for supper. I cooked the chicken strips while the kids were on the hayride and we put all the food on the tables. When the kids got back, unfortunately, our son got a piece of straw in his eye. He was fine in a minute or two, but we had to wash it out. Then we ate. We sang Johnny Appleseed as a blessing which was a roaring failure, because no-one sang with my mother and I, but it was a good ecumenical blessing. One child missed the earlier hayride and we had a family arrive really late, so we ran another hayride. They returned from the second hayride as it became really dusky.
We sang Happy birthday, led by my mother and mother in-law (who both sing MUCH better than I do) in total darkness, other than the birthday candle. That really added to the drama. We lit the candle on the tables to serve the cakes. I made 2 9x13 sheet cakes. I cut off the top corners longwise of the cake, frosted it with vanilla butter crème frosting, then colored some of the frosting red and made a barn as a 2 sided view. I used store bought black frosting to make the roof and the trim. I made the second cake frosted with the same frosting, then took the left over red frosting and mixed it with melted chocolate to make soil for a field. Then I colored some flaked coconut green and sprinkled it on in straight lines like a field. It turned out that we ate every bite of the barn, but didn’t need the field because we had a couple of no-shows. We set up a couple of lights by the back porch and opened gifts right after 6:00. Then everyone said their goodbyes. It was a fabulous party. Aaron asks if he can have another birthday really soon. I’m not sure I’m ready to have these monthly, though, too much work. Everything was planned and planned again, but it gave everybody stuff to do and they had fun.
There was plenty of free play. The children had a blast playing on Aaron’s jungle gym, sand box, and with his wagon. I put away all the not farmish toys. I also put out a big quilt, Aaron’s little people farm and several books for the littlest guests. My husband thought that I over planned, but everyone was having fun when I looked and I had time to look because everything was planned in advance. I took pictured of each of the kids on various activities, and used those pictures on the thank you notes for the gifts. For the grownups’ gifts and for the children who weren’t able to attend, I used a picture of Aaron at the party for the covers. I’m particularly bad about getting thank you notes out because I don’t like hand writing, so I made a mail merge and printed them up.
Advice to anyone thinking of a similar party, borrow where your can, use your talents and recruit talent where you lack. I’m a planner, and I used the heck out of my computer and cooking, skills. I delegated the chili making to my husband and father-in-law. My mother-in-law did the barn façade, beautifully, I must say. My mother did a great job of leading the singing and playing stand-in host while I was getting last minute things out for the party.
The total cost was about 250-300. I spent about 100 on favors, paper goods and decorations. 130 on food and 25 on a rented helium tank. I did use up the bulk of a color cartridge for my printer, a pack of business cards, index cards, lots of paper, and the roll of Velcro. If we rented party space, it was about 100 bucks for the place we wanted for 1 hour. If we had bought a cake, that would have been 30-40 dollars. It seemed like a lot, but when I thought about it, (Maybe I’m rationalizing) we want to teach our children to surround themselves with friends, family and fun and to find more fun in making memories together than to have material things. I also want my son to feel comfortable having his friends over to his house to play so he’s comfortable with hanging out at home when he’s older and staying out of trouble with his friends.
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