Road Rally -3yr- Car Wash
Deby in Columbia, MD USA
Road Rally for my 1yr old and 3yr old sons. Twenty-eight children and thirty adults in attendance at my home. The party included a carwash so the invitations instructed the "drivers" to bring a riding toy -- change of clothes was "optional".
Upon arrival, sign on the front door instructed drivers to check-in with the "Motor Vehicle Administration" to receive Driver's License. We designed the licenses to look like a real license and pre-printed them ahead of time with the children's names and addresses. It read Zach and Matty's Birthday, the date of issue was the day of the party and the license number was the ages of the b'day boys and the year. At the "MVA", the children's pictures were taken with a izone Polaroid camera using sticker film and placed on the license in the appropriate place which had been pre-sized. Completed licenses were placed in baseball card sleeves which were purchased inexpensively at a local baseball store. Upon completion of their license, drivers (and their parents) were then given a scavenger hunt list as a warm-up activity and to facilitate people getting to know each other.
Example: Find the guest with the yellow hat (guest was given yellow hat ahead of time); find so and so guest and learn how to say "Happy Birthday" in Spanish. The seven activities were geared towards preschoolers focusing on numbers, colors, etc Upon completion of each task, the person they were seeking gave them a racing sticker to place on the back of their driver's license. The first 5 drivers to fill-up their license with 5 stickers received a special prize. This was really a great activity because it got everybody involved right away.
During this time, we also invited people to eat. In addition to standard party fair, p'nut butter and jelly and coldcuts, raw veggies and dip, fruit salad, etc special party foods that were served were "wheels" (4 mini-Oreos placed in racecar printed cupcake papers); stoplights (halved graham crackers spread with vanilla frosting with yellow, green and red M&M's; goldfish crackers in the shape of racecars; lollipops in a variety colors made from candy molds found at Joann's Craft Store.
Activities: After eating, the "drivers" were invited to free play, "wash" their car at the carwash or make a "vanity license plate" at the License Department of the MVA. All "departments" had identifying signs made from computer printed regular 81/2 x 11" sheets of paper taped to large paint stirring sticks obtained for free at the local Home Depot -- just stuck 'em in the ground! :) Signs included: CARWASH, GAS STATION (Little Tykes gas pump), MOTOR VEHICLES ADMINISTRATION, AUTO REPAIR (put out a box of various tools from my son's play workbench), SHOWROOM (put out box of streamers for the drivers to decorate their vehicles for the parade).
Carwash: I recommend putting away your hose for this activity. I bought a package of 10 cheapy sponges at the dollar store as well as 3 spray bottles at the Home Depot. We had an eclectic collection of about 5 large beach buckets and filled them with baby soap (to prevent skin irritation)and water. Close-by was a large laundry basket of old towels to dry off the vehicles and another basket filled with beach towels for drivers that got a little too wet. Just for fun (and protection) I put a bottle of regular scented and grape scented suntan lotion in a bucket in case anybody needed and hung it from a pulley type rope in a nearby tree. The drivers/kids had a great time washing their vehicles. (we had extra vehicles on-hand for those few children who came without).
Vanity plates: We set-up 2 tables for the kids to make their vanity plates. I pre-cut large foam sheets in the size of a license plate(cheaper to buy a package of the large sheets -- available at the craft store) and punched 2 holes in the top and knotted and tied string so that the kids would be able to tie their plates on their vehicles. In Sharpie marker I put "Zach and Matty's Birthday" at the top and the date of the party on the bottom like a real license plate. The drivers decorated their vanity plates using various foam shapes (using tacky glue),party theme stickers and alphabet stickers. There were some real creative masterpieces!!
After driver's licenses, eating, playing, carwashing, creating vanity plates, fixing-up and gassing up, we were ready for the parade. I had arranged with my next door neighbor ahead of time to use her driveway as a "staging" area for the parade (hers was large and flat and mine is small and sloped. This time period (the staging and parade) allowed my "helpers" to transition the party, clean-up a bit and get everything ready for cake time. Before the "parade" started, I equipped a few key parents with whistles to "man" the parade route (I live on a corner which allowed for a good parade route without straying too far from the house). After everyone was gathered, I blew my whistle and turned on the parade music (Famous Marches CD found at the library) on the portable boom box. What a site to see these precious 1,2 and mostly 3 year olds on their little vehicles, riding in the parade. After the parade, we sang Happy Birthday, ate racecar cake and gave out goodie bags.
Goodie bags (clear bags printed with colorful transportation vehicles)included: Hotwheel car (obtained at a buy one get one free sale at Toys-R-Us), Hotwheels racecar mini-notepad, racecar fruitsnacks (Brachs -- I was very excited to find these), racecar kazoo, racecar stickers, ruler, racecar pencil and whistle keychain all purchased from Oriental Trading in bulk amounts.
Decorations: Also purchased from Oriental Trading were racecar pennant flags which we lined our garden beds and driveway with and a racecar pennant banner which lined the front of our house and along our fence -- it was quite festive. In addition, we had smaller versions of the pennant flags which were placed and taped all over the house along with various road signs and balloons (of course).
Festive Dress: I found racecar driver shirts in a catalog and dressed the boys alike in matching shirts, khaki shorts and hotwheels sunglasses found at Target. My husband and I wore "Birthday Pit Crew" shirts with racecar checks on the sleeve which we found in yet another catalog.
This party was a labor of love, a little crazy, a lot of work, and lots of fun. The ideas weren't all original. I read about the carwash in a magazine long before I ever had children and I gathered some ideas from this website as well. We put together what we thought were the best of the ideas, made improvements and added some of our own. Some would say, why spend the time and money on a party for a young child. But my 3-yr old can tell you all kinds of details about what he enjoyed about both his 3rd and 2nd year parties. I stay home with my children and shop sales all year round and plan ahead. The key to a successful party is planning AND delegation.
All adults without children and some with children had a job. I made name tags (diecut car shapes)with job titles for the working adults (I asked them ahead of time if they would mind working)as well as the VIPs of the party (grandparents, out-of-town guests, etc). I had helpers take pictures for the licenses, oversee the craft table, clean-up, oversee the carwash and other venues, take pictures and video, provide security (to make sure the kids didn't get out of the fenced in area without an adult), participate in the scavenger hunt, decorate, etc this allowed my husband and me to enjoy the birthday festivities (this is key!!). Mommy of course, was CEO of the party!! :) :)
Tip: We expected rain for part of our party and it did -- it's always good to have a back-up plan -- the scavenger hunt came as a result of the rain plan. I recommend putting away a lot of your toys to keep chaos and clean-up to a minimum. I put everything away in my basement play area except for a ton of legos which were easily cleaned-up. Upstairs, I left out very few toys and put away special toys (to my children) and toys that are especially popular (to minimize squabbles).
For a planned outdoor party that had rain part of the time, my house was none worse for the wear due to good planning. Also, try to time out your schedule of activities so you don't run out of time or have time on your hands with unruly and bored 3-year olds. I put the schedule-of- events on the refrigerator whiteboard so that the "helpers" knew what was going on and when.
Our next mission??!! A rocket ship party!! YIKES!! It was so much easier when I came up with the ideas!
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