Race Cars Party -7yr- Cardboard Race Cars
Holly in Albany, CA, USA
My son wanted a race car birthday party not because we are racing fans (we aren't) but because he likes all kind of vehicles -- we hadn't done cars yet -- and of course he likes going fast! So we spent some time learning about all different kinds of car racing (I always try to use our party themes as a learning opportunity!) and put together a fun party for about 24 (!) kids, mostly first graders, plus a few younger siblings age 3-4.
INVITATION: I purchased a racecar themed letterhead-type printed paper and matching envelopes from PaperDirect.com and printed the invitations from my computer, using a font that used Nascar-style stripes on the main headings, and one with flames coming out of the letters for some of the subheadings. The text read: Start your engines! You're invited to register for the [child's name] 700 / Step on the gas and don't be late / We are going to celebrate! / [name] has zoomed through his 7th year / Drivers time] [our last name] Speedway [address] / Pre-Registration: [phone & email] /Sponsors please contact the Speedway by [date] /Pre-registered drivers may order unlimited pit crew passes and free race tickets for sponsors or fans! (please provide name and age of siblings or other children who will attend)" (Thanks to previous entries here for the idea of calling the party the [name] 700!)
DECORATIONS: Party supply stores and websites yielded black-and-white checkered flags and pennants cardboard cutout pictures of raceway pit crew etc. checkered table covers and a set of wall murals that made our entire living room and dining room look like a speedway! (They are 8' tall by 10' long so they cover the entire wall divided into an upper and lower half for mounting.) We also had some mylar balloons with racecar designs and black and white regular balloons and a fringed banner with a flames design. We stuck the flags in our front yard and along the porch railings and on a corner of the porch next to the door we put out a spare tire and a hydraulic jack with a line of pennants hung above it; it made a really cute display.
ACTIVITIES/GAMES: We set out all of my son's Hot Wheels toys and other toy race cars for the children to play with as they arrived. We also had a craft station set up at the dining room table with coloring/activity pages (found some at IndyCar.com others at various websites) and with plain white paper bags to be used for the pinata later which could be decorated with markers and/or race car and Hot Wheels stickers. After everyone was there I brought out the four cardboard race cars I had created ahead of time. I cut race car shapes (side view approx 9" x 22") out of cardboard covered the shapes with solid color gift wrap (each car a different bright color plus silver paper cutouts for windows) taped them together with rectangles at the front (hood) and rear and poked holes for wooden dowel "axles" at the bottom. I made tires out of a sheet of black foam rubber purchased at a hardware store cut into circles with a utility knife and with the metal wheels drawn on with a silver marker. A small hole in the center of the tire allowed it to fit onto the dowel; there were eight tires per car so that the tires could be changed. String tied to the dowels on the inside of the car formed carrying handles. By cutting the cardboard into a racecar shape I made these cars look much more aerodynamic and realistic than it would be to just use a rectangular box! It was a lot of work but a fun project.
I divided the kids into teams by having each child pick a scrap of paper out of a plastic race helmet; the scrap matched the color of one of the cars. Each team could decorate their car using assorted craft materials and a variety of product/company "sponsor" logos that we'd cut out of packages and copied and printed from websites -- kid-friendly brand names like Lego Disney Quaker Oats M&Ms etc. Then we had a relay race. Because my son's birthday is in the winter we can't count on good weather and we did not have great luck this year -- we had to do the race indoors. We moved the furniture out of the way and laid a masking-tape oval race course around the floor of the living/dining room with four areas set aside along one wall as the pits.
The idea was for each member of the team to take a turn as the "driver" by getting in the car and racing one lap around the course then stopping at their team's pit. At each pit stop the team had to change the tires and then a new driver would go. I intended to also have the team "refuel" the car by having a crew member hold a small water bottle for the driver to drink from but in the end we decided not to do that because things were sort of chaotic and we didn't want a lot of water spilled indoors! I started the race by waving a green flag (homemade from a piece of fabric taped to some extra wooden dowel) and they were off! Some teams had some trouble with axles falling out and such but everyone had a good time and at the end of the race I handed out a trophy to everyone.
These were small plastic trophies from Oriental Trading with a sticker on the base I'd printed out that said "[child's name] 700" and 1st 2nd 3rd or 4th. The kids LOVED the trophies no matter what place they got. Finally we had a pinata shaped like a racecar of course but with a fun twist! We've always done pull-string pinatas before because they are safer and more manageable indoors but my son is at an age where he REALLY wants to smash the pinata instead. But I can't have young kids swinging a stick around in my dining room! We came up with the idea of swinging the car pinata into a "barrier wall" as if it were crashing out of the race.
My husband created a section of barrier wall out of plywood and covered it with gray paper to represent concrete and mounted it on a pole (about 4-5') and tied a string to the bottom of the pinata by which the kids could swing the car overhead. Each kid had a turn to try to smash the car against the wall. With one dad holding the wall and another holding the pole that the pinata was hanging from we could keep the swinging from getting out of control. This was great fun for the kids! The pinata was filled with Nascar car-shaped chocolates little packs of gummy race cars and party mints in checkered-flag wrappers (from Oriental Trading and party store). After the pinata we served the cake there was more time for free play with the Hot Wheels etc. and finally my son opened his gifts and handed out the favors.
COSTUMES: My son wore a Nascar driver costume purchased on clearance sale from Shindigz and we had a plastic race helmet for each team's driver. My husband wore a coverall with a greasy cloth hanging out of his pocket and ear protectors. (I just wore black and white and my daughter wore a t-shirt with a car engine design.)
PARTY SNACKS: Bread and sliced cheese cut into car and number-7 shapes using cookie cutters round slices of ham and crackers (tires speedometers and steering wheels are round!) pretzels carrots chips and dip punch and juice. The party was midafternoon so we weren't serving an actual meal; we just had the snacks and drinks set out buffet-style. We used racecar and Hot Wheels themed plates napkins and cups including some plates with a tachometer design that had the needle pointing to 7 - my son loved that!
CAKE: A race car of course! I enjoy making special shaped cakes and this one was a challenge. Made from one 10x15x3 and one 9x9x2 cake stacked with one long side trimmed down to form a narrower rectangle and the top corners trimmed off to form the angled shape of the top of the car. Plus a spoiler made of a frosted graham cracker (split lengthwise). Frosted in bright green (my son's favorite color) with orange racing stripes and number 7 on the sides and top. The tires were chocolate sandwich cookies with white piped-on wheels and rims and I used orange frosting and black gel to pipe additional trim/decorations for the front and rear of the car using some Nascar photos as a reference. We also cut the extra strip trimmed off of the main rectangle into squares frosted those and topped each with a cookie "tire" and served them in Nascar-themed cupcake papers. We used a trophy-shaped candle from a party store plus 6 additional regular birthday candles on top of the car cake.
FAVORS: As my son opened each guest's gift he handed that guest a goody bag - which was actually a racecar-shaped box (from Oriental Trading). In the box we had car stickers a car-decorated pencil and notepad a metal diecast car a small plastic pullback car a rubber bracelet with race-themed words and a small yo-yo that looked like a tire. Each child of course also had candy from the pinata and a plastic trophy.
For thank you notes we used the same paper as for the invitations and decorated the envelopes with leftover stickers. In hindsight I think 6-7 may still be a little young for complicated team games but they all had a great time with the race even though it was pretty disorganized. And we've heard that the cheap little trophy is about the best party favor ever! (Who knew?) I had fun putting this one together and hope something here will help other people throw a great race car party."
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