Rock & Fossil Party -5yr- Pan for Gold
Laura in Oregon City, OR USA
My son turned 5 last March (sorry I'm posting this so much later!) and he decided he wanted a rock & fossil birthday party. His Papa has gotten him really interested in rocks, minerals, & fossils so he actually knows quite a bit about them; consequently he had a bunch of ideas about what to do at his party! Since the weather is iffy in Oregon during March, we decided to have the party in our garage. Our garage is a 2-door so not huge, but it worked perfectly for 11 kids. I must make note that our garage is immaculate due to my husband's OCD (not really but when it comes to his garage it seems like it!). If our garage was crammed with stuff it wouldn't have worked.
INVITATIONS: I wanted to make rock-shaped invites so I went to Michaels and found some cool grey, crinkly paper in the by-the-sheet bins. I also bought some vellum and grey brads. When I got home I ran the vellum through the printer with the words: Help us dig up some fun!/ You are invited to a rock & fossil party celebrating/ Alex's 5th birthday!/ Wear clothes that can get dirty and come on over to our house for/ rock digging, fossil making, gold panning & more!/ Date/, Time/, Where/ Lunch will be provided/ Parents are welcome to drop off or stay for the adventure/ RSVP/ We hope you can join us--it's going to be geodes" of fun! Then I drew a rock shape (about 4x6) on regular white paper and cut it out (I'm terrible at drawing but it worked out).
Then I drew the same shape only slightly smaller on a different piece of paper. I then cut out "rocks" with the big template on the grey paper and with the smaller template overlaying the wording on the vellum. Next I attached the vellum on top of the grey paper with brads up at the top. For extra excitement (because honestly not that many kids know a lot about rocks or fossils) we included 1 cool rock per kid from Alex's own collection. We bubble wrapped it put the invite & the rock in an envelope and weighed it at the post office (a little more than a stamp). Voila!
DECORATIONS: Okay so there are NO rock or fossil or mineral party goods out there! Alex was a great sport and decided he wanted to get black plates cups etc. from the Dollar Tree and decorate with his own rock collection. We took Dollar Tree black rectangular tablecloths and "roped off" the perimeter of the garage. We bought a generic colorful "Happy Birthday!" banner and attached it to the inside garage door. I rented a helium tank ($29.99) from Party City and blew up dozens of balloons and bunched them together all over the place including out in our driveway. I also bought a couple Dollar Tree coordinating generic "Happy Birthday" table toppers. Around the garage we hung rock & fossil posters from The Learning Palace. My church/Alex's preschool let us borrow 3 round kid tables & chairs so we put those on one side of the garage. On the workbench and in the house we "sprinkled" rocks around (seriously the kid has hundreds of rocks) set out his rock kits with identifying paperwork rock books etc. It looked really cool!
ACTIVITIES: This is where Alex really had input. When the kids first arrived they got to make a pet rock. I had generic rocks on each table plus acrylic paints squeezed on a paper plate googly eyes chenille wires pom poms etc. so they could make whatever they wanted. We put them on black paper plates and set them aside to dry.
Next we went in the rock dig. The day before my husband blew up a kiddie pool and I put shredded paper in it. FYI you need a LOT of shredded paper! I shredded massive amounts of newspaper ran out then shredded paper grocery bags. It worked but I wish it would've been fuller. Anyway I had bought an igneous rock kit and a fossil kit at Lakeshore Learning Center and hid them in the paper shreds. The kids took turns getting in the pool and digging for treasure! They each got to keep 1 item. It was especially fun when it took somebody awhile!
Next we all panned for gold. I bought a couple dollars worth of pyrite (fool's gold) on ebay. The guy was awesome! He sells it by the ounce so I requested that within my 2 ounces he send me 15ish pieces. He was great--even sent an extra rock gift for Alex as a birthday present. I used my long under-the-bed storage container and mixed sand from our backyard sandbox with water. Then I buried the pyrite nuggets in it (they were pretty small). My friend's husband actually panned for gold many years ago so he let me borrow his pans but you could just use metal pie tins with holes punched in the bottom for drainage. My husband helped the kids with this. We could do 2 kids at a time and they got to pan until they struck gold. They LOVED it! They actually thought it was real gold!
For our fourth activity we made fossils. I bought that Sculpey stuff from Michaels (grey of course) and gave the kids each one chunk. I used a coupon so it was .79 for 5 chunks. Cheap! I gathered together every little plastic spider bug dinosaur etc. in the house and let the kids smash down their Sculpey and make an imprint with the animal of their choice. Then I put them on wax paper lined cookie sheets writing the kids' name in Sharpie underneath their fossil. Bake according to Sculpey directions and you have a fossil! After these three games we had a lunch break.
FOOD: I usually choose theme-related snacks but Alex really wanted Subway so I made it easy on myself and ordered a party platter of subs set out a beautiful bowl of grapes had individual bags of chips and offered pop & Juicy Juice. Yummy & super easy. We got our food in the kitchen and took it out to the garage where the kids sat at their little tables and the grown ups stood and chatted. We had quiet background music playing to make it more party-like. Kids could also peruse the rocks Alex had set out. Much to my delight they were fascinated! MORE
ACTIVITIES: After lunch we played "pass the geode" (purchased at Lakeshore Learning Center). BTW I had ordered some stuff off Oriental Trading (like the geodes) but it didn't arrive in time so I went elsewhere at the last minute. Oriental Trading has some good stuff so I recommend you try there. I got each of the kids a pair of "safety glasses" for the geode breaking. Since my Or. Trading order didn't arrive I just bought plain sunglasses in the party favor area at Target. We sat in a circle turned on some music and played pass the geode like hot potato. Simply pass the geode around until the music stops. The kid stuck holding the geode gets to crack it open. The kids donned their safety glasses took their geode & stuffed it in the sock as per the directions and hammered away until they had cracked it open. They were all amazed at the crystals inside!
For our last activity we went on a treasure hunt. I had purchased brightly colored rocks on ebay and hid them in a salt flour coffee ground mixture (recipe can be found online as I've forgotten it--google coffee ground rocks or something like that). My kids & I hid them around the house before the party. Each kid got to search around until he/she found 1 treasure rock. When everyone got one we went to the tables in the garage and tore cut open with a plastic knife etc. them open until they found the treasure. Very exciting for the kiddos!
FAVORS: I had ordered drawstring sacks at Or. Trading but didn't get them in time so at the last minute I went back to the Dollar Tree and bought these little brightly colored canvas bags that were in packs of 3 for $1 (maybe 4x3). I used puffy fabric paint and wrote the kids names on them and let them dry overnight. At the beginning of the party I gave each child his/her sack to put the rock from the rock dig "gold" geode etc. in. Also inside was a package of pop rocks and small Dollar Tree magnifying glass. They also kept their safety glasses. Perfect little keepsakes.
CAKE: When all the activities were done we had ice cream sundaes (Alex's request) instead of cake. I bought vanilla ice cream chocolate syrup caramel syrup whipped cream and (da-da-da-da!) chocolate covered rocks from the bulk area at Win Co. They were really good! If you don't have a Win Co check your local grocery store that has a really good bulk dept or Sweet Factory etc. We had a lot of choc rocks left so I put some in a snack size ziplock bag for each kid to take home.
ACTIVITIES (part 3): Last we opened presents. Somehow that part flew by! I had specified 3 hours for the party on the invite and after gifts we had about 30 minutes left. Some kids played with Alex in his room some (mostly the girls) worked some more on their pet rocks some checked out his rock collection on display. The party actually was really fun! I had a great time planning it decorating & watching how excited my little boy was. Surprisingly all of the kids loved it! I had a few girls (age 5-9) that had a great time too! I still get compliments from the kids & parents. It was definitely unique and most of all my little Alex LOVED it! I think he'll remember it for years! "
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