Astronaut Training Party -5yr- Space Coveralls
Dana in New Port Richey, FL
Astronaut Training and Space Mission Birthday Party With his very newly arrived little sister on hand, we decided to make my son's 5th birthday party a fun event for him at home. We choose an Outer Space Adventure for the theme. We had grandparents in town to help and employed several of the party-goer's older siblings to assist in the activities. We planned the party to last 3 hours so parents could either drop off their kids or stay if they liked. This is a long description for a long party.
INVITATIONS: I printed the invitations on plain white cardstock paper using a basic template I found online of a front and back of a space shuttle. On the back of the shuttle I printed [Invitee's name] you've been selected for Astronaut Training in honor of [birthday boy's name]'s 5th Birthday! If you accept your mission report for duty at [time and location details]. Confirm your seat in advance by contacting Mission Control Agents [parents' name and number]." The front and back cut-outs were stapled together along with inserts of the day's itinerary instructions to wear pants and socks and a suggestion that guests offer the birthday boy homemade coupons towards a future playdate in lieu of gifts. From each invitation's scrap of cardstock I cut a long strip (roughly 7"x1/2") stapled its ends together to form a small loop and cut two opposing slits (from top halfway to bottom) to use as an upright 3D display stand for the space shuttle invitation. The stand could be collapsed flat with the shuttle already placed inside its slits and then fit inside a half-fold greeting card size envelope for mailing.
COSTUMES: As guests arrived they were each given a plastic space helmet and were dressed in a space suit (the smallest painter's style disposable coveralls I could find cut down and individually duct taped to fit). On the suits I added duct taped stripes and I put stickers I'd printed onto bumper sticker self-adhesive paper of a NASA icon a space shuttle the American flag and flight wings with "Astronaut in Training" labeled underneath. We took pictures of each astronaut standing behind a life-size cut out poster of an astronaut suit and a picture of the entire team like the real astronauts do then reviewed the planned activities for the day.
GAMES: The first half of the party was physical training and space simulations outdoors. We did several activities.
1. We played "Commander Says" (just like Simon Says) where the birthday boy gave instructions for the astronaut trainees to move as one might in space with less gravity (slow motion jump turn around etc.)
2. We checked lung capacity with each astronaut trying to blow off the wrapper of a restaurant straw.
3. For zero gravity experience we used a swivel office chair. First each astronaut would sit in the chair and try to move it from a point A to a point B without touching the ground (a demonstration of the lack of "equal and opposite reaction" in zero-gravity). Then each astronaut would try to withstand a fast spin in the chair demonstrating how astronauts in space will spin continuously in zero-gravity if they are not holding on to something.
4. For our space experiments the astronauts went on a search to collect moon rock samples (rocks from a local landscaping business I'd painted with glow-in-the-dark paint and placed around the yard pre-party). They also donned thick garden gloves and with them tried their hand at screwing in 2-liter bottles into their caps to see how challenging working inside a full space suit can be.
5. Finally since life inside a space craft can include chasing floating objects we fired up our toy bubble blower and had our astronauts run around trying to catch as many bubbles as they could for practice. (This would work just as well with a manual bubble wand held in front of a blowing fan.)
PARTY SNACKS: After all that physical training it was time for lunch. Like real astronauts in space our astronauts had to prepare their own meals. They each made their own pizza (refrigerated canned biscuit dough for crust pizza sauce and shredded cheese) to which they could add cheese slices and/or pepperoni slices that we'd already cut with star-shaped cookie cutters. During the ten minutes the pizzas were in the oven the astronauts made instant pudding in ziplock sandwich bags. (Just put a serving size portion of instant pudding mix into each bag let the kids add a serving size portion of milk zip tightly and shake!) The pudding packs went into the refrigerator to gel while the kids ate their pizzas then we cut a small bottom corner from each bag for the kids to squeeze out the pudding to eat it like astronauts might do. Grandma insisted on getting Astronaut Dried Fruit and Space Food Sticks as well as the rocket shaped kid cups from Denny's Restaurant for drinks (very cute!) which came with a mix-in powder to change the color of the drinks.
ACTIVITIES: After lunch we were ready for the space adventure itself. We'd cleared two rooms for this--one for the flight preparation and the other for outer space. At Mission Control (the flight prep room) the astronauts worked together to create their own space shuttle out of my son's Mega Fort construction toys and they played at mission control (our entertainment center covered with cardboard designed to look like monitors keyboards buttons etc.). We then had the astronauts remove their shoes and explained to them what stops they would be making in outer space. A quick count down as they laid on their backs with their knees in the air and we were off! The astronauts took with them walkie-talkies (a gift from Uncle) and flashlights they optionally brought from home.
DECORATIONS: In our darkened outer-space room I hung black streamers on the entry door and hung black poster boards covered with glow-in-the-dark star stickers on the wall. I added black light bulbs in two out-of-the-way tall floor lamps and posted signs on the walls written in highlighter pens (which glow under black light). A library CD of Holst's "Planet Suite" symphony playing in the background set the mood. The first of three stops in the room was the Moon Walk. The astronauts were able to walk and bounce around on an air mattress to get the feel of walking on a lower gravity moon surface.
The next floor section was loosely covered with blue white and gold balloons to mimic the surface of Jupiter. The astronauts had been told during flight prep that they'd weigh twice as much on Jupiter so they romped around the balloon surface in homemade stilts to make walking more difficult. (We made the stilts of inverted hard plastic bowls with opposing holes drilled in the sides near the the bowl bottoms for a knee-high loop of string to go through.) The last stop on the trip was the Galaxy Gallery. The astronauts could go under a long table wrapped in dark floor-length cloth where I'd put a home planetarium (a birthday present found at Target) that projected all the star constellations. The astronauts were free to travel at will between the moon Jupiter and galaxy stops.
When they were finished they each exited space though an ominous black hole (a bathroom connecting the Outer Space room back to the Mission Control room in which we placed one of my son's crawl-through pop up tent toys and a few glow sticks). Luckily they all made it through the black hole and back to Mission Control alive though several were quite concerned at first that they might not.
CAKE: At our Mission Complete Celebration the astronauts were congratulated on a job well done and ceremoniously each had their "Astronaut in Training" stickers on their space suit replaced with a "NASA Commander" sticker. We then had cake and ice cream. The cake idea I found online was an inverted half moon (a box mix baked in a round casserole bowl) with surface craters spooned out and it was frosted in gray (white frosting mixed with black frosting gel). On top of the cake I placed a miniature astronaut holding a flag a moon rover (small toy car with its top half ripped off) and an Apollo Eagle spacecraft (top of a milk jug cut out to four legs and covered in foil topped with a tea light candle in its own foil tin). The ice cream was of course the Astronaut Freeze Died version which I ordered online cheaper than I found it at the local science museums.
FAVORS: I really wanted the kids to be able to continue their space adventure at home so I went a little overboard with all the goodies. They got to keep their space helmets space suits Jupiter stilts and rocket cups. Their actual goodie "bag" was made of two Hefty brand disposable interlocking plates inverted on one another with generic circle stickers added as windows to make it look like a spaceship. Inside the spaceship I placed a printed cardstock planisphere (sky map) I found on the internet that will allow them to map the constellations in the sky for any specific day and hour of the year a compass a telescope Starburst candy an astronaut figurine a model space shuttle and bookmarks I printed on cardstock with links to cool space websites and pictures of the nine planets (Pluto now in parentheses) labeled with the "My Very Educated Mother Just Made Us Nine Pizzas" mnemonic to remember their names. (It was coincidence that we had exactly nine party-goers who did make nine pizzas!) I also included a 2" section of paper towel rolls in each to serve as a moon rock stand at home for the rock specimens they collected during astronaut training. I paper-clipped for easy removal a picture of the birthday boy around the rock stand with a "Thanks for making my birthday special" note and included foam stickers of space icons for each child to decorate the stand at home as they wished. Post-party I sent pictures of each child posing with the astronaut suit cut-out along with a team picture and included a thank you note where appropriate.
WRAP-UP: Because I knew I'd be busy with a new baby I planned the party over a three week period months in advance of the actual event. I went slightly over my intended budget ($150) on this one although technically only because of shipping/handling and tax (so I tell myself! LOL). I ordered extras of some items for our helpers and younger siblings who may have stayed for the party. Over half of the costs were for the coverall space suits space helmets freeze dried ice cream and model space shuttles which are easy fixes to make this a very inexpensive party indeed. (Try eliminating the suits and helmets altogether or substituting with plastic trash bags or paper grocery bags space suits and/or homemade milk jug or balloon shaped paper mache helmets. Share packs of astronaut ice cream--the kids think it's neat but won't be enamoured with the taste anyway.) We also used a good bit of items and toys we already had or were getting for continued home use anyway. I ordered most of our space specific supplies and favors from www.partycelebration.com which has awesome prices if you meet their $50 minimum order requirement. Most of the rest of the items came from dollar stores or groceries. Overall it was well worth it the kids had a great time and my son got a day all about him in the midst of the otherwise new-baby-in-the-house excitement. "
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