Move Winter Birthday Parties Outdoors
Warm up birthday party fun with three fresh-air activities
Kimberly Burger Capozzi
Winter winds and chilly temperatures chase many parties indoors. But why not squeeze in a few minutes of outdoor activity at your next winter affair? It can be a treat for kids longing for the run-around days of summer. Just be sure to alert guests to bundle up, and have plenty of warm drinks ready back inside.
Already have a party theme in mind? These ideas can fit right in:
Sports or Adventure Theme: Take your action-minded partiers outside for a Summer Sports Obstacle Course.
Animal Lovers Theme: When the birthday child is wild for critters, let her lead the way in a Wildlife Tracking game.
Fairy Tale Theme: Whether it’s a party for princesses, super heroes or other characters from the world of make-believe, guests use their imaginations to Build Fairy Landscapes.
Whatever the weather, bring out your favorite sports equipment for summer games with a twist. If snow falls, it will only add to the fun!
What you need:
- Gear for a variety of sports and games (baseball and bat, soccer ball, golf club and ball, fishing rod, tennis racket and ball, beach ball)
- Wide, open outdoor space, such as your yard, the park, or an empty parking lot
What you do:
1. Create a circuit around the outdoor area with several stations. At each station, place a piece of sporting equipment. Leave enough room between each station for safe play.
2. Pick an action for each station, keeping in mind the age and abilities of your guests. Examples: Kick soccer ball around a cone. Putt golf ball into a turned-over bucket. Cast a fishing line (without hook) at a target.
3. Pick some lively music to play on a portable CD player during the game.
4. Time to party! Line everyone up behind the birthday child. Do a course walk-through and explain each skill. Then start the partiers one at a time, spacing each child to avoid backups. Crank up the music and watch the fun!
5. To add some competition, split the kids up into teams and use a timer to see who’s the fastest.
Get party guests thinking AND moving when you send them on a search for photos of the creatures around them.
What you need:
- Pictures of five animals from your region that the children will “track”
- Pictures of five animals that live in faraway places
- Paper or cardboard
- Hole puncher
- Yarn or twine
What you do:
1. Explore nwf.org/wildlifewatch to learn what animals are common in your region, pick five, and then pick five fun non-native animals (elephant, giraffe, etc.) Find pictures of the animals in magazines, in computer clip-art, or on the Internet.
2. Create cards by mounting the pictures onto paper or cardboard in a size that can be easily seen, about 5x7 inches. Punch holes in each card and attach loops of yarn or twine.
3. For the five native animals that will be tracked outside, write simple clues about how each spends the winter.
a. I have long ears and a fluffy tail. In winter I grow thick fur and spend lots of time with my family in my burrow underground. I hop around to eat and leave footprints in the snow. What am I? (Answer = RABBIT)
b. I have a long, bushy tail. I’ve stored nuts and seeds in my nest for the winter but also come to visit your bird feeder. (Answer = SQUIRREL)
c. For more ideas, see this Ranger Rick Magazine article.
4. Print the list of clues on one sheet of paper. For younger children, include the animal pictures to help with the guessing.
5. Before the party, hang the 5 picture cards outside. Try to place them where the animal might spend time, such as in flower beds, on tree limbs, or in shrubs.
6. Time to party! Read the first clue and ask the group to guess the animal. Once the children have guessed correctly, send them on a search to find the matching picture. Read the next clue and continue until all the animals are found.
7. Use the other five wildlife cards to keep the fun going with a game of animal charades, having the kids pick one of the cards to act out. Or lead a version of “Simon Says,” where the players must “run like deer” or “chatter like a squirrel.”
This shoebox craft starts with a nature walk to collect supplies and ends with a take-home creation that reminds each child of the magic of the outdoors.
What you need:
- Cardboard shoeboxes
- Twigs, dried leaves, moss, small rocks, dried flowers, acorn caps, pine cones, etc.
- Dried beans, seeds, nuts (if there are no allergies)
- Bits of used, clean foil and plastic wrapping that otherwise would be thrown away
- Cotton balls, buttons, colored paper and other craft odds and ends
- Enough liquid glue so that every two children have at least one bottle to share
- Bags for collecting supplies on nature walk
What you do:
1. Collect cardboard shoe boxes, one for each child, or ask guests to bring their own. The scene will be built inside a box set on its side; the inside bottom will serve as the background.
2. Gather plenty of natural items before the party to supplement what the children will collect. Moss works especially well but can be hard to spot in winter. Trim evergreens and dried flowers from your garden.
3. Set out the rest of your supplies and have a work space ready to go for when the hikers return.
4. Time to party! Tell the children they are going outside to collect the furnishings for their own fairy-land. Give each child a collection bag, have them bundle up, and head outside. Discourage picking berries – they are an important food source for wildlife and some may be poisonous to people.
5. When everyone is back inside, serve up hot cocoa or apple cider while your guests get to work.
Kimberly Burger Capozzi is a mom and freelance writer based outside Pittsburgh, PA. She has written about parenting issues, wind power and military spending programs, and chronicles her family’s efforts to cook wholesome meals at www.chefzi.blogspot.com.
Get Outdoors with Your Family