Cheeky Monkey's Tips for Perfect Park Parties

 There are many ways to celebrate a birthday in the park. Prospect Park offers lots of options. Check out this link. But if you want to keep it simple and your costs down, here are some ideas and tips for a “Do It Yourself Park Party”.

 

 A race to remember

Picnic Spot

Find a picnic spot that has shade and trees. The trees are essential props for party games. One of the best places in Prospect Park is amongst the trees by the lake and Audubon Center. The grassy meadow of the Neathermead provides plenty of room to run around and the Audubon Center has are bathrooms and (especially in summer) air conditioning. It’s a nice area that you could have to yourselves if you get there early enough on a weekend day. The Picnic House near the Long Meadow is a popular spot too with BBQs and tables.

People Power

 

Park parties need more adult bodies than home parties. Make sure you have a few parents that will stay to help supervise games and the children if it’s a drop off party.

 

A Tip on Timing: Park parties always last longer than home parties and usually there are a lot of late comers, probably due to the length of time to get to your spot. Don’t stress out waiting for all the guests to arrive. Lay out the craft on a blanket and do some tattooing, provide water and snacks and if you feel brave get out the face painting crayons and do simple pink noses and whiskers.

 

Before any activities start, explain and demonstrate where the boundaries to the picnic area are. Walk around the boundaries so the children have a clear picture of how far they can go when playing and hunting and racing.

 

Craft



Wands to decorate


In true Cheeky Monkey Party style, start with a craft. This gets the kids engaged straight away and allows time for all the other children to arrive.

 

Load your Ikea Bags or shopping cart up with markers, stickers and stick-on jewels. Decorate a banjo, wand, fish or bag . You could provide paper so the kids can go bark rubbing or some coloring pages of animals and park stuff. Lay it all on a blanket and get the kids to tuck in!

 

Face painting scares a lot of parents, but with face painting crayons (available in local toy stores) the children can actually decorate their hands or ask an older child to do pink noses and whiskers on everyone.


Games

 

Team Games, Races or Classic Party games

 

Most of us have a number of games we played as children that would be perfect for the park. Here are a few examples you can add to your list:


Throwing Bugs or Knock Down Tin Cans (a great warm up game)

Decorate your cans too!!

 

Tip your shopping cart onto its side and stack up some tin cans or place some plant pots on top. Line the children up behind a marker on the ground (a jump rope or stick) and throw bugs into pots or beanbags to knock down the cans. When they are done, send them to retrieve the bugs or re-stack the cans and get back in line. Little children of 3 & 4 usually want to play this game again and again.

 

Races

 

Wheelbarrow races, sack races, egg and spoon, balloon under and over. There are potentially hundreds of races you can do. All of which the children will love.

 

Smaller children like obstacle courses. If you have a tunnel and cones that is great but otherwise borrow outdoor items from friends or just use what you have. Line up the objects and demonstrate what the children have to do. You don’t have to have a race, just keep them going through the course at a steady pace. At the PSP harvest fair a couple of years ago, I provided an obstacle course that consisted of a tunnel, hula hoops and cones. The children were asked to go through the course and collect a felt banana and bring it back to a basket. The children didn’t want to do any of the other games I had planned, just that one, for about two hours! A PSParent at a party I attended did a similar thing with the children’s shoes. Bare feet and an obstacle course; what more could you want? Do check the area for broken glass before you embark on this game.

 

If you have time to make something, a car race is great fun. I made some out of Freshdirect boxes (see main photo). Simple, easy to do.

 

Treasure Hunts

 

Every party needs a treasure hunt. I like to do a nature hunt for the older children, 6 and up. I put together a small booklet that has tasks for them to do. Find a leaf, draw a park animal, do a tree rubbing, look for treasure. For younger children, you can do this on a simpler level or you can just give them a picture guide of the things they need to find and hide them around the picture area. Or you can just hide lots of one thing and let them go for it!

 

Water Games

 

Not so easy to do in the park, unless you have access to lots of clean water or you find a water fountain and have a lot of patience. But here are a few ideas that don’t need a huge amount of water but can help you cool off and have fun.

 

--Waterbombs. Fill up balloons with water or waterbombs and line the children up and get them to throw them back and forth until they are dropped and explode!

--Target Practice. Shoot down tin cans with water pistols. Or if you prefer, waterbomb the tin cans.

 

My dad every year would offer to be the “Sponge Man”. He would run around an area and we would throw sponges at him. If you got a hit you got a sticker! This game only got funnier and easier each year as I sped up and he slowed down!

 

--Apple bobbing. You can do this without water. Tie the apples on long strings to a tree branch and set a timer for the children to try and each as much as they can. It’s quite hard but hilarious.

 

--Over/Under Game. Have the kids stand in a single-file line. The person at the front of the line dips a sponge into a bucket of water to get it as wet as they can, and passes it over their head to the next person. That person tosses it under the legs, and so on. The goal is to keep as much water in the sponge as possible. The child at the back of the line squeezes the sponge out into a pitcher to see how much water they kept in the sponge.

 

Sticky Toffee Type Games

 

Basically, all the games the kids play in the school yard with friends, they love to play at their parties too.

 

--Sticky toffee. Tag but when you are caught you link hands and tag someone else together. Keep going until the whole group is part is linked.

 

--Steal the Fangs. This is a physical game where the children make human chains and have to steal fangs from each other. Four teams of five (or two teams of 10) are lined up and have to hold each other’s waists in a chain formation and not let go. The child at the front is the stealer and the one at the back has 5 fangs pegged (or 10 if just two teams) to him/her. The idea is when an adult shouts go, the teams trot around and try and steal fangs off each other. If the chain breaks, that team has to give away a fang to the nearest team. When the first team loses all their fangs the game stops. The winning team is the one with the most fangs. Team members can switch positions and you can start the game again once the fangs are pegged back on.

 

Slightly Calmer Games

 

If you want the children to perhaps calm down a little before cake time, then these games will slow the pace:

 

--Pass the Parcel or Hot Potato In this classic game, children pass the parcel or potato around a circle until you shout STOP. The person left holding the parcel must leave the game. The last kid NOT to have the parcel wins.

 

--Pass the cup. The children sit in a circle. Start the game by giving one of them a cup with small bits of paper in. Tell the children which direction to pass the cup. Tell them to speed up and slow down, hold over their heads and change direction, get up and turn around etc. Then shout STOP and whoever has the cup takes out one piece of paper and does what it asks. You can write tongue twisters, spells, poems, exercises and other tasks to put in the cup. When the task is complete, start the game again and carry on until everyone has had their turn.


Spiders and yarn for Tarantula's Web
Spiders and Yarn for Tarantula's Web

--Tarantula’s Web. The children stand around in a circle, one of them holding a ball of yarn in one hand and the end of the yarn in the other. They throw the ball of yarn to someone else in the circle but must keep hold of their end. The next person unravels the ball slightly, holds the yarn and throws the ball to someone else. The children carry on as long as they want making a massive cobweb. When they are done, spiders are thrown under the cobweb. An adult calls out a name and that child must carefully crawl under the cobweb, whilst still holding the yarn, and grab a spider. Carry on until everyone gets a prize. Make sure to wrap up the yarn and put it away at the end of the game.

 

Prizes

You don’t have to have prizes, or you might just want a nice gift to give at the end in a goodie bag. You could have a badge that the children can peg on their clothes award them stickers after every game: they then can claim a prize at the end of the party. String up the goodie bags around a tree for prizes that are won at the end of the games. You will need to put names on the bags however.

Kid-decorated goody bags

Things the children can use to play in the park are probably the best prizes. Model airplanes, balls, insects, bug boxes, magnifying glasses and noisemakers. I have found that ribbon sticks are a great prize. They aren’t expensive but loved by boys and girls alike.


If you want to make things, insect rocks (see the picture) are fun to do with your birthday child before the party.

Snacks

As the PSP link suggests (see below), don’t worry about food too much. The children want snacky things like chips and crackers, they are way too busy to sit down. Lots of water is the main thing and maybe a cupcake.

 

Please try to use re-usable picnic ware if you can. I provide a general trash bag and a bag for the picnic ware that I can take home and was up.

Check out the Park Slope Parents link regarding park parties, when you need a park permit and other useful tips.

Enjoy the summer fun and party on!

Joanna

Joanna is Cheeky Monkey Party, a local Park Slope business dedicated to children’s party games. She is happy to answer any of your party queries if you email her .