Tuesday, September 23, 2014

“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our family loves adventure. And we love to travel. We have kind of unofficially adopted Emerson’s quote as our family motto. We are blessed to have had opportunities to travel. And when we travel, we love to get outdoors as much as possible. We are a camping, hiking, exploring kind of family.
When we camp, hike, and explore, we find ourselves in national parks. Just this past summer, we visited three national parks, two national monuments, and one national military park. So, it was really no surprise when our son announced that he wanted the theme of his upcoming birthday party to be about national parks.
Theme parties are fun, but my philosophy is that they shouldn’t be stressful. I want to have as much fun as my son at his party (as opposed to being stressed out about getting the party together).  My style of party planning is fairly laid back. I gather items we already own, make easy and thematic snacks, and plan a couple of fun activities. This party was no different.
For the National Park Service cake, I made a chocolate chip cookie cake. After it was baked, I cut it into the shape of the NPS emblem, then iced and decorated it to mimic that emblem. This was fairly easy and became the focal point of the table.
Other snacks included Buffalo Chips (no-bake chocolate cookies) and popcorn.

Since water is a must when hiking in national parks, cold bottles of water were the beverage of the day (it doesn’t get much easier than that).

The table was decorated with items we already owned, most of which were souvenirs from recent trips to national parks. We used stuffed animals, Junior Ranger badges, maps, wildlife signs, postcards and books.

The activities at the party centered around what you might do if you were at a national park. Since most of what you do at national parks is done outside, we set up the party on our back porch. We also set up a tent. Before the party, we asked each participant to bring a backpack and a pair of binoculars.

My husband talked to the boys about reading maps and using a compass while hiking. 

Then, he led them on a short hike in a nearby group of trees. They watched for wildlife (saw a snake), observed plant life, and looked for interesting items along the trail. Many of the boys picked up items and brought them back in their backpacks.

After eating goodies and opening gifts, the boys (as all boys in Alabama do any time they gather) played some two-hand-touch football.

Need more activities for your NPS party?
Try making a geyser (like Old Faithful) using Mentos and Diet Coke.
Play Rattlesnake Tag.
Printables and coloring pages for NPS can be found here.

One blogger posts about a similar themed party: Junior Ranger Party.