My friend Nooshi is amazing at identifying a cool party theme then really running with it. A couple of weekends ago she threw a marvelous Messy Party for her son’s third birthday and the party was unbelievably fun and beautifully creative. Here’s a run down of how she made it all happen:
Nooshi credits features from Martha Stewart Kids and Cookie Magazine as providing initial points of inspiration. (Although in my opinion, if you check out those features then read below, Nooshi took the idea to a whole new level!)
The party invitations were comprised of finger painted flat cards by Nooshi’s son, covered with vellum with the printed party information over the top. The two layers can be attached using glue dots, ribbon, or metal fasteners.
Obviously, messy parties are best suited for warm weather birthdays. This party was held at one of the pavilions at Filipello Park in Watertown. A permit from the Town of Watertown Recreation Department is required to reserve the tables & grills (Nooshi suggests reserving well in advance). The site was terrific in that the pavilion we were at was right next to a tot lot (not part of the reservation), and also a short walk from the spray pool and restrooms.
Nooshi rented outdoor speakers that plugged right into an iPod; she reports that this was well worth the cost.
Painting I: Large sheets were set up on the grass and kids were provided 16 x 20 inch canvas panels, cups of paints, and various bristle and roller brushes. A clothesline was strung to hang paintings to dry, although there was plenty of space to simply put the paintings to the side after the kids were done. Likely due to the freedom of the space, Laurel painted in a way I had never seen before, in Jackson Pollock spatter style. The result was totally cool and we’re going to frame it. One kid painted his canvas then decided to paint himself (pictured).
Painting II: This part was impressively adventurous and some kids really got into it. There was a long, wide roll of paper and big trays full of paint, and kids were encouraged to paint with their feet. [Nooshi notes that Oriental Trading has phenomenal prices on art supplies but you need to order paint well in advance as it cannot be air shipped.]
Sidewalk chalk offered a nice alternative for younger kids or the less adventurous.
A bubble blowing machine was running, which the little ones went berserk over.
A fleet of inexpensive spray water bottles (procured from Target) provided a fun way for the kids to cool off, and also offered another good activity for little ones.
Cornstarch: The kids went bananas with a dozen boxes of cornstarch: throwing it, dumping it, making footprints through it. I couldn't even tell the kids apart by the end of it.
For snacks, there were cute little paper baggies of Pirate Booty and cheese puffs (think dusty and messy snacks).
Dinner included (messy) spaghetti with sauce, grilled chicken, and piles of strawberries and blueberries.
For dessert, Nooshi baked angel food cupcakes (from a box mix – just add water!). They heated hot fudge sauce in a pan of water on the grill and topped the cupcakes with hot fudge and whipped cream, creating the desired effect of chocolate & whipped cream covered faces.
Super cute touch: Nooshi’s son wore a “Mr. Messy” t-shirt to the party.
The biggest challenge of this party was getting everything transported to the site.
Following inspiration from Danny Seo (via his Epicurious article on green entertaining, plus meeting him at my Method party), Nooshi planned the event so that all the craft material was earth friendly and water-soluble (this ruled out silly string, another messy activity option). They opted for paper cups and plates over plastic so that any stray items would eventually decompose.
Despite how messy the kids got, once the paint dried and the cornstarch was largely brushed off, transport wasn’t really an issue. But we found that the bath towel favor served perfectly to partially cover Laurel’s car seat in case we missed any messiness. I had to laugh though; when I was chatting with another girlfriend about how she was going to get her four (extremely messy) kids home, one of them piped up, “We’re all going to drive home naked!”