In Laurel’s 5+ years of birthday party going, we've seen a variety of home and off-site party ideas, but yesterday we experienced something very cool and different from the typical house or play gym party: a New England Aquarium On-the-Road birthday party.
Available for members and non-members (the friends who hosted the party first learned about the program when they became members in order to avoid long ticket lines at the aquarium on a blustery day), the traveling aquarium party was a huge hit with the kids. Two aquarium staffers were on hand; they first taught the kids about tide pool critters by showing them large pictures (while explaining anatomy and behavior), having them guess at questions, and engaging them in some sea creature role play. Then they let the kids loose to explore the starfish, mussels, crabs, snails, etc., that were housed in observation trays on a tarp on the living room floor. (They also concluded with a larger surprise guest...I won't be a spoiler here.)
The staffers were wonderful; laid back, friendly, and excellent at relating to the kids and making the educational piece fun, and the kids couldn’t get enough of the hands on activity. Personally, given that Laurel has always tended towards shy, it was great to see how comfortable she was with the staffers, even at one point agreeing to don a starfish costume. Laurel lingered after most of the kids had finished exploring the observation trays; she was so sweetly eager to usher me over to teach me everything she had learned about the tide pool critters.
Since Laurel (and admittedly our) preference has been towards small, home parties, we haven't needed to go the at-home entertainment or off-site play gym route. But for those looking for a birthday party idea for a larger group of kids, definitely consider the traveling aquarium party. It was super fun, hands on, and educational. And way easier to experience the aquarium to go than herding a gaggle of families downtown…especially in a monsoon like yesterday.