I've long been a proponent of gardening with kids, but that wasn't the only reason I adored the hands on, tchochke-free garden(ing) party my friend Nicola (of teddy bear tea party fame) assembled for her daughter's sixth birthday party. You will totally want to copy this awesome idea.
First off, I found the relative simplicity and back to basics nature of this party so appealing. These days, kids birthday parties tend to get huge and complex and outsourced and expensive. I recognize that part of the challenge is that kids develop a large network of neighborhood, preschool, and elementary school friends (and siblings) and some kids want everyone they know present. (I've been lucky that Laurel prefers home parties with just a few close friends.) Though the birthday girl definitely has said wide network of pals, Nicola was determined to fix the party size in order to keep it fun and relaxed and at home. There were 10 guests, plus the birthday girl and her sister. The party ran from 11am - 1pm.
There were balloons, streamers,and tunes to create a festive feel. Pizza, fruit, veggies, beverages, and decorate your own cupcakes were served. And aside from the central gardening craft (more on that next), the girls enjoyed the gorgeous weather in the backyard -- making up their own games, and enjoying adult-led ones (sack race, balloon popping, parachute and balls, etc.). It was great -- just kids being kids frolicking around the garden.
Now, on to the gardening part. Early on in the party, the girls each painted a terracotta pot + dish (on a big tarp spread out on the driveway); Nicola's husband had sprayed the terracotta pieces in advance of the painting session (since terracotta is porous and would otherwise absorb the paint too much). Nicola used a pencil to write each girl's initials on the bottom of their pieces and the pots were set to dry in the sun while the girls played. Later, during lunch (after the pieces had dried), Nicola's husband again sprayed the terracotta pieces with sealer to seal the paint layer in.
After lunch, the girls filled their pots with soil and flowers. Nicola bought 24-pack trays of impatiens; each individual square of the tray was small -- perhaps 1-1.25 inches square -- so the girls planted 3-4 stems per flower pot. To prevent a mess in the house, Nicola's husband brought out a basin, filled it with water from the outdoor hose, and the girls could clean up from there. It worked beautifully.
While the girls resumed play, Nicola put a popsicle stick marker (labeled with each girl's name) in each pot, plus a colorful lollipop. As the girl's left the party she also handed out cute plastic watering cans to go with the pots.
Isn't that fabulous? Simple, promoting of nature and nurturing, functional, and free of wasteful favors. I love it. And so did the party guests.