Sunday, November 20, 2011

Construction & Building Birthday Party

You know those blogs that show you these perfect birthday parties for kids? They rent furniture, they get a baker to bake something fancy and covered in fondant that shoots fireworks, they get a photographer and they go hog wild.  And then the kids look like they're having fun but they're not really paying attention to the decor?  Well this is not one of those birthday parties.

This is one of those birthday parties where kids & imagination reign.  It was a cardboard box city on a whole new level.  The idea was a construction/building party--it came together to be one of the most cost effective parties of all time and the kids loved it.

From the people who bring you Ignite Creative Learning Studio, a studio that embraces creativity and imagination in extracurricular academic classes, learn how to build the perfect construction party for your child's next party!

Materials (it looks like a lot but it's not so bad):
1 for every 2 kids large appliance boxes (we had 5)
Lots of assorted smaller boxes of all sizes
Your recycling; egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, soap boxes, shoe boxes, paper towel rolls, plastic tubs from cookies and things
Sidewalk Chalk for little hands
Washable paint in several colors
Paint roller pans
Paint rollers and brushes (smaller rollers for kids)
Safety Scissors
An exacto knife for an adult
Washable markers
Wood working center with wood pieces and an adult handyman and some special tools
Ride-ons that don't require helmets (have kids bring their own!)
Gold coins or pennies
Favors (1 per kid): - Label them with their names so everyone is sure to get one of each thing
Toolbelts (cheaper at Home Depot than Loews and you may be able to get them for free)
cut pieces of wood
sand paper squares
plastic hard hats
miniature tape measures
electrical tape
2 kinds of savory snacks like popcorn and veggie sticks
water, milk and or juice

The Setup:
1. Cut doors and windows in the boxes with an exacto knife.  If you want, you can label some of them like General Store, Snack Shack, and Bank.  The Bank played a part in our story so we needed to make sure it was there.
2. Get all your supplies together and set them aside for easy access
3. Start collecting interesting pieces of recycling and store in a safe place
4. On the day of the party, draw lines on your driveway or sidewalk for the ride on drivers.  Put in crosswalks, two lanes and different signs like "dead end" for the end of the driveway and "one way." Kids can help with this!
5. Setup the large boxes around the yard or driveway, remember, kids will be painting on these boxes so if you are worried about paint on the driveway you may want to put old sheets under them or something or extra cardboard
6. Put the assorted boxes, recycling and markers in an accessible area and label it as Building Supplies
7. Put the screwdrivers, tape measures and electrical tape in one of the large boxes and call it the general store.  If you have a cash register set it up nearby--adults can run the store but only kids can fit inside--if you have some kind of side opening it works well for adults to crawl in and find the tools with their name
8. Setup paint trays and rollers next to the large boxes and fill with paint colors right before the kids arrive or as they do
9. In the back yard or a neighbors (get permission first!) setup a coin hunt.  Hide coins at kid height in both harder and easier places. Concoct a story for later about a bank robbery (Our story was that there was a bank robbery in town but when he ran away through the back yard there was a hole in his bags and he dropped coins all over--who could find them?)

The Arrival & The Party:
1. As kids arrive, have a grownup at the front welcoming them (as workers) and giving them their supplies along with five coins with which to buy their tools at the general store and snacks at the snack shack (tell them how to use their coins).  Tell them about the town and the rules (really there are no rules but you can give suggestions about driving around or painting the buildings. If they seem nervous and there's not a big crowd give them a tour.
2. Have another adult stationed at the General Store to help with the purchasing of their tools
3. Let the kids do their thing, if they seem like they don't know what to do offer suggestions.  Try to get the braver kids to the woodshop area if possible
3a. The adults should carry safety scissors and a few other special materials (in their toolbelts!) in case the kids need something extra
3b. Have paper and pens available in case kids have another idea of what they need to make their town perfect
4. Midway through the party open up the snack shack and put an adult there to "sell the snacks" 1 coin for each bowl--some savvy kids may buy more than two snacks by dipping into the cash register...
5. Later in the party, when you are seeing a lull or just before you want to break for cake & presents, announce the robbery (at our party, some kids were building a police station so we got them involved in the robbery and had them announce it).  While the kids run around looking for coins setup the cake and move on to that.
6. At the end kids can use coins they found in the hunt to buy other favors if you have any others that you'd like to.
7. Let the kids play in the town a bit more until they have to leave


  • The Coin hunt was fun for us to work the story into the party but it was not necessary.  These kids did not bore of the cardboard box town and riding on the roads
  • The paint was a huge hit, if we had more rollers and colors it might have been nice. People also wanted to paint their creations at the woodshop
  • If you don't have a handyman in the family you could buy a few pre-made kits for woodworking and have those on hand to build or put together or you could skip this part altogether--although it was a big hit
  • The trick is to be hands off but filled with ideas. If someone asks for help or looks bored you can point them in the right direction
  • If someone wants new materials and you don't have them try to suggest something similar--or run in the house to find them

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