Vincent turned 5 yesterday. It is unreal to me that this has happened already! It was only a few weeks ago when we began to consider what kind of a celebration to have. I had but one idea in mind: to hire Lively Cake Designs to make the cake (this is not in my skill set). We didn't have a venue. I started making inquiries, and apparently I was several weeks too late in doing so. A home birthday party became evident. Jenn at Lively Cake Designs helped me to ask the burning question of my soon-to-be five son: What do YOU want for a party?
Somehow, his love of swords and shields and all things Narnia turned into a Knight Training Party! He loved the idea of a castle cake, and the ideas began to grow. I have a lot of paper crafting tools - including my Close To My Heart supplies and a Cricut Expression - as well as a desire to keep down costs by repurposing items and recycling what I can.
Prompted to get the invitations done so that I could offer Jenn a glimpse of the "concept", I worked to achieve an invitation that encompassed this concept, was a little different (a gate fold card with the flaps opening top and bottom rather than sides was one decision) and still conveyed the purpose of the party. Here are some photos:
At Target I discovered that Crayola has now packaged "glass markers". I outlined some of our "knightly" belongings on windows and got Vincent to color them in with me:
I conceived of things to do. In my mind, there ought to be a craft, so I scoured our house for appropriately sized cardboard boxes and cut shields out (after having cut the template with my Cricut). My plan was to cover them with foil and fashion straps...maybe out of duct tape. My terrific in-laws (and great hubby) had some ideas to tweak my concept. Spray adhesive made the foil smooth and diminished tears in it. Instead of duct tape handles, I got pipe cleaners that my MIL braided and my FIL made a jig, used my Crop-a-Dile to cut holes, and then fed the handles through. I used the Cricut to cut the first initial of all the "knight candidates" and also used it to cut images for the kids to adhere themselves to personalize their shields.
There should be activity. I thought that swords could really get out-of-hand, so I watched a youtube video on how to make balloon swords and we created those! My husband conducted knight training (the rules of sword play, some sparring techniques), and then we had a game based on the jousting warm-up: a ring game. We used glow bracelets embellished with ribbons and a wooden sword to offer stability. (I offered my Renaissance garb to add "ambience" to the party. Vincent loved the idea. Here, the dress stands by the swords.)
We realized that it would be a little boring for the kids waiting for the game, so I used my Cricut and an ink cartridge to draw some pages then copied them to make coloring pages for a station in the kitchen.
To regain some control, we rounded up the kids for a knighting ceremony (Vincent decreed the boys Sir and girls Dame and held his wooden sword in his hand while touching his friends' shoulders). I should point out that my awesome MIL suggested that we needed to define space, so she sent my hubby for a tarp. After the game, we spread it out and rounded the kids to sit on the edge. This made Vincent a true center ("High King") of the event, and it also served to protect the carpeting in our rental home from the inevitable cake spills. It was a genius move, especially given a rainy day and not enough chairs for the 26 children! From the knighting they moved to the table and surrounded the cake (I know you are all waiting to see this!):
What is cake without ice cream? Another stroke of genius by my MIL is an idea she shared with me years ago. We buy foil cupcake liners and set them on a cookie sheet. The night before the party, we scoop the ice cream into the foil liners and then put the tray(s) back into the freezer. (About 1.5 gallons gave us 50 scoops.) When it comes time to serve cake (or cupcakes), there is no wait for ice cream. The ice cream also has a "bowl" to melt into and creates less mess. You'll want to do this!
Here is High King Vincent with his chunk of cake, his ice cream, and wearing his crown (cut with the Cricut):
I let him make lots of decisions along the way. He wanted to give fruit snacks (not other candies) to his friends to say thank you. We made knight certificates. Although they did not leave with a goody bag (one girl did ask), they had a personalized sword, some had coloring pages, glow bracelets, the fruit snacks, and the knight certificate. The balloon swords mostly burst (and we had made extras, but this didn't account for boys jumping onto the pile!), so those didn't leave the house.
I am grateful to my family for helping with the final decorating details, and am grateful to the other parents who stayed and who did things like take pictures for me. It was a pretty fun time. Vincent's joy was worth it!
I do want to say one other thing. We've been to a lot of parties where the gifts aren't opened. My MIL got all the Knights to give Vincent their presents. It is a nightmare for me to write the thank you notes, as it was mayhem. But the absolute DELIGHT on the kids' faces to get to give the presents they selected, to have a conversation about them with their other friends...even to experience the act of GIVING...I am glad we didn't miss out on that. Vincent had a chance to show his gratitude right away, and it was a really neat way to end the party. Maybe we should remember that our kids need to see that side of the giving (and receiving) of gifts - so don't be afraid to let them open the presents!