• birthday cakeSo there I was, just as I’d been so many times before, standing around the food table in a friend’s living room chatting away with my classmates. It was cool for a little while, but once I was done tasting the different dips and had my fill of potato salad I stepped away from the group and looked around. Most of my classmates were there and we might as well have been sitting in the school cafeteria doing the same thing. When I looked outside all I saw were the adults eating and talking to each other by the portable basketball hoop. I wondered how much longer it would be before they cut the cake so we could go.

    Suddenly a man came walking up the driveway with about 10 hula hoops draped across his left arm and carrying a large mesh sack in his right hand. He walked to the middle of the yard and dropped the equipment on the grass. When I looked more closely I realized that the man was Mikayla’s, the birthday girl’s, dad. He blew a loud sharp whistle and called the children to join him.

    I realized that you don’t really need a lot of money, don’t need the flashiest clown, or the largest moon bounce to make a birthday party fun

    We sort of dragged our feet gathering around him on the grass. He went over some of the rules and activities of what he called the “Birthday Olympics.” We listened halfheartedly at first, but then he grabbed our attention once he started talking about prizes. A buzz took over the group and people started whispering to one another in excitement. He lined us up, and handed out the equipment for the various activities. He timed us using his stop watch, which was hanging around his neck and used a rating system by holding up index cards numbered 1 though 10. He announced the winners of each event using the terms gold, silver, and bronze medalists. He was definitely lopsided with his scoring system giving those who were less coordinated a few more chances to make it more even. However, none of us really cared, since we were laughing and having a great time anyway.

    We played games like, who could last the longest hula hooping, potato sack races, high jump, distance jump, shortest jump, and more. Most of the time, it seemed like he was making the stuff up as he went along. Though the games were pretty basic and the prizes mediocre at best (more like 99 cent specials), it was still one of the best and most memorable birthday parties I’ve attended. I realized that you don’t really need a lot of money, don’t need the flashiest clown, or the largest moon bounce to make a birthday party fun. With a little planning and creativity you can come up with individual and team activities using regular backyard equipment and toys. Whether it’s in your backyard, the park or at a pool you can find ways to keep the crowd entertained. Just buying a birthday cake and putting out a spread just doesn’t cut it. You don’t need to spend a lot of money but if you keep the kids active and put your energy into the party everyone will have a great time.