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Party Ideas that Mix Enrichment with Fun
Posted on February 4, 2012 by Natalie Gingerich Mackenzie

A good party can build lasting childhood memories. Of course, parents want to throw giggle-worthy events, but some parties can also offer a cool new learning experience. Instead of having one at the nearby bounce house or bowling alley, you can throw a lively fiesta at home that can stretch kids’ imaginations. Our home party ideas require some creativity and preparation time for mom and dad, but we think everyone will find them enriching and fun.

Here are a couple of party ideas to consider (we have a treasure chest of ideas so please come back to this area for more of them in the future).

1. Party Plan: Pixel’s Rainforest
The Occasion: Birthday or Earth Day (April 22) (age 4+)

Kids can get their “green” on and discover tropical rainforests by making “rainforest” terrariums with eco-friendly plants and faux egg-laid animals. Create a rainforest ambience in your home and serve mouth-watering jungle-themed food. To prep yourself on rainforests — and to ensure the kids don’t outsmart you — check rainforests from the Nature Conservancy beforehand. We named this party theme after the Ballooning Nest Eggs mascot Pixel, a real live Panther Chameleon lizard living in Florida.

Décor: When guests arrive, hand out tropical fern leis or flowered leis to get everyone in the spirit. At the table, create a centerpiece by arranging flowering plants like African violets ( into a tiered pyramid (or simply get a leafy plant). Add butterflies. Lay a green tablecloth and scatter flat bottom marbles so it looks like glistening moss. Sprinkle the table with rainforest finger puppets and sticky and stretchable lizards and flying frogs.

Fill the air with sounds from a Puerto Rican rainforest or poison dart frog CD. Hang an alligator or toucan
piñata (you can also find these at a local party store). Get more safari-tastic party ideas here.

Activity: Create your own tiny terrariums. Each kid will create a miniature ecosystem, or terrarium, to take home where they can care for it (minimally) and watch as water and sunlight work together with the soil to grow greenery inside.

You’ll need quart-sized canning jars (find them at grocery or hardware stores, or give clean, empty tomato sauce jars a second life), pebbles, Sphagnum moss, and soil (at garden stores). Top it off with small terrarium-friendly plants—succulents work especially well—which you can find online at or

Before you begin, set a large paper tablecloth on the floor or table. Here are the five easy steps:

  1. Put an inch layer of pebbles in the bottom of the cont ainer, allowing for good drainage.
  2. Layer Sphagnum moss on top of the pebbles.
  3. Add a layer of moist soil on the top. The layer should be at least two or three inches thick.
  4. Poke small holes into the soil and transplant the small plants into the container.
  5. Finish with kids’ choice of the sticky lizards or frogs and butterflies for decoration.

Food: Delicious dessert terrarium
In a clear glass bowl, layer cubed chocolate cake, pudding, crushed cookies, etc. to mimic the layers in the terrariums that the kids created. Use green-colored frosting (try Betty Crocker’s spray cupcake icing in Meadow Green) to top the convection off with “plants.” Older kids can make their own dessert terrariums. Set out the ingredients along with clear plastic or glass cups and they can layer their own eco-goodies.
Snacks: Veggies and dip platter, and bowls of Terra Chips.
Drink: Rainforest Fizz
Mix sparkling water with a splash of cranberry or grape juice and raw sugar cubes or agave syrup to taste. Use sticks of sugarcane for stirrers.

2. Party Plan: Where in the World am I From?
The Occasion: Birthday (age 6+)

Take kids on a trip around the world, connect them to their family’s roots, and sample the flavors of the foreign lands their families came from — without leaving home. Before the party, ask the parents of each child to share with you one country that their kids’ family emigrated from. (This is best for a smaller party with 5 to 10 kids; otherwise it could become overwhelming!)

Décor: Hang a pre-made international flag banner. You can also print different maps online to use as placemats (laminate them to make them reusable). Decorate the table with various themed objects, such as Asian fans, fortune cookies, Mexican maracas, or cutouts of flags and dress. For a fun photo opp, set up a standup like this one with cut-out faces where kids can pose for pictures. Let kids pick from a grab bag of hats from around the world — these add flair to the party and make great take-home party favors. Inflatable globes can also be party favors.

Activity 1: Around the World musical chairs
Make this time-tested active game more worldly by playing songs from many different countries. Parents can download world music from iTunes or and make their own playlist or buy a Putumayo CD. Ask kids to guess what country the song comes from as they round the chairs and grab the closest seat before the music stops.

Activity 2: What am I (country style)?
For each native country, create a list of fun facts such as a popular food that comes from that country, how to say hello and goodbye in the local language, big landmarks or attractions (such as the Eiffel Tower in France), famous actors that come from there or movies that took place there, etc. and print them out.

In this game, each child gets a “passport” containing the fact sheet from one country (photocopy yours, or print out a picture of the cover online and paste it to a cardboard booklet). You can also buy play passports with stickers here. When you say “go,” everyone begins walking around and asking each other questions about their “native” countries. Each time a child guesses someone’s country correctly, he gets a passport stamp (a sticker). The child who collects the most stamps wins.

Food: Global goodies
Choose a traditional bite-sized food to represent each of the guests’ ancestry (optional: ask kids’ parents for a family favorite, if they have one). Make toothpicks to stick in each dish with the flag of that country. Some foods to try:

Pizza bites (Italian)
Pigs in a blanket (American)
Mini tacos (Mexican)
Mini egg rolls (Chinese)
Pita chips with hummus (Turkey)
Mini Black Forest Cupcakes (Germany)