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Carter’s Magical 6th Birthday part 2- the Treasure Hunt

There are many ways to do a treasure hunt, but I will tell you what really worked for us and what was worth the effort. We started with a premise based on the theme of the birthday party, which was, unfortunately, “Super Buddies”. In our clues, we used characters from the movie, but you could easily co-opt our clues to work for any book/movie. Using Merlin or Morgan from “Magic Tree House” would be super easy.

We wrote clues that were easy enough for them to figure out and rhymed. Rhyming is not necessary, but it seems more fun. We staple gunned colored flags to trees in the nature preserve with notes stapled near them. For flags, I just used some old felt I had. Sometimes the clues just told them what color flag to find and sometimes it directed them to a location.

Here are some of the key elements that made our treasure hunt a hit!
1. KEYS and LOCKS – OMG – 6 year olds LOVE keys and locks.
One thing that was CRUCIAL to their enjoyment was for them to find little prizes along the way. Make sure everyone gets the same thing though, or you may have problems. The first “prize” they found was a box of necklaces, one for each child. The Rings of Inspiron are from the “Super Buddies” movie, but you could call them “the rings of truth” or “the rings of the imagination” or something awesome (ha) like that. I got the idea from Club Chica Circle. I bought one small washer for each child from the hardware store. I painted them each a different color of nail polish and tied them to some string (my string was crappy. Use shoe laces or something that will hold a knot well). Next they found magic keys. We painted each key to coordinate with the necklaces. We also had to paint the mini brass locks (which came with the keys. explanation to follow) to match so they would know which key opened which lock. Save yourself some money and buy these from Amazon . We did everything so last minute that we had to spend a little more. Here’s what they look like

Ring of Inspiron, magic key/lock

Ring of Inspiron, magic key/lock

2. Make something invisible reappear
We started with a note from Cleocatra (ugh -that’s her name in the “Super Buddies” movie). It said that she had hidden gifts for all of Carter’s friends in a magic trunk that is invisible(six year olds LOVE invisible things). To find the trunk, they had to first find the “Rings of Inspiron” (the necklaces I wrote about above), the magic keys and most importantly, they had to work together.

Cleocatra's note

Cleocatra’s note

While they were pinning the tail on the donkey, I ran up and said that the UPS truck just delivered a message. It was a long scroll where Craig had hand written the note from Cleocatra (again – UGH to her name). We barely had time to grab the tools and put on our rainboots before they were literally running to the nature preserve.

Running to the treasure hunt!

Running to the treasure hunt!

3. The Clues: Have some real challenges in there, but not too challenging.
The first clue led them to a bag of tools in our yard. We debated on what to use as tools. We ended up just putting shovels (mostly plastic) in there. Initially, we were going to have a different tool for each child so they would each have a special task to do. But it was way too time consuming. We were also worried that they would fight over who got the best tool. Honestly, I do think it would be cool to give them all something different, if you have the time to come up with the items. We were going to do invisible ink. The tool would be a highlighter. We would write the clue on paper with white crayon and then use they highlighter to uncover the message.

The clues

The clues

The first clue led to the tools:

To get the tools in your hand
Go to the box that’s filled with sand

The second clue led them to a card with the word “blue” on it.

Clear the muddy pass and stand on wood
Look for the rope and pull it up good

There was a huge mud pit in front of the bridge on the path (“AWESOME!”- said every 6 year old boy ever). The note was tied to a string and hanging from the bridge. They actually didn’t get this one on their own, but it was the first one so that made sense.
The third clue was stapled to the tree with the blue flag. It said:

Follow this path of blue
Something orange awaits you

that way!

that way!

The fourth clue was stapled to the tree with the orange flag. It said:

My wonderful prize is within reach
You must go toward the beach
But be alert on Carter’s big day
For other clues along the way

The fifth clue was in the middle of this area with a low canopy. So we hung an arrow on a card so they would run into it. Then we placed an old timey looking suitcase nearby with the rings of inspiron in it.

Because it is his special day
The birthday boy gets to say
Which color ring he wants today
Don’t worry, each color ring is great
To get the trunk, cooperate
And you will soon uncover your fate!

You don’t have to be a poet to rhyme; as is evidenced by that clue.

The sixth clue was stapled to a tree outside of the beach area with a flag. It said:

You found the rings in the trees
Go to the beach to get the keys
Use the tools to uncover my plot
It’s really easy, “x” marks the spot.

Here is where they got to use their tools (shovels). They would have all been digging like crazy, except we didn’t bury the box deep enough. Definitely bury it well. They will love digging. Inside this box, were the keys painted to match their necklaces and the next clue.

Good work! Your sharing is paying off
Head back to the bridge and all will be clear
What once was invisible, now will appear
But don’t forget, watch for clues
You’re so close now, work as a team and you can’t lose.

The meter of your poetry doesn’t have to make sense, like Walt Whitman’s.

It was a long way back to the bridge, so we stapled a few flags up with colors written on the cards and one last clue:

almost there go to the start
Your kindness really warms my heart

Reading a clue

Reading a clue

Finally, they got to the bridge. We called my step dad a little bit after we started and he carried the trunk to the edge of the bridge where we entered. When they turned the corner and saw it, their heads nearly exploded. We had put all 8 of the mini locks on the trunk. So each child had to use their key to open it (working together! and everyone got a turn). When they opened it up, some balloons popped out and there was a kite for each child (you could definitely make this part more exciting than we did). I thought it was a great favor, but (as you can see in the photo) it seemed like they would have preferred something like a crappy plastic coin or whatever. Pearls to swine.
The trunk magically appeared!

The trunk magically appeared!

4. Give the birthday boy/girl something special
I wanted Carter to feel special since he was the birthday boy. So I put a little baggie in the trunk with a message written in gold pen. Inside the baggie was a mood ring that I just happened to have (I have no idea where I got it. It probably is a magical ring and I have now given all of my magic to a 6 year old boy who will most likely wish for a magical, metal flying machine that makes pancakes). The message said it was “the ring of truth” and that it was for the birthday boy. He LOVES it and always has it with him now. It definitely made him feel special.DSC_2690

Now go out and make your own treasure hunt! The more clues you have, the more time you’ll kill. It’s a great way to get the kids outside and active!

Treasure hunt = fun

Treasure hunt = fun

Carter’s magical 6th birthday

Carter's party

Carter’s party

I love planning my kid’s birthday parties, but I was so scared of Carter’s 6th birthday. Instead of having a big blow out with all the kids in his class, he wanted a small affair. Good! At first, he wanted the theme to be “Magic Tree House” and I was doing back flips all over the house. Pinterest is littered with ideas for MTH. Plus it’s about a book so maybe people will think we don’t watch TV. hahaha. I started planning that night.

A week later, he changed his mind. We finished all of the tree house books and he just lost interest. He wanted the theme to be based on this series of Disney movies about a bunch of cute yellow labs called, “Super Buddies” (Air Buddies, Santa Buddies, etc.) It’s cute, but not nearly as fun as MTH. I was majorly disappointed, but tried not to show it (unless he noticed the single tear rolling down my cheek).

Normally, I start making decorations and planning two months in advance. It was a week before the party, I hadn’t really done much of anything. I pulled some pictures from the Disney site and printed them out, but I didn’t make any party circles or cute tags with his name on them. I just wasn’t into it. Worse, I didn’t know what we were going to do with eight 6 year olds for two and a half hours. Carter wanted to have a sack race and play pin the tail on the donkey (because he should have been born in 1954), but that would kill maybe 15 minutes and I was pretty terrified that half of them wouldn’t be into it.

Then I had a brilliant idea. We live two houses away from this amazing nature preserve. So, I decided to have a treasure hunt! Literally, three days before the party we decided this. So Craig and I started planning it out. We came up with a scenario based on the movie that was pretty elaborate. My next post will break down exactly how we did it. Want to know how it went? Well, one child said (and I quote) “this is the best day of my life”. So, I’d say it was pretty effing amazing!

The rest of the party was great too. It was a beautiful day. DSC_2487We started out with the kids having a sack race, egg race and pin the tail on the donkey – just as Carter wanted.

I did end up making a few decorations .

For the first time since Carter’s first birthday, I did not make his cake. It was such a load off not to make it, but I was still kinda sad. He really doesn’t like cake though. He only wanted ice cream. So we got a Baskin Robbins cake. Let me tell you, I have literally saved my family $250 by baking the cake for five years (birthday cakes are EXPENSIVE). I do what I can. Here it is. I made the little bunting on it

Stay tuned for my next post with all the details on the treasure hunt. I highly recommend having an outdoor treasure hunt for a 6 year old’s party. It is the PERFECT age (though I think older would be fine too). Find out the dos and don’ts of a treausure hunt in my next post so you can create your own!

Oh, there you are…

“Oh, there you are.” That’s what I used to say when I was working for the scientist at NYU and I would take an extra long lunch. Occasionally, I would go home to watch Law & Order and nap. Usually, he was out of town or in a meeting when I did this, but if it happened on a day when he was in, he might start nosing around. So if I thought he’d been looking for me, I’d beat him to the “where have you been?” and act like I had been looking for him. Egads – I am so dumb. The man was a leading AIDS researcher with an MD PhD from Ivy league schools – no doubt I wasn’t fooling him. But it threw him off a bit (or at least my 25 year old self thought so) and he was smart enough to realize that my hour and a half lunch wasn’t such a big deal. He was curing cancer AND AIDS, after all.

So, I’ve been gone a while, dear reader. But not because I’ve been napping (oh how I wish). Quite the contrary. I’ve been getting stuff done! Cleanin’, organizin’, I put together a fall festival at our school! Then there were the holidays and many, many illnesses (flu, stomach, strep – WOOHOO!). So I am back! Let’s have some fun!

There is so much about to happen! Carter is turning 6 and his birthday theme has me totally flummoxed! I’ve been busy decoupaging with comic books and the results are AWESOME! I’ve got a ton of sewing that I’m starting/finishing! AND (drum roll) we are going to Disney in less than two months!!!! So much to talk about!!!! I know you are on the edge of your virtual seats.

guess where we are going?

guess where we are going?

Carter’s Superhero Party

DSC_2429For Carter’s 5th birthday, he wanted a Spiderman party. We made it a superhero party so everyone could dress up in a different costume. This was a great theme with so many fun crafts! I always start pinning ideas like two months in advance and initially, I think I’m going to do them all. hahaha! Usually, I end up doing only half just because there is never enough time. I consider this party a big success because I was almost finished setting up before anyone arrived :).

For the first time, I made my own invitations using Photoshop Elements that my sweet husband gave me for my birthday last year. It was frustrating learning photoshop, but ultimately worth it. I looked through a bunch of superhero invites online and cobbled two ideas together to make this:SPIDERMAN Invite

Getting that photo of him was not actually as fun as it would seem. Sometimes kids just don’t want their picture taken – even for something cool like this. We were all set up in the front yard. I’d spent time wrapping those boxes, gluing the little squares on for the windows (Carter cut them) and trying to figure out the lay out, lighting et al. Something that should have been so cute and fun was really full of time outs, tears and parental hands tossed up in the air in frustration. No good deed… But the photos tell a different story, thank goodness. Here are some out takes of our photo shoot.

With my new Photoshop skills, I made all of these cute tags with speech bubbles saying “ZAP!”, “Bang!” and Carter’s favorite “Zoinks!”

My absolute favorite thing that I made was this bunting out of comic book pages. DSC_2108 I followed this tutorial, cut out the triangles and sewed them across using red double fold bias tape at the top. I’m a novice sewer and this was really easy. I highly recommend trying it. I am going to use Spiderman comic book pages to decoupage wooden letters that spell “CARTER” to hang on the wall of his room. I’ve never decoupaged before – kind of nervous!

I love homemade decorations, but there are times when the pre-made variety are just too good to resist. This was one of those times. I got these cardstock buildings with all the Spiderman villains on top from Amazon and placed them in the center of the kid’s table.

For the food, we had yogurt pops (frozen Gogurt)DSC_2082 popcorn DSC_2066 chips and guac, cheese and crackers, crudite and some super pops (dum dums with little super hero capes on them

You can barely see the cute little capes on the lollies.

You can barely see the cute little capes on the lollies.

I don’t have a great photo of mine, but here’s the link to the capes so you can print them and do it yourself. Really, really easy. I don’t love giving my kids dum dums, but it is a birthday party after all.

Super heroes have to hone their skills to beat the bad guys. So we devised a series of skill tests for the kids. 5 is the PERFECT age for this. Craig came out dressed as Spiderman (his costume was a little baggy because he is a tall, lanky drink of water). First, he had them strike super hero poses.

Then they had The Test of Strength DSC_2415Each child had to lift the barbell (two styrofoam balls on either end of a broken broom handle that Craig spray painted black. Then there was the tug of war which they loved!! DSC_2182 We also had a bean bag toss with big signs that said, “BANG!” and “ZAP!”, but I don’t have a decent photo of it. Finally, they had Web shooting practice.DSC_2188 We put a picture of the Green Goblin on a spider web/target and had the kids shoot silly string at it. BEFORE:DSC_2097AFTER:DSC_2236 Everybody told me that I’d be prying silly string out of my lawn for a year, but the kids were so focused on hitting that Green Goblin, it all went on the target. By the dubs, silly string ain’t cheap. I found it on Amazon $34 for 12 cans. Do what? So I researched it looking for a cheaper option. I read Amazon reviews that were as passionate and detailed as a review for a heart transplant doctor. There is the dollar store variety silly string and the high-end silly string. According to the Amazon reviewers, the cheaper variety often gets jammed and while I did find this to be true, I ultimately decided that I had wasted a day reading those stupid reviews when ultimately it’s silly string and I’m not gonna pay $34 for 12 cans of it. The kids loved it. Yeah some of the cans got jammed, but some didn’t so every one had fun and nobody left saying, “I can’t believe she didn’t buy the name brand Silly String – Hrumph!”

There were a lot of kids at this party (25!). So it was really hard for me to get all the pictures I needed to properly show how awesome it was. Which is sad because this was one of my favorites. I just LOVED all the details and signs I made. I also didn’t get a great picture of my cake. It was kind of a crazy cake. I debated on making a cake of Spiderman’s face or this cool cake that looked like buildings and had spidey and the villains all over it. Both of those cakes looked cool, but used A LOT of black icing and black icing seriously grosses me out. So I just came up with this crazy thing DSC_2262 The coolest part were these chocolate webs that I slapped on the sides and piped onto the top. IMG_2397The big webs were easy. I just melted chocolate, put it in a piping bag and then piped it only wax paper in a web shape. Then I put it in the freezer and stuck them on the cake at the last minute. It was a cool and tasty effect. Remember when every birthday used to have cake and ice cream? Carter LOVES ice cream. So I threw that in there and everyone was most pleased, especially Carter.DSC_2362 The best part of part of the cake was Carter blowing out his candles. It was a very windy day and the candles would not stay lit

Me trying to light the candles. My step dad took 100 photos of this. Feel the history.

Me trying to light the candles. My step dad took 100 photos of this. Feel the history.

So when we put the cake in front of Carter, I said, “Ok, make a wish”. I totally should have prepared him to come up with a wish beforehand because he turned to me with all kinds of questions, like “Why a wish? Will it come true? What kind of wish? Who am I wishing to? What is the meaning of life?”. Meanwhile, the candles kept blowing out. I lit them again and pressured him, “Hurry Carter” and he said in a panicked voice, “I wish for…m..m..MAGIC POTIONS!” hahahahahhahahahahaha! That is the greatest wish I have ever heard.

For favors, everyone got a Spiderman mask, Spiderman cup, dum dum lolly with super hero cape and Spiderman tattoos. I made these cute tags for them that said, “You are super!”DSC_2084

Carter had a great timeDSC_2102 It was also a historical event. It marked the first time Henry wore his batman costume in public – which he has worn every day since.

it's the bat signal!

it’s the bat signal!

And I felt like Supermom. Here I am springing into action for a Super Hero party emergency DSC_2226

Everyone had a blast!

Henry’s first birthday

DSC_1472Honestly, I tear up when I start looking at these birthday pictures. Maybe I’m a sap, but they were just filled with so much joy!!! It was a lot of work to put on, mainly because I had a barely 3 year old and not quite 1 year old. It sounds stupid, but I am so proud of these parties. hahaha! Even though Henry was one and didn’t know what was happening. And even though he burned his finger on his “1” candle because I was smiling for the camera and not watching him closely enough (I was sleep deprived, but still, I feel awful). I am certain he will look back on these and know that we really loved him (especially since we will never tell him about touching the candle). And I hope he will be able to feel the joy in these pictures (and not recall the pain of touching the birthday candle).

I did not include the lack of joy in the “burned finger pictures” for Henry to cherish forever. I have erased all the evidence. If only I can bribe Carter to keep quiet. Here he is the moment before he grabbed the candle. You can see the, “hey what’s that do?” look in his eyes. DSC_1485 Poor boo. Ya know, as a mom, I often make dumb, careless mistakes. It sucks! I remember pinching Carter’s cute fat thigh while trying to click him into his car seat when he was like 4 months old. OMG the self-loathing that followed was epic. It’s the worst feeling, accidentally hurting them. I accidentally hurt myself all the time, but when it is your baby, it just cuts you to the core. This birthday incident was made extra bad because we had an audience. They were all staring at us singing ‘Happy Birthday’, then he cried and we realized what had happened. We got some ice and it was fine, but the mood was killed. Thankfully they were all family and close friends, so the shame was minimized. The next day, we tried to recreate the birthday cake shot and Henry cried as soon as he saw the cake! So, I just hope that makes some mom feel better. It happens. Can’t get much worse than that story.

the birthday boy seemed to have a premonition of his fate even before the cake came out. He's saying, ' finger seems a bit too comfortable. Perhaps the temperature of my epidermis is too low

the birthday boy seemed to have a premonition of his fate. He’s saying, ‘hmmm…my finger seems a bit too comfortable. Perhaps the temperature of my epidermis is too low’

For the favors (seriously, I am moving on from the burnt finger….trying), I got these great plastic popcorn containers from Target for like $1. We still use ours. My initial idea for his birthday theme was “ceiling fans” since that was his favorite thing in the world at the time. So, I got pinwheels for all the kids. I also put a preposterously long and sugary lollipop in each favor just cause and bubbles. Carter wanted to help me with the decorations (he always does). He did the pictures on the front of the favor/gift table.

I got all of the adorable printables for free(!) from Hostess with the Mostess (my favorite party blogger). This was two years ago, so I don’t think they are still free 🙁 But you can find the links to order them custom made here. A word on printables. You can find free printables for just about any party theme online which is awesome! But beware, printing them, even on your home printer can add up. I always end up using an entire toner cartridge!! Still cheaper than printing at Fed Ex, but those toner things are like $50! I do everything for my parties – cake, decorations (i buy a few, but mostly homemade), food – so that keeps the costs pretty low. That’s how I rationalize it. Also, the cutting involved in printables is nothing to sneeze at. You can get carpal tunnel pretty quickly doing that. Finally, always print on card stock. It’s not that expensive and holds up so much better.

HEY! NEW MOMS! This is the posture you will have at the first birthday party of your second child.

wow, my schlumpy shoulders are really working for me here.

wow, my schlumpy shoulders are really working for me here.

We took photos of all the babies in this clown wig. It was hysterical!!! The best photos were of my friend’s kids, but I don’t have permission to post those photos…yet. Here are my kids

Happy Birthday Sweet HenryHappy First Birthday Henry Happy First Birthday Henry