If there's a birthday in your house this month, go on a safari! A birthday party safari that is, right in your own backyard or neighborhood park.
"A jungle-themed party is always a roaring success for the preschool-age birthday kid," says Nancy Troffey, a creative 55-year-old mom and grandmother with more than 20 years of experience directing preschool programs and summer camps. "Threes and fours are simply fascinated with wild animals. They can't get enough of jungle-themed picture books, storytelling, games and puppets. When given the chance, they'll jump right into pretending to act and make noises like their favorite animals, too."
It's easy and inexpensive to plan your preschool child's birthday-party adventure around this popular theme. Here are some basics to get you started:
As young party guests arrive, play a jungle sounds CD to set the scene. Give them something to do right away to help them feel comfortable with the surroundings and meeting new friends. Let them try on and choose a safari-style hat, and then decorate their own safari water canteen with animal stickers. The kids can hang it around their neck for the party.
Create the safari water canteens beforehand. For each canteen, you'll need:
One small 10-ounce plastic or metal bottle filled with water and capped
One 42-inch strip of 1-inch-wide animal print ribbon or cotton fabric cut with pinking shears
One 3-inch by 10-inch rectangle of craft foam or poster board
Wild animal stickers
Directions: Glue the underside of the midpoint of the ribbon/fabric strip to the base of the bottle. Lift the halves of the strip upward evenly on each side. Glue the craft foam rectangle around the bottle and over the ribbon/fabric strip to secure them in place. Tie the loose ends of the strips in a knot.
- Peanut butter and banana finger sandwiches
- Banana pudding with fresh fruit and animal crackers on top
- Cookies made with animal-shape cookie cutters and coconut sprinkled over the frosting
- Peanuts in the shell
- Jungle juice (sparkling water mixed with fruit juice).
- Play a safari game and look for hidden stuffed animals and plastic critters
- Make paper bag animal puppets
- Take a photo of each child, print from your computer, and let them frame it on an inexpensive frame to take home as a party favor.
Tip: Enlist a neighborhood teen "helper" to plan games and interact with the energetic kids at the party.
Donna Erickson's new award-winning television series "Donna's Day" is airing on public television nationwide. Visit www.donnasday. com to find out when it airs on your local PBS station and to sign up for Donna's e-newsletter. Her latest book is "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families."