How To Avoid Being A Piñata Event Failure

One thing I have noticed about living on the U.S./Mexico border is that people take their piñatas seriously around here.

No, really.

This is serious business.  You’ll see what I mean.

Growing up, I’d seen images of piñatas and even whacked a couple, but I remember they seemed much smaller than the ones we’re accustomed to seeing nowadays.   The little rainbow burro piñata I remember swatting was probably the height and width of the bunny ears on the gargantuan piñata you see below.

That photo was taken at a party last year and that’s our daughter getting ready to go to town on the thing.

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To show the scale of these behemoth piñatas,  here’s a Dora The Explorer piñata that towered over another party’s diminutive guests.

 

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And, here’s another:  a Cinderella piñata taller than the 6 year old birthday-girl.

 

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Do you see?

People in these parts actually make these things!  With vigor!

But, back to that giant bunny piñata…

I recall a note I received from a friend of mine whose son became distressed because the head of the paper mache giraffe he’d been playing with for weeks leading up to his birthday party had been summarily whacked off with violent zeal during the party.

It was the first party he’d ever had with a piñata.   That giraffe had become his buddy.  And, just like that!  BAM!!!  It was missing a head.  Forever.

My friend wrote to me and said that she now always recommends that young kids receive piñatas in “non-living shapes” to avoid potentially stressing the child out.

This reminded me of some parental banter about the logic and messaging of the piñata event for a young child.

In conversations with another mother, I learned that there are parents and even psychologists, that are uncomfortable with the encouragement-to-violence embodied in a piñata.   You can read about that HERE.

Basically, the idea that a young child would be encouraged to hit something by authority figures, who routinely discourage the hitting of anything in any other circumstance, coupled with expectation that the child should aggressively decimate something made in the image that he or she loves WOULD seem to send a sort of mixed signal to a kid.

That may be true for some.

My friend’s son’s experience with that poor, decapitated paper giraffe DID SEEM to support that theory.

But, again, let’s get back to that giant bunny piñata and our very girl-y, very fashion-y, very dainty 4-year old.

She didn’t seem to struggle too much with hurting that massive crinkly bunny.

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She didn’t seem to bear any of those afflictions or psychological aversions to executing something in the image of  living thing.

I don’t know.

Maybe I’m just too subjective in my reading of her body language and facial expressions as her mother.

What do you think?

 

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But, back to the seriousness of the piñata event.

You can see that the sheer size of these things and the creative work that goes into them is big business.

I hear that along the Mexico side of the Rio Grande, one of the reasons that there is not an abundance of the invasive specie of cane that plagues the U.S. side of the Rio, is because the piñata-makers actually use the abundant cane to supply the recurring demand.

But, when you live in a place where piñata events are a sort of party-rite for children, it is not surprising that many venues actually have built-in piñata cages like this one at a local pizza place.

There are even signs on the cage letting patrons know that the party place may provide the cage, the rope, the pulley system and the pizza, BUT you better remember to bring your own piñata stick, Buddy.

 

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Piñatas are so prevalent that they are even considered to be a sort of nuisance for many venues whose contracts for use explicitly state what TYPE of piñata can be used.

For instance, contracts for use of HOA-run pavilions (also known as palapas) and city-run parks specify that piñata messes must be cleaned up or that confetti-filled piñatas are not permitted.

But, enough about that.

Let’s get into the real meat of this post- and that is to describe the many, empirically-defined ways that you should (or more importantly, how you should NOT) run a piñata event should you decide to give it a go.

For many people who grew up in a piñata culture, running the event probably doesn’t seem like a logistical or logical nightmare.

If you grow up around piñatas, you probably know what you are doing.

It really IS probably  a no-brainer.  It’s probably like remembering to bring spoons for the ice cream and forks for the cake.

Even if you lack a hook, a stick, or a rope, you’ll probably know how to improvise, adapt and overcome in a way that makes you still emerge a Piñata Hero.

But, I will also show you in photos and pictures, that for those people who do NOT grow up attending piñata events every few months of our lives, that throwing a seamless piñata event is actually a sort of science.

Seriously.  It’s like the mystical-type of science that almost looks like voodoo magic to the ignorant pupil on the first observation.

Let us begin with some of the things you need to watch out for, shall we?

First and foremost, you should be sure that you do not purchase cruddy, little, pull-string piñatas from the local party or grocery store.

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Let us please forget what it appears that Batman is doing to Spiderman in the photo.  That is just a snickering aside for the juvenile adult males at the party.

The REASON that there are two piñatas, in the first place, is because we realized that just one would be insufficient for the number of clamoring children who would be there.

Do you see the little ribbons dangling from the bottoms of the piñatas?

Those are NOT decorative accessories like I, and other moms and dads as you will soon see, believed when we purchased them for twenty-five bucks each.

Those are “pull-strings” intended to be yanked so that kids don’t need to beat the crap out of the things.

This goes back to that discussion of the parenting philosophy of non-violence.  If you know you are buying a pull-string piñata and you do so for moral reasons as a piñata-event conscientious objector, then “Rock On, And Good For You For Sticking To Your Figurative And Non-Violent Water Guns!”

But, if you have children older than the age of 3, the odds are not good that you really meant to buy a pull-string piñata.

And the reason I know this is because even a 4-year old will look at one of these things and think, ardently and out loud, that you are a lame parent.

Furthermore, these particular types of pull-string piñatas also come with a handy little opening receptacle in the back that facilitates rapid candy flow with the slightest tap.

This means that when a child DOES hit the pull-string piñata because you didn’t know you bought a pull-string piñata (forget that we bought TWO), that all the candy will start to fall out by the time the second kid in the 30-kid line gets to even step up.

 

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The photo above was actually taken recently at another birthday party.

You should note that the mother of this little boy purchased THE EXACT SAME Batman pull-string piñata that I had a year earlier.

When I saw it sitting on her table, I told her about what we’d learned the year before.

“Oh!  I thought those ribbons on the bottom were for decoration!” she laughed.

I know, right?!!??!

So, the time came to hit it, and they strung it up by the little tab the piñata came attached to from the store to a limbo bar because no one had a rope.  Or a hook.

The birthday boy was first in line.

He hit it once.

 

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Another piñata fail, folks.

The funny thing is that I was standing next to a couple of hispanic women who had lived in Laredo their entire lives.

I told them that we had made a similar mistake the previous year, and we bought the same piñata, and the same thing happened.

They said, “Ha!  We were just talking about that!   We were laughing about the pull-string piñata.  And the limbo bar.  And the missing rope. And…”

I’m going to get to the part where I tell you how to run a successful piñata event.

But, first, I am going to tell you what else has gone wrong at our piñata events, and here goes:

  1. We forgot to buy a piñata stick.  Actually, we didn’t know they made sticks expressly for that purpose, but we see them everywhere now for about 10 bucks.
  2. So, we brought our daughter’s plastic, electronic Snow White broom.  It played “Whistle While You Work” as you made sweeping motions.  Well, it DID play that song until it broke in half on the second swing of the Batman-Spidey piñata event.
  3. Someone’s kid played tee-ball so a friend retrieved a BASEBALL BAT from his car for us to complete the event.
  4. This is not recommended.
  5. Ever.
  6. When the second child in line got up to swing the baseball bat (did I tell you that was a bad idea?), the piñatas crashed down because the HEMP TWINE that I took out of my craft kit BROKE in half. Apparently, you’re supposed to use rope or something.
  7. So, while the kids waited in line for another 5 minutes (with 28 more kids left to get a whack and we were on kid number 2 still) and my husband quadrupled up that craft twine and re-hung the piñatas which continued to shake out candy with every movement.
  8. We got to Kid #3 and one fell swoop later with that baseball bat that, thankfully, did not cause any prolonged concussions, those pull-string piñatas were COMPLETELY OBLITERATED.
  9. One girl started bawling.
  10. I mean, REALLY BAWLING.
  11. When I asked her what was wrong, she wailed, “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!!!!!!  YOU’RE DOING IT ALL WRONG!!!!!!!”
  12. Wailing.
  13. More Wailing.
  14. Essentially….we sucked at that piñata event.
  15. I mean…A LOT.

If you are a visual person, here’s a picture I drew of what it was like.

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But, no worries.

I recently polled Critters And Crayons readers for suggestions about how to run a successful piñata event.

You can see their excellent suggestions HERE.

In a nutshell, make sure you:

  • Buy a REAL piñata
  • Lay a tarp down for easy clean-up
  • Use a real rope
  • Make sure you have a piñata stick
  • Hand out treat bags before the event
  • Have a person manage the piñata line and safety zone
  • Smallest kids go first
  • Give the kids just 3 strikes
  • Sing the “Dale! Dale! Dale!” song
  • Have extra bags of candy to shake out in case you need more or little ones don’t get enough

Easy right?

But, probably one of the greatest challenges to any piñata event is always going to be where to hang the thing.

There aren’t always trees with sturdy branches, or large hooks and pulley systems for parents to use.

Some people attempt to overcome this challenge by standing on a chair and they actually hold the piñata themselves for a child to indiscriminately swing at it.  The Batman in costume in the photos above ended up trying that.   He was saved because the candy all fell out of that pull-string piñata by Kid #3.

Regardless, The Stand-On-A-Chair-And-Hold-The-Piñata Solution is a bad one.

It’s a bad idea because even a giant by human proportions would not have sufficient arm-reach to ensure a safety zone that could prevent the  sterilization or shattered knee caps of any male victim who agreed to stand on that chair with arms outstretched holding that candy-filled demon.

The bad-idea-ness of this “solution” is further exacerbated if the child is either 1) wearing a blind-fold, or 2) swinging a baseball bat (Um.  Again.  See above image based on true events).

If all of those factors have been brought to bear, then really, a merciful party-goer should just summon the paramedics as soon as the first child starts swinging.

But, let’s get back to where and how to hang a piñata when there really doesn’t appear to be any place to suspend the thing.

We have learned that, around here, there really are NO EXCUSES for messing this tiny detail up when you are a seasoned piñata event do-er.

And, here’s how I know that.

Look at this photo.

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That gigantic cowgirl piñata is hanging from a rope that has been stretched to a rooftop up on the left.

Do you see that?

People, that rope is not secured by a nail, or a knot, or any other inanimate thing.

This photo was taken at a friend’s birthday party and  that gargantuan piñata is suspended from a rope that is stretched between a rooftop and an 8-foot cement wall in my friend’s backyard.

My friend sent PEOPLE (as in Willing Human Beings) up on that roof and on that wall to HOLD THAT ROPE so that they could make that piñata event happen.

Don’t believe me?

 

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Seriously, there were dudes yanking on both ends of that rope, one wearing shoes with excellent traction up on a slanted rooftop, so that they could provide a child with a real and successful piñata experience.  They made the thing bob up and down as the kids swung at it WHILE LITERALLY DEFYING DEATH ON BOTH ENDS OF THAT ROPE.

Every once in a while we’d see one of the guys  look like they were going to lose their balance and careen to the ground.  As arms flailed and eyes widened to see how it would end, party-goers cheered when the rope-holders regained their balance to start yanking and pulling that piñata for the next kid to start pounding on it.

Is this not serious stuff?

 Again, for the folks who are better with visuals versus reading verbose blog posts, here’s my artistic rendition of that “really happened and there were witnesses to prove it” event:

 

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And do you know what?

Do you know whose party that was?

Remember the little girl who was wailing at our awfully-executed piñata-event?

It was totally her party.

No wonder!

It all made sense!

She must have been, like, “LOOK, MAMA!  THERE ARE LOTS AND LOTS OF PERFECTLY GOOD ROOFS FOR THESE PEOPLE TO POSSIBLY FALL OFF OF  TO STRING THAT THING UP PROPERLY!   WHO USES PULL-STRINGS???  A TOY BROOM?  A BAT?  NO ROPE??   WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?   WAIT A MINUTE……ARE THOSE RAISINS????  BAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”

I’d have wailed, too, if I had known we were being measured against this rooftop/wall-balancing event standard.

Do you see what I mean about piñata events being serious business around here?

Death-defying.  They are death-defying.

It doesn’t get more serious than that.

But, now, I think we’re ready to try again and maybe, armed with all of this non-intuitive and pain-forged knowledge, we’ll pull off a piñata event without issue.

The good news is that even if you run a bad one, the end state generally is the same.

 

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Unless you or one of your party guests comes from a family where all the uncles are trapeze artists, rope walkers or who are otherwise simply unafraid of dying in order to make the piñata event a booming success.

Then, there may be tears and wailing and you should just wear a badge that says “Yes.  I’m A Piñata LOSER” .

Wear it with pride that you were also the best.

You were the best failure at the piñata event imaginable.

Congratulations.

Congratulations that you sucked so bad that you made a little girl cry.

We’re all supposed to be good at something in this life.

May as well be that.

 

GOOD LUCK TO YOU, PARENTS!

LET US KNOW HOW YOUR ADVENTURES WITH THE GIANT PAPER MACHE BEASTS GO!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Super Hero Academy Party!


Super Hero Academy Feature Photo

We threw a Super Hero Academy Birthday Party this year for our son…..

 

Last year, we ran a Super Hero-themed party and you can read about it:

  • here (for how we did it, complete with tutorials on Super Caped Marshmallow Pops and activities),
  • and here (for all the funny stuff that happened at the party),
  • and here (for the pleasures and perils of the 150+ lbs of Super Cloud Dough at the Super Hero Party)!

This year’s Super Hero Academy Party was incredible fun to plan and throw.   Here’s what we did!

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We made our own pennants using materials from the local craft shop….just the pennants, stencils, glue, ribbon and glitter-   It’s a good, cheap way to personalize your party!

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***CREATIVE TIP!!! I never realized how easy and inexpensive a pretty name pennant banner was to make until my little sister asked me to make one for her daughter’s ENCHANTING Little Red Riding Hood Birthday Party!

You can see the banner for that party below and the gorgeous party in my sister’s post here. 

To learn about how we “Quilled Superman” to make that paper filigree rendition of our Super Son, you can go here.

We made simple vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting with golden sprinkles in black cups this year.   For the recipe we love, you can check out Recipe Girl’s excellent Wedding Cupcake recipe here!

And, those cupcake holders are made using Dollar Store candle holders and metal platters affixed with super glue!

We made a spiderman cake using the same Recipe Girl wedding cupcake recipe (only with a box of Devil’s Food cake mix).

 

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***CREATIVE TIP!!! I found Duff’s Candy Writer in black to be very helpful in doing the lines of The Spider Man. It hardens quickly and really helps novice cake decorators to stay within the lines with the buttercream frosting! A few moms asked where I found the cool black cupcake liners and those were also from the Duff line, as well as the really pretty gold, white and shimmery sprinkles! I found the Duff line of cake decorating items at our local craft store.

You can also go here to check out other interesting baking items from the Ace of Cakes guru’s line!

We used simple gold balloons, and a giant Spidey balloon visitor that stalked the guests from above…..

 

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About a week before the party, we had a painting play date where the kids had fun painting a bunch of boxes black with giant rollers.

***CREATIVE TIP!!! Get the kids involved in the large-scale painting activities and teach them about recycling and re-using items to make their Gotham City! Including them in the party prep is fun for them, builds anticipation, and cuts down on some of your work!

With a few swipes of white paint with a sponge brush, we had a move-able, build-able Gotham City for the kids to run through!

The Birthday Boy could teach Super Students how to chase a villain through the city streets!!!

The kids had a lot of fun chasing each other between the buildings….

….Where they played Super Heroes Vs. Villains.    The Bad Guys get wrapped up in the Super Heroes’ Crepe Paper of Truth….

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And Super Kids can learn to build their very own City!

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OR Batmobile!

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It’s a cool photo prop, too!

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***CREATIVE TIP!!! You can make Super Hero cuffs out of coffee cup sleeves and duct tape, and super hero capes from plastic table cloths! For other parties, cover the coffee sleeves with patterned duct tape to make trendy bangles!

 

We laid out a roll of plastic table covers in a sky blue color the Birthday Boy picked out with trays full of pre-cut cardstock shaped like Pentagons.

There were caddies full of safety scissors, glue sticks, markers, glitter glue and stencils for the kids to create their own personalized symbols.

Whenever we go to Starbucks, we always save our cardboard sleeves.

For the kids who wanted Super Hero cuffs, we simply wrapped them in gold or silver colored-duct tape!

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Busy Super Heroes can just fish a a cape or costume out of a SUPER HERO DRESS-UP BIN!

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The Lead Super Hero Instructor conducted an expert demonstration on how to make those “POP!” and “POW!” sounds for the others to follow!

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***CREATIVE TIP!!! Bubble Wrap can be bought in bulk at postal/mail centers where they sell it by the foot! Compare the prices at your local bulk warehouse or home improvement store! It is a super fun and low cost way to really entertain the kids! For $15, we found Green Lantern-hued giant bubble wrap at a local home improvement store!

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***CREATIVE TIP!!! A Bubble Blower doesn’t cost much and provides a lot of Summer fun. Kids can “Pop” the bubbles while they make Bubble Wrap Popping Sounds as part of the Comic Book Sounds Activity of the Super Hero Academy!

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And, then there is the leftover bubble wrap pre-school after-party…. :)

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Super Hero Training Academy 43

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My awesome hubby spray painted a skyline for the Punch & Hunt Activity we came up with to replace our normal pinata activity!

Toward the end of the party, parents held up the skyline banner between all the little Super Heroes and a field of party favors for the kids to hunt once they punched through that skyline!

We liked this idea because the kids didn’t have to wait in line for their turn, and there were no swinging sticks endangering small children or adult knee caps!  :)

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***CREATIVE TIP!!! Get a huge roll of butcher block paper from a bulk warehouse for under $20 and use it all year for large arts & crafts projects like this one! For the Punch & Hunt, pull a length as long as your “hunting area” and use a brick or block of wood to shape your skyline to fill in with spray paint!

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***CREATIVE TIP!!! The Super Hero Punch & Hunt (A banner skyline that kids punch through before going on a favor hunt) is a fun alternative to the pinata!

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Even some feisty moms were ready for the Punch & Hunt!!! Ha!

We asked the older kids to save some of the items for the smaller ones as part of the “Safety Briefing”…..

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Meanwhile, behind the backyard fence….as kids began opening their Iron-Man shaped Gummy Treats….

Two masked villains plotted to STEAL Candy and Coloring Books!!!!!

They snuck into the backyard where the Super Heroes were playing with their bat slinkies and Captain America yo-yos……

EGAD!!!!!

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***CREATIVE TIP!!! A couple of parents in black with masks make excellent villains who can be foiled with some simple spools of crepe paper! Delightful for the kids!

BUT, HAVE  NO FEAR, PARENTS!  

THE SUPER KIDS ARE HERE!!!!

CREPE PAPER AT THE READY!!!

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THE VILLAINS SCATTERED FROM THESE FEARSOME FACES!!!

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AND BOOYAH!  

THE BAD GUYS WERE…..DEFEATED!!!!!!!!!!

ALL WRAPPED UP IN THE CREPE PAPER OF TRUTH!

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CANDY-STEALING CRIME JUST DOESN’T PAY, DOES IT?

GO AHEAD, VILLAIN!  

YOU CAN SAY IT!  

SO…UH…WHO’S YOUR DADDY, NOW???!!!!???!!!!

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And, THAT, was the final exam of our son’s Super Hero Training Academy!

Another Class of Super Heroes graduated and are now ready to defend party favor bags the world over….

And, we owe it all to our Birthday Boy,

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The Super Hero Extraordinaire,

The Destructor-Instructor,

The Master of All Skills Super Hero, 

And Our Beautiful, Wonderful Son….

 

 
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So, Until Next Year…..

Super Hero School’s Out!

:)

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Happy Super Hero Training Academy Birthday to Our Little Super Hero…

And To ALL Of Yours!

For MORE Super Hero Birthday Party Ideas, please check out my dear bloggy friends’ party ideas!

Megan of Coffee Cups And Crayons wrote about their fantastic Batman Party!

Super Hero Play Inspirations From Go Kid Yourself!

And you can always check out Critters And Crayons’ Super Hero Party ideas from last year!


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I Quilled Superman

We’ve dabbled in  origami and tissue paper crafting  but I’ve been intrigued by “Quilling” (kind of the art of twirling paper fancily) ever since I first saw it featured  last April,on the The Outlaw Mom’s Blog as part of her “CRAVE IT. COVET. LOVE IT.”  Series.

So, I bought all the stuff the craft store aisle implied I needed by its mere presence in the “quilling” section and promptly stuffed my own stocking with it.

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Our son’s birthday party is coming around AGAIN and he wants another Super Hero party.   We love themed parties and we love Super Heroes so we’re looking forward to this one after last year’s!

You can go here to see what it looked like (The Pinnable Post).  And you can go here to read about all of the funny stuff that happened at it  (The Un-Pinnable Post).  :)

 This year our 4-year old son is the primary Super Hero Instructor at his own personalized Super Hero Training Academy.  That post will be out sometime next month.  :)

We always try to create our own activities and props which saves a lot of money and also gets the kids excited and invested in their parties in the weeks leading up to the big celebration of their arrivals.

I reasoned that this was as good a time as any to try to learn to quill and make a Super Hero sign for our front door.

So, I sat down last night, read the instructions, messed up a few coils and then completed my very first quilling project!

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He’s not perfect by a long-shot.

And, I don’t really have any tips or tutorials for you other than it takes a few screw-ups to figure out how to get the coils where you want them at first.

And, there is an art that I have not yet mastered that enables one to emplace glue in a way that doesn’t smudge or crust or ruin the effect.

I didn’t have a template- just an image in my mind of my little boy, wearing his beloved Clark Kent curl and his cape (which is why his initial is on the front of the costume)- so all I can tell you is that I built the  image as I went and then just filled up the empty space between the coils.

No real plan.

See how easy this is?

I only offer this up to you to show you that you can create some pretty cool stuff

if you’re willing to just dive in and screw up a few coils with sticky fingers before making something you love.  

I was “Super” intimidated by the look of quilled art before breaking out the tools- which explains why it took nearly a full month to just open the packaging and read the instructions.

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Our son is just tickled at this paper rendition of him.

It isn’t pristine at all.  There are definitely some amateurish flaws- but to our little boy, it is just perfect.

And, I am well aware that my lack of a template or clear artistic vision resulted in a bouffant resembling the fuzzy turban of one of Queen Elizabeth’s Palace Guards, or perhaps the image is less Superman and more Napoleon Bonaparte in his jammies….but, I only had two goals when I set out to make this for my little boy:

1)   Learn How To Quill and

2)  Quill a Clark Kent Curl

There is our son at the local kids’ hair salon where he asks for “The Clark Kent” haircut and they totally give it to him.

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And here is how I “Quilled” Superman’s curl to match my baby boy’s:

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There is still a lot of learning to be done when it comes to paper crafting- but I have to say, I think quilling may have just become a new hobby.  (Because I need another one of those).

Just, whatever anyone does, DO NOT buy me crochet needles or sewing machines or woodworking or distressing tools.  :)

I AM TOTALLY INTERESTED IN LEARNING ABOUT YOUR HOBBIES!!!  

WHAT ARE THEY?  

DO YOU DIVE IN OR DO YOU RESEARCH THEM OUT FIRST?

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Need Some New Play Date Ideas?

Critters And Crayons is participating in a Play Date Blog Hop with a group of fantastic kid-bloggers!

GoKidYourself 

All Done Monkey 

Learn with Play at home

Coffee Cups and Crayons 

Caution! Twins at Play 

 

Here are some of C&C’s ideas for themed play dates worth trying!

Try A Group Nature Hike…

Our family recently went on a nature hike with two other families and it is something we plan to do on a larger scale soon with several other families.  There is nothing like getting out into nature where discoveries and beauty abound.

The children are delighted by the simplest sights:  a snake trail across a dirt path, a rocky crevice swarming with giant ants carrying morsels half the size of their bodies, hardened tree sap, seashells on a hilltop or driftwood near the river.

For so many of us busy-folk, these things lose their magic.  But, children can teach us to view them with wonder again.

And this photo was taken on a different nature excursion but it is too cute not to share.  Our 5 year old daughter found those snails at a random rest stop on a road trip.

That adorable little snail in her hand wasn’t even the size of a pencil eraser.  He was just teeny tiny.  We were all surprised to find that all of the shells were filled with these cuties!  So, grab some baggies and some magnifying glasses and take your play date into nature!

 And There is Always Origami (Of Course)…..

Here, we made simple origami suncatchers in the hotel room.  But, you can see how we made origami into a play date and party theme here:  The $50 Origami Party!

 And How About All That Make-Up You Need To Get Rid Of?  It’s Totally Great For An Art Play Date!

Did you miss the post on using old make-up to make art?  Did you miss my hubby’s mascara grim reaper?

I made a huge purge of make-up in my last de-cluttering phase and it is all now in a tackle box we keep in the kitchen.

The kids make some pretty neat art with it.  Here, you can see our daughter’s work-  It reminds me of a Dia De Los Muertos exhibit.

Imagine how fun it would be to line a floor with unrolled butcher block paper and to see what the kids can do with that old lipstick of yours?  What took you 10 years to throw away will be gone in 2 minutes, I promise.

 

And What About Those Puppets?

We recently figured out that the best and cheapest puppet storage that places puppets right at a pre-schooler’s height for rapid fire puppeteering is a shoe rack.  Since then, we have been doing some serious nighttime puppeteering.

Sometimes, the kids put on the show for us or their “audience”.

Yes.  That is a T-Rex wearing pink Minnie Mouse undies.  We don’t discriminate around here.  All animals (living, extinct, or inanimate) have an inalienable right to modesty.

If your Puppet Show Play Date lacks humans, please feel free to borrow our kids’ solution.  :)

 

And You Can Always Keep It Simple With a Sweet Family Pretend Pizza Party Play Date…..

This might be the best play date of all.  It is the “unwind and bond as a family” play date.

Mom and Dad might exceed the tensile strength of those Little Tikes kid stools, and we may have to shift our weight from side to side to keep parts of our body from tingling and falling asleep- but it is worth it.

These are the play dates that might be the most memorable- the ones where we stopped doing what we think we need to do to focus on what we really need to do.

DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEAS FOR PLAY DATES?  

HAVE YOU BEEN TO ANY COOL ONES LATELY?

 

For more fantastic ideas from other Kid Bloggers, check out the links below!  If you have a play date post, please feel free to add it!

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The $50 Origami Birthday Party! {DailyBuzz Moms 9×9)

I am thrilled to participate in the DailyBuzz Moms 9×9 “Party On” Challenge!

This month’s “Party On” theme came just in time for our daughter’s fifth birthday party!   We have some big-time expenses around the corner (family weddings, extended travel, showers to throw…) and so we wanted to see if we could throw a nice and memorable party on a budget.

Origami was the way to go for us!

We ended up spending just under $50!  

Here’s how we did it!

1)  WE HOSTED THE PARTY AT HOME.

This saved  a  lot of cash.  Here, you can see our play room ready to host 8 kids.  Yes, we had to clean up our play room afterward.  (But, we do that for play dates all the time.)

2)  WE MADE OUR OWN DECOR.

We used pieces from around our home (like that shadowbox from the living room, those vases from the kitchen and birdcages from our daughter’s bedroom)….

 3)  WE KEPT THE FOOD SIMPLE.

The party was at 3 PM so folks didn’t expect a big food spread.  We laid out chips, dip and cupcakes for the adults with a couple of bottles of sparkling soda.  The kids “dined” on croissants filled with organic blueberry jam and peanut butter.  

We made origami pouches to hold the organic apples and yogurt pretzels (bought in bulk).  We made our own cupcakes and decorated with toothpicks through origami cranes.  And, our daughter helped to make the origami heart decor for the apple juice boxes!

***Note:  Kids with peanut allergies were given peanut-free options  :)  ****

4)  THE KIDS’ ACTIVITY WAS….ORIGAMI!!!  

We had a lot of origami paper left over after the home and food decor were made.  One pack of origami paper costs $10 for 150 sheets.  It went a long, long way and the kids enjoyed learning how to make simple folds of hearts and rockets.

 5)  WE MADE OUR OWN ORIGAMI PARTY FAVORS.

The kids took home pencils displayed in vases as decor topped with origami flowers or rockets.  

There were also some simple pinwheels to throw and little flower hair clips for the girls to choose from.  Each child took home 8 sheets of origami paper secured with a paper clip.

The cost of the party favor materials?  $2.99 for 20 hair clips from Hobby Lobby and $1.50 for 12 natural pencils from Target plus a few sheets of origami paper from the $10 pack.  I bought a pack of multi-colored buttons at Ross for $2.99 (normally $8 value).  

An origami party is a versatile, inexpensive, beautiful, and cultural way to throw a party for children.  

  • I definitely recommend this kind of party for children 5 years and older.  
  • Yes.  There IS a time-cost to make the decor that balances out  the money-savings.
  • BUT…. the beauty of origami is that it is something that can be done anywhere and anytime.
  •  You could make just a couple of items a day months or weeks in advance.  I started two weeks out and folded during episodes of CSI, The Apprentice and The Voice.  :)
  • I actually always have sheets of origami paper in my bursting planner to pull out with the kids wherever we might be.
  • The best part of it all?    I have a lot of leftover materials to do other projects with!    (Like these Origami Paper & Mod Podge-coated Dollar Store Cookie Tray Magnetic Boards I’m making for my friends!    Total cost…about $1.50 per board.  :)

To See More Photos Of  Our Origami 5th Birthday Party, Here’s A Slideshow!

(Ipads and Iphones may have  difficulty  viewing the slideshows, sadly…)

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If you’re interested in how we made some of the party decorations and favors, you can check these past C&C posts on how we made and used the origami butterflies and cranes:
Here are links to other online origami resources!

TO LEARN HOW TO MAKE THE SAME ORIGAMI FLOWERS FROM OUR PARTY, I’VE CREATED A TUTORIAL FOR YOU!

(Again, Ipads and Iphones may have trouble viewing slideshows…)

Many Thanks to DailyBuzz Moms For Featuring Our Party!
PARTY ON!  
HAPPY FOLDING!
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A Super Hero Birthday Party!

Our son turned 3 this year and he had his heart set on having a Super Hero Birthday Party!  It was a ton of fun to plan, and I think the kids had a good time, too!  I wrote about a few of the humorous mishaps at the party a few days ago.  Here, we’ll talk about what we did to pull it off and how you can, too.

I wanted to keep the party as simple as possible so we ordered a ton of pizza.  But, we had themed desserts, fresh fruit, whole wheat chips, pretzels, and chocolate displayed.

The desserts were Super Hero themed:

Original Batman Cape-Colored Blue Cupcakes

Our son wanted blue cake.  I decided to make a bunch of cupcakes.  I normally try to steer clear of boxed cake mixes, but I haven’t had much luck with cupcake recipes from scratch that come out moist.

I found this recipe on Pinterest for wedding cupcakes and I have to say that it is the most moist and delectable cupcake I’ve ever had.  I highly recommend this White Wedding Cake Cupcakes recipe from Recipe Girl.

To make 100 cupcakes, I used 3 boxes of moist white cake mix.  The recipe calls for addition of more flour, sugar, egg whites, sour cream, oil, etc….so it’s kind of from scratch.  :)  I added 3 teaspoons of Wilton blue food coloring to the mix before baking.  To decorate, I piped Wilton Buttercream frosting mix (that required butter and milk) on top and inserted Super Hero toothpicks.

Green Lantern Bark

To make the Green Lantern Bark, we used the same recipe as the one I posted about in December here.    The only change is that I replaced the German’s Sweet Chocolate with White Chocolate and added green food coloring to the melted chocolate.  We coated in green sprinkles before chilling and breaking it up.  It was a hit!

Marshmallow Super Hero Pops

I had planned to make Super Hero cake pops or lollipops, but realized we had unopened bags of giant marshmallows.  We used those, instead.  My kids loved these.

For the printable template I created to make the masks and capes for these, please click here.  There is a slideshow tutorial below that explains how I put these together.

I didn’t want to be running a bunch of activities during the party for the kids, but I wanted them to be engaged.  We decided to make several Super Hero themed stations that the kids could move to according to their interests.

The party was already at a park, and we had the requisite bounce house, but we added the following activities:

Grab a Mask From The Mask Tree!

As kids arrived, they could pick a mask from the mask tree.  We just used clothes pins!

Super Dough (Over 150 lbs of Cloud Dough in 3 bins)

This was a workout but totally worth it!  We already had three underbed bins that were long and shallow- perfect for an activity like this.  If you’re not famliar with cloud dough, check out C&C’s post on it here for the recipe we used and many others.  We used a large table cloth underneath the bins to keep the any mess contained.

Each bin was filled with 1 x 50 lb bag of flour mixed with approximately 10 x 14 oz. bottles of baby oil.  (I sought out the cheapest baby oil and flour we could find for this activity to keep costs down).

The litmus test to make sure each bin was ready to play and mold with was to use one of the repurposed yogurt cups to build a few molds.  If it broke apart, I added another cup of oil and mixed.

This was a HUGE hit.  I offered parents the option to take some home with them in ziplock bags.  The kids got a little messy, but that was the point.  They had a lot of FUN.

The Craft Table

Repurposed Wonder Woman Starbucks Sleeve Bracelets 

Decorate Your Own Mask

We pulled Butcher Paper ($6.99 a huge roll at Hobby Lobby) across a picnic table and set out a basket of crayons, clothes pins, pipe cleaners, and glitter glue for kids to tinker with.

There were $1 roasting pans each filled with a different craft activity.

The kids made Wonder Woman Cuff Bracelets out of repurposed Starbucks Coffee sleeves and felt star stickers.  They also decorated their own masks using glitter stickers and art materials.

Face Painting

A couple of my friends agreed to help me out by doing the face painting station and they did a wonderful job!  All the kids were running around with vibrant masks at the party!

Pow! Bam! Pop!

Bubble-Wrapped Sidewalk

I think this was the most popular activity.   We purchased 100 square feet of bubble wrap for about $10.  The kids would hardly allow us to tape it down to the sidewalk they were so anxious to take off!

Our son led the hoard, covered in cloud dough and barefoot.  The best way to do this activity, I think.  The sound was fantastic!  It really kept with the Super Hero Pop! Pow! Bam! comic book theme.

Comic Strip Dress-Up and Photo Scene

I originally saw the idea to create a Super Hero Comic Book Photo Background on Pinterest here.   On a whim, and at the last minute, we threw this background together.  It was really simple to do and took less than 30 minutes!

To do one, just find a few cartoon images and import into powerpoint.  Expand the image to fit an entire sheet of paper and print.  I used colored tagboard to create the buildings and used a sponge brush to paint the windows and trees.  And that was that.

The dress up bin was there for kids to dress up and act out scenarios.  (Check out the slideshow at the end for some great poses in front of it!)

 

Super Hero Piñatas

We had a couple of  piñatas.  We learned a few comical lessons about how to run that event which you can read about here.    But the kids loved getting all the Super Hero themed loot and treats!

By the end of the night, our son couldn’t keep his eyes open.

He was just thrilled with his party and so were we.  Things went as planned  (well, with a few funny surprises) and I think the kids all had a good and memorable time!

You can see some of the signage we created and displayed throughout the party area with our son’s Super Hero dress-up image on it in the following slideshow.  It really tickled him.  You can also see more pictures of children doing all of the activities described above!

If you’ve done or are planning to do a Super Hero-themed party, I would love to hear your ideas!  

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To Kill A Piñata…

One of the things that we’ve come to expect since moving to Laredo is birthday parties.  We go to a lot of ‘em.  I don’t think we’ve been to one without a  piñata.

My kids love piñatas.  I should clarify.  I have been to a lot of parties with “pin-yah-duz”.  My kids, however, routinely inform me that they love “peen-yah-TTAHSS” (with staccato accent over the TTs”.)

(My kids’ correct Spanish pronunciations are a real benefit to living on the US/Mexico border.  A couple of weeks ago, my daughter brought home a ziplock baggy of red and green chile peppers from the pre-school chile plant and informed me that they were called “Shee-LAYZ”.)

We went to a party this weekend.  It was a magic party. It was awesome.

There were riding toys, a play area, and one of those spinning tea cups.  There was a merry-go-round that operated manually.  You had to push it to make it spin.  Three and four year olds climbed all over the vintage Dumbo and Mickey Mouse carousel and did what we all did as kids on our playgrounds.  They got that thing going and tried to grab onto it at the umpteenth second.  Sometimes, they made it onto the spinning carousel.  Often, they didn’t.  My instinct was to panic, mostly because we don’t see those spinning things on playgrounds anymore.

But, then I remembered getting much bigger ones going much faster.  And, I remembered that some of the best spins involved missing that bar and being airborne before hitting the unsoft ground.  I only panicked when my son thought it was a good idea to try standing up on the back of the polymer animal, hands outstretched.

The magic party was what I consider a success.  I only broke up four or five fights between my two year old and his party-mates.  Only two of them were with the birthday boy.  During the magic show, my daughter only stormed the stage to club the crepe paper rope that the magician was having pulled from his mouth in order to save him from choking once.  Perhaps, one of the funniest things that happened during this party occurred when my daughter was called on stage to assist the magician.

Her job was to pump the bicycle pump.  Did I mention that the magician only spoke in Spanish?  So, her job was to “bombear la pompa”  (to pump the pump).  He said, “Parate” (Stop) a couple of times and my daughter would proceed to pump harder and harder.

After her enthusiastic pumping and his repeatedly ignored requests for her to stop, he finally asked her, “Do you speak Spanish?”.  And, she yelled, “YEAH!  UNO DOS TRES!”  And then pumped her little heart out.

Good thing the magician could think fast.  He adjusted his routine and we were all very shocked when a rabbit appeared out of a hat.  My daughter was really proud of herself for making that happen.  She told me so.

But, that wasn’t the funniest moment of the night.  Not by a long shot.

When it was piñata time, all the kids crowded around the giant hanging frayed crepe and paper mache top-hatted bunny.  My kids started singing “Dale Dale Dale!  It’s Your Turn To Be Up!”.  It’s the song they’ve learned at all the parties they’ve been to since moving here.  (My Spanish isn’t great but I’m pretty sure it translates to “Hit It! Hit It! Hit It!”)

Veteran party moms broke into teams to keep the imaginary safety line in tact, pushing and herding little kids so that they would miraculously stay 1 millimeter beyond the swinging stick.

As each kid went, I began to wonder how that thing was ever going to break.  Most tapped at it like they were petting it.

My cat farts with more force than some of those strikes.

Then, my daughter came up to bat.

Behold the sequence.

Thanks for the stick, Lady. I know what to do.

 “Dale Dale” THIS you long-eared mutant!

And THIS is the funniest moment of the party.  At least for me.

The Close-Up.

 THAT’S  MY GIRL!

I’m actually pretty proud of her.  I think I’ve got a little competitor.  Today, we finished the Trike-A-Thon for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.  When I asked her to tell me what her favorite part of the Trike-A-Thon was, she said unhesitatingly, “PASSING OTHERS!”  I’m sure the thought of helping others was a very close second.

Anyway, even my daughter’s fury (did you see that picture?) wasn’t enough to break that rabbit.  A couple of dads who couldn’t take it anymore walked up and broke off all that bunny’s limbs and shook out all the cavity-inducing goodness.

Like, I said.  It was an awesome party!


By Far, The Best Fortune Cookie Ever

My baby sister seemed super excited to send us a package. When it arrived, I was worried. It was clearly a food item. The freezer pack inside was pure liquid and hot to the touch. There were two Chinese take-out boxes inside containing cute, iced fortune cookies.

When my sis excitedly called to make sure we received the package, I told her that the icing had melted a bit, so I stuck the cookies in the fridge.

“Okay.” she said.

24 hours later, we took out a couple to snack.

Here’s what the slip of paper inside the fortune cookie said….

And, here’s what the other one said…

Is that not the absolute coolest idea? A delectable request, by the way.

My collected sister must have wanted to burst out over the phone to forget about the icing and open the cookies, already!  But, she didn’t.  What a cool lady.  Must be in the genes.  :)

And, the answer is most absolutely and resolutely, without hesitation or reservation,    with full hearts and thankful stomaches: YES!!!!


Our Toddler Cooking Party At The Healthy Dish!

Today, we celebrated our daughter’s 4th birthday at The Healthy Dish.  It was a fantastic time and the kids really enjoyed it.  My daughter had chosen what I thought was a super-cool theme of Dinosaurs and Fossils.  After loading our cart at Party City with dino-themed items, and thankfully just before paying, she informed me that she actually  wanted a Dinosaur-Fairy theme.  That was going to be too hard to explain to my logical friends, so we re-entered negotiations.

We shook hands on The Princess and the Frog.

I met with the Healthy Dish Cooking Team:  Luis, Herlien and Paulina Andrade to discuss the details.  They hadn’t ever done a cooking party before.  They offer weekly kids cooking classes where children come in twice a week for two hours, wear aprons and chef hats, cook and maintain their own recipe binders.  This party business was a new service and I agreed to be their guinea pig.  All experiments should end so well-

I explained that we wanted to do a Princess and the Frog themed party and that we had a kids cookbook with New Orleans-inspired recipes.  We looked through the book together and settled on cute sandwich cut-outs, mint juleps to drink and froggy cupcakes.  Herlien had some ideas about how to make the recipes more fun-  instead of PB&J blossom cut-outs, the kids used turkey and cheese and colored cream cheese; instead of mint lemon juleps, the kids made a similar drink but using strawberries and limes-

They provided me with printouts of the recipes we selected to use as favors for the gift bags-  We rolled them like scrolls and put them into the brown paper bags (yes, I used brown paper bags, why not?  They are recyclable!)

We bought those colorful kid aprons at the Hobby Lobby for a few bucks each and we found paper chef hats by the dozen through  the Oriental Trading Company.  They also have aprons by the dozen for cheaper than the Hobby Lobby- but they were out of stock when we needed them.  You can have The Healthy Dish provide aprons and hats but that is factored into the party cost.

http://www.orientaltrading.com/chef-hats-a2-3_1095.fltr

http://www.orientaltrading.com/childs-colorful-aprons-a2-48_1959-46-1.fltr?xsaleSku=3/1095

We all showed up an hour early and decorated the room.  You’ll notice that the room appears small in the photos.  Healthy Dish can accomodate up to 12 children at a time, but no more.  This facility is made for cozy parties.  The good thing is that the children spend most of their time at the tables unless they are washing their hands between tasks, so the limited floor space is not an issue when they are all focused on squeezing cream cheese from a tube, cutting a strawberry, or cutting out shapes.

Once, the kids showed up, the party started!  It was a different kind of party so it took about 20 minutes for the 10 kids between the ages of 2 and 5 to adjust to the surroundings. ( Because space is limited, The Healthy Dish asks that parents drop off their children. The three instructors and a few parents stay to supervise and guide.)  Once the kids started mixing the batter, breaking eggs and cutting out bread shapes, their focus was on!

First, the kids prepared the batter for the froggy cupcakes that needed to bake while we made our tea sandwiches:

Then, the kids started to assemble their sandwiches.  They used cookie cutters to cut shapes in cheese slices.  Then, they cut shapes from the bread and turkey.

Um, short note on Cookie Cutter Safety here.  I noticed my daughter’s cupcake-shaped perforations weren’t as deep as they could be in her slices of white bread, so I gave her cookie cutter a good “THWAP!” to aid the bread incision.   Don’t do that.  The blood-curdling scream she emitted informed us all that I had helped her cut more than just the bread.  I had also managed to slice through her perfect porcelain flesh. I am happy to report that, although the facility is small, the aisles are wide enough to enable a birthday toddler to flail up and down them, screaming and crying that her mother had just maimed her at her own birthday party.  So-in short, be careful with those things.  Anyway, we were able to finally stop the bleeding, and we returned to assembling our sandwiches….

Here, the kids are mixing small bags filled with cream cheese and food-coloring to decorate their sandwiches.

The next culinary task was to make a twist on the Mint Juleps in our Princess Tiana Cookbook.  They were delicious!  Strawberries, lime, ginger ale, purified water, sugar and mint!  mmmmmmmmmm!

Finally, we decorated our cupcakes!  The kids mixed the food coloring and frosting together in the little bags, snipped the ends and made their little frogs with gummy candies.

At the end of the party, we brought out a small cake I baked the night before and lit the little candles-  We sang the Happy Birthday Song to my little girl and then handed out party favors to guests as their parents came to pick them up.  This was a wonderful party-It’s a party I’d do again in a heartbeat.

The only other learning point I can pass on from this  experience is to pay attention to the signage throughout the kitchen.  Underneath Herlien’s workstation were two plastic bins, one labeled “Arroz” and the other “Beans”.   I’m not sure why I thought they may have actually meant “Trash”, but I routinely threw away things into the “Beans” bin throughout the party.  Toward the end of the party, Luis sweetly informed me that I had been throwing away popped balloons and soppy paper-towels into their bean reserve.  I was, like, “You mean that the bin labeled “BEANS” really contains beans?”   Shocking.  I know.  Turns out they were serious when they wrote that on the bin.

So, if after reading this, you think you might be in the market to do your child’s next birthday party at The Healthy Dish, here are a few pieces of advice I can offer:

1)  This facility and service is best for kids four and older.

2)  Three year olds need a lot more help (one instructor for 5 four-year olds today versus one instructor for 2 three-year olds).

3)   I don’t recommend bringing two-year olds.

4)  The facility is small so limit kids to 12 and the number of parents present to 3 (including parents of the birthday girl or boy).

5)  Don’t “THWAP” any cookie cutters.

6)  Don’t throw trash in their bean bin.

If you want to learn more, I encourage you to call Luis and Herlien.  They are wonderful to work with!  They are working on several menu options for people to choose a meal item, drink and dessert for the kids to make at a set price.  I believe they are very reasonable.  Their contact information is here:

image

And  you can find the previous Critters and Crayons post about The Healthy Dish at the following link:

http://crittersandcrayons.com/2011/05/31/kids-cooking-classes/

This was a grand experience.  It’s one my daughter won’t forget- and we are so thrilled that The Healthy Dish put on such a great day for us and our guests!  Happy Partying!