How to throw an outdoor, camping-themed birthday party

I didn’t really want to throw a birthday party for Finn. I know: bad mom. I wanted to have a family gathering and do something special. Originally we were going to spend the day in Yellowstone because Finn had requested “geyser gazing.”

But Finn hasn’t had a birthday party with other kids and Henry thought that was important. Then Anders asked Finn who he wanted to invite to his party. So, I figured I’d better pull something together for Finn….and Henry.

Once I get something like this in my head I always take it to the next level. I tried to keep this one simple, but I kept getting great ideas. I had one week to prepare, so I didn’t do everything I wanted to, but I think it was fun anyway. I had a great time.

Here’s how you throw a camping-themed, somewhat eco-groovy party.

1. Book a location. We rented the pavilion at Pine Creek Campground. It’s 20 minutes from our house, in a campground, has a grill and fire ring, plenty of seating and provides good coverage from too much sun or rain. Turns out it rained a bit and we were glad for the roof. Like almost all Federal campgrounds etc., the pavilion can be reserved at recreation.gov

2. Make your own goody bags. I found scraps of material at the Community Closet and sewed the bags. After arguing with two different sewing machines I ended up sewing them by hand, which kept me up until two a.m. the night before the party. Not ideal. I need to learn how to use the sewing machine…

The goody bags had a Clif Kid Zbar, a 7 in 1 whistle, LED flashlight, compass, mirror & 5x magnifier, a polished rock and a sports key chain (picked up at the Community Closet with the help of Kerri).

3. Play games that connect kids with nature. I spent too many years as an environmental educator to not play a few e.e. games. I don’t know that the kids tuned into the surroundings, but they had fun.

We started with a blind walk. Before the guests arrived, I strung string between trees and through the forest. They were to wear a blindfold and follow the string, paying close attention to how the forest felt, sounded and smelled. These kids were a not quite old enough. Most wouldn’t wear the blindfold, and they were so crammed together that they could only hear each other. Still, it was fun.

Following the trail through the woods. (photo by Jim and Kerri Bynum)

Sophia and Mike (photo by Jim and Kerri Bynum)

Returning from the blind walk. (photo by Jim and Kerri Bynum)

Collecting sticks (photo by Jim and Kerri Bynum)

Next we played “Camouflage.” One kid stands in the trail, eyes covered and counts to 20. The other kids hide in a place where they can still see the counter’s head. Then the counter tries to find everyone without moving (he can turn in a circle to see all directions).

Our kids all hid together, so they were pretty easy to find. They loved playing it, though.

Giving directions for camouflage. (photo by Jim and Kerri Bynum)

Mary and Ignatius come out from their hiding place. (photo by Jim and Kerri Bynum)

We couldn’t get the kids to hide separately, so they were pretty easy to find. (photo by Jim and Kerri Bynum)

We also made leaf rubbings. The kids found a couple leaves, put them under a piece of paper and rubbed a crayon on top. Viola! An image of the leaf appears.

Everyone sits down for leaf rubbings. This may be the only time those kids sat all night.

Matine works on her leaf rubbing.

H helps Anders with his project.

4. Have a campfire. Of course, you’re going to have a campfire.

Gathering around the fire. (photo by Jim and Kerri Bynum)

Building a second fire pit.

Brothers Connor and Logan.

5. Choose food that doesn’t require plates or flatware and tell guests to bring their own cups. We had veggie and hot dogs, chips, goldfish crackers, fruit on skewers and roasted marshmallows. We also brought glass jars of juice and beer. All the skewers went into the campfire.

Hanging out while H roasts weenies.

A whole bunch of little kids + sticks + marshmallows + fire = so much fun. And somehow, no one got hurt. (photo by Jim and Kerri Bynum)

Finn doesn’t want to miss one morsel of marshmallow.

Another great food/sharp stick combination.

I thought about making cupcakes, but I had an idea for a cake that I just couldn’t let go. So we used paper plates and plastic forks (I washed a reused the forks).

Finn with his cake.

The cake looked better in my head…it’s Pine Creek Falls and campground.

Finn grinned and giggled the whole time we sang to him. (photo by Jim and Kerri Bynum)

Blowing out the candles.

I’m glad everyone wanted a party for Finn. It turned out to be a lot of fun for me!

10 thoughts on “How to throw an outdoor, camping-themed birthday party

  1. Lindsey

    I’ve got a BDay party coming up, and wanted to do a nature theme, but man, I really suck when it comes to party planning. This is awesome!! I wanted to SOMEHOW do a low key nature themed party at home. But this looks so wonderful I just might be tempted to kick it up a notch and go to a campground. And nice job on the cake!

  2. Granola Girl

    I’m digging the blind walk with beer. I personally believe most all wilderness games are better with beer. We are going to have to play camoflauge. The Barracuda (and his father) are both going to think this one is awesome!

  3. Mel Post author

    @Lindsey – Hope your party turned out great! I think you could do this in a backyard if you had (or could borrow) a fire pit. I also think flashlight tag would be really fun if the party lasted until after dark.

    @Kari- You are pretty spectacular yourself! Your party looked like tons of fun.

    Granola Girl– Beer does make all those kid parties a little more fun 😉 And camouflage is awesome when you are hiking. Whoever’s turn it is can yell it out at any time. Everyone drops their packs and runs for a hiding place. It was a great motivator when I was leading groups of tweens hiking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *