At age three, Niamh doesn't have a lot of friends her own age; it's more about family friends coming together to celebrate. Friends, siblings, parent--an entire range of ages from the very young to the grandparents. That can make planning activities that entertain all particularly difficult.
A bouncy house is a great activity for a large range of ages. I'll admit to spending some time in there myself. ;-) One great tip is that if you wait until a few days before the party to book the bouncy house, most companies will offer substantial discounts off of their regular prices. They'd rather have their bounce houses out there getting some revenue than sitting in the warehouse. If you can be flexible about what style of bounce house you want, waiting until the last minute is a fabulous budget-saving trick.
We kicked off the formal activities with "sprinkle paintings." I bought washable tempura paints in classic sprinkles colors, and an assortment of round stamping brushes. A painting drop cloth made a perfect (if wrinkly) tablecloth.
Instead of using just paper, I bought an inexpensive multi pack of 12x12 canvases from Michaels. With a 40% off coupon, it didn't cost me any more than getting a pack of paper would have, and the kids felt like such official artists, painting on canvases. Each child got to take home her piece of artwork, and several are hanging proudly in bedrooms now!
Painting is an easy, fun activity that can be scaled for any age. There was even one 30 year old guest who was sad I didn't have a canvas for her! (Something to remember for next time.)
Next up, we made sprinkle maracas. I'd been planning to cobble something together with plastic Christmas ornaments and tape or fimo plugs. And then I found these plastic containers with clear screw top lids at Hobby Lobby for $.77 each. Score!
A few funnels, some sprinkles, and voila, sprinkle maracas! Niamh and her little preschool classmates sing a song at circle time each day with maracas, so we sang that together. Twice, actually, because it was just too much fun.
I found the perfect sprinkle pinata at Party City, so I didn't have to make one this year! I loved the idea of a ribbon pull pinata for the little ones. Each child is supposed to pull a ribbon, and one releases a trap door at the bottom, letting the candy fall out. Well, ours didn't quite work that way, so we scrounged and found a painting extension rod to use as a pinata stick and opened it the classic way. One pinata, twice the fun!
The rest of the party was unstructured free time. Making pizzas (with "sprinkle cheese") in the wood fired oven I built in the backyard. Lounging under the sprinkle garlands and enjoying fabulous company and beautiful weather. (Side note: after making all of these garlands, I have a much greater appreciation of the European term for sprinkles, "hundreds and thousands.")
Bouncing and running and playing and rehydrating with sprinkle punch (sprite, with ice cubes in all the colors of sprinkles made from juices and Koolaid.)
Enjoying time with friends and family--isn't that what this is all about? Happy birthday, Niamh!