I always respond, "Well, I like it." Easy enough. That's why I homeschool and plan unit studies, why I sew, why I write fanfiction, why I keep chickens, why I blog, why I read all of the time. I like it. Sometimes I like to lay in the hammock and read all afternoon, and sometimes I like to spend weeks helping my kid put together the epic Minecraft birthday party of her dreams.
Such as this one!
First, the invitations: Syd wanted invitations that looked like Minecraft cubes, like these. I agreed that they were super cute, but you know what I always like to do?
I kept my eye out, at the food pantry where we volunteer weekly, for boxes that were perfect cubes. Those are surprisingly hard to come by, but fortunately we scored big and a pallet full of quinoa snacks, all in boxes shaped like perfect cubes, finally came in for me to snatch. Matt did the design work, and here's the full tutorial for our Minecraft cube invitations:
Are they ridiculously adorable or what? You could probably mail these, but I didn't want to spend the money, so we either doorbell ditched them or I sneakily passed them off to kids' parents when I saw them, for them to surprise them with themselves.
I don't normally do a lot of decorating for a party, because I find that the kids neither really notice nor care, but for this Minecraft party, I did have Matt print these Minecraft food labels--it was VERY important to Syd that all the food be Minecraft-themed, so labels were important to make sure that everyone was in on the joke. It turned out that the kids LOVED the signs, and were pretty hyped about eating Minecraft-themed food, so another good move on Syd's part!
We had watermelon, baby carrots, pretzels, chips, strawberries, blueberries, and the only two things that I had to cook, pizza and cake. I used to bake homemade pizza about every week before our oven died at the beginning of the summer (new game: how long can I go without an oven? I'm hoping until at least Black Friday!), so making a giant pizza in a sheet pan wasn't so much of a big deal: prep the dough in the morning, leave it to rise all day, preheat the oven an hour before the party, prep the pizza and let it rest, bake it about half an hour before the party starts, slice it and set it out when the first guest arrives. Syd is a nut, so I left it to her to cut pepperoni and peppers into squares to make the appropriate decorations for a Minecraft pizza (I put the non-square bits into a Ziplock baggie and we ate them on a pizza of our own the next week).
The cake, now... the cake was my masterpiece. I used two boxed chocolate cake mixes, and baked them in a square Pyrex dish. I wanted the layers to be thick, so although you're supposed to divide the batter in half with each cake mix, I baked the entire box at once, for two super-thick layers. I was leery of making the marshmallow fondant, but it actually turned out perfectly, and was totes easy to roll out, lay on the cake, and then cut to look like a Minecraft cake:
We were both thrilled with how it turned out:
Will helped me carry our big homeschool table out to the garage, and I set up all the food there, along with my computer. I streamed video from the kids' favorite Minecraft Youtuber while playing the Minecraft party playlist that I compiled. Considering how many of the kids stopped to watch part of a video or commented on a song, it was all the decoration that we needed!
The kids and I put most of our effort into planning the party activities. It was a three-hour party, so I planned for some time to do art, two games, the pinata, cake, presents, and free time to play, with the campfire going in case it got chilly.
When the party guests first arrived, they were invited to either work on the fort (a giant cardboard box with a door and windows cut out of it, and big pots of craft paint and plenty of brushes and cups of water) or paint their own Minecraft sword, using higher-quality craft acrylics. The Minecraft sword was also their party favor:
The kids all seemed to LOVE their swords! I was really happy watching them all paint their swords with careful detail, and then as soon as they were (mostly) dry, they jumped right into playing with them:
|Yes, that is a dad whom all the kids are swordfighting. Yes, that dad DID paint his very own sword, too.|
|Yes, I did let the kids really swordfight. No, they didn't actually hurt each other...|
Our first game, Zombie Tag, is recycled from the Dragon Tag game of Will's birthday party. Syd cut a flag for each kid (and yes, she did write "LIFE" on each flag to make it thematically relevant, sigh...), and the rules of the game are as follows:
- Kids line up, close their eyes, and put out their hands.
- Some kids will receive a flag. They are the "alive" kids. They tuck one end of the flag into their pants.
- Some kids will not receive a flag. They are the zombies.
- Give the living kids a head-start by telling them to open their eyes and run first.
- A couple of seconds later, let the zombies open their eyes and run.
- Zombies chase living kids and try to steal their flags. If a zombie steals a living kid's flag, that kid turns into a zombie, and helps chase more living kids.
- The last living kid standing wins the game.
The kids usually want to play this several times, with different combinations and amounts of zombies vs. living kids. There's lots of running, so I'd do this BEFORE you let them eat cake and ice cream:
Even though this game was Syd's idea, she actually loathes competitive games, and so totally had a panic attack about two seconds after that picture was taken. Matt took her inside to chill out for a few minutes, while the rest of the kids played a few more rounds of Zombie Tag.
Because Syd loathes competitive games so much, she insisted that the Spawn Egg Hunt be collaborative, which worked out just as well as my original plan, which was to simply tell each child the maximum amount of Spawn Eggs that she could collect.
The Spawn Egg Hunt is just an Easter egg hunt, a concept that I've recycled from Will's Dragon Party and Syd's Dinosaur Party. Even just a month after Easter, kids still LOVE an Easter egg hunt! To make these Spawn Eggs extra-special, the kids decorated them to look like "real" Spawn Eggs (I mean, of course!), and we also turned them into cascarones:
The kids had a good time working together to find all of the Spawn Eggs that I'd hidden in the front yard that afternoon (and yes, there were exactly two that we never found...)--
--and they seemed to have a FABULOUS time smashing them on their own and/or each other's heads to spawn them!
|In this photo, I've just asked Syd to demonstrate to the children how to spawn the eggs, using her sister as the Crash Test Dummy. Will was all, "Wait... what?"|
|We make our pinatas VERY strong with lots of papier mache. It's no fun to be the last kid in line to hit the pinata if the first kid busts it open!|
With Mr. Creeper here, I think the kids were all able to go almost three full rounds!
Pinata free-for-alls kind of horrify me, so I always tell the kids how much there is for everyone. In this pinata, every kid could get six pieces of candy, a honey stick, a fruit leather, and a small toy. A couple of the kids have severe allergies, so the honey stick, fruit leather, and toy were to make sure that everybody got some stuff they could actually have.
In all the many birthday parties and holiday parties that I have thrown for these kids, this Minecraft party is for sure in my Top Two. Syd had a good time and had great manners, the kids all seemed to have a great time and were crazy-adorable, and it was a lot of fun to watch them enjoy the games and activities and swordfighting and painting and playing together.
A bunch of sweet kids being super cute, visibly appreciating our hard work, having a fabulous time, and loving my kid?
That's why I love to throw elaborate birthday parties!
P.S. Here's my Minecraft Party pinboard, with about a million more Minecraft party ideas that I didn't do. See? The party could have been even more elaborate!