I offered many options to my daughter for celebrating her 5th birthday. Since it is such as milestone, I expected her to ask for something like a party at the local kiddie gym or something along those lines since she has attended several parties like that. We debated it for weeks, but wxwhatever I offered was of no interest to her. The one hint she gave me was that the most important thing to her was to do something with her best girl friend. I kept trying --- I offered mini golf, a party at a toy store, a dance class for her friends and more. Then it dawned on me that doing something outside might be the ticket. One of our local Audubon nature centers was offering programs for children throughout the spring. One, called Big Puddles, sounded like just the thing to spark her interest.
One morning, while driving to preschool, I casually mentioned that I had an idea about how to celebrate her birthday. It was quiet in the car for several seconds and then she said "what?" I said, "how would you like to take your friend to the nature center to look for frogs, salamanders and bugs in a vernal pool?" I barely finished the sentence and she said, "yeah, mom that sounds so COOL!"
Now, you have to understand my daughter. She is the ultimate girly girl. She loves princesses, ballerinas and anything pink or yellow. She wears dresses almost everyday and often to bed. Her favorite shoes have red sparkles all over them. The fact that she wanted to be outside getting dirty and touching bugs and slimy things for her birthday tells me that being outside exploring gives her a great deal of pleasure.
Last Friday was the big day and it was a beautiful one in more ways than one. We met her friend and her friend's mommy at the center and spent an hour catching critters in a vernal pool. The funny thing was, both the mommies were digging through the leaves and stuff caught in the nets right along with them. The two little girls were so cute wading in their Wellies and laughing with delight when they found critters. Here are photos of some of the neat things we found (credit: the Vernal Pool Association):
At the end of the session, before getting into the car, my daughter gave me a huge hug and said, "Mommy, I love you so much!" Wow, that really felt great.
When planning you child's birthday party, I encourage you to consider alternatives to the norm. Research your local area to find out if you have a park or nature center near you. You might be surprised by what you find. Many can accommodate birthday parties. Not only will it be fun, but it will be memorable for everyone and a great learning experience for the kids.