Revolutionary War Themed Birthday Party

My son Alex was born on the Fourth of July.  He’s a super-bright, quirky, geeky, introverted kid, so his requests are usually a little off the beaten path.  For his 9th Birthday, he asked for a Revolutionary War themed party.

Not a patriotic birthday party; he wanted the Revolutionary War.  The Revolutionary War has quite a bit of death and starvation.. not real great birthday party material.

Beyond a Betsy Ross Flag Cake, I wasn’t sure what to do, so I searched Pinterest for fun ways to approach the Revolutionary War that would be engaging for kids (simply by searching the words “revolutionary war kids“), which is how I got the idea to do a timeline.

Alex also loves maps, biking, swimming, and as most nine-year-olds; he loves the idea of scavenger hunts.

Thus was born the idea: a Revolutionary War Timeline Bike Scavenger Hunt.  On the 3rd of July, we could bike to different neighbor’s houses, re-enact some battles using water guns and water balloons, and conclude the bike-scavenger-hunt at the neighborhood pool.  This wouldn’t be a true “scavenger hunt” with racing; rather, it’d have more of a “progressive dinner” feel. (We continued to call it a scavenger hunt, however, because that sounds much more exciting for the kids.)

The timelines spend a good deal of time explaining all of the events that led up to the Revolutionary War; it didn’t just happen, and it wasn’t inevitable. Many people were happy to continue being a colony of Great Britain; so what happened to change that?

As I started to fill in the details for Alex’s Revolutionary War Timeline Bike Scavenger Hunt, I asked him how much of the War he wanted to cover.  Alex was emphatic that we conclude with the signing of the Declaration of Independence (aka – his birthday). Once I negotiated an additional “Crossing of the Delaware” in the pool, I started fleshing out the details.

The kids’ age range was from 5 to 12, with the bulk of party-goes around age 9.  Thus the timeline descriptions needed to hit the mark of clarity without too much detail.  I used  Book Units Teacher’s presentation of The American Revolution for most of my event descriptions, supplementing with Ducksters.com’s American Revolution when necessary.

Next, I needed several neighbors to assist with hosting a re-enactment in their front yard (and inviting them to participate in the battle or simply let us use their property).  Our neighborhood is the original astronaut community in Houston; the City of Nassau Bay is fantastic for many reasons, not the least of which is our fun neighbors and city ordinances that allow golf-carting.

The invitation asked kids to bring a bike, helmet, bathing suit, and towel and described the overall flow. Parents were invited to bike or golf cart, but for safety reasons, I asked for no cars.

In addition to mapping out the stops (with reasonable distances for kids), I dropped off any necessary supplies as well as a laminated “information sheet” about each stop a couple of hours before the party began.  Although I had an agenda for timing, I made arrangements with each host to call or text when we were on our way so no one was caught unaware.

We started at our house with a Taxation without Representation simulation.  We used M&M’s as our “money” to be taxed, followed the instructions, and amended the free PDFs on Young Teacher Love as needed.

IMG_2674 IMG_2676 IMG_2688

Once the kids got sufficiently annoyed by the King’s ridiculous taxes, we got on our bikes to see what happened next.

IMG_2693

I asked one of our friends who has a golf cart to be the “pace car,” leading the bikes.  The kids understood the #1 rule: no one passes the golf cart; this is not a race.  I made sure to be at the end of our bikers so that no one would be left behind.

Our first stop was the Boston Massacre.  The “British” were neighbors with adult children.  Two bins of water balloons were set – one for each side, and the British soldiers were armed with water guns.  I read the description, tossing a water balloon towards the British as I read “throwing snowballs” and cued the start of the re-enactment by shouting “THE SOLDIERS FIRED!”

1 - Boston Massacre

IMG_2695

We only fought for a couple of minutes before I shouted to the Colonists: “Time to head to the Boston Tea Party!” Several “That was awesome!” remarks from the kids, and we biked off.

For the Boston Tea Party, I set up a large clothing storage bin with water (because we don’t have a baby pool), a box of super-cheap, store-brand tea bags (pro-tip: get a box that is not individually wrapped), and crudely constructed headbands with feathers,

2 The Boston Tea Party IMG_2701 IMG_2704

After explaining the First Continental Congress, I went on to read about the Minutemen. I set up a bucket of water guns, which were pre-filled for the Colonists.  These (along with water bottles) were the party favors.  They were inexpensive (about 50¢ each), but such cheap quality that I wouldn’t recommend.

3 - First Continental Congress

As we concluded the First Continental Congress, one of our neighbors performed Paul Revere’s famous ride on his bike, ringing a bell, shouting “The British are coming! The British are coming!”

We all mounted our bikes and headed off to battle!

IMG_2708

The Battle of Lexington began after my neighbor shot her kiddo’s cap gun, representing the “Shot heard ’round the world.”

4 - Battle of Lexington

Then we rode off to Battle of Concord…

5 - Battle of Concord

IMG_2726 IMG_2728

Our last stop was the Battle of Bunker Hill…

6 - The Battle of Bunker Hill

Conveniently, the kids started complaining that they were running low on ammunition. “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes!”

IMG_2734

This neighbor not only made his own British flag, but he was armed with ICE COLD water to attack the kids!

IMG_2737

Upon arriving at the pool, the kids signed the Declaration of Independence.

7 - Declaration of Independence

I got a print of the Declaration of Independence from a local Teacher Supply store for $1.50 and had them laminate it. Upon arriving, all the kids signed in Sharpie, which creates the perfect keepsake for Alex.

IMG_2788

The inflatable boats were purchased at a sporting good store (Academy), but can be purchased on Amazon.

8 - Washington Crosses the Delaware

IMG_2746

And of course, I made a Betsy Ross Flag Cake!

9 - The American Flag

IMG_2785This never would  have been a party I would have imagined or come up with on my own.  But with a little creativity and a lot of help, I was able to create one of the most fun birthday parties for adults, kids, friends, and neighbors.

Advertisements

CamelBaks Aren’t Just for Hiking and Biking

20111105_030Here’s a Creative Solution: use a CamelBak anytime you want access to water but don’t want to carry a water bottle.  A CamelBak is like a backpack with a water “bladder” (reservoir) and a straw that many people use for hiking and biking.  Instead of carrying a backpack with a water bottle, fill the reservoir with ice, top it off with water, and you’ve got cold water all day:

  • At the zoo
  • While walking and touring a new city
  • At the pool or the beach – hang it on the back of your chair and pull out the “straw” when you want to drink.
  • Walking around an amusement park or Disney
  • At a kids sporting event

You can get CamelBaks in all shapes and sizes.  The most popular (and the one my husband and I have) is the Camelbak Mule, which comes with a replacable 100 ounce reservoir.

You can get a larger backpack if you need, but the storage space on the Mule is fantastic.  Moreover, when everyone has their own CamelBak, everyone carries their own stuff.  Which brings me to the kids…

On our first family camping trip, we were astonished by how much the kids loved our CamelBaks, but our packs didn’t fit them (too uncomfortably large), so we were pretty excited to find the Kid-sized version.  The CamelBak Mini Mule fit the kids perfectly. It’s got a kid-sized backpack and a 50 ounce reservoir.  The kids stay more hydrated when they use their CamelBaks, and they can carry their own stuff (snacks, maps, hats, etc.) in the little backpack.  You can find them online at Amazon, LLBean, or in stores like REI.  The Mini-Mule prices range from about $49 – $89, so definitely shop around.  We asked the grandparents to make the Mini-Mule their Christmas gift to the boys, which was a win-win: not a toy, and it lasts for years!  (Note: the Mini-Mule is very rugged, but occasionally, we do need to replace the “bite valve.”)

On our Summer travels this year, we used the Camelbaks when we hiked a couple of trails in the Adirondacks.

Lake George

I really wish I had thought to use them when we walked the Freedom Trail in Boston.IMG_2295

 

They were perfect for our walk on the Great Wall of ChinaCamelbaks on teh Great Wall

So whether you’re into hiking and biking or just being a tourist, I think CamelBaks are a great Creative Solution.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How do you clean the CamelBaks?

Empty out the water (suck out whatever’s in the straw. too), stuff the inside with paper towels, turn it upside down, and let it dry out for a couple days.

IMG_0002They also make “Cleaning Kits.” But we’ve always just air dried them… I mean if you aren’t responsible about drying them mold/mildew grows and you have to replace the reservoir.

Traveling Tips: iPod Touch and Headphones for Kids

This Creative Solution explains which gadgets we use for our kids while traveling – and why.  We live a-ways from family: a minimum of a 3 1/2 hour car ride or a 3 1/2 plane ride.  When my boys (now 6 1/2 and 8) got to be of the age where we would consider a video gaming system or a portable DVD player (or both), we opted for iPod Touches.

Why?

  1. The adults in the house have iPhones that the boys love to play with, so this would give them their own version of the gadgets we use
  2. The iPod Touch is versatile: movies/shows, games, interactive aps
  3. The newer iPods allows them to FaceTime and iMessage their Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and Grandparents (who have iGadgets)
  4. It also has a camera
  5. Rugged cases

The longevity of application and versatility won the cost analysis.

So, first is the iPod itself.  We originally got each kiddo an 8GB iPod 4th Generation (now available refurbished).  New, they are now only offering iPod 5th Generation 16GB.

Honestly, in cost analysis today, I can’t say I’d choose an iPod Touch over an iPad Mini…

Anyhow, when purchasing gadgets for kids, a rugged case is a must!  Given the choice, I’d usually choose (and recommend) an Otterbox because of their guarantee.  When purchasing cases for my own kids, however, I found that my older child’s neurotic preferences for color combinations was strong enough to sway me to a non-Otterbox brand that promised kid-safe ruggedness.  Two years in and no problems!

    Multi Color Hybrid Hard Plastic Silicone Case For Apple iPod Touch 4 4th,Rugged Hybrid Case for iPod 4G (Blue+Green)

OtterBox Defender Series Case for iPod touch 5G

Child friendly headphones are another must in my book.  You don’t want to have to listen to that-noise.  Please don’t subject your traveling neighbors to listening to that-noise.  While my older one has been satisfied with random ear buds, my younger one has a sensitivity.  He prefers over-the-head.  I have found that the kids version of the Uprock Skullcandy Headphones works really, really well.  They’re definitely rugged (in case your kid might be like mine and leave them in a walking path to be trampled upon).  Unfortunately, Amazon tells me that the Uprock headphones are discontinued by the manufacturer.  I’ll update this post if I hear any more, but we have been really pleased with the quality and durability and comfort of these.

Skullcandy Uprock Headphones Athletic Red (2012 Color), One Size

So an iPod, a rugged case, and headphones.  A must in our Creative Solution traveling tips!

Traveling Tips: Portable External Battery USB Charger

After traveling with my two boys, ages 8 and 6 1/2, over the course of four weeks, from Houston to the Adirondacks, to New England, to China, to Malaysia, and then finally home, I have a lot of Creative Solutions that I want to share.

My kids each have an iPod Touch and a Kindle (e-ink), my husband and I each have an iPhone, an iPad, and a Kindle.  When we fly, my husband and I tend to read, and the kids tend to play games or watch movies.  One of the gadgets that really helped is a Portable External Battery USB Charger.

You charge it at home, and it packs a ton of portable power.  There are little LEDs that tell you how much juice is left.  It has multiple USB ports to charge multiple gadgets at once.  The Portable External Battery USB Charger was especially handy during international travel or long days out when I planned to use my iPhone as a camera.