Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Little Party on the Prairie

Maybe I can get them to start
washing all the clothes.
My oldest daughter and I started reading the Little House on the Prairie series at bedtime several years ago.  She fell in love with Pa and Ma and Laura and Mary, to the point where she would constantly entreat her grandpa to play "Laura and Mary" whenever she visited.  Now that her little sister is bigger, she pulls her into the game as Carrie and even makes our poor little dog be Jack.

When we were talking about what to do for her 6th birthday this year, she immediately thought of a Little House party.  Now, I work full-time and since my husband stays home with three little ones, we are budgeted down to the penny.  I immediately started researching how we could do this frugally.  There are some beautiful parties out there, but we needed to stick with something we could afford.

My dress isn't authentic, but my mom did make me a
bonnet and apron (the girls, too). You'll notice the
screen room in back--it rained!  In July! In SoCal! ??!?
There were some great ideas at Oh Amanda's blog that I used, namely the button/bead necklaces and the clothes washing game.  But here's everything in a nutshell:

 When the girls arrived, they had the opportunity to decorate a bonnet:

I got the directions for bonnet making from Skip to My Lou's blog.  I found the 12" x 18" paper at Michael's for $3 or $4 and we already had the yarn.  I pre-made the bonnets and let the girls color them.

Yes, you're right, there
were most likely not
fluorescent beads
back in the day. But,
when they're on
clearance, you take
what you can get.
Once they made a bonnet (if they wanted to), they visited the necklace-making station.  I told them all about Ma's button collection and how the girls would string them.  I added beads to the pile, too, and told them about Laura visiting the abandoned Indian village with Pa. The girls loved stringing beads.  I put scotch tape around the yarn at one end (so they could poke it through the holes easier) and tied a bead to the other end so they wouldn't fall off.
As the girls finished their necklaces, they had the opportunity to come and "fish" in the creek.  I have to admit, this a filler game we added as a "just in case" at the last minute.  It's actually from when I was a kid--my dad constructed it for our birthday parties growing up.  Basically, he just painted a box and slit some holes on top, then made cardboard fish with a hole punched through the top (well, several hole punches together to make the hole big enough).  I am sure with a little effort, you can make it look much more "Little House"-esque.  The kids love trying to catch fish, though.  The fishing pole you see here is a wire hanger connected to a dowel by twine.  We had an "easier" fishing pole that was a stretched out wire hanger connected to a dowel.

When everyone had finished their necklaces, we played our clothes washing game.  Oh. My. Gosh.  They LOVED this game.  I separated them into two teams.  We had cut up 40 pieces of fabric.  They had to grab a piece out of the basket, put it on the washboard, soap it up with bar soap, scrub it, rinse it, wring it and then hang it on the clothesline, then run to the back of the line.  I thought they would get tired of it after the first or second run-through, but they would have kept going all afternoon!  In fact, I probably didn't even have to make it a race--could have added a few more washtubs and boards and let them go to town!
The basket in the foreground holds all the clothespins.
We strung two different colors of yarns from easy-up to
easy-up for the clotheslines.
I'm sure you can get more authentic clothespins at Michael's.
I had these already and free is good.

After this game, we had a relay race to make butter. I had bought 4 Mason jars on sale at Michael's for $1.50 each.  I explained to the girls about where milk comes from and what cream is.  We then poured 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream in each jar.  I divided the girls up into four teams and had them shake until I yelled PASS and they would hand it to their neighbor.  I put some fast fiddle music on the CD player and even led a march around the back yard (twice).  It takes about ten minutes, but then suddenly there is BUTTER!  They were amazed!  My husband had baked up two batches of corn muffins and blueberry muffins and they were able to spread the butter on top and enjoy!
My husband showed them how to create the dolls, while
my sister, my mom, plus another grandma helped.  The
8 and 9 year-olds totally got it, but the 6 and 7 year-olds
needed help.
Last, but definitely not least, we made corn husk dolls.  My girls had made them at the San Jose Children's Museum last November when I was up there for a library conference.  They are super easy and corn husks are pretty inexpensive (at least where I'm from--people buy them to make tamales).  I know Laura's doll was a corn cob doll, but we figured this was of the era (as well as fun, cheap and easy). Martha Stewart's version is pretty close to what we made.

Finally, we served a homemade chocolate cake (yum!) and decorated it with Lincoln Logs. I wanted to find some trees to make it the Little House in the Big Woods, but alas, the trees my husband has for his model trains all had snow on them.  Just didn't seem right for a summer party. 
My daughter decided we definitely need M&Ms lining the
path, as well as an M&M footbridge over the creek.
As for the goodie bags, I found small, brown paper bags at Michael's and added Laura-related items from the Dollar Tree which I made sure to explain to them before they left: an orange, peppermint candies (couldn't find peppermint sticks this time of year), some extra buttons, three small plastic horses (Pet, Patty, & Bunny).  Plus, a few fun things like horse stickers and pencils, just to round it out.

I had planned to make ice cream in a bag and do the clothespin drop game, but two hours fly by faster than you would think.

Can't wait until next year's party.  My daughter has already put an order in for a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory party, but she's been known to change her mind umpteen times, so we'll see.


  1. How fun! It sounds like you put together an amazing party -- much much fancier and more involved than anything I ever had as a kid. I bet all the kids who came went home and begged their parents for an identical birthday party.

  2. Aw, thanks! We had a fun time.

  3. Wow! That was probably the best and most educational party of their lives!

  4. I figure if I convince even one of them to read the series (or have their parent read it to them), I'll have succeeded in life. =)

  5. I am sooooo bummed we were out of town for this!

  6. Aww. We missed you guys. You'll have to bring them over sometime along with your dirty laundry and we'll set them all up in the backyard with some washboards and soap--should keep 'em busy all afternoon. :)