Party Planning

July 4th Holiday Weekend

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By Carol Martin, Finance Department, Rainbows United—Kids’ Point

Summer fun begins at home! If a ritzy tropical beach resort is not in your budget this time of year, create family memories with these three sizzling options.

Invite a handful of your child’s friends and their parents to a backyard splash party. Encourage everyone to wear swimsuits or clothes they don’t mind getting wet. For those who forget, provide extra towels, sunscreen and sunglasses.

If you have a pool, make sure to have lots of adult supervision in and out of the water. If not, a splash zone is the way to go. A small plastic pool or two, a slip-n-slide, some squirt guns or large sponges and a sprinkler are all you need for an epic mini-water park. Put it over the top with plastic buckets, bowls and bins of water to fill and splash out. An inflatable kiddie pool or tabletop buffet cooler are $5 at most dollar stores, while beach balls and swim rings are a mere $1.

Construct a pool noodle obstacle course from discount store items. This will keep the kids active when they’re done splashing. Children can jump over, crawl under and step around pool noodles placed in the yard.

Fill toy plastic buckets with fresh fruit, crackers or other snacks and use sand shovels for serving utensils. A star-shaped cookie cutter can be handy to make fruit or sandwiches more fun. Jell-O cups are quick and kid-friendly. Go for a red, white and blue theme with chilled foods and no cooking!

Why go all the way to a national park or crowded lakeside, when you can camp out in your own backyard? After you set a budget, allow your children to plan a menu and grocery shop within their means. Pitch a tent in a grassy spot and set up lawn chairs and blankets. If you really want to “rough it,” leave all electronic devices in the house.

If you were a Scout, you may remember Hobo Packets, aka Silver Turtles or foil packet meals. This type of dinner is quick, simple and most of all, a breeze to clean up. They can be baked in the oven or placed on an outdoor grill. After the meal, play games like bean bag toss or Uno, or make buddy bracelets and chase fireflies. Wear glow sticks and place solar lights around the campsite, and put a flashlight near each sleeping bag in the tent.

If you have a fire pit or chimenea, make everyone’s favorite outdoor dessert—s’mores. While everyone is munching, read an adventure book like Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, or Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories.

Neighborhood block parties are the best way to get outside and make some new friends this summer. Copy off a flyer with party details, grab the kids and go door-to-door with the invites. Delegate grills, drinks, games and other details to volunteers. The secret weapon when planning a block party is this: keep it simple. No fancy hors d’oeuvres or ice sculptures, just have fun!

Resources like Signup Genius make it easy to invite guests and find out who is bringing what. The best part? It’s free. Pinterest displays a plethora of results when you type “summer block party” in the search box. If you’ve never played host before, start very small with just hot dogs and chips on paper plates.

Bring your own lawn chairs and shade canopies; if you want to block off the street, be sure to contact the city to see if you need permits. Prepare handwashing/clean-up and trash stations. Set up outdoor games, like corn hole, lawn Twister, eating contests, bucket ball toss, water pong, or slip and slide. Appoint a talented teenager or adult to provide fun and festive music. Borrow portable tables from friends or a church.

If no one in the neighborhood has a swimming pool, place several plastic kiddie pools together in the yard. Kids will have a blast moving from one to another. Set up a small sprinkler or two and make it a splash park!

On the menu, begin with hummus, guacamole, queso or ranch dip with assorted chips, crackers and raw vegetables. Recruit several grill masters to set up hamburger, hot dog, bratwurst, chicken and veggie stations. Ask each family to contribute a salad or side dish and BYOM (bring your own meat). If it’s easier, you could gather $5 each from families and buy the meat yourself. Drinks can be kept icy in coolers or cheap baby pools. Think bottled water, sodas and juice boxes, along with adult beverages.

An ice cream sundae bar is simple to set up and loved by all ages. Place sauces and toppings in a water-filled crockpot to stay warm and pourable. Paper cups or bowls with nuts, candies, fruit and whipped cream complete the table. However, if your neighborhood is large, don’t spend big money on ice cream. Instead, fill a cooler with popsicles and make some microwave popcorn.

At dusk, gather partygoers on blankets or chairs in the yard and show an outdoor movie on a large bedsheet or side of a house. Pick a fun musical to sing along or a kid-friendly animated film.

Block parties bring opportunities to network and build trust with your neighbors. You never know when you might need an emergency babysitter, a cup of sugar, or a warm haven when you’re locked out of your house on a freezing day.

Make this summer one to remember with a cool and simple outdoor celebration.