The Amazing Race Birthday Party

Birthday parties are challenging for teen boys.  The past couple of years my son Jacob has not wanted a theme or decorations, so we have just had a few friends over for movies and board games.  But this year, for his 15th birthday, we decided to do something unique.  The idea was sparked by a conversation we had about the youth group I attended as a teen and some of the fun events we got to do.  My favorite was called “The Torture Rally,” a 24 hour car rally around our city with clues to solve and challenges, definitely one of the highlights of my teen years.  I described it to Jacob as a sort of youth group Amazing Race, and the idea for pulling of a birthday party like this was birthed.  We kept the party small and just had one team…so they were essentially competing against themselves, but they had so much fun and it was well worth all the hours of prep that I put in to plan all the clues and challenges.

Here is a list of what we did for Jacob’s AMAZING RACE PARTY!

  1.  PULL 50 MARBLES OUT OF A TUB OF ICE WATER USING ONLY YOUR TOES

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2. MEMORIZE THIS POEM.  FIND THE MAN IN RED ACROSS THE PARK AND RECITE IT PERFECTLY.  IF YOU MESS UP, GO BACK AND TRY AGAIN

Spaghetti, spaghetti, all over the place, Up to my elbows – up to my face, Over the carpet and under the chairs, Into the hammock and wound round the stairs, Filling the bathtub and covering the desk, Making the sofa a mad mushy mess.  The party is ruined, I’m terribly worried, The guests have all left (unless they’re all buried).  I told them, “Bring presents.”  I said, “Throw confetti.”  I guess they heard wrong ’cause they all threw spaghetti! – Shel Silverstein 

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3.  (set up in someones front yard) MEMORIZE THE ORDER Of THESE TRIBAL PRINTED CARDS.  NOW RECREATE THIS EXACTLY IN THE BACKYARD.  YOU MAY RETURN AS MANY TIMES AS NECESSARY BUT CANNOT BRING CARDS WITH YOU.

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4.  (part 1) WEAR CRAZY PARTY HATS AND MARDI GRAS NECKLACES IN PUBLIC (WALK ACROSS THE BRIDGE) (part 2) CHALLENGE…WITH STRING TIED TO YOUR WRISTS AND CONNECTED TO A PARTNER, FIND YOUR WAY APART (it’s actually quite simple but seems very complicated)

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5.  MAKE MARSHMALLOW SHOOTERS.  NOW SHOOT MALLOWS INTO A BUCKET THAT IS HELD ON YOUR TEAMMATES HEAD (MAKE 5 MALLOWS EACH)

IMG_7421IMG_7425            6.  PLAY A GIANT GAME OF MEMORY: BOARD GAME STYLE (game made out of heavy paper plates, printed boardgame photos, and weighed down with flat marbles)

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7.  FIND THE PIECES OF THE WOODEN PUZZLE HIDDEN IN THE PLAY STRUCTURE.  NOW PUT THE PUZZLE TOGETHER. (much more challenging than it looks)

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8.  GO TO BARNES AND NOBLE AND ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS…

  1. HOW MANY BOOKS ARE THERE IN THE BIBLE?
  2. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF A BOOK WRITTEN BY OUR PRESIDENT?
  3. HOW MANY BOOKS ARE IN “THE DIARY OF A WHIMPY KID” SERIES?
  4. NAME 3 “NON-BOOK” ITEMS YOU CAN PURCHASE HERE
  5. FIND AND NAME 2 BOOKS BY THE CHILDREN’S AUTHOR ERIC CARLE 

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9.  GO TO THE MALL.  FIND THE PHOTO BOOTH.  TAKE A PHOTO WITH YOUR WHOLE TEAM IN THE BOOTH AT THE SAME TIME.

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10.  USING SIDEWALK CHALK, DRAW AN ACCURATE DIAGRAM OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM, PLACING EACH PLANET IN ORDER STARTING WITH THE SUN

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11.  DIVE INTO THE POOL AND RETRIEVE THE GOLF BALLS AT THE BOTTOM.  EACH HAS A LETTER WRITTEN ON IT.  UNSCRAMBLE THE LETTERS TO DECODE THE MESSAGE

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FINISH THE NIGHT WITH PIZZA AND CUPCAKES AND OF COURSE AN EPISODE OF THE AMAZING RACE!!!IMG_8150IMG_8223

The Amazing Race Birthday Party lasted for about 5 hours total (the race itself was 4 of those hours which included a “pit stop” for snacks about half way through).  Be sure to come prepared with bottles of water to keep everyone hydrated, especially during the summer.  For more Amazing Race Birthday Party footage check out this fun video of the highlights from Jacob’s party!

Colored (RAINBOW) Rice

I love setting up sensory bins for my kids.  Over the years, we have done white rice,  beans, popcorn kernels, shaving cream, salt, and more, but we have never made rainbow colored rice.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to make!

This week, my kids are on Spring Break and the weather forecasted several rainy days.  Since we were staying home this week, I decided that I’d plan a couple of fun activities to keep us busy.  I picked up a large package of inexpensive white rice and some Wilton’s Gel Food Colors at Target and began looking at recipes for colored rice.  Some recipes called for rubbing alcohol, but I wanted to make ours without, so I found that vinegar was a great alternative for setting the colors without the alcohol.

My daughter and I had so much fun making this rice!  She actually made it almost all by herself!  We created this little video tutorial (below) as part of her kid’s series “Craft Time With Karis.”

In the past couple of days,  “Colored (rainbow) Rice” has provided hours of sensory and imaginary play.  Karis added some little bunnies and plastic eggs for Easter play.  She put plastic dolphins and other animals in too, and yesterday we included some cardboard  with holes cut out and a funnel for pouring rice.  This inspired Karis to create an imaginary town called “Flowerville” while she played with her animals and rainbow rice.

Watch our tutorial to learn how to make some “Colored (rainbow) Rice” with your kids!

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More “Craft Time With Karis” Fun:

Tricky Hopscotch (with a twist)

Valentine Craft (Cookie Cutters & Paint)

 

DIY Spring Book Page Banner

This past Monday was the first day of Spring, and boy am I ready for some sunshine!   This weekend, in anticipation of the arrival of the new season, I made this simple “Book Page Banner” and I absolutely love the way it turned out!  Book Page Banners are great, because they are so inexpensive to make and you can modify them to fit any occasion.

For this Bunny Rabbit and Carrot Banner you will need…

  •  pages out of an old book (I got mine from the dollar store)
  •  bunny & carrot template (google bunny silhouette & carrot silhouette to find ones you like and size them to fit your book pages)
  • white, orange, and green card stock
  • scissors
  •  ruler
  •  pencil
  •  paper cutter
  • glue stick
  • scotch tape
  • twine

Watch my tutorial above to make your own Spring Book Page Banner.

Happy Spring!

DIY Tinkering Workshop for Kids

My son Micah is that kid who is always trying to figure out “how things work.”  He absorbs information like no one I know and often amuses us with the most off the wall, interesting facts that he “read somewhere in a book.”  He also loves science and technology.  We always say that he’s going to be a famous inventor someday!

For the last couple of years, Micah would often say, “Mom, I wish I had a workshop of my very own!   I wish I had a place that I could just go and build stuff.”  Whenever he said this, I was left feeling like I didn’t even know where to begin, so I’d look up a project on Pinterest or try to get him engaged in a creative activity.  I never really thought it would be possible to make his dream a reality.

Recently,  I started talking to Micah about what he wanted for his 11th birthday.  He didn’t have a specific gift in mind.  Then inspiration struck!  I started dreaming about how we could make a special workshop just for Micah in our house.  We have this random, small utility room between our living room and garage that had basically become a storage space for all kinds of  random things.  I realized that this could become a perfect tinkering space for Micah.

I knew that I wanted to start with large pegboard on one wall, so we took a trip to Lowe’s to see what we could find.  In a matter of days, Micah’s workshop came together, and I was very pleased that we were able to keep the cost down to under $60 by using a bunch of thing we already had in our garage and in our house.

I put together this little video (below) of “The Making of Micah’s Tinkering Workshop” which includes a cost breakdown and a few fun moments with Micah too!  Micah is thoroughly enjoying his “place to go build stuff.”  The first day it was finished, he spent over 4 hours in there working on building a robotic arm that was given to him by a friend.

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We would love to hear from you!  If you know of any cool building projects for kids or ideas of what Micah could do in his workshop, leave us a comment and let us know!

How to Make a Real Portal Cake

Portal and Portal 2 are popular video games.  Truthfully, I’ve never played either of them, but according to my son they are the “best video games ever!”  Here’s a bit about the games according to my son Micah…”In Portal, you are a test subject in a huge underground facility called Aperture Science that is supposedly under Michigan.  You go through the tests (which are puzzles), solving them, and they get harder and harder along the way.  At a certain point in the game, you acquire a tool which makes portals that objects and you yourself can pass through.  This tool is official called the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, but is more commonly referred to as the Portal Gun.”

Micah’s 11 birthday was March 3rd and he wanted a Portal Themed Birthday Party!  Micah chose to have his party at a Fun Center in our city so that we could play laser tag and ride go carts, so the cake became the main thing that represented the Portal Theme.

In Portal there is a gigantic robot named GLaDOS at the center of the facility.  GLaDOS runs everything and she promises you cake at the end of the test, but it turns out that she’s lying.  She actually puts you on a platform headed towards a fire pit.  In the game, there is a message written on a wall in a secret room, written by a scientist that says, “the cake is a lie!”   Here are a couple of images from the actual game.

This was a super fun cake to create!  You can watch my tutorial to learn how to make one of your own.  This cake is definitely NOT a lie!

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DIY Tablecloth Curtains

A couple of years ago we rented the cutest little house in an older neighborhood.  The street was lined with big trees, the neighbors were friendly, and the backyard was filled with a variety of fruit trees.  The house itself had a lot of character, including a wall covered in shiplap, a large window with a view of a train trestle, glass doorknobs, and old light fixtures.  The master bedroom, however, needed a bit of help.  Because we were renting, I didn’t want to invest a ton of money into bedroom decor, as we knew we wouldn’t be living there very long.

One afternoon my husband decided to take the kids to see a movie and he left me with a couple of glorious hours home alone.  I had purchased two rectangular tablecloths at Target a couple of days before, so I went right to work on creating some curtains to brighten up my bedroom.  The windows truly were the best feature of that room, so I wanted to highlight them.

I can’t believe how easy it was to sew these simple curtains!  By the time my family came home, I was finished and my bedroom had a completely new look.   Here’s my tutorial on how to make simple curtains out of a rectangular table cloth.

I would love to hear from you.  Leave me a comment and tell me about your favorite DIY project and of course show me a picture if you make some tablecloth curtains of your own!

 

Book Page Banner

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I love books!  In this day in age when so many are reading books on Kindles, Nooks, and iPads, you will find me curled up in a cozy spot in my house with a traditional paper book.  The library just so happens to be one of my very favorite places on the Earth!  I think that is why my eyes are drawn to creative projects made from book pages.

Several years ago I made this pretty little book page banner to hang across my mantle for Valentine’s Day and I have reused it several years in a row because I love it so much!  To make one of your own, you will need a book that you don’t mind cutting up (I bought mine from the Dollar Tree).  You will also need scrapbooking paper in several colors or patterns. I went with a black, red, and off white theme.  Grab a couple of buttons and some twine and you are all set.

I used my Cricut Expression 2 to cut the L O V E letters, but made my own template for the large and small hearts.  The book pages are 6 inches long by 4 inches wide.  This gives you enough length to fold the top over to hang them on the twine and to cut a 1 1/2 inch triangle out of the bottom of each.  For my banner, I stapled the individual book page pieces over the twine and then glue the hearts on after to cover the stapes.  For the LOVE portion, I lined the staples up with one of the words to “hide” it as much as possible.

If you love creating banners for your own home, check out my tutorial on How to Make a Pennant Banner.

If you are looking for some other simple and fun Valentine ideas, here are some links you will enjoy.

Valentine Paper Garlands

Valentine Craft for Kids: Cookie Cutters and Paint

Valentine Words of Affirmation for Kids 

Chocolate Covered Strawberries