I host 3 major events each year for the "Grandkids Only". They are scheduled about four months apart and they are looked forward to with great anticipation each year by both the grandkids and myself! The three events are the "Grandkids Back to School Party", an all day "Grandkids
Christmas Day Camp", and an overnight "Grandkids Camp Out".
Our most recent event was our 2008 "Grandkids Back to School Party". This is always scheduled just before school starts. This year I was a bit late having it due to some conflicts in my schedule. You had better believe the grandkids were letting me know that I was behind schedule!
Scheduling the parents: I start out by clearing dates and times for the event with the parents well in advance. I set and reserve a date and time that works for everyone.
Who's Invited: This event is for "Grandkids Only" who are of school age. This includes any kids enrolled in preschool too. So, it has usually been for ages 4 and up.
Invitations: Each child receives their own personalized invitation. I don't give the invitation to the kids until about a week before. This eases the parents burden since the grandkids ask their parents multiple times daily "How many more days until the party?".
This year the invitations were made from an item found in the dollar store section for teachers. The packet was meant for a classroom bulletin board. It had several pockets bordered with a pencil design and different classroom assignments printed on the front. The packet I purchased for just a buck also included 25 adorable star topped pocket inserts with a space to write the child's name on them. I used the pockets and wrote each child's name on the front side. On the back I pasted on a computer generated invitation.
The invitation read: Please come to the Grandkid's Back to School Party with the date, day, and the start and ending times. I teased them with some of the activities and snacks that I had planned. I also listed what they needed to bring and wear.
I enclosed the invitation in an envelope and pasted one of the personalized star topped inserts on the front of the envelope and printed their name on it. The stars came in multiple colors. I was careful to give different colors to each child in the family to help the non readers know which invitation was theirs. (this year the invitations were hand delivered) I placed a fun school theme sticker where the postage stamp would go for a little extra fluff.
Decorations: I have collected items over the years with a school theme. Pulling out the same decorations each year is a familiar tradition for the kids. I add items each year as the children grow to make the decor appropriate for all ages and school grades.
My decorations include large classroom posters of abc's, and numbers. I have a variety of flash cards and gift bags for teachers that add color and theme. I fill the gift bags with red, yellow, and blue tissue paper for addition color and fun.
I use a table cloth each year to cover the table that I made from a length of fabric. It is in a fun school theme print.
I create a personalized welcome sign for the front door for their arrival. The welcome sign is coordinated with the invitation theme and style. This year the event was outdoors on the back patio and courtyard area. I used the long sidewalk they took to reach the back patio area as a chalkboard and used sidewalk chalk to personalize the entire length of sidewalk with their names, math problems, shapes, and the abc's. They thought it was really neat that grandma had been playing with sidewalk chalk and they loved seeing their names on the party entrance!
Party Time: The time has finally arrived and do they arrive with great excitement, anticipation, and ready to party. They have waited a whole year after all! Each year the activities are a bit different.
This year was an outdoor water/beach theme. I decorated the interior windows to be seen from the back patio and courtyard area with my back to school decor that could be damaged if gotten wet. I included left over pockets and star inserts in the decor to follow the invitation theme to the actual party decor. The outdoor set up was all about water which they all love. I had a CD playing with fun and lively beach music to set the tone. (safely away from the water of course) This year the activities were far less structured than previous years.
The kids arrived wearing their swimsuits, flip flops, and covered in sunscreen with beach towels in hand. (All requested on the invitation.) They were ready to get wet and have some fun with their grandma upon arriving.
Party Plan: I had multiple stations set up ahead of time for open play and a few structured activities planned.
I had an 8 foot kiddy pool set up filled with squirting toys and swim rings.
In the center of the courtyard I had an ice cream sundae sprinkler going.
Each corner of the courtyard had water activities set up.
1. A tub filled with water with toy boats, mermaids, and water bombs.
2. A tub filled with water with kids fishing poles and stocked with plastic fish waiting to be caught.
3. A tub filled with a huge supply of water and a big plastic water cannon for each child.
4. An outdoor kids picnic table filled with a variety of containers, jugs, and bowls filled with water. Measuring cups, strainers, plastic cups, and big plastic kitchen spoons all available for mixing and measuring. I also had a 5 gallon water cooler filled with play water and no one told them to quit playing with it! (Keeping the kids from using the drinking water from water coolers for play is a frequent problem at family gatherings.)
Structured activities included:
Sidewalk chalk time
Water Balloon games
Big Bubble Blowers
The Hokey Pokey Dance: A yearly tradition of doing the hokey pokey together is expected at the back to school party. This year had a wet twist of course. I brought out more of a water wiggle sprayer and formed a circle with it. We created a circle of kids and grandma around the wiggly madness to "Shake it all about" while staying nice and cool.
Food: This year the food included bowls of crackers and pretzels that they could help themselves to at any time. I have re-usable plastic back to school cups I use each year with their names on them. (I have purchased extras to have on hand for additional guests as they grow) I had an insulated water jug filled with ice water for thirsty guests to fill their own cups from.
We took a short break from the water activities to have ice cream sundaes. I served them in a waffle ice cream bowl topped with hot fudge and whipped cream. For the same buck I spent on the invitations the outside wrapper of the package had a border of one inch apples. I had cut the apples out and reserved them for an ice cream sundae garnish. I served ice cream sundaes with an "apple on the top". How perfect was that. So much fun!
Gift Bags: Each year I make each child a gift bag or box as a party favor to take home. The bags or boxes are filled with inexpensive back to school supplies and lunch box treats or drinks. This year I used colorful printed bags that I had found in Big Lots at 20/$1! I attached one of the star inserts with their name printed to the bag. Same star theme from invite to party favor. Love it!
Complete Success: Yes, this event was so much fun. It was inexpensive and fun to pull together. EVERYONE did get wet though!
Caution: You must be very organized prior to the party and have everything you need outdoors so not to leave the children unattended with the water activities. I also had a phone outside in case of an emergency. Get an extra adult to help or a hired teenager if you feel too outnumbered.
As an added caution: All of your windows in the water play area will need to be cleaned but the nearby plants or lawn won't need to be watered for a while!
Resource Ideas: The Teacher sections in dollar stores and the dollar bins in local department stores are great places to find materials and ideas for invitations, decorations, and gift bag items. Now is the time of year to stock up for next year as items are marked down once school gets started. I keep a plastic tub "this Grandma's modern day trunk" in my garage labeled "Back to School". As I find things throughout the year I add them to the tub for safe and organized keeping.