Everett came up with the inventions theme, and it was so inspiring to me. I loved the idea of infusing the party with so many learning opportunities for the kids. Nerd mom!
The animals addition was almost an afterthought, but I love the quirky way he thinks, so I included it. Lydia's second birthday party three months earlier was animal themed, and he wanted what she had. Siblings. A couple of the decorations and many of the favors were animals (sticky lizards, flying fish, gummy bears).
I was pregnant and tired, so I tried to keep my work for the party minimal. Unfortunately for Brian, I piled all that work (and more) on him. I can't believe how much I asked him to do, and really how much I still did myself. But we pulled it off!
His biggest project was this awesome teeter totter (in simple machine terms, a lever) based on this Ana White design. He bulked it up a bit, as he is known to do. The beautiful red enamel paint was left over from Everett's bed.
I hung signs labeling the items and what type of simple machine they represent.
He also made this cool adjustable race track (incline plane). There are two tracks, a very long board and a shorter board, so there's even more variety for the racers. I went through the house and found a bunch of toy cars. There were two baskets, and I tried to make sure they had comparable cars. Even the parents had fun racing!
He made these fun bucket pull stations, one that used pulleys to lift a platform and one that moved a bucket along a rope, like a clothes line.
I used this party as an excuse to make something I'd been thinking about making for a long time: a magnetic marble run! Incline planes at work. Also a lot of PVC, vinyl tubing, tongue depressors, and E-6000 glue.
Beyond providing simple machines for the kids to play with, I wanted to make sure the kids got to invent at an invention party. They got to invent their own marble runs. The catapult and paper airplane making stations (coming up) offered even more creating opportunities. And the kids really ran with it!
I stuck a few signs on existing toys to tie everything together. Pirate ship (from this party) has a wheel and axle!
Monkey from this party played an integral part of the catapult activity. Make your own catapult and try to shoot dry beans through the monkey's mouth! This activity could have fizzled big time, but the kids loved it and got really into making catapults! Check out Julie, beans in mid flight!! And Andy showing off his creative catapult masterpiece!
Part of the catapult activity set-up with some examples of how to combine the pieces provided.
I was also concerned the paper airplane folding station would be a bust, but the kids seemed to have a really good time with it! I found the folding instructions online, printed them out, and taped them to this huge clipboard. I had a harder time than I expected finding colored printer paper for the planes. My mom came to the rescue. She already had some at her office. If I'd felt like it, we could have organized a paper airplane flying contest to see who folded the best plane. I'm not a fan of leading games. But a few of the kids raced their creations on their own.
But I did make Brian lead a game of Pin the Propeller on the Airplane!
And we had our first piñata! I was so happy to find a hot air balloon (you can see we added in some more complicated machines, specifically vehicles: hot air balloon, airplanes). It was a pull string piñata, which I thought would be good for this age. It was! All the kids got a turn, and it was really exciting that the string that pulled the bottom off was pulled last. So much suspense!! Unfortunately, the hole created in the bottom of the piñata wasn't open to the area where the prizes were (what?!?). So a few of the parents had to rip the thing apart! And then the kids got to scramble for the goodies. It was really fun despite the poor piñata design.
We had so many good ideas and put so much effort into pulling everything off, but the thing that made me feel like a total genius was serving ice cream sandwiches instead of cake! I made a "cake" by stacking six ice cream sandwiches (three on top of three) and sticking five candles in the top. But the real winning idea here was the individual ice cream sandwiches that everyone enjoyed (the "cake" was actually abandoned in the freezer). We put out plates of sprinkles and guests patted in the sides of their treats to cover them with sweet colored goodness! So easy. So cheap. So FUN! I wish we could do ice cream sandwiches for every birthday! Too bad we have one in chilly February and the kids will probably have their own confection requests. Oh well! Ice cream sandwiches whenever possible!
For lunch we ordered pizza and the grandparents graciously provided sides.
I'll post pictures of the simpler stations. These HUGE bolts Brian found.
In the end we had so much fun with our friends, a lively crew who aren't afraid to participate, create, and go along with our crazy ideas. With three little ones now, we'll see if we ever attempt anything quite so ambitious again.