Parties are perfect opportunities to educate our kids! They're having so much fun, they don't even realize they are learning! In my opinion, it's a waste if you send them home with no more than a sugar rush! Learning about different cultures, countries, environmental issues, animals, literature etc is so valuable. Especially as they might not be things they tend to learn at school or kindergarten. They can learn through the fun of games and crafts, stories, quizzes....through what they eat and what they wear. All children lap up knowledge when presented in a fun and interesting way. Whatever your theme, I think you can teach them about something...!
We can educate our kids so easily at parties through the choices of crafts they make, the games they play and the clothes they wear.
WAYS I'VE TRIED TO EDUCATE
American Indian Party
Last year we learned about American Indian culture. Every aspect of the party was educational. (See my blog archive post: http://www.hoppingharesparties.com/american-indian-party/ ). They made dream catchers and learned the story and meaning behind them. They also made talking sticks. After a treasure hunt, where they had to find pebbles marked with traditional American Indian symbols, they sat in a circle and made up a story based on the symbol they had found. They learned how to use their talking sticks, by taking it in turns to stand, stick in hand, whilst adding to the story. All the others listened quietly and respectfully. A short sit down talk about American Indian culture, dress, hair, headdresses, housing etc, meant they had a deeper understanding of why they were dressed up as they were and why we were doing these particular crafts and games.
Making dream catchers and learning of their origins. Making up stories using traditional American Indian symbols and using talking sticks.
British Gents Party
Another party for my eldest daughter, when she turned 12, was a British Gents party (when moustaches were 'in'!). I had pictures of notable British characters stuck on the wall that inspired a quiz. The characters ranged from Newton to Brunel, from the Beatles and J K Rowling to the Queen and Prince Harry! They also had to guess the meanings/origins of our idiosyncratic food, place names and slang, such as Bubble and Squeak, Nether Wallop, and Bob's your Uncle. They played '20 Questions' guessing which character from British pop culture they were. The food was all very British too. As the vast number of guest were Singaporean, they learned quite a bit about my crazy, wonderful home country!
Our notable Brits feature wall, which was the basis for a quiz. Quirky Britain treasure hunt and popular culture icons '20 questions'.
Country/culture themed parties always give plenty to talk about. I have done a couple of Japanese parties. For one we had a treasure hunt to find pieces of a puzzle which, once completed, revealed an image of a Geisha. A second hunt was to find printed cards with a mix of cultural items, food, flags etc from various different countries. Once back at 'base' they had to pick out/guess which ones were from Japan. We then talked about each one. We painted our own Japanese dolls or Ninja and 'dressed' cardboard Geisha in their kimono and obi. We also finger-painted cherry blossom onto plain paper fans. All fun, but the kids were learning along the way! Some were even learning by tasting sushi for the first time!
Learning about Japan through crafts: dressing Geisha and painting Japanese Dolls and Ninja
A Viking Party
I've also created a Viking, a French and a Hawaiian party. The most recent was the Very Vicious Viking party! Some hadn't even heard of the Vikings, one even asking, 'Are they real?'! They learned about their culture through the crafts, games and the decorations. Made beautiful Viking knot necklaces and painted shields. I devised a treasure hunt, which was a 'raid' to England where they had to either kill or capture an unsuspecting Christian monk as a slave. Raid monasteries for silver and gold. Then attack France and set up trading routes, trading their amber and furs for wine and spices. Finally on to Italy, capturing more slaves along the way and returning with silks and glass beads.
Another educational element was getting them to play a traditional Viking board game, called Tretavl. A game rather like Tic-tac-toe. Learning that the Vikings were great ones for games and sports. They invented skiis, tested their strength and stamina by doing such crazy things as freezing, long distance swimming and jumping from oar to oar on their long boats. And of course were constantly honing their skills for battle, even at a very young age.
Playing a traditional Viking board game, capturing unsuspecting Christian monks on a vicious raid and painting shields ready for battle.
There's always something to learn, whatever the age!
I guess as kids approach 5 years old, it get easier to play more elaborate, educational games. However, even little kids can learn, come party time. For a fairy garden party we learned about all sorts of different garden fairies. They took home seeds in a pretty pot along with a little watering can, to grow flowers at home. For a Baking Party they learned how to bake and decorate their own cupcakes. Also for an Under-the-sea party we had a treasure hunt for turtle eggs (ping pong balls). We talked about how long they live, how they go back to their birth place to lay eggs, how pollution in the sea is affecting them, and so on.
Learning about different flower fairies at a Fairy Tea Party. Baking and decorating their own cupcakes or hunting for ping pong ball turtle eggs and talking about conservation.
Basically it's easy to introduce an educational element to your party. Particularly if it has a theme....the kids end up learning without even realizing it! I think they absolutely love the challenge and stimulation. And I'm sure the parents are happy that their kids aren't just heading home to bounce off the ceiling! There's absolutely no reason why a treasure hunt for sweets, shouldn't be replaced with a hunt for knowledge.