F I V E (A Party in the Forest)
A couple of weeks ago Levi turned 5. I know everyone feels like this but it has to be said that I am so much more aware of time racing on as I get older. It feels like just yesterday I was making Christmas decorations for the house and now it's SIX MONTHS LATER - a whole HALF A YEAR since that happened. It's scary.
This year we decided to take Levi's party outside our home or any kind of soft play
hell centre. Every year we have done things at our house and every year the party gets bigger and less enjoyable for Dave and I cause let's be honest, having 40 people in your house isn't always relaxing. This was also the year that Levi really wanted to have his school friends come to his party which adds significantly to the numbers. I figured with that and a new baby in the mix it was a good enough driver to do things differently and make a little less work for ourselves.
We decided to throw a party in the depths of our local Nature Reserve, a beautiful forest park area that we are really fond of. We are lucky that his birthday is in the Spring but Northern Ireland isn't a guaranteed outdoor birthday climate so we were taking a bit of a risk. Thankfully the weather held out and we had a solid day of sunshine and shade.
While we were planning, I was so glad to see Hannah's post about her daughters birthday party in the forest. It keep me brave about the idea and gave me some good pointers (thank Han!).
It was a beautiful day celebrating our little guy with all his favourite people. Here's the highlight reel & some advice/ideas for throwing a forest part of your own:
I made these invites on Canva and am well pleased with how they turned out! We had our local printers make up about 50 of them on postcards for about £13, handed them out to classmates and just sent digital ones via whatsapp to family and friends. So much easier than handwriting invitations by name.
Dave scoped out the area the day before to make sure there was a nice clearing that we could use. He stumbled upon a massive teepee that some bushcraft folk had made so BINGO! We set up there. Kids love a teepee and it made things feel so magical. I really wanted to take credit for it "yeah, no we just threw this thing up this morning...no biggie..." but I just couldn't. Instead we just threw some big logs down around the teepee and brought lots of fold up chairs. We decorated lightly (nature is all the decoration you really need, right?) with a few giant balloons and some bunting.
We massively underestimated the food situation, I'll be the first to admit that. Once everyone arrived, including parents and siblings of friends and classmates there was probably about 70/80 people milling about. We tried (on Hannah's advice) to keep the food simple, sticking with shop-bought pankcakes, crisps, fruit, marshmallows and, of course, birthday cake. The party was from 2-4pm so it was more snack stuff than meal stuff. We did juice packs and tea/coffee flasks for the drinks, which was really easy. I forgot how vulture-like kids are and I didn't even consider a system of distributing the food so once we started to unpack it there was a herd of tiny hungry children around our feet. The food went quickly and I'm pretty sure everyone had something but we definitely didn't have a bountiful supply!
I ordered all the disposable cups/bowls/forks/napkins from Little Cherry who specialise in eco/biodegradable party supplies. I wanted to make sure we weren't enjoying natures playground and then destroying it by chucking a ton of plastic away.
We wanted to have a couple of things for the kids to do but largely really wanted to just let them play & explore, so we used this gorgeous Nature Bingo printable from Seeds & Stitches and let the kids and their parents loose to find everything. I then brought all my ribbons and strings from my crafting stash and had the kids find their favourite stick to make into a magic wand so they then spent some time doing that. Sticks and ribbons. Honestly. That easy.
It was so lovely to finally get a chance to properly meet lots of the school parents and see everyone mingling and chatting. The kids seemed to love it and Levi and his wee buddies just stomped about the forest like little explorers - he had a ball.
We all gathered to sing happy birthday to our boy and he bashfully beamed with pride and joy. I am not a baker, nor am I willing to part with hard cash for a fancy handmade cake so we went with our old faithful Cozy Cake from the local bakery (the BEST) and I decorated it myself with er... branches, bunting and wooden Holztiger animals.
Kids kind of expect party bags, don't they? Well, I couldn't bring myself to do it so I just ordered these woodland animal temporary tattoos and gave them out at the end as a little party favour.
I can't believe we have a five year old. He is tender and sweet and full of mischief. I cannot keep his belly full and he is always trying to climb on counters to try and reach the treats. He has struggled to adjust to having a sister but now that she can coo and smile at him he is coming around, feeling like he has a role. I love his creativity, how his imagination is wild and unrestricted. I never want that to change. He is generous, always wanting to spend any money he is given on us. "I'll buy you that with my money, mummy!" He made me a mama and even though we are raising him, I feel like I'm often the one being raised. It's funny how that works. Happy Birthday kiddo, we love you.