[Update, May 2019: In one of our most popular episodes on the Media Savvy Moms podcast, we teach parents how to Give Kids a Construction Site: a safe place where they can talk to you about anything! That’s because it’s an analogy so many children–especially our kids–can identify with. (Of course, between the two of us, my co-host and I have 8 boys! However, girls can get into it too! We are girls, and we love to dig!) This birthday party is a perfect example of the thought pattern that precipitated our “Construction Site” concept and our podcast episode. Have a listen!]
Listen to “Give Your Kids a Construction Site: Create a Safe Place for Difficult Discussions” on the Media Savvy Moms Podcast
“Mom, can I have a CONSTRUCTION cake for my birthday this year?”
I have three boys and three brothers, so I should be pretty good at this stuff by now. I mean … last year I threw a trash truck party! I’ve got this! Right?
But this year I’m a little bit … exhausted! Okay, totally exhausted. So my first thought is: How can I make this as easy as possible?
Me: (super hopeful) “Hey buddy, can we just do cupcakes this year?”
Him: (little pouty face) “Mom, will you be super mad at me If I want a birthday cake?”
Okay, I’m melting. The cake is happening. So … cake and goodie bags. Simple.
But not at the house. I’m too worn out. Where can we go? What’s like Chuck-E-Cheese or Sky Zone, only for construction?
After hunting around online, I discovered that–believe it or not–some Home Depot stores will let you have a birthday party on location. (I’m sure this varies, so if you want to do this you will need to call first of course.)
Word on the street is that some stores will even let you reserve their break room and set up a private party in the back! Our Home Depot just threw down a table behind a front counter, which worked great for us. (There were 3 birthday parties going on that morning!) They really busted a move for us. It was awesome!
On the first Saturday of every month, Home Depot offers FREE Kids Workshops from 9 am to noon. They provide a kit, tools and paint, workspace, and a cool apron for each kiddo. They do need a parent to come along, though.
When the project is completed, the kids get a sweet gold pin for their apron, a certificate of achievement and a balloon. Did I mention this is all free? And that’s not even the birthday part. They do this every month, and it is open to the public. I’m sure we will go back.
They had about 10 “tables” (plywood set on top of orange Home Depot buckets) set up. That’s at least 50 little hammers going at once! It was sooooooo noisy! And fun! Here’s a little video clip.
So … We got there, we built something cool, we sang and ate cake and–badda-boom! Easiest construction party ever!
Here are some fun pics along with some tricks, tips and bargains I found along the way … just in case your little builder/birthday boy (or girl!) ever pulls that cute pouty face on you!
Okay … I am not a professional by any means, but I do love to play around with my kids’ birthday cakes. And I have to say this one turned out pretty great, especially considering I have a major tremor in my hands right now. (Just one of the many medical mysteries going on.) I may or may not have re-done the supposed-to-be-straight lines on the road a few times. Ha.
Here are some tips if you want to pull off something like this:
–The ‘caution’ cake board. I just used a cutting board, covered it with aluminum foil, and then used yellow duct tape (from WalMart) and black electrical tape for the stripes. During my idea hunt, I also saw some that actually used black and yellow “Caution” tape (found it cheap–$4) on the board. That’s a cool idea too.
–Toy trucks. I got mine at the dollar store. But you can also order a pack of 9 little trucks on Amazon. Maybe even order extra for the goody bags!
–‘Muddy’ frosting. Chocolate buttercream or if you’re lazy like me, milk chocolate canned frosting from the store. For a fun little detail, use toy trucks to make tire tracks in the frosting.
–Making ‘asphalt.’ I wanted the texture and color of the road to be different than the frosting, so I smashed a package of Oreos (without the creamy centers) in a ziplock and combined the crumbs with some softened butter. (My little boy LOVED helping with this part!) You can blend it all together right inside the bag, then cut off one of the corners and squeeze the mixture onto the cake in whatever shape you like–just like you would pipe frosting. After it’s on the cake, you can flatten the ‘road’ with a spoon or knife (or toy steamroller!), shape it, and manipulate it until you like how it looks.
–Under construction. If you really want to have some fun, then create some sort of project for your trucks. Maybe frame a little house with toothpicks, or have them transferring piles of rock candy. I started a wall out of tiny foam counting blocks I found at the dollar store (in the education section) and ‘cemented’ them together with frosting, then scattered loose ‘bricks’ around the cake.
My hubby helped with these. He works in construction, so he had some really great ideas! Since he is a trim carpenter and his hands are always getting banged up, he said I should include bandaids. But I wasn’t sure the little guys would get it. I thought they’d just wonder, Why are there bandaids with my candy? Haha.
–Bags. We used brown paper lunch bags, just like real construction workers! Super cheap and really easy. To keep the kids from getting into the bags: Fold over, punch two holes, tie with ribbon. It’s surprisingly strong, and looks nice too.
–Name tags. I got these in the education section at the dollar store. There were 36 in one package! They could also double as decorations if you’re throwing a party at home.
–Rulers. Fun, cheap, but also useful. Don’t you hate ‘goodie bag clutter’ that’s just going to end up in the trash? Just sayin’.
–Mini measuring tape. $1 at Home Depot. You can also get multi-packs in different colors if you want to coordinate for your party.
–Pencils. This idea came from my husband. I never would have thought of a pencil as a construction tool, but as a carpenter, he has a pencil behind his ear at all times. I found these really cool orange Home Depot pencils right next to the measuring tape! You can get the same ones on Amazon too.
–Traffic sign lollipops. I didn’t have time to order these, but they are so cute! Oriental Trading Company and Amazon have some really fun construction-themed stuff if you have the time and/or patience to wait for shipping: suckers, decorations, cute plates and napkins, a set of 12 hard hats for 5 bucks! All sorts of stuff! I almost got some traffic cone candles, too. But we couldn’t light candles at Home Depot, so I guess it doesn’t really matter.
–Leftover Halloween Candy. Shhhh! Don’t tell my kids!
And now, some pictures of cute boys:
What a fun day! And no clean-up. (Whew!) Definitely a success.