Get Your Game On

Cupcake Tic-Tac-Toe

The party officially began at 6:00 and ended at 8:00, but at 5:58 I had already checked my watch twice, counting down to its finish. Why do minutes feel like centuries during birthday parties in your own house? Or at least they do for me. But its sorta like having a baby, I guess. Because I forget the pain as soon as the last kid walks out the door with her goody bag. And then I live off the high for a solid few weeks. Before that blessed moment, though, I deal with the chaos the only way I know how: I make a schedule, always underestimating the time it takes for each activity because there’s no panic quite like the one that grips you when you look at your watch and realize you have 30 minutes left and 14 cupcake-fueled kids to entertain.  Below was the itinerary for Abby’s Game-Themed Party. I am not too proud to admit that it was written down on a piece of paper that I kept in my pocket and referred to several dozen times throughout the evening.

6:00 Freeze Dance Such a fun way to get kids involved as soon as they walk in the door. Plus, it can kill 15 minutes so easily.
6:15 Pin the Head on the Headless Horseman It is Halloween in a week after all.
6:30 Pass the Parcel We do this a little differently than most. We buy the same amount of presents as guests (tiny presents, like a stick of gum, a pair of vampire teeth, stickers, etc.) and wrap each one in one layer of giftwrap. The kids pass this parcel around in a circle and when the music stops, whoever is holding it gets to peel off a layer. We always coordinate it so everyone gets to open one. The last prize is usually a little bigger than the rest — like a small stuffed animal — just to keep it interesting.
6:45 This is Jeopardy! Two teams, five different categories (including “Animals,” “School,” and of course “Abby”) with questions worth 100 to 500 points. Favorite moment of the night: Abby screaming “I’ll take Abby for 500!”
7:00 Dinner Trader Joe’s Breaded Chicken Breasts, Hot Dogs, Trader Joe’s Sweet Potato French Fries.
7:15: Tic-Tac-Toe Cupcakes Since the theme was “Games, Games, Games” we decided to repurpose our favorite XOXO Valentine’s Day cupcakes (courtesy of Martha Stewart’s awesome Cupcakes) for Tic-Tac-Toe.
7:30 Presents. It was a mild night, so Andy pitched a tent in the backyard and the whole party jammed in there, with flashlights and blankets, to watch the birthday girl open her presents. This whole thing was Abby’s idea and the kids were really into it. Not sure the neighbors were, though.
7:45 Ghost Stories. We stayed in the tent and told scary stories. Then we told happy stories because the scary ones were too scary.
8:00 Goody Bags! Parents Arrive! I bought a 168-count pack of wooden dominoes and distributed them evenly in cellophane bags. This idea was courtesy of Rebecca Ffrench, who was the parties editor at Cookie. (Word on the street is she’s working on her own website.) The kids also got a Trader Joe’s milk chocolate bar.

On the way out, one of the parents thanked me for doing a nighttime party. Her other child was out and she was able to have a quiet dinner with her husband. I wasn’t even thinking about that when I planned it — I was mostly thinking that I didn’t want to have to be responsible for the cleats and shin guards that would pile up by the door if we had the party in the middle of a fall weekend day. But I’m glad it worked out for everyone. And only 124 days til the next birthday!

Related: Summer-in-the-Winter Birthday Party, Group Picture Thank-You Cards

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too bad this is a kid’s party because personally I would love this for MY next birthday party! I am stealing your Pin the Head on the Headless Horseman idea for our Halloween party though, that is great! Now if I can just find someone to draw a headless horseman then I am all set (because mine will look like a midget riding a dinosaur).


Amanda – Do a google-image search for headless horseman — there are tons of cartoony ones out there that even a beginner artist can copy freehand. That’s what I did. I drew the outline on a poster board, then Abby painted it.


This sounds like a perfect party. I am all about the written schedule, too. A friend of mine says there should be a giant clock at kids’ bday parties that says “TIME REMAINING”.


I am a whole-hearted believer in making Trader Joe’s work for me! What a fun way to enjoy a birthday and this season- opening presents in the tent was a fantastic idea.

k.mike@ flashlight

I am an entire hearted devotee to making Trader Joe’s work for me! What a fun approach to appreciate a birthday and this season-opening presents in the tent was a phenomenal thought.