3 Fun Games for an Outdoor Summer Party

birthday_photolibrarycom_300x345Guest post by Kimberly Burger Capozzi

One of the best things about summertime is that you can do virtually anything outdoors—including, of course, hosting a super birthday celebration.

For a unique party treat, have your guests help bake a Backyard Birthday Cake. Then send them off on a Camera Scavenger Hunt to capture fun outdoor memories. And check out our blueprint for the Just-Try-and-Stay-Dry Obstacle Course to take the sizzle out of sweltering weather. This one is especially fun on those really hot days!

Backyard Birthday Cake

This cake recipe is inspired by a classic campground treat, the dump cake, which is baked in a cast-iron Dutch oven over a hot campfire. In this super-easy version, kids help “dump” the ingredients in the bowl, and you bake it on a grill.

If you are a seasoned camp cook and want to bake your cake over a campfire, then you’ll need Dutch oven baking tips. Be sure to have a safe place for your campfire and review safety guidelines.  If you’re more comfortable over a grill in your backyard than a fire in the back woods, make sure your grill is clean (or your cake might taste like last week’s salmon) and review grilling safety tips. Station an adult near the grill at all times.

What you need:

  • Prepared cake batter from a box or your own from-scratch recipe
  • Variety of bite-sized treats, such as chewy candy, broken hard candy, crumbled cookies, pretzel bits, cereal, chocolate chips, marshmallows, dried fruit, etc.
  • 2 8-inch metal cake pans, well-greased and floured

What you do:

  1. Preheat your grill. If using gas, set a cookie sheet over the burners to create indirect heat.
  2. Set out your treats in bowls on the picnic table. Place the bowl of cake batter in the center.
  3. Remind your guests to wash their hands. Ask them to add whatever ingredients they think will make this cake extra special. Have the birthday child stir the batter.
  4. Pour batter into cake pans and cover with foil to protect against a smoky taste. Raise the foil a bit in the middle like a tent so it doesn’t stick to cake.
  5. Set pan in grill and close lid. If using gas, turn heat down to medium. Check the cake frequently to avoid burning, adjusting flame or leaving lid open for a few minutes to moderate the temperature. Baking should take about the same time as in a kitchen oven–around 30 minutes.
  6. Allow enough time for the cake to cool before eating. This treat-filled cake doesn’t require icing for taste, but you can pipe on a birthday message or decorate with candy and candles.

Here’s a back-up dessert plan, in case the cake burns while you are having fun playing the other games! Whip up these Banana Boat treats, baked in foil over the fire or grill. They’ll be done in a snap.

Camera Scavenger Hunt

In this activity, everyone gets to be a wildlife photographer and ends up with great photographs to remember the day. In the invitation, ask each child to bring a camera.

What you need:

  • Cameras for each child (Digital point-and-shoots or disposable)
  • Scavenger hunt list

What you do:

  1. Create a list of up to 10 natural items that can be found in your outdoor space. Ask for specific things—such as a winged bug or open flower. Also include general descriptions that let the photographers use their imaginations (e.g., “something fuzzy” or “an object that is your favorite color.”
  2. Include in your list the “wild animals” attending your party and special moments to capture on film—such as a friend swinging, someone smiling, and the birthday child making a face. Click here for more hunt ideas.
  3. Give each guest a copy of the list. For pre-readers, draw or print pictures of each item to illustrate.
  4. Hand out goodies to the photographers as they complete their assignment.

PARENTS: Be prepared to lend a hand if needed with these tips for young shutterbugs.

Just-Try-and-Stay-Dry Obstacle Course

Not even a heat wave will wilt the party spirit with this fun water game. It keeps kids laughing and moving, even on the hottest days. In the invitation, suggest partiers bring swimsuits and towels.

What you need:

  • Balloons filled with water
  • Child’s wading pool
  • Ice chips
  • Water guns or empty condiment containers that squirt
  • 3 plastic cups
  • Plastic bag
  • 2 dish tubs
  • Lawn sprinkler
  • Equipment for 2 or 3 outdoor games/activities such as a soccer ball, a swing, or a scooter
  • Plastic game chips (like those from checkers or bingo)
  • Plastic table cloth

What you do:

In your backyard, set up all or some of these fun watery stations as a quasi obstacle course:

  1. Water Balloon Catch: Place water balloons in a pile, at least one for each guest. Each player tosses one balloon into the air and tries to catch it without breaking it.
  2. Wading Pool Run: Set up the wading pool for players to run through. Add water and about 1 pound of ice chips for extra chills.
  3. Cup Shoot: Line up plastic cups on the edge of a table or deck railing. Children use a water squirter to knock down as many cups as they can before they run out of water. (Be ready to refill the squirters and reset the cups during game.)
  4. Leaky Bag Run: Cut three holes in a plastic bag. Fill one dish tub to the top with water and set the other empty tub about 5 feet away. Players must dip the plastic bag to fill with water, then carry it to the empty tub to dump, leaking all the way. Note: The bag should be wide relative to its length for easy dipping. For example, if using an empty 8-inch-wide bread bag, cut the length of the bag to about 5 inches.
  5. Spray Sports: Players ride a scooter across the driveway, kick a soccer ball into a goal, or swing on a swing, all with the lawn sprinkler aimed right at them.
  6. Ice Dig: Lay a sheet of plastic on the ground and place game chips on top. Cover with ice. Each player must dig through the ice to retrieve one chip.

At game time, have the children complete the course one at a time, making sure to wait are a couple of minutes before starting the next player. At the end of the game, have each turn in their game chip for a frozen treat.

Kimberly Burger Capozzi is a mom and freelance writer based outside Pittsburgh, PA. She has written about parenting issues, wind power and military spending programs, and chronicles her family’s efforts to cook wholesome meals at www.chefzi.blogspot.com.

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Published: May 16, 2011