By Monica Guthrie
My sister celebrated her birthday and her daughter’s first birthday in August. I was excited about the idea of helping her with her party until she said she wanted to do an outdoor party. An outdoor party in August. In Texas. If you’re not from Texas let me tell you, the high could have easily been 100+ degrees but with a few tricks we kept the party fun and cool. So if you are contemplating a final summer party, here are some things to keep in mind.
The playdough was picked up at the dollar store and stored in mason jars. My sister spray painted the lids and attached a toy butterfly to the lid for some added flair.
Keep cool externally
My immediate concern was keeping guests cool. My sister planned on getting a sail from Costco and I had a popup canopy tent that I got on sale this summer (if you don’t have one, get one – totally worth having around). In addition we knew we’d need some extra cover so I took some sawhorses and threw a sheet over them for children to be able to crawl under and through. The cotton fabric allowed the air to flow through while still blocking the sun and its heat.
Additionally look into getting a shop fan. We got ours for less than $30 which might sound like a lot for a party, but we end up using it anytime we’re outside. It doubles in keeping bugs (like mosquitos) away.
Keep cool internally
It is just as important to keep guests hydrated as it is to keep them shaded and in the path of a gentle breeze. Having fun drinks like punch and sodas can be great, but make sure you also keep a steady supply of water available. We used multiple coolers (or tubs with ice in them) to have “cool down” stations throughout the party.
Keep food protected
We have multiple methods to keep our food protected from flies.
- Use mosquito netting. You can get a cheap one online or at Walmart – we have a pink decorative one that is supposed to be used inside over a bed that we use so it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. We secure it to the top of the roof or ceiling and let the net drape over our food table.
- Use large jars with lids
- Use cake covers. I bought two from the dollar store (I do a lot of my shopping at the dollar store) and use them to display and protect food. They’re big enough for cookies, corndogs, sliders – but about anything.
- Keep food inside. It’s a little more tough and it will keep traffic flowing in and out of your house, but it works – and can help keep the amount of food you need to purchase to a minimum as people are oftentimes reluctant to get up repeatedly to get more snacks. We have a magnetic netting that goes over our door to minimize the number of unwanted flying pests in the house.
For an indoor party I go all out – streamers, balloons, fabric table cloths - made no changes for the outdoor party! I took my fine fabric table cloths (in champagne and hot pink) and covered folding tables, patio tables, all the tables, to brighten the yard. My sister took hoops and tied ribbon and streamers to them and then hung them throughout the yard (a clever idea, fast to make and cheap!).
My sister made these beautiful hoop-ribbon decorations and hung them throughout the party. It added a whimsical element to the party – and they were just really pretty to look at. She had a few glitter ribbons that would catch the light. Stunning.
The party expanded from family and a few friends to 30+ people. Folding chairs were all but exhausted but if you’re in a crunch you can always use indoor furniture outside. Pull the dining table out, bring the chairs out, pull out sofas and set them around the yard. If you can put a rug underneath it all you can bring the “room” together (I recommend keeping the furniture away from the “fun” so kids aren’t around to sit on them).
Consider bringing inside furniture outside. It gives you extra seating and can be fun.
Adults can sit around talking and eating and if the food and conversation are good, it will have been a good party. Kids however need a little more help having fun. We had balloon stations with Dollar Tree bubble wands in addition to a bubble machine. There were playdough stations and pinwheels (also purchased at the dollar store) which surprisingly entertained both children and adults (turns out adults like to playdough while chatting). We also used the saw horses to cover a sidewalk chalk “art” station where kids could crawl in and show off their artistic talents. Then we had simple balls and Frisbees but the thing that got the kids the most excited were the balloons.
We had a bag of leftover balloons what we filled up and threw outside. The kids had a balloon fight and then used balloons as boxing gloves, then chased them around the yard – it must have been a good 30 minutes before they stopped and moved on to another activity.
If you have it in your budget, consider renting a bounce house (or seeing if a friend has one). This will entertain both young and older children.
If you can afford a bounce house, that will entertain children (and adults) for an entire weekend. When setting it up, consider the amount of shade the bounce house will get. No one likes hot plastic on their skin.
Don’t forget sunscreen. We had bottles throughout the yard for people to be able to apply and reapply. Protect your skin!
Monica K. Guthrie is an Army brat, an Army veteran (Rock of the Marne!) and now an Army spouse with two boys. She is currently the media relations officer for the public affairs office at Fort Sill, Okla., and writes a weekly column called the Okie Bucket List. She also has a photography and graphic design business, Pro Deo Creations, that she maintains between potty training and kissing scraped knees.
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