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Give-back birthday bashesThere’s a fine line between teaching kids to care–and boring them to tears. Throwing a birthday party that goes beyond the usual cake and gifts sounds like a great idea, but what kid wants a celebration to feel like a lecture? These party ideas are the perfect way to emphasize helping others without overdoing the message. They’re fun, active, and focused on things kids love. Your birthday girl or boy will have a great time with these games and treats, and so will the guests. Meanwhile, you’ll know you did a little something to teach them to give back.


Ages 4 and up

game: Find Fido

Blindfold one child and have the other party guests make a large circle around her. Quietly designate one kid in the circle to be Fido: Fido will bark while everyone else makes meowing sounds. Turn the blindfolded child around three times and have her search for Fido.

treat: Puppycakes

Make your favorite cupcakes and frosting. Then,
have kids create a dog face by using sandwich cookies (broken in half for ears), jelly beans, and licorice.

activity: Dog beds to donate

Pass out old pillows, towels, and T-shirts to all your party guests. Have each child place a pillow on one end of a towel, then fold the towel over so the pillow is covered. Go around and cut one or
two ½-inch slits on each of the towel’s three open sides. Cut into each T-shirt, too, so that kids can rip them into strips. Show kids how to poke the T-shirt strips through the towel slits and tie a knot (help the little kids) to create a comfy dog bed. Before the party, contact your local Humane Society to see when you and your party guests can drop off your donations. The staff may even be able to give the kids a tour.


Ages 4 and up

game: Water brigade relay

Outside, set up two chairs next to each other, and place a bucket of water on each. Set up two more chairs about ten feet opposite, and place empty buckets on these. Divide kids into two teams, and have each team line up behind a chair with a full bucket. To play: The first child fills a cup with water, walks (quickly, carefully!) to dump it in the second bucket, comes back and hands the cup off to the second child, then gets back in line. Whichever team fills up the bucket first wins.

treat: Cookie badges

Let your guests feel like heroes too with star-shaped sugar cookies—they can decorate them to look like badges or awards.

activity: Jumbo thank-you card

Have the party-goers decorate a big piece (or two) of poster board to deliver to your local fire department. Write “thank you” across the top, and encourage the kids to use markers, crayons, and whatever other art supplies you have to write notes and draw pictures for the firefighters. You can also take a picture of your crew to print out and paste onto the card. And don’t forget that firefighters get hungry! Bring them a tray of Super Star Sugar Cookies,  or let the kids prepare energy mix for them. Stir together cereal, dark chocolate pieces, pretzels, dried fruit, and nuts, and seal in airtight containers to give along with the card. Call your local station ahead of time to arrange for the drop-off to be the party’s grand finale.


Ages 7 and up

game & activity:  The amazing chore race

Got a bunch of active kids? Good news: They can run around, get worn out, and see how good it feels to help people, all at once. You might need to make several pre-party phone calls for this event, but it’s worth it. Find out what kind of yard or household help your neighbors (particularly those who are elderly or homebound) need. With your child, create a list of tasks and write them each on a slip of paper. On the day of the party, divide the guests into two or three teams (make sure there is one adult leader for each team), and have each pull a task from a hat. Then they’re off! When the chore is done, the adult leader should take a photo before the group races back to the party house to pick another chore. The first team to complete three tasks is the winner. Be sure to have prizes at the ready: stickers for everybody, with an extra sheet of “You’re #1!” stickers for the winners. (No neighbors on board for this? Call your local parks department to find out about clean-up projects you can turn into a race.)


After running around the neighborhood,your good-deed-doers will need an appropriate treat. Serve angel food cake, topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

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