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LET THE WILD RUMPUS BEGIN

Take a Page from Children’s Literature For Classic Birthday Party Themes

Article by Cheryl Parton

Photography by Janie Jones

Originally published in Bend Lifestyle

Whether seeking philosophical guidance or deciding what’s for dinner, recipes for life can be found in literature. We learn from great minds that came before us, and that’s true when planning a birthday party. Take a page from classical children’s books to find themes that combine playfulness, colorful illustration and words to inspire food, décor and games that will tickle the fancy of youthful guests, with a central activity of reading aloud. Published in 1963, “Where the Wild Things Are” is one of the most recognizable children's picture books of all time. Writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak created a universal story about mastering fears. Dressed in his wolf costume, and sent to his room for creating such havoc at home, young Max travels to an island of Wild Things where he becomes king. It’s a story about childhood resilience and mastery of fears, but simply observed, the fantastical book provides a colorful segue for an afternoon birthday romp in the park. When it comes to wild things, enjoy inspiration from our own party, plus we’ve compiled some ideas for ways to help the rumpus begin based on other beloved titles:

“Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak

As a costume party, have guests dress as their favorite wild thing. A crown-making activity allows everyone to be King (or Queen) for a day.

GAME: Wild Rumpus Dance Party. A twist on the Freeze Dance, guests dance and prance freely until the music stops. An extra step is "out." A winner is the last “beast” to stand still after multiple rounds of play.

“Curious George” by Margret and H. A. Rey

Gather a barrel of monkeys, plus your favorite Man in the Yellow Hat, for a party where guests can go bananas. George always seems to wander, so try a scavenger hunt that meanders from clue to clue. Banana cupcakes, banana bread, and a tower of bananas add a healthy touch to the dessert table.

GAME: Monkey in the Middle. Create a circle with one guest in the middle. Toss a ball, or soft monkey toy, across the circle without the monkey in the middle catching it.

“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” by Mo Willems

Though an unlikely party host, pigeon—with his wide-eyed enthusiasm—sets a party tone. Eat “bird seed” trail mix and hot dogs (inspired by another Willems title, “The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!”).  Printable images of Pigeon lend themselves to thematic and whimsical decorations.

GAME: Red Light, Green Light. With guests as “bus drivers,” they make their way to the station/finish line with a twist on this classic party game.

Regardless of the theme, be sure to leave time to read a favorite passage from the central book of choice. Give books as party favors or add a layer of philanthropy by having guests bring their favorite book to donate to a local nonprofit. For more inspirational themes, browse the shelves of the Deschutes Public Library, local bookstores, or your child’s book shelf.  DeschutesLibrary.org

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