As a mama of a little one who has a lifetime of birthdays and celebrations ahead of him, I find it easy to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of it all. I want our celebratory occasions to be joyous and meaningful meetings of friends and family that include good food, are steeped in the natural world, and are aesthetically pleasing. A tall order, right?
Anni Daulter and Heather Fontenot must have been channeling these desires of mine when they penned Naturally Fun Parties for Kids: Creating Handmade, Earth-Friendly Celebrations for All Seasons and Occasions (2012, Sellers). Organized by season, this book offers inspiration for 12 different parties. Included are instructions for DIY decor and invitations, recipes, ideas for activities, complete lists of materials and ingredients, and a timeline so that you can make sure that everything gets done by the event date and you can spend the party day enjoying the moment with your children rather than sweating in the kitchen or driving to the craft store for forgotten last-minute details.
The range of ideas here is great, but these parties still all share common elements. From a Natural Spa Party with a focus on pampering oneself with lavender and rose petal foot soaks; to a Community Cooking Party of baking breads and muffins to deliver to those less fortunate; to a Wild Girls party that encourages girls to be a little loud, get dirty in the mud, and break gender stereotypes; the focus is always on making memories rather than buying things, using nature as a playground, and being eco- and socially-conscious.
The entry for each party is complete, as is, but there’s also a lot of room to add some personal flair. Beautifully photographed, it’s easy to get inspired to carry these ideas further and to adapt them for your personal situation. There are two things about this book that made it a clear winner for me. The first are the recipes. As soon as I finished reading I knew that I had to make the Carrot-Apple Muffins with Crystallized Ginger and they didn’t disappoint. The menus are full of good, seasonal food that hasn’t been “dumbed down” because kids are the target audience. There are plenty of whole grains, vegetables, and complex flavors served in novel and whimsical forms that will entice even picky eaters.
The second thing that I love is the balance that has been struck between aesthetics and eco-friendliness. I’m not immune to the power of Pinterest and its ability to make me yearn for unbelievably charming and photogenic kids’ parties. But, ultimately these gatherings are more about getting that perfect image rather than making connections. They also generally require spending lots of money on a ton of single-use items. Daulter and Fontenot show us that you don’t have to sacrifice beauty in the name of frugality and environmental awareness. They pull decor items from the recycle bin and sewing scrap basket, use nature as a backdrop, encourage borrowing over buying, and still had me gasping at how gorgeous it all was.
Every young person deserves to have a childhood that is filled with special moments and this guide is a wonderful resource to help make that happen.