As I said in my 31 Days of Birthday FAQ, I've thrown close to 30 birthday parties at this point in my parenting game. Asking me to pick my favorite party is akin to asking a parent to pick her favorite child.
Except today's party might be my favorite. No. Really.
Spy / Secret Agent Party
Unlike a lot of other parties, this one is all about the experience. (Plus, I was inviting eight grade-school boys to my home for the afternoon. This is the time for well-detailed plan.)
Before I even mailed the invitations (in code, of course; more on that in a minute), Corey and I drew up a blueprint for a spy training mission.
1. A shooting test. Each boy had to knock over a set number of bad guys, aka various army men, robots and other random action figures we found in our house, using a Nerf gun.
2. A coordination test. Each boy had to get two water balloons through the basketball hoop without getting completely soaked. (Of course, they all got completely soaked.)
3. A combat test. We staged a massive noodle war battle in the backyard and let some of that famous boy energy go to good use.
3. A logic and deduction test. This was the most complex, and for us, the last event in our party.
It started by dividing our party guests into teams of two and telling the boys they would need to use teamwork and brains to solve the last puzzle and find the bombs hidden somewhere in our house "before they exploded."
First, they had to catch and pop an inflated red ballon that had a coded clue hidden in it. After solving it, using their cipher cards, they had to race to the next location given to them by the clue and solve the next clue. At the last location, they received 2-3 letters. When each team had completed their clue hunt and had all their letters, the whole group worked together to unscramble the letters and form a word, which was the location of the hidden bombs. They raced together, inside, and found the bombs (aka cupcakes) hidden in a red ottoman.
They promptly diffused each bomb by eating it, along with some other snacks. Then we opened presents and handed out Official Spy ID cards (more on that below) and the party was over.
I loved spy codes when I was a little girl, so I used the WingDings font, which is pretty universal, to create secret messages on almost everything for this party. (Bonus: Using WingDings let me write my invitations or clues as usual and then just select the words I wanted to be in code and change the font.)
So the boys could crack the code, I mailed cipher cards with the invitations, and I had another set waiting for them the day of the party. I wrapped the party ones in contact paper, to make them slightly indestructible, the better to survive the festivities.
The front of my invitations looked like this:
And my cipher cards looked like this.
If you'd like to save the trouble of creating your own cipher cards, you can download mine as a PDF by clicking here. (Yes, I love you oodles and oodles.)
The Party Favors:
I know we have mixed feeling about party favors, but set that all aside for a minute, because if there was ever a party that called for a take-home bag, this is it.
When each party guest arrived, I immediately asked them for the code word (see invitation) and had them don a black fedora and a gag glasses with a fake nose and mustache. I snapped a quick photo of each future spy against the hall and then sent them on their way.
While Corey was outside leading the boys through their tests, I used the pictures to throw together quick spy ID cards. Here's my template.
(Again, you can download your own copy here. This time it's a JPG file.)
I used my favorite desktop publishing software to add in the snapshots. I gave each guest a code name, printed the documents on card stock and cut them out. Before they left, each boy added his fingerprint (we set up a fingerprinting station in the kitchen so boys could cycle over at snack time). Then I folded the cards and wrapped them in contact paper, once again, to make them durable.
We also sent each boy home with his own set of gag glasses and a squirt gun.
(Yes, a gun. It's a secret agent party. Don't judge me.)
Making a bomb cupcakes is easier than you might think. All you need is black fondant. (I ordered mine from Amazon, but you could get it at any party store or - heaven help us - make your own.) Just bake your favorite cupcake, skim coat a layer of icing on it and then cut circles out of rolled black fondant. (I used a biscuit cutter to cut mine. It was the perfect size.) I carefully folded the circles around the top of each cupcake and then inserted a 4-inch length of red licorice.
Really? After all that? Decor didn't matter. I kept the tableware black and red, and I didn't worry about much else.