Wild West Party

Corral little wranglers and ropers, outlaws and sheriffs for a prairie-good birthday.


Inviting Ideas

Here are some simple ideas for making your own invitations:

Enlarge Image Howdy, pardner! Care for a birthday treat?
  • Draw a simple shape such as a cactus, cowboy hat or boot. Fold paper in half along left edge of design and cut out both layers.
  • Write the invitation information on plain index cards and wrap each in a red bandanna (cut in half if desired). Tie closed with jute or brown string (to resemble a lasso).
  • Photocopy images of cattle, Western movie characters, or Western scenery such as mountains and prairies. Have your child help you color in the images, then paste onto the front of blank cards.
  • Write "Wanted!" on the front of blank ivory-colored cards or brown construction paper (folded to fit envelopes), then inside write, "Reason: To come to Paul's birthday party!" Fill in the date, address, and so on, then finish with something like "Reward: Cake and fun!"
Decorations
  • Go to a local farm and get a few bales of hay for children to sit on.
  • Borrow some riding tack -- saddle, bridle, stirrups, horseshoes, cowboy hats.
  • Make "Wanted" posters (see activity page).
  • Tie red bandannas to the knots on your balloons, use bandannas as napkins or as bibs.
  • Cover serving areas with gingham checked cloths.
  • Make some burlap sacks of gold tied with twine and set out with big cactus plants (or cucumber cacti, made by securing cucumbers in clay pots with sand and inserting lots of toothpicks (for thorns).
  • Indian headdresses, fake-fur "bear skin" rugs, coils of rope, and tin sheriff's badges are also fun.

From the bhg.com Recipe Center, we've pulled together four kid-friendly menus that can be served at any birthday bash:

All-Munchies Menu

Classics with a Twist Menu

Hearty Bites Menu

Ultimate Favorites Menu

The Chuck Wagon

For delicious food that ties into the party theme, try these suggestions:

Sloppy Joes, chili, or grilled hamburgers and hotdogs (served with lots of barbecue sauce)

Baked beans or roasted corn on the cob (you can serve beans in a big iron pot)

Horseshoe biscuits: Shape biscuit dough into a horseshoe shape and bake as directed.

S'mores: Place a few squares of a Hershey's chocolate bar on a graham cracker. Roast two marshmallows and place on top of the chocolate. Top with another graham cracker and let the chocolate melt a little bit before eating.

Root beer (you can even use canteens instead of paper cups).

Choose two or three relatively calm activities for a two-hour party. Have a few extra ideas ready just in case. Alternate crafts and other sit-down activities with active games to keep the pace of the party moving.

Transitional Activity

Reading is great between activities such as a game and cake time. It can be used to keep children occupied while a parent sets out the tableware and cake. Also, reading can be effective at the end of the party, when children are waiting for their parents to arrive. Some suggestions:

  • The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle (Harpercollins, 1999)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Putnam, 1984)
  • Miss Spider's Tea Party by David Kirk (Scholastic, 1994)
Craft Ideas

Having a craft activity set up as guests arrive is a good way to corral the excitement in a positive way, since each person can start working immediately.

Wanted Posters

Ages: 6 and up

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Playing time: 20 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

  • Polaroid camera (optional)
  • Cowboy hat, leather vest, large-brimmed bonnet, frilly dress; all clothing can be adult size; (optional, to use with instant camera)
  • Sturdy off-white paper (such as 65- or 80-lb. cover stock)
  • Markers
  • Tape or glue

Before the party:

1. Onto sturdy paper, write "Wanted!" across the top in big letters, and underneath that, "Big Reward!" At the bottom, write in smaller type: "If you have any knowledge of whereabouts of this despicable criminal, please call the Local Sheriff." Make at least one poster per party attendee; for a large group, you may want to make just one and have it photcopied.

At the party:

2. If you have a Polaroid camera, dress children in western garb (optional), set up a "Sheriff's office," and photograph the "outlaws". Tape or glue the pictures to the center of the posters.

3. If you do not have a camera, have children draw their own pictures in the blank space in the middle of the poster.

4. Have guests color their poster, write in the name, and make up a goofy crime such as "Suspected of stealing his sister's cornflakes" or "Accused of watching too much TV."

Sheriff's Badges

Ages: 3 and up

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Playing time: 10 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

  • Posterboard (if you can find silver or gold posterboard, you don't need aluminum foil)
  • Aluminum foil (the heaviest you can find)
  • Pin backs or paperclips (pin backs are available at craft stores)
  • Toothpicks
  • Colored glue or glitter paint OR
  • Crafts glue and glitter
Print out our pattern and use it to cut out badges.

Before the party:

1. Cut out the badge patterns from posterboard and from aluminum foil. Glue the aluminum foil to the poster board (to make a silver badge).

At the party:

2. Hand each arriving guest a badge, explaining how to decorate it by writing his/her name with glue or paint. You may want to lightly draw each name with a toothpick so that younger children have a pattern to follow when applying paint or colored glue. (For older kids, you can suggest they do this themselves.)

3. Let the badges dry during the party, and pin them on departing guests.

4. If you want guests to wear the badges at the party, use poster board and markers, or make up the badges with the children's names ahead of time.

Plan two or three lively activities for a two-hour party. Choose extra so you're prepared for the unexpected. Alternate them with quieter activities, such as a crafts project or reading aloud, to keep the party from becoming too wild.

Barrel Racing

Ages: 3 and up

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Playing time: 10 minutes

Players: At least 4

What you need:

  • Barrels or large empty trash cans (cans can be turned upside down to make them sturdier). As an alternative, you use construction cones or other markers.
  • Hobby horses (optional)
  • Cowboy hats (optional)

Before the party:

1. Establish a starting line in the grass. Set two courses, side by side, by arranging barrels slalom-style so that team members will need to zigzag between and around them.

At the party:

2. Divide the children into two teams (such as "Wranglers" and "Rustlers," or Mustangs" and "Ponies").

3. Line the children up at the starting line. If you have hobby horses or cowboy hats, the first child on each team should put on a hat and grab his or her trusty steed.

4. When you say, "Go," the first child on each team runs through the slalom course, turns and runs back through and tags the second teammate. The second child on each team continues in the same manner as the first and so on, until everyone on a team has finished. The fastest team wins.

Panning for Gold

Ages: 2 and up

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Playing time: 10 minutes

Players: Any nnumber

What you need:

  • Pennies or pyrite (fool's gold)
  • Sandbox or large tub of sand
  • Toy sand sifters, frisbees, or strainers
  • Prizes (optional)

Before the party:

1. Hide the pennies or fool's gold in the sand.

At the party:

2. Allow each child a turn with a sifter, panning for gold by scooping up the sand and sifting it through until he/she finds a penny or piece of gold.

3. You may wish to let children search until they find three pennies and allow them to trade the pennies to the "Country Store" for pyrite or small prizes such as gummy candy snakes, water pistols, etc.

4. You can even go so far as to set up a "bank" and have the banker "weigh" it on a scale, imitating the original practice.


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