An American Camping Birthday Party Abroad
The boys’ birthdays are both in the spring, so I decided I would just have one big party for both of them. They are both very into camping and adventure so we decided to have an American camping party.
Traditional Dutch birthday parties are a bit different than what we are used to. They involve sitting in a circle and eating passed cookies while drinking coffee. Gifts are opened as soon as guests arrive so you only have to view your own gift being opened. (Google ‘Dutch Birthday Party’ for more information and personal stories from expats at such parties.)
We opted for a typical American party because well it’s OK to be unabashedly American sometimes. Our guests were a mix of Expats and Dutchies, but all spoke English.
We majorly chanced it on the weather as spring in the Netherlands is characterized by wind and rain interspersed with sun. Luckily, we had a bit of sun and the kids did not seem to mind the wind one bit.
We set up some tents in the backyard made from old bed sheets and some wood. There are many tutorials on Pinterest for how to make bed sheet tents. Jeff is a little reluctant to share his ideas because he’s unfamiliar with the metric wood sizes here. One of the problems he had was drilling holes for metric dowel rods with his English drill bits. We also found some logs in the woods behind our house for the kids to sit on. The kids loved playing in and on the tents and logs
Prior to the party, the boys and I took the wagon into the woods to pick up some sticks for decoration. We cleaned up the best ones for S’more sticks and used the others for decoration and for the fire.
We planned a few formal activities as well. The kids painted birdhouses. I ordered these houses from Oriental Trading. Jeff and I pre-assembled them and added wood glue to all the joints to shore them up. The kit says that no glue is required, but they would not have withstood the wind without some reinforcement. Don’t underestimate the time commitment of pre-assembly and dry time. You will need to prep your activities days ahead of time.
We planned to paint outside, but the wind was blowing the little wooden houses all over the place, so we moved inside. I had Crayola washable paint and lots of paint brushes available for the kids to use. Little paper plates were used for the kids paint, making it really easy to clean up. I had a pack of kids aprons available as well to keep paint off of the kids clothes.
When the wind died down we went on a small nature walk into the woods near our house. I was inspired by the scavenger hunt bags I found on the blog Angenuity. I ordered “branch and twig” pencils from Amazon to use on the scavenger hunt. I printed our scavenger hunt cards from WithEnvyParty’s Etsy store and printed them myself on cardstock.
We roasted marshmallows around the campfire. We had to import some of the ingredients, making it an extra special treat. The kids, and adults, had a great time with this sweet American treat.
I also found a ton of free coloring sheets online with a camping theme. I had these available with our normal bucket of crayons. Kids who wanted a quieter activity could just go sit at the art table and color. It was a great alternative to our planned activities.
We had plenty of food available since the party ran over lunch. We tried to have a more substantial meal. A large pot of taco soup stayed on the stove and provided a warm meal for everyone as they came inside from playing.
We also had a table full of items to make your own trail mix. We had all sorts of things available and mini pie tins to make your creation in.
We of course ate cake. H specifically asked for a campfire cake. O, wanted a Lemon cake. We had some small issues baking cakes here in our tiny Dutch oven. We also had trouble finding cake recipes that did not require American ingredients (corn syrup, corn meal, cake flour, etc). Measuring in metric is also a little tricky.
We sent everyone home with a little hedgehog toy from Ikea and a glowstick to continue their camping adventure. The glowstick printable was a free download from Smashed Pees and Carrots.
If you’re looking for more Birthday Party ideas you can check out my Birthday Party Pinterest board.