Kid birthday parties are tricky. There are just SO many questions! Where? When? Who to invite? Siblings? Food/no food? Allergies? Favors? Financial ruin? I get even more nostalgic (read: weepy) than normal around my kids’ birthdays. I can never believe they are the age that they are even though I’ve had a whole year’s notice that it was gonna be that way. I’m sure my memories of babies wrapped like burritos with only soft, fuzzy noggins sticking out doesn’t help keeping a rational state of mind when choosing whether or not to invite 25 4-year-olds to Pump It Up, which I have done, twice.
After celebrating my youngest’s birthday last weekend, I am, I think, 17 birthday parties in. One would expect to feel prepared at this point, but I just don’t feel like I ever add to my Martha Stewart quotient. Though a bit of a veteran, I am no birthday expert. I don’t “pin” stuff or own a hot glue gun, I’ve never baked a cake, and I worry for no reason though I don’t need a birthday party for that. Even when my friends plan parties for their kids, our conversations are always dominated by the details, the biggest being “where?” unless the answer is “home” in which case the biggest issue is “what will they do?”
I have celebrated a lot of my kids’ birthday parties in or around Edmonds and brought a balloon decorated bag from Teri’s Toy Box to many, many more. In case you’re looking for an idea, like a friend of mine upon receiving our most recent invite asking “what else were you thinking about doing, I need ideas” here is our laundry list of places we’ve either attended parties at or been to and paid to entertain our kids. We have been to countless Pump It Up parties, celebrated at Elevated Sports, The Edmonds Theater, the new spray park at City Park, Imagine Children’s Museum, iFly, Family Fun Center, Lynnwood Pool, Vertical World, Civic Field, Traxx Indoor Racing, Another Castle Video Games, an indoor soccer arena in Everett, Spin Alley, Edmonds Bowl and Skate, Richmond Beach, and Glazed and Amazed. We’ve also gone to lots of themed parties at the party kid’s house including meeting Reptile Man’s reptiles, dancing to Happy Hans German Band, and making art out of recycled materials. They went to one that was circus themed where my husband ended up making balloon animals for the kids. We had a few parties at our house that ranged from just a barbecue to renting a bouncy house. The bouncy house proved less exciting than a room full of freshly opened toys and was NOT cheap. Plus, when it’s at your house, you have to clean said house. With my oldest, after one too many “invite the whole class” shindigs, we took this show on the road and met up with his friend with the same birthday at Great Wolf Lodge. It seems extravagant, and it is, but with advance booking and not needing as many party supplies, it was the about the same cost of a weekend party at a local “jumpy place” as we call them here.
The most recent party we had, on the beach in Edmonds, was one of my all-time favorites. It was fun, low maintenance, and the kids AND parents enjoyed it!
Deciding to have a birthday party at the beach in the Northwest is dicey, I know. We tried when my youngest was 2 and ended up cancelling the morning of due to rain only to have the afternoon be both dry and warm enough to have had said party. We decided to give it another try after a call to Jennifer Leach, who does the Environmental Education for the City of Edmonds. I called to talk to her about Yost Park and thought I’d see about a Ranger led Beach Walk for the party. When she told me that June 5 was going to be an extremely low tide, we couldn’t pass it up. Of course, we were crossing our fingers for no major rain and as it turned out that day would top out around 90. We also weren’t the only ones celebrating that afternoon. There was a party right next to us!
We paid for a beach walk with a Ranger-Naturalist through the city of Edmonds. It was $69 for an hour and you can have up to 30 participants. Ranger-Naturalist Karen Andres, led our beach walk. We have been hearing the name “Ranger Karen” for years in our house; my oldest son has been attending camps at FAC since he was 3 and she has always held superhero status. At first, Ranger Karen laid out the rules on what to touch and what not to touch, as it turns out a crab larger than the area between your pointer finger and thumb while touching will hurt you if it pinches you! The crew of kids and their parents followed Ranger Karen under the ferry dock and found lots of incredible sea life. They saw a moon snail, sea stars, evidence of a geoduck, lots of crabs and sea anemones, and a baby octopus, which was a really big hit.
Ranger Karen showed the kids what she found and answered their questions. My husband reminded me that we initially wondered if a gaggle of 7-year-olds would last an hour, but the kids, who still needing some minor herding among the low-tide crowd, were engaged the whole time either listening, asking questions or exploring an area that’s usually underwater. It’s hard to really put into words just how magic low tide can be. There’s the Discovery Channel in your backyard aspect or the creatures that seem straight out of science fiction or even just the view of Mount Baker from under the ferry. It’s just a perspective you don’t get all the time.
Once the Beach Walk was through, we fed the kids pizza (which had to be delivered to the senior center parking lot and would have been far easier with no Waterfront Festival,) gave them each a bucket I got out of the dollar aisle at Target, and put a candle in a sandcastle to sing “Happy Birthday.” Popsicles, which were mostly still frozen, ending up winning out as the heavily debated dessert option. It was nice on such a hot day and frankly, transporting cupcakes seems out of my league. My go-to at every other party is the Costco cake – it’s cheap, huge and you can have it for breakfast the next day and the next. It usually feels like my prize for having been the vessel for kid whose name is on the cake.
If you’d like to schedule a Beach Walk with a Ranger-Naturalist you can find the details and low tide schedule HERE.
— By Jennifer Marx
Jen Marx, an Edmonds Mom of two young boys, is always looking for a fun place to take the kids that makes them tired enough to go to bed on time. You can find her trying to make sense of begging kids to ” just eat the mac n cheese” at jen_marx .