With two birthdays so close together I often try to have combined birthday parties, but they each have very different personalities so this has not always worked (we did try a princess cowgirl party one year, but it left something to be desired). This year Paige wanted a pool party and Faith wanted a beach themed party. Perfect! That I can work with.
With the success of the day still simmering, I thought I would share some of what worked for us and some websites I have enjoyed over the years for party planning ideas.
I often refer to Birthday Party Ideas for lots of ideas on almost every imaginable theme. I usually start there and then build off of my children's preferences, my resources and budget, and my own creativity (that was listed last for good reason).
Many people enjoy Family Fun and the great ideas there. I have referred to their site occasionally. They do have great ideas, but not the variety that I have found elsewhere.
In the cake department we have enjoyed the graphics and how-to guides on the Coolest Cake site. Again, we start with their ideas and turn it into our own, but they have given us some great ideas for cakes.
We came across our cake for this year on that site and created this fun beach scene complete with gummy life-savers for intertubes, graham cracker crumb beach, jiggler ocean, and teddy grahams soakin' up the rays. My husband helped me quite a bit getting the ocean just right. He always manages to refine my wild ideas so they look more than presentable. :-)
Here are a couple other closeups of the beach and water:
It kind of blends together, but the two guys are building a sand castle in the closest corner and then two bears are sunning themselves on Laffy Taffy towels in the middle of the beach.
This year we started with a simple craft that involved gluing shells and pretty stones to matting to make original picture frames. This was easy and not too messy and kept the kids busy while we waited for all the kids to arrive. We then ate lunch, which went well, but was a lot of work. I don't know if I will plan a big meal for a kids party again. Everything went really well, but the prep was almost overwhelming at times. I think I will stick with the cake and ice cream route for most birthdays. My sister, Mother-in-law and sister-in-law both stayed for the party and were a big help to me maintaining my sanity throughout the festivities.
The bulk of the party I split the kids into three groups (one boys, one younger girls and one older girls) and rotated between pool time (my sister helped supervise), free play with sprinklers and water balloons, and structured party games with me. The kids did a great job, although the free play time seemed too long for the youngest group.
For games we played musical towels, water balloon shot put, coconut bowling (should've gotten two coconuts for this, it split on the second toss and we had to play with half a coconut . . .), dress up relay (with an adult sized beach outfit in each bag complete with sunglasses and sandals, this was quite entertaining), parachute games with water balloons, and a memory game with summer items on a tray (I had about 10 items for them to remember. I would take one away while they looked away and they had to guess which one was missing. This was so simple, but they surprised me by asking to play repeated times).
My kids love participating in choosing their theme and some of the activities, and the ice cream flavor. :-) They also seem eager to set up and clean when it involves the anticipation of the party. The parties always seem like so much work, but in the end they build amazing memories and we have such a great time. I am very grateful, however, that we have no more birthdays until December . . .