Totally-Awesome (Kind-of-Crazy) Idea for a DIY Kid’s Birthday Party

My son getting (very, very) messyEarlier in the summer I went to a "messy" party for my friends' five- and three-year-old sons. From the invite, I didn't really know what to expect, though it said to pack bathing suits and a change of clothes--not good clothes. When we arrived, there was caution tape everywhere (part of the décor, I later learned) and my friends had turned their backyard into a wild obstacle course--think Double Dare meets a tough mudder for kids. My son nearly burst when he surveyed the situation. I kept expecting Marc Summers to pop out.

The parents (who are lifelong friends of mine) had gotten the initial idea for a messy paint party from Martha Stewart. And then they built on it from there, googling, pinning, using their imagination and generally getting really into the idea (they used this site a lot). There were about 15 different stations set up, each one ickier and stickier (and thus more appealing) than the last. Once all the kids had arrived, they gathered at the starting line and my friend (the dad) ran through the course once to show everyone how to do it. He wore a hazmat-type suit for affect (and protection), which the kids thought was hilarious, of course. Then the little ones were unleashed and once they got started, they never stopped.

Each of the stations had a little hand-painted sign:

Alligator Alley--my friends have a zip line between two trees and they scattered blow-up alligators underneath. This was the starting gate.

Mud Slide--a kiddie slide leading into a blow-up kiddie pool filled with chocolate syrup and water.

Oatmeal Ocean--another kiddie pool filled with oatmeal.

Hot Chocolate Channel--a rectangular-shaped blow up pool filled with hot chocolate and giant marshmallows. Naturally my son sampled the goods.

Lava Lake
--a pool filled with bright pink slime made from cornstarch and water.

Worm World--a kiddie pool filled with cooked spaghetti and water.

Slippery Slope--shaving cream slip and slide made using a giant 50-foot clear tarp from Home Depot. This was on a slight hill that lead into a yet another blow-up pool. It was the end of the course and a fan favorite.

Messy Mural--they covered their fence in craft paper and let the kids go nuts using ketchup bottles filled with watered-down paint.

Making messy art (notice the spaghetti in the hair)

Disgusting, right? But oh so fun!

They also had some less messy stations for the kids who weren't as keen on the icky stuff (like, shockingly, my daughter). You could walk a balance beam with gators on the side, fish for (plastic) fish in a makeshift pond, dig for buried treasures in a sand table, and more. Then there was a hose down area with buckets and soap, which was definitely needed. My friends seriously outdid themselves. And all the kids loved it. It was by far the most creative birthday party I've ever been to and one my kids won't soon forget. For two hours, they all ran around like lunatics, lead by the birthday boys' dad who was as excited by the action as the little ones. The best part: The kids were occupied and happy and engaged the entire time. I actually sat with another mom and dad friend of mine and chatted. A lot. I ate cake. I relaxed. Which was good because if I'd been watching too closely I may have gotten completely grossed out by the state of my child and what he was frolicking in.

One of the birthday boys swimming in the chocolate channel.

Bonus: Both of my kids fell asleep on the way home. After declaring over and over again that it was the coolest, most awesome party ever ("that was epic!" my five-year-old said--not sure where he got that phrase). But...full disclosure: I don't think I would ever host something like this. Way too much work involved and energy and, well, mess. I said it to my friend as soon as I was leaving. In fact, I think I told her she was crazy (we go way back so I can say such things) and making the rest of us look bad by throwing such an "epic" party. I still don't know how they got all the strands of spaghetti off their lawn! But my friends love doing stuff like this and, clearly, they're good at it. And while there was a lot of prep and set-up involved, they said it really wasn't expensive (they used a lot of stuff they already had). I'm just glad I got to see it all in action and that my kids got to experience the insanity. And I can't wait for Messy Party Two, which my friends say will definitely happen at some point.

So, have you ever been to a party like this? Would you ever throw one? Any other great ideas for a boy's DIY bday party?

Pure bliss (and exhaustion!)

The masterminds behind the party...