Right around the holiday season, I host a Polar Express Party at my dance studio for busy parents to enjoy a night out. It always coincides with a big school function that’s parents-only. Our party is kids-only! I thought this idea wasn’t all that original until I mentioned to a dance teacher friend that I had the annual Polar Express Pajama party on Friday and couldn’t make it to her event. The barrage of questions soon followed about the activities, the food, the details. So, here we go – time to tell you my secrets!
I start promotion of our event around Halloween, but the signups don’t start coming in until the week of our party. I passed out fliers at local events, sent out emails to the email list, and made sure I told everyone that came into the studio about it. I ended up with 19 kids – wow! That’s actually pretty good for a Friday night in December.
I set up the room in zones.
Each child got a “map” with their “train stations” on it. Really, it was just a flow chart designed to make them go to each activity in the room. Our list of activities included:
- Pin the Nose on the Snowman
- Cookie Matching Game
- Christmas trivia
- Christmas Tree Ring Toss
- Craft Table
- Make your own snow (Science Experiment)
- Coloring Station
- “Snowball” fight
- Jingle Butt game
The Dollar Tree has a lot of Christmas games for only $1!
I purchased two packs of Christmas trivia cards as well as the cookie matching game, the Christmas Tree Ring Toss, Pin the Nose on the Snowman, the packages of “snow” for our science experiment, and a few items for the craft table at the Dollar Tree. Thankfully, I didn’t have to come up with all new ideas for games and construct tons of pieces – this took care of a lot of the busy work. I will probably have to make the games from scratch if they aren’t available for purchase next year, but it sure did save me some time this year! The coloring station had a couple of coloring books (also purchased at Dollar Tree) and a big bucket of assorted crayons I’ve been collecting over the years from various camps and classes held at the studio.
Purchase Pre-Made Games for $1 at the Dollar Tree!
Table Cloths are Your Saving Grace at Kids Parties
I learned when it was time for cleanup that table cloths would have reduced my cleanup time drastically. This is mostly due to the free-for-all that I called the “craft table.” I basically set up foam shapes, glitter, glue, paint, and some pre-fab craft kids I purchased at Dollar Tree and Michaels. Everything was set up for the child to be able to do it themselves, even as young as 4 years old. After a few hours, my nice and neat craft table with items divided into neat containers started to look like this:
Had I put table cloths on that table…well, let’s just say I am still picking up sequins and the party was last Christmas. 🙂 I was so impressed with what the kids were able to make, using their imaginations and having a variety of mediums to use. Many of them had three or four craft projects to take home at the end of the night.
The Snowball Fight and Jingle Butt Games Make for a Lot of Giggles
The snowball fight game is quite simple but somehow manages to get a lot of laughs from the kids. It is played in teams of two, and all you need to start are two cups (we used Styrofoam), some cotton balls, and a barrier to place between the two players. We used our tumbling mats, but you could use a stack of blankets/pillows. The first player sits with their back to the barrier and starts throwing cotton balls over their shoulder. The second player tries to catch the “snowballs” in their cup.
The Jingle Butt Game is probably the most popular among the kids, and I got the idea from Minute to Win It (the TV show where contestants try to complete difficult tasks in a minute or less). I took a tissue box and cut two slits in each side. Then I laced ribbon through the holes I cut, making it long enough to tie around a child’s waist. Finally, I filled the box with different sizes of jingle bells. Dollar Tree had a pack of 50 small bells and also a pack of 8-12 larger bells. To play, the kids tie the box to their backside, the knot facing front. They have one minute to shake as many bells out of the box as they can. Some kids figured it out quickly and were able to shake almost all the bells out…others were lucky to get a few bells out of the box. Either way, they giggled the entire time, which was music to my ears! The trick to making this game harder is to tie the box to the small of their back, NOT their backside. This way it’s low enough that they feel it’s on their butt, but it’s high enough that the bells don’t usually shake out easily.
Themed Snacks to Keep Their Energy Up
Our party started around dinner time, so we ordered pizza. But later in the evening, kids started complaining they were hungry. I came prepared! We offered natural juice boxes, milk, and water for drinks. I prepared some “S’mores snack mix” and divided the mixture into little snack sized bags. It’s cinnamon cereal, milk chocolate chips, and mini marshmallows. I like to go easy on the chocolate chips when I’m using milk chocolate because it is so much stronger than semi-sweet. For kids who are choosy, this mix seems to satisfy most of them because of the three different ingredients.
We wrapped up the night with a visit from Santa and curled up with hot chocolate – from the crock pot!
Santa is a very close personal friend of mine, so it was a no-brainer when I asked him to come stop by at the end of the night. He wore his full Santa suit (as you can see in my title photo) and sang some Christmas carols with the kids. After having each one on his lap and snapping a photo with my camera (and he took his own “santa selfies” with his iPhone), we said our goodbyes and promised to be good girls and boys. I played the movie, The Polar Express, using a projector and displaying the image on a blank wall space. The kids brought blankets, pillows, and their favorite stuffed animals to snuggle with while the movie played. I gave each child a small cup of homemade hot chocolate, which they could garnish with candy canes or large marshmallows. It was literally the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted in my life! I’m going to do a separate post on this soon because it deserves some attention. 🙂
When the parents started to arrive at the end of the night, some kids were fast asleep and others were jabbering on about how the “real” Santa came to visit. I have so many great photos to share with them from our party! It’s always fun to be a part of keeping the Christmas magic alive for kids. Let me know your thoughts on my party and what you would add when you host this party yourself. I’m always up for some new ideas to jazz up what’s becoming one of my favorite new traditions.
Until next time ya’ll!