April 24, 2005

Ciaran's Frog Birthday Party

Today we celebrated Ciaran's 4th birthday with his friends. We had an excellent and fun birthday party at a nature preserve. For a bit over an hour we spent time with a naturalist. She began by showing the kids pictures of frogs and toads they might find in Minnesota and pointed out the ones that we might hear today. Then using a puppet she asked about the life cycle of a frog and how it changes from a tadpole to a frog. They colored frog masks and then looked at some other puppets of animals they might find out around the preserve.

We went into a classroom and the kids sat in a circle and got to see a snapping turtle and touch a shell but not the actual turtle. Then they each had an opportunity to touch a rather large snake. Then the part Ciaran could hardly wait for they got to see and touch a Cope's Tree Frog! The naturalist held the frog but let each child touch it as she talked a bit about the frog. Then she brought out the toad and let it hop all around. The kids had an opportunity to touch that one as well. Then she fed the toad live mealworms and we got to watch how the toad goes about catching his prey. It was a slow moving toad and eventually he ate the worms. The kids really enjoyed this part of the party.

Then we all bundled up and headed outdoors. It was just above freezing here in Minnesota today! Here we postponed his birthday party in hopes of warmer weather and more frogs being out and today is the coldest day we have had in a long time! Still the kids did not miss a beat and we headed outside bundled up. The kids went on a frog hunt. Since it was too cold for a real frog hunt they had placed pictures of frogs on popsilce sticks around the trail and the kids had an opportunity to find them. Each child found one and at certain points we would stop to listen and try to hear the frogs and birds.

There was a really neat playpark at this preserve - instead of a traditional playground it was designed to be like the habitat of certain animals. There were too trees that had a bridge running between them and a giant slide that showed a woodpecker habitat, some flowers that the kids could climb around on for bees, some big eyes that looked like dragonfly eyes, some lily pads for the kids to hop on like frogs, a mole tunnel to climb through and a beaver dam. It was a very neat and fun place for them to play. They finished up their time with the naturalist as she sang Five Speckled Frogs to them and acted it out with some frog props.

After the tour/class part was over we went inside for cake (a yummy ice cream and traditional cake mix from Cold Stone decorated with frogs of course! Everything we had was green from the tablecloth, plates, napkins to the juice boxes and gift bags and it was that bright lime green that makes you think of frogs. Even majority of the flowers in Ciaran's homemade birthday flower crown were green carnations.

After cake Ciaran opened presents and he got some truly great gifts. I was amazed at how much frog stuff people were able to find and how he did not get any repeats or anything we already had and it was all really neat!

One friend made him a wooden box painted green with green frogs on it and a collection of different plastic frogs inside sorted by type. Two other friends made him a really neat and soft frog pillow to go on his bed. He received a cool frog hat, bug collecting kit, books and a gift card for more books, star wars action figures, the game Guess Who, a frog swing for his swingset and a cool lily pad leaf to go over his bed and make his top bunk into a fort. He was excited by everything. For gift bags the theme of course was frogs and we got a fair amount of good stuff from Oriental Trading Company which the kids seemed to like.

Unfortunately I included a noisemaker which was a frog face with a noise blower through the mouth as the toungue. It was a big and LOUD hit. At one point one of the mothers took out her cell phone and recorded the kids all blowing their noisemakers so we could hold onto this beautiful moment and think about it as we sent all those kids home with loud noisy things. It was done in good fun, though I did feel bad for the loud noisemakers.

A nice bonus for us as parents: there was a definate end time, minimum cleanup on our part and no mess at our own home! The party seemed to be a hit with everyone kids and parents alike, but most importantly Ciaran truly had a great time and it was perfect for him. It was a day and party to remember and I am glad that two of his grandparents were able to attend his birthday party, a difficult feat for long distance families like our own.

I would recommend checking your local nature preserve or local parks to see if they offer birthday parties like this. I highly recommend it. For those of you in the Twin Cities that nature preserves in the Three Rivers district do provide these and they are worth any drive you may need to make.


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