Do you have a child that loves nothing more than getting his or
her hands a little dirty, discovering new insects in the
backyard or exploring animals and their habitats? Perhaps your
child is one that can't wait to get outside and when you head
to an indoor spot such as a museum, he or she is the first one to
want to dig deeper (sometimes literally) into the
Then your little adventurer will love a nature-themed birthday
party with invitations, decorations and food that will match
their nature-loving personalities. Here are some ideas for hosting
your own nature-themed party:
Nature centers such as the Lake View Nature Center of
Oakbrook Terrace Park District offer hands-on experiences
for kids ages 4-12 that give them a close-up look at living
wildlife such as turtles, snakes, fish, spiders and insects. Kids
also can experience natural objects such as furs, feathers and
skeletons and examine geological specimens like rocks, minerals and
"Kids love animals, meeting and touching them," says Marianne
Long of the Oakbrook Terrace Park District. "They like to learn
about animals and parents like to provide a fun, educational
Even when the weather is cold or rain starts to fall, partygoers
at Skokie Park District's Emily Oaks
Nature Center will still find themselves heading
outdoors. Although party packages include use of an indoor
program room, "party packages are designed to get kids
outdoors regardless of the weather," says Lee Hansen of the
Skokie Park District.
Party packages for various age groups are designed to give kids
great exposure and contact to the outdoors. "We want them to
discover as much as possible."
If your child's birthday falls during cold weather or he or she
would like a break from the outdoors, consider moving the nature
fun indoors to a place such as The Field Museum.
The Field Museum offers great birthday party
packages that not only include admission to the museum (for
25 children and their parents), but include crafting
activities for the kids.
"We have great themed activities for young explorers, such as
decorating pith hats with stickers and feathers," says Heather
Scholl of The Field. And, if your young explorer won't be happy
without a visit from something alive? "You can enhance the party
experience by adding a visit from some live bugs and insect
specialists from our zoology department."
For party festivities at home, look for companies that can bring
a little nature to you. Sue Johnson of Sue's Party
Animals has eight live animals (think geckos and guinea
pigs) that accompany her to birthday parties throughout
"All of my animals can be pets, so we spend a lot of time
talking about how to care for them, how to handle them and
what you would feed them," says Johnson. A former teacher, Johnson
loves teaching kids about each animal and really stresses the
importance of researching an animal before you bring it into your
home. "You really want to find a pet that fits your lifestyle,"
Think beyond the traditional party package option and look for
ways to personalize the experience for your birthday child.
"Parents often decorate our party room around themes of the museum
such as Egypt, insects or dinosaurs," says Scholl.
Also, get creative with the cake or cupcakes. "Parents can order
cakes with the child's picture on it or of a special animal they
love," Long adds.
While you may have a time limit for your party room or outdoor
adventure, you don't necessarily have to keep kids on a strict
activity schedule. "In warmer weather, we suggest parents let kids
play outside in between eating cake and opening presents in our
program room," says Hansen. "This gives them an opportunity to
release some energy."
Sometimes it is just the idea of being in nature that makes the
party so fun.
"Extras like the live bug presentation or a dino fossil talk
with one of our education staff members are always a hit with
the kids," Scholl says. "But, I think, the best things about a
Field Museum birthday party is being in the museum. It's a great
way for friends and family to really make a day of it."
Since it is a nature-themed party, why not have an ecofriendly
theme throughout your planning? Have invitations made on
"plantable" paper, use things found in nature (think sticks,
flowers and vines) to create unique decorations and give each child
a small sapling instead of a goody bag.
Although these types of parties are a little nontraditional,
"party manners are expected," Long says.
While most birthday party locations have staff members on hand
to assist and answer questions, parents should make sure their
children are prepared to respect the space and listen to staff.
Also, you will want to prepare your guests for the party
activities as well. "You should let guests know in the invitation
if your party is going to be outdoors," Hansen says. "Let them know
they should be prepared for the weather and dress appropriately
-- we really discourage party dresses and sandals."
A little pre-party conversation can go a long way towards making
sure guests-and their parents-feel comfortable. "It's funny,
but the younger kids are usually way more comfortable with the
animals than some of the older kids … or even the adults."
But, most importantly, Scholl says, "Everyone should be prepared
to have fun!"
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