This year we opted to simply host the Second Grade year-end party and serve cake at the end. Scheduling was easier, attendance was awesome and we were able to find a fairly gender neutral theme: a messy party.
I had seen various things around the Internet with ideas of how to pull this off which combined with decades of Young Life and other youth ministry exposure resulted in SO MUCH fun. After receiving a few questions about the process/planning, I've document the process here in case it helps anyone else considering this. There are so many games, this really just scratches the surface, but we chose the following 10 and it took 32 kids about an hour to get through them.
When the children arrived, fun music was playing and my friend Trey (who agreed to be Mr. Red, our emcee and enthusiastic game leader) greeted everyone. White t-shirts were given to each child as their party favor. This is completely optional, of course, but it really illustrated the degree of messiness to start with a white background. After washing them the stains faded, but are still present as a badge of honor of sorts. Sending these to attendees ahead of time as part of the invitation might work well. Ours were put on over the shirts the children wore to the party.
Another tip regarding shirt sizing is that I ordered half youth medium and half youth large. The first party activity was having the kids line up shortest to tallest. We simply walked down the line, handing out Mediums until our supply was depleted, then switched to Large. It seemed to work!
During the t-shirt distribution each child was also given a number 1-4, which we wrote on their hand so they wouldn't forget. These numbers were used for the activities when we needed kids to quickly go to four corners for supplies. (This will make more sense later.) The entire process was under five minutes.
At this point, Mr. Red led everyone to the first station, the Before picture.
After a quick snapshot, the group was told to look at the number on their hands and then run to four corners of the yard to find adults with the correlating number. We used four dollar store buckets with the numbers 1-4 written on the side to mark these corners. Inside the buckets were small squirt guns (four for a dollar at the dollar store) containing purple colored water to increase the messiness factor. I considered using food coloring but didn't want to stain skin, so we used washable paint mixed with water. Different colors could be assigned to each corner, but for simplicity we just used one. It really was not set up as a contest--just an excuse to run, squirt and stain.
Make sure to have someone ready with a hand towel and water to drink...plain flour does NOT taste very good.
Station #4 involved six volunteers (three teams of two). Three kids had whipped cream applied to their faces and heads while three messy-averse volunteers were given a Ziploc full of cheese balls. Their task was to toss the cheese balls and try to get as many as possible to stick.
Although only two pairs actually played over half of the children wound up covered in paint...and so did the host.
From this activity, the kids were asked to run to their four corners again (remember the numbers on their hands?) where cups of jello were distributed.
While the children were still in the grassy field we asked them to divide into two straight lines facing each other and handed out raw eggs. A good old fashioned egg toss ensued.
Our 8th activity was a wacky hair salon where three boys were chosen to style three girls' hair. Their only supplies were shaving cream and hotdogs.
There was a certain brother who reveled in the opportunity to 'decorate' his sister.
After this activity we took a snack break. Sticky hands were rinsed with a water hose and a buffet of messy finger foods were served: watermelon, powdered doughnuts, Cheetos, Doritos. I am sure there are healthier alternatives, but we were all about the messiness. We recognized four of the Summer birthdays with small smash cakes (my nine year olds' idea).
And then the "kid wash" began! I could not believe the various levels of messiness. It was very clear who enjoyed the opportunity to get filthy/sticky/wet and who did not--but it seemed that even the messy-averse enjoyed themselves. I think the key was to make the activities voluntary. One of my own (sensory) children managed to stay on the sidelines of most of the activities, but he told me afterwards it was 'the best ever.'
Lessons I learned:
1. WARN PARENTS to only let kids wear things that can be stained...even the 'washable paint' left its mark. (Chocolate syrup and cherry juice leave pesky stains too!)
2. Ask attendees to bring a change of clothes and an old towel too. We do not have a pool, so we used a water hose to wash everyone down after the festivities.
3. Have old towels on hand to wipe faces after some of the messier games and water available for kids that are bothered by sticky hands.
4. Have a place for folks to go to the bathroom--and possibly a volunteer to supervise messy kiddos coming in and out of your house. I found 'washable' paint smudges in a few random places :-)
5. Having 4-6 adults assigned to help you out is essential. We had the stations all set with supplies, but the four corners each need to be manned and a couple of extra hands are needed for cleaning up messy children after each game.
I would absolutely do this party again! Gathering the supplies, setting up and preparing the noodles, jello and water guns was time consuming but the payoff (these faces) made it completely worth it!