My oldest girls turned 9yo this past weekend. They wanted a backyard camping sleepover. My husband and I went around and around about whether to have a 'theme' or just go with a sleepover party. Ultimately the theme idea won - if for no other reason than it helped to reign in ALL of the ideas that the girls had about their special birthday party.
I found this great camp cake recipe/idea online and did my best to create one similar. I think I did pretty well. In fact, making and decorating the cake with the girls was one of the highlights of the entire party planning experience.
I picked out two crafts for the girls to do as well. The first was a photo holder: A wooden cube that could be decorated with camping signage, and then add a groove in the top that can hold a photo. We all loved doing these! I found the camping signs online at Etsy, each girl got her own sheet to cut from and we used Mod Podge to secure the 'signs' to the blocks. My husband made the blocks and then used a saw to cut the groove. Each girl went home with a couple of blocks and one photo holder. I kept the extra blocks until the next day and then made our family a set of blocks for camping. I can imagine using them for so many things when we are in the great outdoors - story cubes, conversation starters, etc.
The other craft was creating shadow puppets of northern woodland animals. The girls (painstakingly) cut them out and taped each on to a chopstick. They practiced shining the images on the side of the tent with their flashlights (a party favor) and then my husband made up a story and they acted it out. The whole idea/production turned out even better then I ever could have imagined. The animal shapes were free templates from a designer on the internet - there are thousands out there to choose from.
We roasted hot dogs over a fire pit for dinner with corn on the cob, watermelon and chips. We did the crafts right afterwards, then were inside for a movie. Then outside again for sleeping in the tent. Luckily the weather was on our side for the weekend. The girls all slept really well (until 8a!) and after breakfast and some playing it was time for the girls to get picked up again. It was a great party and after the guests left my daughters ran to me with hugs saying that the party exceeded every dream they had about it before hand. A very happy Momma moment.
This was our first foray into a friend party - up until now, for all our girls, we've kept these celebrations close with just family. It was a lot of work to pull of the party for kids but very much worth it. And the party was in touch with our family 'vibe' which made it really enjoyable. I even got to craft/create along the way.