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Making Birthdays a Day at the Beach
Trevor's sixth birthday was approaching and he knew exactly how he wanted to celebrate. He hadn't gotten his fill of sandy beaches and boogie-boarding in the ocean during a recent Florida vacation and wanted to continue the fun.
"Can we go to the lake with all my friends and sing 'Happy Birthday" on the sand?" he asked. "I want to go swimming and build a birthday castle on the beach."
Though we live only minutes from Chicago's beautiful lakefront, I knew there was no way I could safely take a group of 6-year-olds to the lakeshore. Besides, my car's trunk was still overflowing with gear from taking just three kids to the beach.
But since Trevor had come up with a theme, the least I could do was devise an alternative. "How about we build your very own beach in our backyard?" I asked. He was delighted.
The day before the party, we had a load of sand dumped under our swing set to create a "beach" and buried several bags of seashells bought at the local craft store. We blew up pool swim rafts and bought every guest a Frisbee and sand bucket — dual activity props and party favors.
On party day, we served Trevor's favorite lunch of hot dogs and chips, using the Frisbees as plates. The kids ate ice cream from sand buckets, using sand shovels for spoons.
"This is yummy! I never ate ice cream like this before," one guest declared, with a river of chocolate fudge running down her chin. Her mom could thank me later.
Before singing "Happy Birthday," Trevor and his guests made up stories about the teddy bears "swimming" on his birthday cake. (Teddy Grahams on a lake of blue frosting, with Fruit Loops serving as swim rings.)
Later, Trevor and his guests jumped on rafts in the pool. Kids screamed and shouted as several adult volunteers created "waves" by thrashing the water.
"Look out for the sharks!" cried Trevor, as children clutched their rafts in mock fear, screaming as if going down in the Titanic.
And after swimming, we threw a treasure hunt where the the kids collected sea shells in their now-clean sand buckets and built sand castles.
"Look at the treasures we found," said Trevor, surrounded by 10 sand-covered friends, all clutching shells of various sizes and colors.
Our backyard party may not have been on the real lakeshore, but Trevor's birthday still turned out to be a day at the beach.