Little House on the Prairie Birthday Party
Updated: May 22
Tricking kids into Doing Laundry
In 2015, we threw our daughter a Little House on the Prairie birthday party. I started planning a couple of months out because I knew I would need to get many items from thrift stores. It took my daughter and I a year to watch all 9 seasons of Little House on the Prairie. She was very into the show. It was the perfect time for everything Walnut Grove.
I collected vintage handkerchiefs to make the invitation. I got the idea from The Blog of Loralee Lewis.
Let us start where our guests started, on the front porch.
We placed hay bales as decor on our front porch to give more of the Walnut Grove feel. I tied string around the brick columns to make clothes lines. I bought matching bonnet and apron sets in different colors and patterns on Etsy. (1) There is a chalkboard, a nod to the one-room schoolhouse which read, "Put on your Sunday Best." Each female guest picked a bonnet and apron to wear for the party. These items were for the guests to keep. I rarely do goody bags at our parties. There are items throughout the event which guests get to keep. Since it was September, enormous bouquets of mums were on sale at Lowes. The covered wagon was an antique mall find. I purchased the chalkboard at a craft store and the glass jar was a Family Dollar find.
Most of our parties have stations. This keeps kids busy without a lot of adult involvement and disperses a large group of kids in a single area. Since my daughter wanted to invite a lot of friends, male and female, I needed various activities which fit our theme.
Pan for "Gold":
The first station is the panning for gold activity. I could find nothing but this inflatable pool to use, so I bought one that looked quilt-ish. We added water, so the pool was about half full. We did not want the kids to put their arms in water up to their shoulders. I bought about 2 lbs. of pyrite on Ebay to act as the gold. Because we had male and female guests, I also bought a bag of plastic jewels from a craft store and added them to the water as a bonus. Last, we added 3 - 50lb bags of sand from Ace hardware to the pool.
I saw a neighbor had just cut down a tree and had these stumps on his lawn. I asked if he was parting with them, and he was delighted to give them away. My husband cut them to make them more level. We used the tree stumps as seats for our gold miners. To me, little details matter, so I covered a folding table with a quilt-look throw we already had. It did not look right to me to have a folding table there, even though there was an inflatable pool. I justify these things in my head. (Laugh with me) We used pie tins, which we punched holes into to be used as sieves. I bought canvas, drawstring bags so our miners could keep all their found loot, another take home item.
Our next section was a bigger hit than we expected. Since we had more tree stump seats than needed, we made an area where kids could hammer nails into wood. We had a couple of dads take turns supervising the area. In fact, the dads expressed how fun it was to teach the boys how to hammer nails properly and safely. They also got some nails started for the younger boys. Most of our boy guests stayed put at this station and the gold mining station. We bought a few boxes of nails from Lowes and my husband already had the hammers.
Doing the Wash
Who would have thought that doing the laundry would be so much fun?
I already had the buckets. We added water to the larger bucket for washing. The other bucket was for rinsing. A found some white flour sac hand towels and the wicker basket at Walmart.
I covered the folding table with a vintage tablecloth I found at a thrift store. On top of the table is a glass jar with a sealing lid, found at a craft store, filled with homemade laundry detergent. (2) The basket, filled with clothespins, was a thrift store find and had a feature on it which looked like an old water hand pump. There was a chalkboard which read, "Wash Day" and a small display of flowers. I found the washboard at an antique store. In addition, I added a framed print of the television version of the Ingalls family.
The girls loved this activity. Some hung out at this station most of the day. There was one boy, who for months after the party, would bring up how he did not understand why washing clothes at a birthday party would be considered fun. It always made me belly laugh.
During the Civil War (and at other times when supplies were scarce), they made dolls from handkerchiefs for little girls. These "handkerchief dolls" were carried to church and did not make noise if they were dropped. (3)
I made up the handkerchief dolls ahead of time by placing a Styrofoam ball in the center of each white cotton handkerchief (4) for the head and securing it with a piece of tied ribbon. (5) I placed all the dolls in a large basket on a table. I covered the folding table with a vintage tablecloth from a thrift store. I had pre-cut triangles and squares of fabric in various prints to act as bonnets and aprons for the dolls and put them into small baskets on the table. I added fabric markers for the faces and other details the girls wished to add. There was also a chalkboard sandwich board which read, "Dress your Handkerchief Doll." I also included a framed photo of the actual Ingalls girls. Boys did this activity as well, but made their dolls into vampires and zombies.
Caroline's Pie-Eating Contest
I had to include Caroline (Laura Ingalls's mother). I remembered an episode where Caroline had entered her pie into a contest at a fair. I did not want to have pie on the menu since my husband made a cake, so I incorporated a pie-eating contest for the kids.
I set up a folding table and covered it in a red and white tablecloth from Walmart. I found the small pies for 50 cents each at Walmart as well.
I lined the pies up by flavor and labeled them. The table had another chalkboard sandwich board which read, "Caroline's Pie Contest," and I added a photo of Charles and Caroline with a first-place ribbon.
This was fun to put together. We had to include the Oleson's! On the folding table covered with vintage tablecloths, there is a basket of apples, a framed photo of the Oleson's, a basket of pretend eggs, jars with candy, bottle decor, and tin decor. I gave the guests paper bags and pennies to buy candy at the store. This was another take home item, but I think they ate most of it at the party.
Had I known I would one day do a blog post on this party; I would have taken better photos. For food, we had fried chicken, popcorn chicken, corn on the cob, potato salad and macaroni salad.
For drinks, we had sweet tea, lemonade and Sarsaparilla. They actually still sell Sarsaparilla.(6) A favorite on the show by Mr. Edwards.
We filled the Sarsaparilla bucket with some water and ice. The beautiful quilt was a thrift store find.
The table was functional and decorative. It was the detail that came to mind at the beginning of planning the party. I wanted something a little different from the typical table and chairs. I covered two folding tables with quilts found at thrift stores. I visited many thrift and antique stores multiple times in the months leading up to this party. The tables were surrounded with hay bales and covered with quilts and quilted pillow shams. If you copy this idea for your own party, be sure hay is covered, in all areas the legs will touch, down to the ground. Hay can scratch and cause a rash in those who are allergic.
The centerpiece is a covered wagon, which I found at an antique store, and two mason jars with sunflowers. We used paper plates because, after all the energy poured into this party, I was not washing all those dishes.
My husband likes to make the cake for our birthday parties. He said this one was more difficult than parties past, but the kids loved it!
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post. The party was a tremendous success and fun to plan. I wanted to leave you with some of my tried-and-true party tips:
-When planning a party, it can be as involved or as simple as you want it to be. My advice would be to not plan so big that it is overwhelming and therefore not fun for you.
-Think about the needs of your guest. I try to have everything accessible to cut down on questions. Our guests can look and see where everything is on the tables/countertops. I sometimes include instructions on the front porch, such as "Put on your Sunday Best."
- I greet the guests as they arrive and tell them what we are doing first. For this party, I took the entire group to each station and explained the activity. I then let them decide which station they wanted to try in the order they wanted. A bit later, I announced next events such as, "Please gather at the pie station for a pie-eating contest," and "In 2 minutes we will line up to make our plates of food." Let your guests know when it is time or almost time for a transition.
-If your details on how to make it easy for your guests are thought out beforehand, you will not need to run around during the party answering questions and pulling supplies from the cabinets. You can be a host while enjoying the party.
-As guests come into your house, have a place set aside for shoes, jackets, purses, etc. I like to make a place for shoes in a room off to the side of the entrance. That way, guests do not walk into a pile of shoes when they enter the house. Make the dining room table or a location out of the way as a collection area for gifts.
-Make a separate seating area for parents if you have the space. With children under a certain age, I ask at least one of their parents to stay. It is not a time for you to babysit. You cannot host a party and be responsible for littles. I usually have parents stay with children 6 and under. If there was an older child invited who was a bit more adventurous, I would ask one of his/her parents to stay and help.
-Be sure your bathroom has soap, a hand towel, a back-up hand towel, and extra rolls of toilet paper. You may even hang a sign, which reads, "Bathroom" with an arrow to show guests of its location, another question you do not need to answer several times.
-Be sure you have enough supplies for each guest.
Did you enjoy this post? What was your favorite part? What is your favorite theme of a party you threw or attended in the past? We'd love to hear from you.
Since throwing this party in 2015, there has been some controversy on the content of the Little House books. I had not read them at the time of this party but read one afterward. With that said, we parent our children to know history as to not repeat the parts which have proven to not be God-honoring. We explain the history of the time, what was deemed acceptable, even if it was not, and how we move forward. We, my husband and I, teach our children that it is not acceptable to treat anyone differently because of the color of their skin. With that being said, we do not blot out history, make excuses for cruel behavior, or glorify oppression. We do not ignore history. We learn from it.
(1) Unfortunately, the Etsy shop where the bonnets and aprons were purchased is no longer active. There are, however, other Etsy shops with similar products.
(2) Here is a link for homemade laundry detergent similar to the one we used. I did not add the Borax because kids were going to be handling it. https://www.mykitchenescapades.com/homemade-laundry-detergent/
(4) White cotton handkerchiefs https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01930CBF4/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B01930CBF4&linkCode=as2&tag=mywebsit0f917-20&linkId=3fb708454c2c73bcbba09d0d264b8144
(5) More details on how to make handkerchief dolls. http://homemakers-journal.blogspot.com/2011/07/pioneer-handkerchief-dolls.html?m=1
(6) Sarsaparilla https://amzn.to/3aFxwGh