"If you go out in the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise"... so begins one of my favorite kids songs, "The Teddy Bear's Picnic" and in homage to that song, for the past six years we have held our own annual Teddy Bear Picnic.
This year, the girls were busy being "Nuts" - let's see, we had cashew, and pistachio, and walnut and peanut. And there was my daughter who said "I'm not a nut, I'm a corn" (acorn... get it).
The boys were skateboarding in the driveway.
This picnic has evolved into a tradition that my kids expect to happen every year. The idea is simple: I let them invite whomever they want (while I hope that at least some people will be on vacation - last year, no vacations, 23 kids in relatively small backyard!). The kids bring their own sandwiches, but I supply drink and snacks. We have games (with candy for prizes) and a craft - and this year for the first time a drama center (as you can see it was a big hit.)
The craft this year was making God's eyes using popsicle sticks and yarn, last year we did sand art - one year they decorated plastic visors with foam stickers.
Games include the perrenial favorites - throw the bean in the jar (dry Great Northern Beans, mason jar - this is actually pretty hard) and sticker tag (give everyone a handful of stickers. The goal is to stick your stickers on other people without getting any one yourself). We also had games my kids invented like the Teddy Toss (pairs toss their bears from one to the other - if Teddy hits the ground the team is out) and Teddy Bear Freeze tag - a complicated variation of freeze tag that was nonetheless a lot of fun.
This year it was too cold for our traditional water balloons and sprinkler play - but everyone had fun just the same.
I started the Teddy Bear Picnic because both of my kids birthdays are in the winter - and indoor parties mean the guest lists have to be kept relatively small. Also, I found that birthday parties are imbued with a certain anxiety. As the birthday boy or girl you want to make sure that your very best friend is there. You want to make sure that everything is perfect - and when things go awry it is so much more than just a minor snafu - it's a ruined birthday (or so it can seem.)
The Teddy Bear Picnic comes with no emotional baggage. Whoever can come comes. People have fun. No one has to bring a gift. No one has to be the center of attention.
It's become a great tradition in our home and we will continue until the kids no longer want it. Though - they tell me that I have to keep having this picnic every year until they're in college. We'll see about that.