Cardboard Forts + Doughnuts: A Homegrown Birthday Party

Cardboard Forts + Doughnuts: A Homegrown Birthday Party

Jack, our oldest, has his own plans. He is a creator, and he has been since he was old enough to tell me.

Toys, for example, were never for their intended purpose. For him, it’s more fun to invent a new way to use them. Halloween is not for dressing to be something he’s not, but instead for dressing up as something no one has ever seen before (fireman-astronaut, anyone?).

His ingenuity and creativity are part of what makes him so special, so when he asked for a cardboard box fort party to celebrate his eighth birthday, I didn’t skip a beat.

It turns out, this is my favorite birthday party to date. I will admit, however, that it took some organizing to pull this all together. Here’s how we pulled it off.


Step 1: Create a Plan

What was I going to do with 15-20 eight-year-olds, a stack of cardboard and a couple of hours to kill? I needed to get organized. Thanks to the TV show “Making It” (one of Jack’s current favorites), we were inspired to create three challenges. The kids were broken into three teams, and they each received a mission, a stack of cardboard and a box of supplies.

Team 1: Create something to get them off a deserted island.

Team 2: Build a shelter to live on Mars.

Team 3: Create a defensible base that will protect you during Medieval times.


Step 2: Collect All the Boxes

We collected as many cardboard boxes as possible. Our neighbors graciously saved and shared boxes from recent shipments, and we watched the NextDoor neighborhood boards to find a new neighbor looking to get rid of boxes after a recent move.


Step 3: Make the Decorations

Yes, I did say “make” the decorations, but it’s a lot easier than it sounds. Trust me, you will not end up here. For this party, I did three things, with the assistance of the birthday boy: 1) cut out a large number 8 from the aforementioned stack of cardboard and splatter painted it with our colors of choice, 2) cut out a small number 8 from cardboard and splatter painted that and then stuck in a toothpick to put on top of our doughnut cake, and 3) cut out cardboard triangles from cereal boxes, splatter painted them, and then hung them on bakers twine to form a garland. Voila!


Step 4: Order the Favors

I have a bit of an aversion to the bag of favor trinkets. Instead, I prefer to give guests one item that they may keep and enjoy beyond the party day/week. For this party, I found inexpensive waist aprons (tool belts!) and ordered patches with the guests’ names on them. Inspired by the patches on “Making It”, I ordered name patches and merit patches for each team after they completed their forts. The kids wore their tool belts during the party and seemed genuinely excited to have earned patches after fort building.


Step 5: Time to Play

The beauty in this party is that it is really about old-fashioned play. Once we broke the kids up into teams, I delivered their missions in envelopes, and let them get to work. Each team had at least one adult to help cut the cardboard. Their supply boxes consisted of duct tape in multiple colors, sharpies and reflector tape. What they created was so much fun.


The kids built forts for a little over an hour, then we sang to Jack and distributed doughnuts. It was such a charming, homegrown party.


P.S. Rosie and Clara’s simple puppy party.

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