Appropriate age: 7-9
I have great memories of birthday parties in the forest when I was young. My parents always organised a trail with loads of games on the way. So for my own kids I think the best parties are the ones that we are having in the forest.
For my eldest daughter I set out a quest based on the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. Before we started the walk I read out the start of the fairy tale: about the stepmother who wanted the father of the children (the woodcutter) to bring his children into the forest and leave them there.
We start the walk, following the ribbons on the trees that we have attached earlier before the party started (don’t forget to untie them and bring them with you). I am holding a big stick with balloons attached to it so that everybody can see me.
All overexcited to be the first to find the ribbons
At the first stop, marked by a little envelope attached to a tree, we continue the story. About how Hansel and Gretel overhear the stepmother and dad talking and how Hansel went out to find pebbles or leave a trail to find their way home the next day. The task at this point is to make knapsacks to hold the pebbles. All the kids had to find a suitable stick and I bought tea towels in the euro shop to tie to them.
We continue our walk, following the ribbons again. At the next stop we continue the story. About how the woodcutter brought the children into the forest and left them there.
Read out the following bit: At night you hear a lot of noises in the forest but you cannot see anything. Everyone is going to be blindfolded and will get an animal noise that they have to make. There are two of each. The idea is to find the other animal of the same kind. For example, if you are a dog, you have to find another dog. Make sure that everybody makes the noise at the same time.
The animal game
We continue to the next task. We are at the stage now in the story where Hansel and Gretel are trying to find their way back home.
The task is now to find a trail of pebbles that will lead to a box with treats (popcorn and drinks).
The trail continues. At the next stop we continue the story: The children return home safely and the stepmother is furious. She demands that the woodcutter brings them back into the forest again. This time she locks all the doors of the house so the children cannot go out to find pebbles. The next day the woodcutter brings the children out into the forest again and instead of using pebbles, Hansel is using bread to leave a trail. However, by the time the woodcutter leaves them all the bread is gone. The birds have eaten it. Hansel and Gretel wait for the night to pass and start to find their way back by daylight. After a long walk they see a little house. When they get closer they see that the house is made out of sweets. (this is quite a long story, the best way to do this is to ask the kids to tell the story, that will keep their attention).
The task is to divide the group into two teams of five, or whatever the number is suitable , and to make a little house like the witch’s with sticks, moss and whatever else they can find in the forest.
We continue the trail to the next stop. The story continues: Hansel and Gretel meet the witch, who is nice to them at first but then gets very nasty and locks Hansel up and uses Gretel as her little helper. The witch wants to fatten up Hansel to cook him and have him for dinner. So she feeds him a lot of food. She feels Hansel’s finger every time (she has very bad eyesight) to feel if he got any fatter yet. But Hansel sticks out a little stick instead. The witch is getting impatient and decided to heat up the oven to put Hansel into it. When she is checking the oven, Gretel gives her a push and the witch is burnt alive in the oven. Gretel frees Hansel . Before they go they find a treasure with gold in the house.
The task is to find the treasure in the forest. I hid the box beforehand when setting out the trail. It was a shoebox, covered in tin foil and I put in some golden coins and bubbles.
Bubbles are great, all kids love them
We continue the trail back to the car park where there are picnic tables or bring a few blankets so that the kids can sit on the grass.
The story comes to an end: Hansel and Gretel are finding their way back home. When they arrive home the woodcutter is so happy to see his children. He gets them a big cake to celebrate. The stepmother is gone and with the gold that they have brought with them, they are no longer poor.
We are also having cake to celebrate, after a bit of food. I usually get some of the parents helping out to drive to the nearest pizza place or get pizza delivered. To keep it cheap and cheerful, sandwiches are another option. You can prepare them beforehand …
At the end, all the kids receive a goodie bag. Which was a mini-knapsack, made with a paper napkin, a ribbon and a bamboo stick …
Mini knapsacks for goodie bags …
Shopping list (for 10 kids)
1. Tea towels from the 2 euro shop:€2 per two: total: €10
2. Blindfolds, the cheapest way to get these is to get ties in the secondhand shop: €5,- for 10
3. Popcorn and drinks (fruit shoot & water): €8,-
4.Bubbles from the two euro shop: €5,- for 10. Golden coins: €4,- from the two euro shop
5. Cake/ cake ingredients: €10
6. Pizzas: €20,- or sandwiches if you want to keep the cost down
7. Drinks to go with the pizza: €6,- (Fruitshoot and water)
8. Paper napkins for the goodie bags: €2,- in the 2 euro shop. Sweets for the goodie bags: €5.
9. Bamboo sticks, one big one that you can cut up: €3,-
10 Envelopes (6) and ribbons €5
Total: €63 without the pizza, €83, with the pizza
1. Print out the story HanselandGretelbirthdayparty, and cut it up at the lines to put it into envelopes. Number the envelopes 1-6.
2. Fill a box with treats (for example popcorn and fruit shoots/ water) for the 3rd stop.
3. Make a treasure chest with golden coins and bubbles, or anything else you can think of. I used a shoebox covered in tin foil.
4. make the goodie bags: fill the napkins with the sweets (soft sweets work best, nothing too bulky) and tie with the ribbon, tie the ribbon around the bamboo stick.
5. Before setting out the trail, pack the following:
- Task 1: tea towels and wire;
- Task 2: Ties;
- Task 3: Box with treats and pebbles
- Task 4: nothing, maybe some wire and scissors
- Task 5: treasure chest
- Also: the envelopes, loads of ribbons, cello tape, scissors …
6.Setting out the trail:
- Set out the trail an hour before the party starts, you want to make sure that the ribbons are still there for the party;
- Place the ribbons in a visible spot high up, so that other other people can’t get near them;
- Use a lot of ribbons, especially where you turn left or right;
- For the tasks, hang the envelopes in a high place off a tree;
- For the items that need to be hidden, make sure you cannot see them from the path …
7. And finally a bit of advise:
- Try to get a few parents to help you setting out the trail. Also during the party make sure that you have an adult at the tail end of the group who can make sure that no children stay behind.
- The kids will get very excited to try to find the ribbons. Point out a few rules at the start of the trail. Every child should get a turn in leading the group. And during the tasks nobody should go ahead to look for the ribbons. The promise of a medal, or another price for whoever respects the rules, might be a good incentive.
- Always make sure that no rubbish is left behind. It’s everybody’s responsibility to clean up after them.
- Don’t leave the items, like the ties and tea towels in the forest before the party. Bring them with you when the party starts in a bag/ rucksack.