I love planning my kids’ birthday parties. I love finding new ways to celebrate each of my children that fit their personalities and their interests.
Diego is my athletic boy who is always on the go. He’s a fierce competitor and he is strong willed. He can move his body in a way that is graceful, athletic, and powerful. I like watching him compete (except when someone is trying to hurt him, like in taekwondo) because I can see his heart burst from his chest when he has prevailed.
I remember this one time that his Tita Dee was here visiting from NY. And at that time, Diego was into running and track because of the grass roots program at his school. He had enrolled in track and field with one of his other friends and he was always telling me that he wanted to beat this one guy because he knew in his heart that he could…even if this guy was a bit older and a lot bigger.
Through conversation he learned that his Tita Dee was a cross country runner when she was in high school. She competed at the varsity level and still enjoys running and yoga as a form of exercise. Because he just learned this (and truth be told I think he thought Tita Dee was still a teenager and he could compete with her) he challenged her to a race. This couldn’t be just any race…it had to be on the track, at his school, with a proper start and finish…
His competitive side definitely came out…even if it meant that he was challenging his Tita to a 100 meter dash.
The other side of Diego is that he is very creative. He sees things and wants to replicate them. Sometimes, he replicates them by building things out of paper and scotch tape. Sometimes, he builds them with Legos, and sometimes he uses old boxes, spray paint and duct tape.
So, this is why the perfect birthday celebration for my son this year was Challenge Island. I first learned about Challenge Island when I went to the press launch for Engineering for Kids. Engineering for Kids was brought here to Manila by the SMILE group and they have an affinity for all things education. (so naturally, I have an affinity for them.)
Truth: When I brought Diego to the launch, he asked me two questions.
1. “Mom, can you enroll me in this?”
2. “Mom, can we have my birthday party like this?”
Of course, I said yes to both.
Both Engineering for Kids and Challenge Island integrate STEM education, learning, and FUN.
YES….LEARNING CAN BE FUN!
As a teacher, I know the value in the lightbulb moments, the importance of trial and error, and the excitement that comes from using your imagination to solve a problem/challenge that you are faced with. It’s even more exciting when you solve that problem with the help of your friends/teammates.
The Challenge Island Staff was super easy to coordinate with. While I had an idea in my head of what to expect, I wasn’t totally sure, so I asked a lot of questions. (LIKE A LOT) I was coordinating with Luna of the SMILE group and we discussed what kind of activities the kids would be participating in and what I should ask each guest to prepare.
Confession: I was totally unprepared for this party. I have been so busy having fun and planning events with my blogger friends that I really had not time put together a really well thought out loot bag for the party. In fact, when my friend Fannie asked if I needed any help, I pounced on the opportunity to ask her to help me make t-shirts for Diego’s guests.
From my conversations with Luna, I understood that the kids would need to be grouped into teams. I had a tentative team list in my head, and then I estimated the sizes of the shirts to be made for each team color. Fannie and I coordinated the team colors with sizing, names of kids, and the logo that Challenge Island provided for me, so that we could have t-shirts made for each guest, so the t-shirts would serve as the give away and loot bag all in one.
Fannie’s sis Arlene is also a good friend of ours. She is a photographer, and a good one at that. I have often asked her for advice, and together-we are also trying to come up with a smart phone photography workshop for people who would like to learn how to shoot better photos with their phone. Arlene was able to ask her friend Gilbert to cover the birthday party so that we would have awesome photos of this super memorable celebration.
All that was left for me to prepare for the festivities was make sure we had cake and candles for Diego to blow. I wanted something simple. I didn’t want to go over my budget, but I wanted to enjoy the cake as well. Anna and Raymond of Pink Wasabi came up with a very simple cake incorporating the logo what I had sent them. They altered the logo just a bit so that it would be seamless in its greeting for Diego. It came out perfect, AND I was happy we had leftovers afterwards. Anna also gifted Diego’s friends some yummy red velvet and chocolate cake pops for them to take home as well.
This party was different for Diego than parties I have thrown him in the past. I have always gone a bit overboard with my DIY parties in the past because I end up sending the kids home with a ton of goodies and loot bags filled to the brim. This party was different because I really wanted the focus of the party to be the experience and CHALLENGE of Challenge Island.
Luna said that I didn’t even have to have t-shirts made, because they provide all the teams with bandanas, but that if I did have time to make some tees, it would be a nice touch. She was correct of course.
For the venue of this awesome party, I was afraid of rain. I was thinking that one of the parks inside the village would be all I needed to make things super fun for this celebration, but then I realized I would have to pack picnic snacks for every guest, with very limited time. It was an easy decision to make to move the venue to Palms Country Club because I knew I was short on time, energy, and man power.
One thing I have realized (albeit in maybe a painful way prior to this birthday party) is that sometimes I can’t always manage my DIY projects. This was one of those cases where I needed to make it easy on myself so that my son could have a good time and not have a stressed out momma during the party.
Dealing with Palms is always so easy. Because our guest list was only about 20 kids I was able to coordinate with ease about the menu, the outdoor venue of The Pool Bar and I focused on everything that Diego liked…right down to the choices of food. He requested, pizza, french fries and chicken. I added lasagna and carbonara to the menus so that the meal would be a little more filling for everyone who attended.
Our Challenge Island Celebration started with everyone breaking up into the teams that I had chosen for them. I was mindful to put at least one older kid (or momma) on each team to help manage the kids. Each of the four teams also had a “teacher” but the kids decided between themselves who could fill the position of “leader.”
They learned each team chant, and some even altered the chant/cheer to fit what they liked. Each team lit there Team Torch and made way for the next team to introduce themselves, their chant, and their style of competing.
After each team lit their torch, was introduced and performed their chant, we were set off on our own to a little healthy competition.
The first task at hand for all the teams was landing “copters” on our target. We would fold our paper into copters to land within a designated space, but not without staying behind a designated line. It wasn’t easy! You had to make sure that your copters were folded properly, AND figure out a way to toss them in the air taking into account the wind and any other factors that would affect the landing. Teachers kept score and of course there was a winner declared after this first round of competition.
What were the strategies to take note of in this activity?
- Participants were handed the paper copters with directions on how to cut and fold each copter.
- If paper copter was not folded correctly, it wouldn’t fly the right way.
- Copters had to be thrown from behind the line and could only be collected after ALL the copters were already released.
- Some of the teams decided to fold ALL their copters and others only folded one per team player. This could hinder the number of landed copters if not done the right way.
- Participants also had to take into consideration the flow and direction of the wind!
After landing our copters, we moved on to building catapults. This was something my son was looking forward to, because he really enjoyed himself during this activity when we went to the launch.
Each team had to build their own catapults from popsicle sticks, rubber bands, large binder clips and a plastic spoon. Every team member had their own catapult, and every team member had to contribute in making the ammunition from clay. We were timed for assembly and testing, so we had to build the best catapult we could, make our ammunition, and get in some practice shots before we were told it was time to compete.
The lid to our treasure chest of supplies became our target. We had to get as many clay balls as we could into our target. The number of balls would be added to the number of copter landings we had earlier.
What were the strategies to take note of in this activity?
- Participants had to build a strong catapult with the materials given. We were guided but not spoon fed. Kids had to figure out for themselves how many times to wrap the rubber bands to get the right amount of resistance.
- Participants were given a weighted amount of clay. It was up to them to observe differences in practice shots if clay ball was heavier and bigger or smaller. Which would work more effectively?
- The biggest challenge was not only staying behind the line where the kids were supposed to shoot their catapults from, but it was also in the fact that once a clay ball was shot-it could NOT be picked up again…so each try was effort lost if you didn’t make it into the lid of your treasure chest.
After both activities were finished, and the scores were tallied, all the teachers added up the scores from our Copter Challenge and our Catapult Challenge. The team with the most points would be crowned Challenge Island Champions.
AND HOW COOL IS IT THAT DIEGO’S BLUE TEAM WON???
Ok…aside from teamwork, cooperation, and good clean fun, there are a plethora of skills that reinforced for the kids while they are participating in these challenges. (Sorry…this is teacher talk now 🙂
The kids will reinforce their understanding to Identify the problem, brainstorm a solution, build, test, improve, retest, and share the results of each challenge. The kids learn to think critically, they use their imagination and creativity, while reinforcing social skills and thinking outside the box.
Even the motto: OUTTHINK, OUTSMART, OUTPLAY screams the fun that the kids will have when attending an activity like this.
A Challenge Island Birthday Party to celebrate his double digits was exactly what this
teacher momma had in mind for this year’s festivities. It was fun. It was exciting. It was playful and educational. And for Diego…it was memorable. As a momma, I know, that it’s all about the memories.
If you would like to know more about Challenge Island for your corporate, family, school, and birthday celebrations, please look for Tonette Solano of the Smile Group