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Ice Cream Party in the Park

By: Martie Duncan

Photos: Arden Photography

School is out, the heat is on and you’re in need of some ideas for entertaining the kids this summer. How about planning a party with them, not for them? My nieces love being a part of the party planning process. They give their suggestions and ideas--- which are pretty good sometimes. Once they get caught up in the process, it is a lot more fun for them. The kids wanted an ice cream party and I thought it sounded like the perfect party theme. After all, what’s not to love about ice cream? This ice cream party is a great way to spend an afternoon; just right for end of school, sports team, or summer birthday parties. When you host the party at a park, you won’t have to worry about cleaning up before the party, either. Cleaning up during the party may be another issue.  Just make sure to have plenty of wipes to take care of those adorably sticky faces and hands. Two scoops, anyone?

Party Basics: Decorations, Food, Beverages and Entertainment

Decorations
So guests could easily find us in the park, a clearly defined party space was essential. We decided to make a bright flag banner in party colors from rope and scrapbook paper. The project cost us $9 and took about an hour. Fold paper squares into a triangle over the top of the rope and use a glue stick to fasten the edges together. You can use any paper you have for this project or find ready-made party banners to match your theme. Use your party food as decorations. Waffle cones dipped in chocolate and rolled in sprinkles held all of our toppings. We used vivid kid-friendly vinyl from the fabric store for tablecloths, only $2.99 per yard. Find plastic bowls and serving pieces to match and your decorations are complete.

Food
Ice cream: chocolate vanilla and strawberry. Cones: waffle, sugar, and cake. Toppings: crushed cookies, cherries, nuts, candies, sprinkles, chocolate, and whipped cream. Done. It is that easy. Put a cooler in your car to keep ice cream from melting. If you use dry ice; it will keep the ice cream really frozen. Wear thick insulated gloves to make sure your skin doesn’t come in contact with dry ice and keep it away from children; it can quickly cause frostbite or burns. I recommend layering ice with rock salt instead of using dry ice. There are lots of ice cream tools out there to make your serving simple.  

Beverages
Since ice cream makes you thirsty, juice isn’t a good choice. Water is best, but at a party, you want something colorful and festive. We decided on Kool-Aid; always refreshing and fun. We made three flavors in self-serve plastic beverage dispensers loaded with fruit slices. The dispensers were easy to transport, too.

Entertainment
Kids will do anything if ice cream is the end result so you can easily keep them occupied until you’re ready to serve. My niece and I made a bean bag toss game, Baggo, out of some scrap lumber. We designed it with an ice cream cone motif. After that, we made bean bags out of fabric squares. We also had a big play parachute and used an ice cream ball for lawn bowling that actually made ice cream while we were bowling with it. Get the kids to roll the ball around and half an hour later—ta-da, you have ice cream!

This party is a cinch to pull together. You can even plan and execute this party in the same day if you have a gang of kids headed to your house. Set up stations of all-purpose wipes and recruit other parents to help you keep the kiddies cleaned up—but try to relax and let the kids be kids. Who cares if they’re covered in sprinkles afterwards? My nieces are already asking for another ice cream party—they loved it!   

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Martie Duncan offers ideas for affordable parties, weddings and entertaining and her tips for fabulous but frugal parties can be found on MSN.
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