For about a year before her birthday, Mason was insistent that she wanted an “Amazing Race” birthday party. She has been a fan of the show ever since we started watching it as a family. Jeremy and I have watched it for many seasons, but the kids got into it a couple of seasons ago. They liked it so much that we started watching it from Season 1 on Hulu Plus.
Over the year, we had many ideas for how we would do this party, but it wasn’t until the last week before that we really figured it all out. We purchased templates for clues from an Etsy shop, which was a great timesaver! What was not a timesaver was the fact that we didn’t have a laminator, so we used packing tape to keep the clues strong and waterproof.
And while we knew many (if not all) of the girls invited would have never seen “The Amazing Race,” we still wanted the party to be as authentic as we could get without going too crazy. So here is how it all went down…
Once all the girls had arrived, Jeremy took them on a tour of our house so that they would be familiar with where some things might be that could show up on clues. He even pointed out and stressed the location of things they wouldn’t need to know just to throw them off. And since Mason didn’t even know what the challenges were, she was in the dark as well.
Unfortunately it was raining, so we had to do some last minute changes to the course and clues, but it didn’t stop us from getting the race off to a good start.
When the race started, the girls ran to the other end of the driveway and looked for their name pin on a knapsack to figure out their team. In each knapsack was a different clue to start each team on a different part of the race. After that, the race was a circle of clues – just with each team starting at a different part of the circle.
There was basic “Route Info” directing the girls to somewhere in the house or yard to find their next clue. These did not involve any real challenge, but were still fun. Clues were in the mailbox, underneath the grill on the patio, in the fridge in the basement and finally in a suitcase in the hallway filled with suitcases. From these clues, they would find out where their next challenge would take place.
Photo Finish was one challenge where the girls had to look at a picture on the iPad of a scene created the day before with stuffed animals and Barbies and then re-create the scene exactly as seen. Nana was in charge of this challenge, and she would help or be more lenient if it was taking a team too long. Or on the other hand, she would be pretty strict with exactness if the team was getting it easily. It was a favorite among many of the party-goers.
Another basic challenge was Snack Attack. Each girl was given a cup filled with goldfish crackers and a place mat. They had to spell their three-letter initials using the goldfish and then eat them all before getting their next clue. Not a super hard challenge, but it was meant to offer a snack to everyone during the party (before pizza and cake) and just have a breather. And it gave me a chance to talk to the girls and find out how everything was going. I could also hold a team longer if other teams were having a hard time at another challenge.
Our Road Block (a challenge where only one member of the team can do it) was one of the last-minute challenges we had come up with just the night before. Going through many children’s books, we created a sentence and a key to find each word in the sentence. There was a sheet with a clue for each word in the sentence telling where to find that word in one of the books. For instance, the clue would read “Where The Sidewalk Ends, Page 36, Line 13, Word 2.” When the one girl doing the challenge had completed the sentence, she would get her clue from Meema who was managing that station. This challenge ended up taking more time than we expected. And Meema had to bring the other team members into the challenge to help and move it along. A hard challenge, but the girls still seemed to like the “scavenger hunt” aspect of it.
The biggest hit, by far, was another last minute change. We had originally had the Detour set up to be “Croquet or Obstacle Course,” but with the rain, we had to move the physical challenge into the garage. It then became “Slow and Steady or Fast and Furious.” Jeremy drew a track in the garage using sidewalk chalk – basically weaving back and forth across the garage floor. The team had to choose if they would do the Slow and Steady challenge of balancing a ping pong ball on a spoon while also balancing a cone on their head and walking around the track or the Fast and Furious challenge of driving a remote control car through the track. It was really interesting to see which teams picked which challenge. And everyone loved this so much that when the race was over, they went back to keep doing it. Kristin did a great job managing this challenge and keeping everyone on pace.
Each team ended the race at one of the challenges. After completing the last one, we would give them a Congratulations clue telling them they had completed the race and to go cheer on their friends. We didn’t want to have a winning team because… well, they are 8- and 9-year-old girls and competition is strong; and it’s a birthday party and things are supposed to be light and fun.
After the race, it was time for pizza! Always a hit. And then instead of receiving gifts, Mason chose to do a book swap. Each girl brought a wrapped book from home that they had read and enjoyed and wanted to pass on to someone else. Then we did it “White Elephant” style where each girl picks a number out of a hat. The girl who had number 1 got to choose a book and unwrap it. The girl with number 2 could either steal the book already opened or choose a new book and so on. They really got into it, and there were quite a few steals including one stare down between best friends over “Land of Stories” by Chris Colfer. After it was all over, we allowed the girls to mutually agree to other trades if they wanted. Each girl then got to put their book in their own knapsack to take home.
Finally cake time! Just to give you a little background, Mason has always chosen cupcakes or a cookie cake for her birthday. And I’ve always wanted to “do it up” for her. I mean the girl loves looking at cake books and pictures! We knew cupcakes or a cookie cake wouldn’t work for The Amazing Race party. So after looking up cakes on Pinterest, I found what I thought would be the easiest cake to do – a basic sheet cake iced to look like one of the clue envelopes. Easy enough, right? Wrong! Getting perfectly straight lines with buttercream frosting is impossible. It was not pretty while I was doing it (both the cake and my attitude!) But I finally resigned that it was good enough. As long as it tasted good, right? Mason was awesome about encouraging me and telling me that it looked great. Love that girl!
After we had finished everything, there was still time before parents would pick up their daughters, so what else is there to do with 9 third-grade girls? Four Square of course! We drew up a big court in the garage over the race track and let the girls have at it. Everyone had a blast – even with all the rule clarification. These girls know their rules and are very quick to adjust as needed when their spot is on the line. Too funny!
We were so proud of this birthday party. It was a lot of work, and we certainly couldn’t have done it without the help of Meema, Nana and Kristin. Great memories were made, and Mason was happy, which is all that matters! Definitely a birthday party to be remembered for a long time. An “Amazing” birthday for an amazing girl!