On March 6 and March 8 this year, Truman will turn 5 and Jude 6. But for two days, they will be the same age: 5, as Truman is very proud to point out.
These two bright, beautiful and curious children are close in age and are also very close as siblings. They love sharing friends, toys and living quarters, and they especially love sharing their birthdays with all the children in their classrooms.
Each year it is a challenge and delight for my daughter, Alexis, and me to come up with an idea for a birthday celebration. Last spring, we developed an outer-space theme for their joint party, with stars, planets, solar systems and intergalactic-exploration activities.
Our first thought was to take everyone to the American Museum of Natural History’s amazing Hayden Planetarium in New York City, but it was unavailable at the time, so we set out to invent our own universe.
We decided that the clerestory in my office headquarters was the perfect place for the party, and found many of the event’s important elements on the internet.
Alexis discovered huge inflatable planets, which we hung from the 23-foot ceilings. She also located a portable planetarium by Starlab, which delighted every single child with its dark interior, illuminated with the stars of the galaxy. And the educational show it presented every half-hour was so interesting that most of the kids went inside the dome at least twice.
For food, Alexis designed healthy snacks: vegetarian canapes made of fruits, vegetables and cheese that were cut with cookie cutters into various space shapes.
She also baked the birthday cake, decorating the colorful spheres to look like the planets. The interpretations were not only realistic, but delicious, too.
Truman and Jude stood proudly by the cake as it was sliced and served, talking about the planets — their respective sizes, the number of satellites each boast and the characteristics of each.
And what a fun time it was! The children ran and skipped and played for the duration of the party, which lasted about three hours, and took home soft-foam planets, custom cookies by Sweet Dani B and their solar-system crafts.
It was a magical afternoon for all, and everyone learned something new about the universe we live in. Our job this year? Coming up with an even better idea.
A space odyssey
The children learned a lot about the universe and had fun in the process. Consider some of the stellar details:
1. A galaxy of treats: We covered a table with open-face sandwiches cut into the shapes of rockets, stars and moons, and popcorn comets, orbiting a “sun” of vegetables.
2. View of the stars: Starlab set up a portable planetarium and gave the kids an exciting and educational guided tour of the galaxies (starlab.com).
3. A crafty activity: We put together a crafts table with painted plastic foam balls (found at lacrafts.com) and skewers where the kids could create their own miniature solar systems.
4. Landing gear: To give the kids a place to sit and play, Alexis put down rugs decorated with the sun and planets throughout the large space. (Jabez’s Rugs solar system educational area rug, from $40, amazon.com.)
5. The birthday cake: Alexis baked a cake that resembled the solar system. Each “planet” was different and even had its own ringed core.
6. Far-out decorations: Removable decals of the planets by Fathead were positioned on a wall covered with black paper (fathead.com). The children loved identifying each one.