Backyard Birthdays for Tweens—Are They too Cool for All That Kids’ Stuff?

All my 8-year-old wants is a trip to laser tag for his birthday, yet my Tween wants me to recreate Middle Earth in our back yard. Go figure.

Much like Gus’s 10th birthday last year, I expected that this would be the year he’d opt for more standard fare, the trip with friends to the movies or a baseball game.  Frankly, I was a little relieved, as given his birthday comes just days after the baseball season ends, I’ve always found it a bit hard pulling off the magic backyard birthday party while also coaching two teams.

Alas, Gus is still a very imaginative fella, and loves fantasy play.  At school, he’s involved in the Hunger Games tag game the 5th graders invented for recess, an interesting sociological study in itself, as the so-called “popular kids” immediately gravitated to the role of the Career tributes in the book/movie despite the fact that those tributes were certainly not painted in a positive light.  And last week he bought his little brother an Iron Man mask with his own money just so they could play Avengers together.  It seems the drab details of reality have yet to make an impression on him.

Gus as Ring Wraith for Halloween 2011. Guess I should have seen this coming.

So, once more into the breech, dear friends.  This year Gus asked for a Lord of the Rings Party, his fantasy North Star.  But while the lure of having the birthday boy and his guests simply jump into the characters of those legendary books/movies, as I Googled “Aged Paper” in order to give the electronic-invitation a period feel, my inner nerd (okay, maybe not so inner) kept reminding me of last year’s party.  There I set the scene in modern times and had the kids involved as themselves rather than trying to get them “in character.”  This tactic seemed to work better for the Tween-types where suspension of disbelief becomes a more difficult trick.

But how does one bring Middle Earth to today’s kids?  Well, in true nerd-boy fashion, I decided to tell a story—the fourth book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, if you will.

Here’s the intro to the story in the form of the invite.  I believe I mixed in enough Hunger Games dystopia and a little zombie allusion while keeping to the spirit of the classic.  I told Gus that he would be free to reject this for a more straight-forward LOTR party.  He responded, “No, I really like this, as long as it has Orcs.”  Fair enough.

I’m pretty sure I know how to pay the party off, but I’m still thinking out a lot of the setup.  Any ideas from the crowd will be greatly appreciated and likely stolen without compensation (other than my thanks).

I’ll keep you posted on this party as it develops, and will give you a full report on whether the Great Eye of Blood (reusing a Halloween costume, hooray!) will cast the world into darkness, or will rise the Age of Children—though to be honest it’s been the Age of Children going on for going on eleven years in my house.

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