Holiday party planning is easy when dealing with one age group. Planning for young and old is more challenging. Easily-bored kids want to romp while grandparents want to sit (quietly!) and visit. Here’s a patriotic Memorial Day party–crafts, food, parade, activities–everyone from toddlers to seniors, yes even parents, will love!
* Staging area: The best venue for Memorial Day is the great outdoors. Set out comfy chairs in your yard around fire pit (get a portable one cheap at discount stores). If Mother Nature is uncooperative and sends a holiday storm, Plan B is important. If your house is large enough, great. If you have a step-saver home (as grandpa so tactfully called mine) and large family, consider reserving a hall. Apartment complexes, condominiums, churches, community groups, unions, fraternal organizations rent their facilities. If you’re a member, it might be free.
* Make T-shirts: Let guests decorate plain white T-shirts with red, white and blue fabric paint or permanent markers. Why pay for expensive reunion T-shirts? Make your own! Write “(family name) Memorial Day Blowout (year).”
* DIY parade: If grandparents can’t sit through Memorial Day parade (or you have a new baby or sick kids), host a neighborhood parade. Kids of all ages can help organize and putting on the show. Have orchestra and band students choose a patriotic piece and play instruments. Pull out dress up bins and old makeup and let kids create costumes. Don’t forget pets. Provide sparklers and noisemakers. March up and down sidewalk. Shut-in neighbors loved our impromptu parades. P lay patriotic songs on outdoor iPod deck or laptop.
* Make “floats.” Decorate wagons, strollers, bikes and grandma’s wheelchair if she wants to. Here’s my complete guide to patriotic bike decorating. Use recycle bin fodder, scrap cardboard, tempera paint or washable markers, Christmas wrapping and decorations (bows, streamers, ribbon, bells in flag colors).
* Memorial planters. We honored the Memorial Day tradition of grave-decorating till our deceased loved ones were spread too far. Now we make at-home memorials. This works well for senior citizens who can’t get around well. Buy patriotic flowers (petunias, geraniums, impatiens), potting soil and miniature flags. Make recycled planters cutting the top off milk jugs. Let party guests sit at picnic table and decorate (provide permanent markers, garden gloves and spades). Have kids collect rocks. Write names of deceased family on memorial stones. Make a family garden. Enjoy memorial flowers at home.
* Keep food simple. Grill burgers or roast hotdogs on fire pit. Set out buns, fixings, blue corn chips, baked beans (canned beans, brown sugar, molasses, bacon and ketchup–baked at 400 till bacon is crisp), watermelon and blueberries. Use disposable products and canned soda. Make a carafe of coffee for seniors.
* Chalk Walk Greeting Card: This keeps bored kids busy. Decorate sidewalk and driveway with sidewalk chalk. Make “Thank You, Veterans,” family history, “We Love You, America” banners and supersize “greeting cards.” Photograph and send to newspaper. Or draw pretend city (houses, roads, buildings) and have kids practice bike and roller blade skills.