Not quite piqued about another pizza party for your daughter’s birthday? Does the thought of one more birthday barbecue or bowling alley bonanza for your son and his friends gently lull him (and you!) to sleep? What mom and dad aren’t earnestly looking for the perfect party theme to help celebrate the best kid in the world?
In our push to ramp up fitness activity for our children, a boot camp party may be just the ticket. Held at a neighborhood gym or auditorium which may offer the space or, weather permitting, in your backyard or nearby park, a boot camp birthday can inspire eager young partygoers to have fun with fitness on every occasion – not just during or after school. Great for strength building, a real cardiovascular challenge, and on the right path to increasing stamina, boot camp is based on a military model that uses fast-paced intervals of stretching, running, strength and cross training activities with simple, effective equipment like straps and balls to achieve its goals. As most formal boot camp classes involve teams, they’re a natural for groups and pure excitement for a kids’ birthday party.
For the Morales family of San Antonio, Texas, a boot camp party was an obvious choice for mom Tracy. A former health club manager who now works in real estate, Tracy called upon friend and personal trainer Steve Sherman – designated “drill instructor” – to lead the birthday brigade for son Andrew, turning 10, through an energizing series of squats, dashes, pull- and push-ups, kettle bell tosses, team tire pulls, jump rope races, and more.
“We got permission and used a corner of our community park they set aside for parties,” Tracy explains, noting a group of picnic tables they lined with healthy snacks like crudités with yogurt dipping sauce; cut up fresh fruit; bowls of raw, unsalted nuts and raisins; sliced turkey pesto sandwiches on whole wheat pita bread; an assortment of fresh juices and water.
“While kids today may be exposed to fitness classes or sports, taking it to a party makes it a whole new kind of inspiration,” Sherman says. “Instead of having them line up to play some tired party games, I kick it up with a fast flow of fun relay races, sprints, (kid-friendly) weight lifting, team tire pulls, burpees (a form of squat thrusts), kick boxing, bungee stretches, and so much more. The kids say they have a blast and want to continue doing boot camp fitness long after the party.”
For décor, Tracy festooned the tables with a simple health club theme that included plastic weights, tiny boxing gloves, toy basketballs, etc. – all found at her local crafts store. As a thank you takeaway, each party guest got a T-shirt with his/her name on the front and “Andrew’s Boot Camp” on the back.
“Structure is important,” says Tracy. “You definitely want to hire a trainer or coach, preferably one who works a lot with young kids and can design an age-appropriate fitness challenge for the occasion. Make sure s/he brings the right equipment to make it manageable and fun, and just add cake!”