Survival Themed Birthday Party
Roasting marshmallows on the campfire

Survival Themed Birthday Party

Ideas, ideas…

It’s always a toughie, trying to organise a birthday party where the boys can freely invite friends and cousins without the adults worrying about this month’s mortgage repayment getting paid. I don’t know about your kids, but mine seem to forget the concept of affordability in the excitement of an upcoming birthday, and completely lose the run of themselves!

Tree adventure parks, trampoline zones, laser games… all wonderful ideas and great activities. However, when the €18-23 price tag is multiplied by 10 – 15 and I add on the cost of food etc., I don’t know about you, but I balk at the cost.

Do kids understand the term ‘affordability’??

With our skill-set, we’re lucky enough to make some interesting – or so we thought – price conscious suggestions. But they were knocked back!

  • Rock-climbing and abseiling at Black Head? “Too boring!” (Seriously?? These are my kids!?)
  • Orienteering? “Ooh we could do ‘oreo’nteering and eat an oreo at each flag!! Maybe….”
  • Hike a mountain? “Naaaahhh…”

Who’d have thought that thinking of a birthday party idea for a 10 year old would be so difficult!!?

We eventually came up with one which got them excited…

“What about a Survival Birthday Party?” I suggested.

The boys exchanged glances and I knew we’d hit on something! Think Bear Grylls for kids!!

Survival skills and bushcraft training is one of the activities my husband provides through his work with groups of all ages, and I’m into wild foods and can work with a class of 32 kids, so, although it might not work for everyone, we knew it was something we could manage easily between us.

Once the invitations went out and the RSVPs received, we got busy organising party food for the 11 children who were coming!

Food, glorious food!

Charlie loves his fruit so we had an array of melon wedges, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries along with the ubiquitous birthday party junk food of cakes, chocolate, crisps (chips) and so on. It was interesting to note that there was just a handful of blueberries left over from the fruit, but lots of junk left behind. Children make good choices with their foods when we give them the opportunity.

We also had a couple of bags of marshmallows to roast on the campfire and burgers too! (Pre-cooked to avoid food poisoning!!)

What to wear and bring.

We asked birthday party goers to wear sturdy footwear and suitable clothing for a hike. We also requested that they should come with sun-cream already applied and bring a rain-jacket in a backpack just in case! This is Ireland after all!!

When they arrived, each child was given a bottle of water, a bar of chocolate and a napkin to add to their bag. The suspense was palpable – among the parents as much as the children. Particularly when we advised them that we would be showing their children how to build a camp-fire. I expected some reservations, but everyone was on board and happy to allow their children off to learn. We gave the children a safety talk about Leave No Trace, listening and following instructions – and off we went! A motley crew of expectant kids and two crazy adults!

Fun and wild food along the way.

Along our hike, we played those silly games that children love – such as ‘you can only walk on the rocks’ or ‘the grass is lava’ so they wouldn’t think about legs getting tired. We also pointed out and ate wild foods along the way. Wood sorrel adorned the forest floor and the undergrowth was full to bursting with Fraughan berries (wild bilberries). August is a better time for these, as they are still slightly bitter, but it was wonderful to be able to eat our way around the woodland.


When we got to our river-side location (purposely chosen), we brainstormed what we would need to start a fire, discussed the importance of fire for survival and the dangers that fire brought with it. The children were so excited gathering dried leaves and twigs. They compared branches and twigs, discussing whether or not something would burn well. They couldn’t believe that they were actually going to be allowed to start a fire themselves.

There was one snag. We had no matches. “What else could we use?” We asked. They responded with shouts of “Rub twigs together!” and “Flint!!”

They weren’t far off the mark. We did use flint – or to be more precise, a fire starter rod with magnesium impregnated in it. We also needed friction, by striking a piece of steel off the rod to generate sparks. Each child had the opportunity to try this out and it was interesting to see how they worked together and learned from one another under our guidance.

Survival Themed Birthday Party
Getting the burgers going over the fire!

Once everyone had a go, we set about building one decent camp-fire to get our burgers heated and our marshmallows toasted!

Survival Themed Birthday Party
Building a primitive shelter

Sheltering from the storm.

We chatted about the importance of shelter for survival. We demonstrated the use of a group shelter used by hill-walkers and mountain rescue in Ireland and the UK. Very popular here due to our changeable weather, it really is a vital piece of emergency kit to have in any budding mountaineer’s bag.

We set about building our own shelter using the natural shelter provided by low hanging branches and again, the children scattered around the small woodland looking this time for bigger items suitable to build up the walls of our shelter.

It couldn’t be home-time already?

Time flies when you’re having fun! Before we knew it, we all needed to troop back to base for birthday cake and goodies. From the sounds of disbelief among the boys and girls, they didn’t want this party to end!

Our birthday party bags included a few treats, a survival whistle and a bouncy ball (who doesn’t love a good bouncy ball??!)

Great parties don’t need to cost a fortune! 🙂


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