It was birthday party time for our smallest Mumbler, and we had 16 cousins of varying ages to entertain.
We didn’t think play gyms and room hire would fit the bill for this crowd, led by a boisterous two-year-old who loves muddy puddles, collecting sticks and causing chaos. This Mini Mumbler lives and breathes getting dirty in the great outdoors, and most of his cousins are the same.
Enter Forgotten Forest in Brighouse. Owner Sarah Parker runs various classes from the woods in the back of her garden, and has recently started offering parties too. She suggested a theme of Stick Man; puddles and mud for the littles, and den building and stick whittling for everyone else.
We gathered on a chilly and drizzly Saturday morning, in rain gear. The kids sat in a circle on tree stumps, introduced themselves, and listened to Sarah’s safety briefing.
The nine-year-olds were itching to start bug catching and try the rope swing, while the birthday boy ran straight into the mud kitchen. His younger cousins followed, scooping dirt into pans, adding water and stirring in fir cones, leaves and flowers.
The big kids made stick men with twigs from the ground and eyes and fabrics provided by Sarah, while another whittled a Harry Potter wand.
After that, they were off to build a den, climb trees and swing in the hammock. While the big kids – and adults – scaled to dizzy heights, the little ones played with dinosaurs, fairies and dragons, found sea shells and hunted for dragon eggs.
A tipi was set up with books to read, but our gang was too busy running around. Until the campfire was lit, then Sarah poured hot chocolate into colourful cups and the kids sat on the tree stumps to drink it. The hot chocolate was warm, rather than hot, which meant even the tiniest ones could indulge. Then they roasted marshmallows over the fire, and made s’mores. We sang Happy Birthday, ate slices of cake and had a bit more free play before home.
Before leaving, our families confessed they had been nervous about the party, and hadn’t known what to expect. But each and every one of them had thoroughly enjoyed themselves and the children – aged one, two, three, four, six, seven, nine and 13, had had the time of their lives.