Because children of all ages were coming to my son's Sweet Baby James Cowboy Party, I had to create activities that had wide appeal. What could I make that a 7 month old, a 9 year old, and children of every age in between would enjoy? Why a kid-size play town of course. Regardless of age, children enjoy climbing through, hiding in, and running around a little town that is just their size.
Since this was a cowboy party, I took my inspiration from the old Western towns, and decided to include a mine, general store, jail, sheriff's station, and "juice saloon."
I started by taping together cardboard boxes with masking tape. A few boxes were from our jogging stroller, but most were just your plain old shipping boxes from Amazon.com. I then cut out doors, windows, and an escape hole in the jail using scissors and an exacto knife.
The first part that I constructed was the Juice Saloon and James loved it from day one!
To add stability and strength to the structure, I paper mached over all of the masking tape and around any cut edges. Traditionally paper mache uses long strips of newspaper and paste, however I seldom have either of those things around my house. So, for this project I used torn up printer paper and a mixture of 1 part Elmers School Glue and 2 parts water. We have A LOT of used printer paper around our house as my husband is still in school.
Most of the town was made using boxes that had been broken down and unfolded. However, in order to create a base for the jail bars, I used two whole Amazon shipping boxes stacked and taped together. I also used a whole box above the jail bars.
The jail bars were made from cardboard paper towel tubes that I paper mached and stuffed with phone book pages. Finally, a good use for the phone books that keep appearing on my doorstep!
After the construction stage was finished, I painted the Western Town using regular old acrylic craft paint. Since it was James' party, I decided that his name needed to be in all of the signs.
The Western Town was a bigger hit with the kids at the party than I ever could have imagined. All of the children played in the town for Three. Solid. Hours. They did not want to stop playing to eat lunch (we did manage to eventually lure them out with promises of eating around the paper mache campfire) and they did not want to go home when the party was over.
However, what really made every second of my hard work worth it was seeing how much fun James had playing in the Western town. He held his own with the older kids, and loved every moment of being bumped, squished, and chased around!
I have one rough-and-tumble little guy!