The centerpiece of the fireman's party one SPOONFUL reader threw for her four-year-old son was — what else? — a huge cardboard fire truck. She cut a refrigerator box into a pickup-truck shape, then decorated it with everything from cardboard signs to pie-plate headlights. She gave each member of her crew a plastic firefighter's hat, and they spent the next few hours cooking up adventures in the old pumper.
For very young kids, the cardboard truck will probably be enough, but older ones may also enjoy a few structured games.
--Set up a firefighter's rescue challenge. At reader Christy Hammond's party, her five-year-old son and his guests had to put on a fire hat, slip down a slide, and drive a toy car across the yard to the playhouse, which was erupting in yellow tagboard flames. After picking up a length of garden hose and pretending to douse the fire, contestants ran to a rope ladder, rescued a stuffed animal that was clothespinned to a tree, and drove the toy car back to the start to receive a prize.
--Arrange for a tour of your local fire station. Christy arranged to bring her crew to the nearby firehouse, where they got to tour the sleeping quarters, sit in the front seat of a real fire truck, and even help water the firefighters' garden with the fire hose. "It was a big hit," she says. "And there was no charge."
Plastic firefighter hats and a short length of old garden hose make a terrific take-home dress-up set. Or, you can create a little goody bag, complete with a computer-generated fire-chief certificate, a Matchbox fire engine and fireball candies.
Anything that's red (such as tomato soup) or has some gentle heat (salsa and chips) works for this theme. And, for the centerpiece de resistance, call in a hook-and-ladder cake, complete with gumdrop lights, cookie wheels and a pretzel stick ladder. Like all fire trucks, it'll go fast.
1 baked 13-by-9-by-2-inch cake
6 cups red frosting
1 cup gray frosting
Red M&M's, chocolate sandwich cookies, pretzel rods and sticks, yellow gumdrops, black jelly bean, white Chiclets, mini jawbreakers, black shoestring and twist licorice
Freeze the cake for two to three hours, then cut into four pieces (A, B, C and D). Slice B in half horizontally to create E. Stack A onto D for the engine bed, B onto C for the cab, and E onto D for the control panel. Frost the bed and cab red and the controls gray. With a dab of frosting, place an M&M in the center of each cookie to make the wheels, then press onto the engine. Add a pretzel ladder, gumdrop emergency lights, jelly bean horn, Chiclet headlights and jawbreaker controls. Use licorice to make a hose and outline the windows of the cab.