a peek inside the fishbowl

11 Apr, 2010

A swimmy pool party to ring in Sarah’s 9th birthday

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy

Sarah 9th birthday party is over and done with, but we’re in the thick of things right now, smack dab in the middle of the traditional Birthday Weekend Extravaganza. Allow me to describe yesterday’s activities.

This was the calm before the storm:

balloons, quiet dining room

Can I just take a moment to profess my love for helium balloons? This bunch was purchased at Cody’s, which I discovered after having had too many bad experiences with low-quality dollarstore balloons (i.e. the colour coming off on my lips (WTH?) and new balloons with holes already in them.)

Happily for me, I managed to squeeze all twelve balloons into the back of our car AND managed to get home without (a) killing myself and (b) needing to back up (because I could hardly see out the rear window). Gah.

The parents dropped their kids off here at noon on Saturday. We served a light lunch of octopus dogs (click here for more info about how to make these if you are so inclined) veggies and dip, and chips (ketchup flavour, as per request) and fizzy lemonade.

I was just boiling the water for our faux-octopii when we found out that one of the attendees couldn’t eat pork. So Mark ran out to get chicken dogs. Dammit. I knew I shouldn’t have gotten those Red Hots.

After lunch we all collected our things and walked to the Dovercourt Recreation Centrewhere we had rented the pool. This party was going to be all about swimming. Woot!

walking to the pool

Pool rental for a birthday is a great deal. We’ve had pool parties here before. I totally recommend it. In fact I am seriously thinking of doing it again as an end-of-school party.

We booked “half” the pool but as it turned out no one had booked the other half. So 10 of us (11 including Mark) had the whole pool to ourselves. (Along with two lifeguards, and yours truly as poolside event photographer.)

in the pool

I originally thought that 60 minutes in the pool wasn’t going to be enough time, but it turned out to be perfect.

I planned two pool party games:

  • 1) A race.The objective: to cross the pool while pushing a floating toy with their noses. I bought rubber squirt toys in different fishy shapes. The girls all picked one. They lined up along one side in the pool and on the count of three, pushed their respective squirter across the water. Of course this evolved into a big squirt fight right afterwards. Everyone got to keep their squirt toy.
  • 2) A treasure hunt. I bought a set of pretty polished stones. Each one had a little loop for hanging on a necklace. Mark secretly spread them out in the pool. The girls spent about 10-15 minutes searching/diving/comparing their “gems.” They got to keep what they found and we strung each on a leather cord when we got home.

The rest of the time was spent splashing and swimming and hot tubbing and playing with the pool toys and playing Shark in The Water (Mark was the shark) and they got to take a few turns down the water slide too. It was a party pool!


I bought a small cosmetic bag for each girls to hold their little treasure and their squirter. I also added a small bottle of shampoo (this came in handy because half of the girls didn’t bring shampoo), a few caramels, a lollipop, a marshmallow broomstick and a pretty hair tie.

It took about 30 minutes for the girls to shower and get dressed.

We played in the park afterwards for a few minutes …


… and then walked back home for cake and ice cream (chocolate fudge brownie, as per request).

Here’s the cake I created (with Emma’s decorating help):

cake explosion

I was kind of aiming for a swim themed party (can you tell?) but I think I may have gone a bit overboard on the cake. As I look at it now I realize it looks like Playmobil threw up on Betty Crocker. I swear THERE IS A CAKE UNDER THERE. 

There are cupcakes around it. The kids got to keep the Playmobil on the cupcake they received.

cake close-up

If you’re thinking of doing something like this, please please, learn from my mistake and do all WASHING AND ASSEMBLY THE NIGHT BEFORE. Ugh. I almost had a heart attack before Mark offered to assemble EACH TINY DIVER GUY. Each one had about 20 tiny parts. THANK YOU HONEY.

After cake we unwrapped presents. Sarah’s friends know her well. She received some lovely gifts: books and toys and DIY bath bombs (already made those) and other things I am not remembering right now.

After everyone was gone I had a huge coffee followed by an equally huge nap. Dinner was sushi.

This morning (Sunday i.e. her ACTUAL birthday) Sarah got her traditional breakfast in bed:

Sarah is nine.

… and then we unwrapped the presents from her family. These included some pretty crystals to hang in her window, some Gel Gems from Emma, a Buddha Board (a way of drawing with water), and a pair of rollerblades:

Sarah unwraps

Birthday weekend continues today. I’m just hoping the rain holds off so we can try out those rollerblades!

10 Responses to "A swimmy pool party to ring in Sarah’s 9th birthday"

1 | Betsy Mae

April 11th, 2010 at 9:38 am


AWWW great party!!!

I’ve never seen Octupus dogs, we make spider dogs which are hugely popular (for anyone interested they are similar to the octopus but you make the cuts at either end leaving the ‘head’ in the middle). We will be making these for sure!

The cake turned out cute.

Happy Bday Sarah!

2 | Lee

April 11th, 2010 at 5:37 pm


Fabulous party!

(You could go into business planning out things like these.)

Happy birthday Sarah!

3 | Stefania (Ingredients for Life)

April 11th, 2010 at 6:39 pm


Love how the balloons match your area rug. You really know how to throw a party. :-)

It sounds like the party was a great success.

4 | BeachMama

April 11th, 2010 at 6:54 pm


Looks like it was another hit party at your house! Great job and Happy Birthday Sarah.

5 | Chantal

April 11th, 2010 at 7:48 pm


Sounds like a great party. We had M’s 5th birthday party on Saturday at A Gym Tale in Barrehaven. He loved it. I did books in lieu of loot bags and only one kid wasn’ t happy with it (it was my newphew :) )

6 | Hellcat13

April 12th, 2010 at 7:34 am


A big happy birthday to Sarah! Sounds like it was a great party. And your cake looks wonderful…a homemade cake is always best, as far as I’m concerned :)

Where did you get the painting in your dining room? I love it!

7 | Know More Do More Mondays: swimming, partying, and gifts to promote active living >> a peek inside the fishbowl

April 12th, 2010 at 8:00 am


[…] after having stopped at the park for a few turns on the slide. (You can read more about the party here.) It was a […]

8 | Micheline Turnau

April 13th, 2010 at 8:33 pm


Wow what a great party Andrea. I agree that kids seem to be better behaved when they are physically active.

9 | B-mail >> a peek inside the fishbowl

April 18th, 2010 at 7:20 am


[…] had extra balloons floating around from Sarah’s birthday party last week (YES, that is how long they’ve lasted) and instead of having them die a slow death we decided […]

10 | Some great ideas for kids birthday parties in Ottawa >> a peek inside the fishbowl

February 23rd, 2012 at 9:03 am


[…] makes a great place for a kid’s birthday party here in Ottawa? Inquiring minds want to know! (Swimming? […]

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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