Whatever Next (Rocket party)

whatever-nextThis is a great book about using your imagination, where baby bear goes on a space mission in a cardboard box.

Jumbles had got it into his head that he wanted a nighttime, space party with fireworks for his 5th birthday. As his birthday is just before bonfire night, we decided this would probably work quite well, so we went for it.

I must confess that we didn’t actually read the book during the party, the party was controlled (or possibly not all that controlled) chaos, with far more children than was probably safe to squeeze into our house, plus their parents, getting them all in one place long enough to listen to a story didn’t seem possible. I am not even sure if the party was fun, I was too busy running around organising things, but I got a lot of people saying they loved it, and we had a lot of fun practising the activities in advance, so I do know they work.

So, if you want to do an after dark party, or just want to try out some fun rocket activities, here we go, we did 5-6:30, with dusk being 5:45 on the night, so that arrivals and initial activities were all done in the light:

Starter activities:

Kids will always arrive at different times for a party, mostly they just ran around the garden, playing randomly, but I like to have a few easy activities for the kids as they arrive:

Biscuit icing – Premake some rocket biscuits, provide icing, sprinkles etc. This was perhaps a bit more effort than necessary, due to me not having a rocket cutter, so cutting rocket shapes out using a greaseproof paper template.
Junk modelling – Provide lots of tubes, boxes, bubble wrap etc. and ask kids to create rockets.
Lego competition – Nice simple one, just leave out the lego on a table, and ask kids to make space related models, provide a prize for the best one ( I always just have a bag of prizes for kids to pick from).
Drinking straw rocket: For a 5th birthday party, kids needed help with this activity, and only a couple gave it a go. However older kids could do this themselves and have a competition. It’s a nice simple rocket that goes onto a straw and is propelled by blowing. You can get the instructions and template  here (External link) If I was doing this again, I’d probably put the sheet and a straw in the party bags, instead of having it out as an activity.

Bottle Rockets:

This is the most fun thing, when practising it, Bean and I just couldn’t stop, we used up all of the vinegar in the house (and I keep quite a lot in stock generally) doing multiple test runs. You can pick different propulsion methods:

Diet Coke and mentoes
Vinegar and bicarbonate of soda
Pressure (water in the bottle, cork in the neck, bike pump to build up the pressure).

We used the vinegar and bicarb method:

20161012_090159.jpgYou need a bottle with a sports cap, or a bottle and a cork. Some sort of launching platform to hold the bottle in the right place, either tape legs onto it (pencils or straws) or use something like a mug or large yoghurt pot. vinegar, bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda), toilet paper

  1. Add vinegar into the bottle, up to the bottom of the label is about right.
  2. Create a “fuel capsule” this is about a tsp of bicarb of soda wrapped in a sheet of tissue paper (to give you time to put the lid on before the bicarb reacts, you can also use a small piece of cling film)20161012_090245.jpg
  3. Go outside now!
  4. tilt the bottle slightly so that you can place the fuel capsule inside the neck without it going straight into the vinegar.20161012_102809
  5. Place the lid on tightly (or push cork in)
  6. Tip so that the capsule drops into vinegar
  7. Shake vigorously
  8. Place upside down in your launch area and stand back20161012_103009




Sometimes the tissue of the fuel capsule gums up the sports cap, leading to failure to launch. For this reason I switched to using corks, when it will work every time. It’s also quicker to put the cork in than to try to tighten the lid.20161025_200240.jpg

Whilst we had loads of fun practising this, I must be honest, at the party we had some issues. The kids were a bit too close to the firing area, so to ensure that they weren’t hit by the rocket, I held the launching pot at an angle pointing away from them, in all of our test runs, the rocket shot high in the air, and travelled a couple of metres across the garden. At the party, we lost the rocket, it didn’t go as high, but shot over the garden fence, and across a couple of gardens. Quite exciting, but not quite to plan, and a couple of the kids got sprayed with “rocket fuel” (just vinegar, so not harmful, but it did upset one, as typically it sprayed the child who hates mess of any kind).

Initially, I had planned to get them experimenting in small groups with their own rockets, but we left it as it was a bit too chaotic. To do this best, I’d recommend smaller groups. It’s great with 1-6 children.


Keep it simple – We just did hot dogs (but proper sausages, not hot dog sausages, as many kids don’t like them) and crisps. Precook the sausages in the oven, then bung them on the barbeque for a bit if you want. Provide rolls and sauce. Hardly any leftovers, and not loads of hassle.


Definitely the best bit of the party, after it got dark, we lit a fire (we used a fire pit, to help keep it safely contained). In small groups, the kids toasted marshmallows over the fire. We also had some sparklers and a few small fireworks. Obviously you need to be very aware of health and safety for this, we had parents present, which helped and hubby is forest school trained, so used to teaching kids fire safety. Some left at this point as they weren’t keen on fireworks, others watched from the relative safety of the conservatory, or decking for the braver few. Again, for sparklers, we limited it to 2 kids at a time, with gloves on and high levels of supervision.

Party favours:

Buy mini keyring torches very cheaply and give them out when it gets dark. They spent ages just running around in the dark with them.

Apology on lack of activity pictures:

Sorry, for obvious reasons I can’t post pictures of other people’s kids online, so have no photos of the fire etc. Actually, we didn’t manage to get many good pics as we were too busy running things. I have tried several times to get a good photo or video of the bottle rocket, but have given up now, hubby is unco-operative and won’t take a pic and I can’t launch and hold the camera in time. Trust me though, it’s great fun and you should do it.

Rocket cake:

In case anyone else is tasked by their child with making them a rocket cake, I thought I’d post how I did it, as it was surprisingly simple and reasonably effective:


Make a cake in something oval (I used a casserole dish) either make 2, or one thick one and slice through and add buttercream and jam to the middle to sandwich together.Cut off the bottom of the cake and cut that piece in half, place them on either side as fins. Cut the ends off ice cream cones, push them into the flat edge of the cake to make boosters.

20161025_141515Cover the cake in a thin layer of buttercream or jam, to stick the icing to.


Cover the cake but not the boosters in white ready to roll icing.


Cover the boosters in black icing, I made flames using red icing, but you could probably do something more effective, I wasn’t too pleased with that bit. Add circles for windows (you’ll note I later decided they needed borders, and made slightly bigger circles from green icing) and cover the fins in green.

20161026_103333Add a coloured nose cone, cover a baking tray in black paper and stars. I added strawberry laces on the borders, which made a massive improvement and suddenly made it seem finished. Thanks to Julie for the suggestion!


Buy “Whatever Next” from Wordery (Affiliate link – free worldwide postage))

Drinking Straw rockets (External links)