by Jo Ann Wentzel

A wonderful theme for a party is Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes. This theme is terrific for kids and an absolute blast for adults. The theme is built around all those nursery rhymes our generation grew up with and of course all guests come in costume representing one of the nursery rhyme characters. The hostess can even be Mother Goose herself.

The setting and decorations recreate that magical world where cows can jump over the moon and your fitness program includes jumping over a candlestick. Colors should either be soft pastels from another era or primary colors for an updated look. Primary colors are red, blue and yellow for those of you who forgot. Nursery rhyme pictures, coloring books, cutouts, game-boards, and even stuffed toys can all be put to good use when planning the setting.

Nursery rhymes cover bucolic landscapes, seascapes, castles, shoe shaped houses, and gardens so let your imagination run wild. Bits of lattice work, plastic fencing, or some creative roping can become pasture, or ship, garden, or castle. Add draped fabrics to give setting an exotic or romantic look. Lots of bows, frill, lace on costumes and tables will add the special touches needed. Make oversized cutouts from those beloved refrigerator boxes to represent characters, castles, and boats for three men, farm houses, crooked stiles, or that old shoe. Take a look at the books themselves for ideas and inspiration. Remember when we create, draw or craft our own party elements-people do not expect a professional old master or even a graphic artist. Representing things in simple way is best. Crafts for children may give you some ideas as to how easy it can be. most

Read a nursery rhyme and then decide what type of prop you could make to represent it. Any nursery rhyme can make wonderful decorations as well as starting points for a game. Two paper plates put together and painted become the infamous pie; add a couple blackbirds escaping from the top. Poster board and paper towel rolls could be fashioned into a candlestick, use creativity and small, Styrofoam balls to produce Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum's rattle. Imagination, simple, or on-hand materials can turn a "so-so party" into a "Wow, that was a really something party." Have fun with this aspect of the planning and do not stress over perfection.

Activities and games can be simple like saying half a nursery rhyme and asking your guests to finish the other half or showing them one of the props you've created and expecting them to guess which nursery rhyme it is from. Here are some game ideas or stating points for your own idea.

1/The first game could be Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water- your guest would answer Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.

2/The second game is where you show them say, the candlestick, and they tell you that is from Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick.

 3/More active games could involve games of skill such as jumping over a candlestick without knocking off the paper flame. You would need to adjust the flame on the candle just as a limbo stick, each time making it higher requiring more skill.

4/How about seeing how many dolls you could fit in a giant shoe?

5/Why not a scavenger hunt to find all the props or clues left for nursery rhymes?

6/Use a child's sand pail full of water and making teams have a relay race. The team who gets finished running the race and has the most water left in their bucket-wins.

This party lends itself to such a variety of games and activities that you will surely have many to choose from. Be creative. Cut out a pattern for a sheep and make dozens of them. Color them all white, except one-make that black. Hide them everywhere. 7/ Each guest tries to gather as many as Mary's sheep as possible. Give gifts for those who find the most and a special prize for the black (missing) one.

Invitations could feature any motif from the nursery rhyme books or simple ABC's as its decorative design. Use blocks, small nursery rhyme books, pictures, or little stuffies as favors and prizes. Look early so you can find just the right items at bargain prices.

Food could be an appropriate food from each of several nursery rhymes. Pie, custard (pudding), Pumpkin, Peas, Pancakes, Bread & Butter, or rename regular foods a name suitable to your theme. Embellish plain foods and invent names for ordinary ones that make your food as exciting as the rest of your party. Always keep good taste, foods that taste good, and attractiveness of foods in mind. Choose suitable foods for age of guests and type of party. There is also a lot of leeway here. You could also set a table with small amounts of different food and have older kids guess which nursery rhyme that was from. Examples- green beans for Jack and the Beanstalk, peas or cooked oatmeal for Peas porridge hot, pie for twelve and twenty blackbirds balked in a pie, eating her curds and whey might be cheese. You get the idea. This would be a game for older teens or adults.

Get into costume and into character and really have fun. Kids will be delighted by something different from the cartoon characters of today and adults will rediscover their childhood.