balloons, pies and videotape

Looking for a fun and creative activity for your next kids’ birthday party? Tired of handing out tired old bags of assorted candies and plastic toys as favors? Well, have we got news for you. Literally. (Ba dum dum.)

Read on after the jump for a TV news-themed party project/activity that’s sure to please everybody … even that persnickity Lou Dobbs! Besides, it’s not only a lot of fun, it’s a great way to give your kid’s guests an incredibly unique party favor.

When I babysat in college for two brothers, this game would always hold their interest and they’d bug me over and over again to play it every time I watched them. When I was recruited to watch their cousin, we had another willing participant. His name: Anderson Cooper. Just kidding. (And making sure you were still awake.)

Anyway, I suggested the “News Hour” game to a friend of mine who was having a kids’ party, and it went over like gangbusters with the little ones. Best part is, it’s pretty simple to do and doesn’t require much more than everyone’s imagination, some paper and pencils, and a way to videotape.

What you do is assemble all the kids at the party and divide them up into equal groups. Each group will brainstorm together for 15-30 minutes, and then later present a different segment of your birthday edition newscast. Encourage them to get creative, do up a little skit or sketch, and have fun with it.

Again, I’m not quite sure why kids seem to love this, but I’ve found they do. You can make your segments age-specific, so this activity can be altered from as young as 4- and 5-year-olds up to about 10 or 11. Older than that and they’ll probably think it’s a little corny, although I’ve heard that this is Wolf Blitzer’s favorite game. Again, just kidding and making sure you were paying attention. (Wolf, in reality, actually prefers Candy Crowley Land.)

You know, the more I think about it, this theme party could totally work for grown-ups too. Everyone has a few drinks, and you’ve got your own SNL Weekend Update kind of vibe going. But back to the kids idea …

Some suggestions for your segments/groups:

Anchors: Pick 2 or 3 kids to introduce the other groups. (I hear Katie Couric might soon be available.)

Weather: Have them report on the weather for the day, and then encourage them to create a silly 5-day forecast. “Tomorrow, it’s gonna rain lemonade and iced tea!”

Sports: They can report on any games that you’ve played earlier in the day, or even on any local playoffs or pro sports going on — real results or fantasy. (“The Cubs have finally won the World Series!!!”)

Movie or Music Reviews: Depending on the size of your party, you can have teams working on reviews of the latest Hannah Montana CD, TV show, 3-D movie, commemorative napkins, fuzzy dice … you know, whatever Miley Cyrus is currently hawking.

Food critics: Brave enough to let the kids review your baked beans and hot dogs? How about those cupcakes you spent hours on?

Politics: With kids more and more involved in the election process, it’s amazing how much they’ve probably picked up on the candidates. Have this squad either give their take on the most recent presidential hopeful slipups, or have them create a funny spoof story or two.

Breaking News: As a mini Whose Line Is It Anyway? twist, have one team designated as the “breaking news” squad. Have your anchors “throw it to them” and have you or your spouse have something silly planned, and it’s up to the reporters to cover it on the spot.

These are all starting points. Get creative, and come up with some segments of your own.

Once each segment team has had their allotted time, gather everyone and get your digital recorder or camcorder ready. Order everybody up, give them sheets of paper to shuffle, and count down to the “live” taping. Depending on your personal level of technology awareness, you can either burn CDs of the taped broadcast or load it up on YouTube and then forward the address to all your guests.

Hint: An important aspect of the division boils down to making sure you have at least one outgoing (okay, we’ll just say it: hammy) kid in each group. This helps inspire the other kids who may be a bit on the shy side. And it’ll make each segment more lively. So look for those pint-size Rosie O’Donnell and Bill O’Reilly types, take a deep breath, and see what happens!