You don't have to be in Churchill Downs to share the fun of the Kentucky Derby with your kids.
While you and the other parents enjoy a mint julep and place a friendly bet on the ponies, here's your race day plan for a kid-friendly Kentucky Derby party.
1. Fab Hats
It's not the Derby without fabulous headwear! Letting kids tackle their own creations doesn't have to be an expensive endeavor. Louisville milliner Kenzie Kapp suggests recycling old hats, dance costumes, and fake flowers, and supplementing with cheap supplies from the craft store (think feather boas, ribbon, felt, tulle, and glue).
"They could potentially cut the feathers to different lengths, make construction-paper flowers, glue pearls to felt circles they cut out, glue different colored feathers to the boa, the list goes on and on," says Kapp. "The object is to let their imaginations run wild."
If your crafting game shies more simple or you're wary of a mess, try this newspaper hat tutorial or make paper plate bonnets—both use a stapler instead of hot glue and kids can get creative with paint instead of extras.
2. Race Time
The actual Kentucky Derby race only lasts about two minutes so you'll want to have plenty of activities to fill up party time. Have guests don numbers just like the jockeys in the real deal and run their own race course.
You can even add adorable hobby horses to playtime for kids. But if you go the 'horse' riding route, you can make a softer version in case of tumbles. These pool noodle ponies pose less of a danger to racing kiddos and are totally adorable.
A classic game of horseshoes would make a nice backyard addition, but if you don't want to take the potential injury risk of throwing real metal horseshoes, try this tutorial to make your own bean bag set out of fleece.
3. Horsin' Around
Party favors should be horse-themed, of course. Set up a painting station for smaller kids to decorate their own cardboard horses. The more colorful the better, just like the jockeys' silks in the race. Big kids might have fun coming up with their own race horse names, with inspiration from legends like Seabiscuit and this year's runners, Always Dreaming and Practical Joke.
If you plan on broadcasting the race, have kids draw names of the horses running in a raffle. The lucky kid who ends up with the winning horse gets to take home a trophy (or simply gets a moment of bragging rights).
Besides the crafts the kids make themselves, these cute horse necklaces are a great option for a simple keepsake that all the kids will treasure!
4. Themed Food
When planning a Southern-style menu for your Kentucky Derby party, parents might worry about the health factor: Picks such as mac 'n' cheese, cornbread, and fried chicken can be heavy on fat and low on nutrients.
But Virginia Willis, Kentucky Derby 143 guest chef at The Mansion, lightens up a kid-favorite heavy cheese pasta with her Makeover Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese. Willis says, "You can even add vegetables to cornbread, making it more nutritionally dense."
For dessert, you could go for the traditional Derby Pie (chocolate and pecan, but skip the bourbon for the kiddos) or opt for decorating cupcakes for the Race of the Roses. Here's how to top cakes with rose frosting; it's easy, we promise!