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    Living in Louisville, if you’re not at the Kentucky Derby, you’re likely at a Derby party. Derby parties are a great way to while-away the hours leading up to the greatest two minutes in sports. But that may not be the case if you’re a kid dragged along to it by your parents. Often times the focus of the party is making sure there are enough food and drinks and someone to run the horse racing jackpots. Keeping the pint-sized attendees entertained may be an afterthought. Derby Day is a long day and the adults won’t be able to enjoy it if the kids are bored and begging to go home. Try these tips to make your party the one they all want to come back to.

    Food: Most parties offer enough variety in foods that it’s not hard for kids to find something to eat. However, it might be fun to include a few things especially for the kiddos. Try using a horse-shaped cookie cutter to remove the crust and give a fun shape to PB&J sandwiches. Use some cookie icing to turn a Nutter Butter cookie into a horse face; add peanuts to make the ears. Fruits and vegetables are always more fun when they’re on a stick. You can usually pick up some horse or horseshoe-shaped cookies at the grocery. Don’t forget the juice boxes!

    Games: Most kids won’t want to watch the races on TV all day, so designated activities are a good way to keep the kids entertained until the Derby runs. If having an inflatable bounce house in your yard isn’t an option, there are plenty of low-cost ways to make your own fun zone.

    Kid’s crafts can provide hours of entertainment. With acrylic paints, sequins, buttons, etc., you can turn small plastic horses (you can find them at crafts stores and in most toy departments) into Gallopalooza horses. A foam visor or cheap baseball hat can be turned into a Derby hat with some glue, ribbons and feathers. Some craft stores even sell pre-cut wooden horses and jockey silks that can be painted and made into a hanging decoration with a little bit of string. Of course you can always have coloring books and crayons available. Print your own Churchill Downs coloring book here

    Jackpots: If you're having race jackpots for the adults, why not have special jackpots for the kids? Everyone loves to win and everyone holding a slip of paper with a horse’s name on it will be eagerly watching the race. But instead of each child buying in with a dollar, pick up some prizes at the dollar store and reward the winner with a gift. It will only cost a few dollars to cover all the races and the parents won’t be bombarded by their child asking for money. Make sure to explain the rules to the kids beforehand, so there will be no hurt feelings when only one gets the prize.

    Goodie bags: Handing out goodie bags to the kids as they come in may welcome them and give them something to do until you’re ready to open the crafts table. A little bribery at the beginning of the party may save you some grief later on.

    Parenting Tip: If you’ll have teenagers attending your party, try enlisting their help to man the crafts table, hand out goodie bags and run the racing jackpots.  

    A Derby party can be a lot of fun for all involved with a little planning.

    Photo: Glenn Hirsch

    Jessie Oswald's picture

    About Jessie Oswald

    I'm a lifetime Louisville resident with a passion for horse racing. When I'm not working as a paralegal or taking care of my family, I follow Thoroughbred racing and love to share the excitement and beauty of the sport with anyone willing to learn!

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