So this year Chris and I threw LLC her first ‘friends invited’ birthday party. With a Pirate / Princess theme.
The big event took place in a rented hall with 25+ 4 year-old children plus some littler ones too. Crazy much?! We had party games, a pinata, jello & icecream (traditional British, so traditional / outmoded that many of the kids were confused by this combo) and party food. It was total chaos but we lived to tell the tale and everyone seemed to have fun so I class that as a Result.
It was my choice to ‘run the show.’ Besides it being cheaper than the entertainers most people hire, I wanted to do the party games. I have fond memories of my mom throwing parties for my sis and me as children and I wanted to recreate similar memories for LLC. I had to draw the line at making our own paper mâché pinata painted in theme (thanks mom) and reign Chris in from trying to create some kind of crazy complicated obstacle course that I’m sure would have ended in tears from the kids and me…..
….but here’s what we did, and what we learned. May this be of some use to anyone else out there planning a child’s pirate party.
Theme: Pirates and Princesses (something for everyone, though I was soooo happy LLC decided to rock her tough girl Pirate Princess garb over the pink!)
Decor: Themed pirate plates / cups / table cloth. Mix of black foam party hats and princess hats dotted around the tables. Big pirate flag. Some black foam plastic daggers. Lots of helium balloons, in black pirate theme and mixed solid colors, dotted around the tables and the hall. As much as balloons are the bane of my life, kids love them. Just make sure you have enough for all the children to claim one. Minus the helium tank we bought all this on Amazon or in a pound shop.
- Pirate Statues – Dance and freeze when the music stops. Eliminate anyone who moves with each round. Last one standing wins. No one ever actually sits down, but just go with it.
- Pirate Bumps – Dance on your bums and jump up when the music stops. ‘Eliminate’ the last one up with each round. Last one standing wins.
- Pin the Pirate / Princess games – I bought’Pin The…’ game for princesses and pirates for £1 each at Wilkinson.
- Pass the Pirate Booty – Pass the parcel for pirates.
- Cannonball Run – Divide the children in two teams. Each team forms a line by a small plastic cone facing another cone 2 meters away. The first person on each team’s line runs with a pirate balloon to the cone 2m away and back, passing the balloon to the next on the line. First team where everyone makes it there and back wins.
- Walk the Plank – Take a piece of plywood (or in our case an unused wall shelf) that resembles a plank and place it halfway over ‘water.’ I bought a 2m plastic table cloth in ocean theme from our local market for about £4. Ask the children to walk along the plank and see if they can jump over the rest of the water onto ‘dry land.’
- Pinata – We bought an unfilled treasure chest pinata at Wilkinson for £7 or £8. I saw this available on Amazon but it was cheaper in Wilkinson. Fill it with mini haribo bags / chocolate coins (from Amazon), stickers and pirate pencils and confetti. We used one of Chris’ plastic cricket stumps as bat to whack it but a plastic baseball or cricket bat or child’s golf club would also do the trick.
What we Learned:
- In the absence of a mic and sound system, bring a prop to get the children’s attention. We used a whistle, which was just about shrill enough to cut through the melee.
- Bring along the best sound system that you can. Our portable blue tooth microphone linked to my iPad could barely compete with the buzz of a crowded room full of parents and children. It worked, but just.
- Box up the food before you arrive at the venue. For parties of this volume it’s helpful to have pre-prepared boxes of finger sandwiches, crips, fruit/veg and something sweet that you can deliver to each child at the table easy peasy. As we bought themed party plates before I thought about this we put little pots of fruit/veg on the table and loaded up the plates in assembly line fashion at the venue. This saves you wrapping up finger sandwiches, but makes for more stress while the party is in full swing. I couldn’t have got all the food on the table while running the party games if it hadn’t been for my parents, bro and sister in law buzzing about behind the scenes.
- Shop around for the goody bags / party favor pieces. I had to get my head around the fact that in the UK, most people cut the cake and put it in the goody bag. the American in me did not want to so this but I decided to go with it. Remember to have napkins to wrap the cake in. I bought most of our party favors online but I spent considerable time surfing for the best deals that got good reviews. In each bag we gave cake, a pirate pencil, stickers, some chocolate coins, a haribo bag, a pirate pad and either an eye patch or a bracelet. For party prizes I again rate Wilkinson. Their art area has some great prizes for a £1 like googly eyes, a foam crown or a coloring book.
- Enlist help. If you bring in an entertainer they usually entertain and you do the rest. If you are running the games for this volume of children make sure there are other hands on deck to help lay and clear the table, etc.
- Pick up some inexpensive themed props. Another plus point of entertainers beyond a sound system, games itinerary and happy grin are their props. I’m always amazed how they whip them out and collect them with sprint efficiency. While we didn’t have quite the itinerary, the balloons, foam daggers, a few plastic birds and the plank/ocean mat looked festive and did the trick.
- Have a plan, but embrace the chaos. Smile and breathe. Enough said.