Pirate Birthday Party

If you are brave enough to arm a bunch of 5-12yr olds with swords, this is the party for you!  Some games work better indoors, other outdoors, but with a few accomodations can be made to work in either location.  What I love about this party is it's universal appeal - it's perfect for a group with mixed ages and genders.
  1. THEME. The party is designed to be a competition between two (or more) pirate "crewes". Throughout the party, the crewes compete against each other to earn dubloons. (I recommend foil-wrapped bubblegum coins available from party suppliers such as http://www.orientaltrading.com/.)  Then, after the party, each crewe divides the dubloons they have earned between its members so that each child goes home with their share of the accumulated loot.
  2. PREPARATION.  In advance of the party, make up honborary pirate names for all the guests (Scarface Chase, One-Eyed Andrew, Cutlasss Katie, Matt the Black, Brian Bones, etc. - the more harrowing the better!)  Then, post crewe "rosters" on a convenient wall (or tree), showing which crewe each guest will belong to for the duration of the party.  If you only have one birthday kid, then make the captain of the other crewe a sibling, best friend, or someone else.
  3. GOODIE BAGS.  For this party, plan to give out the goodie bags first, so the kids can enjoy wearing their pirate costumes throughout the party AND so they can use the bags to store the "treasure" they earn from the games.  Any pirate-themed party bag will do; or, make your own using black paper bags, white paint, and a homemade skull-and-crossbones stencil.  Then, fill the bags with plastic cutlasses or knives, eyepatches, pirate hats or bandanas, ship-in-a-bottle kits, and/or candy coins/jewelry/treasure.  (Maybe even a copy of Treasure Island?)
  4. DECORATIONS.  For centerpieces, stick miniature pirate flags (print them out and glue them onto dowels) into styrofoam cones wrapped in black cellophane.  Then add pictures of historical pirate flags (printed from the internet) for the walls, pirate party supplies (from the local party supply store), and black/red/white balloons.  The main attraction, however, should be a "treasure chest" on a separate table, overflowing with bubble gum "dubloons".  You will use these dubloons throughout the party as prizes for the games!  You can buy an appropriate chest (if you can find one); or, make one by painting a box brown and then affixing felt straps and buckles.
  5. GAME #1_CREATE YOUR OWN PIRATE FLAG.  The first activity should be to have the kids create their own pirate flags.  Open by explaining that each pirate had their own flag, so that ships would know exactly which pirate was attacking them.  (Here's where the downloaded pirate flags you put up for decoration will come in handy, as illustrations.)  Then give the kids black construction paper and pages of pirate "clipart" (bones, skulls, cutlasses, fists, hourglasses, hearts, lightening bolts, knives, etc.) and let them cut/paste flags that will strike fear in the hearts of potential victims!
  6. GAME #2_FACE PAINTING.  Since the guests will finish their flags sooner than others, fill in the time by offering facepainting.  Offer their choice of scars, mustaches, or fearsome "tattoos" (skull & crossbone, third eye, bleeding heart, crossed swords, etc.)
  7. GAME #3_WALK THE PLANK.  For this game you'll need 3 long wooden boards (approx 6ft x 4in x 1in) and a couple of blindfolds.  Lay the boards end-to-end.  Each guest must "walk the plank" while blindfolded.  5pts if they get to the end without falling off the plank.  1pt deducted for each time more than 1/2 of a fot touches the ground. Team with the most cumulative points wins 50 dubloons.
  8. GAME #4_SWAB THE DECKS.  For this game you'll need 2 brooms, 2 sets of small balls (each set needs to be a different color), and masking tape.  The objective of this relay-race activity is to "swab" the balls from one side of the room to the other, being the first team to successfully complete a given number of trips.  All theballs must cross the line before the broom can be handed to the next teammate.  The winning team wins 50 dubloons.  (Using different-colored balls is necessary because they will roll everywhere & may become intermingled!)
  9. GAME #5_SEA BATTLE.  For this game you'll need a wooden catapult (kits available at most craft stores), beanbags, 3 pictures of ships, 2 pictures of sea monsters, and masking tape.  Position the catapult on a table about 3ft from the wall.  Hang the ship/monster pictures on the wall.  Crewes take turns launching bean bags with the catapult in an attempt to "sink" the ships.  Each "hit" is worth 3pts.  Each time a sea monster is hit, however, take away 3pts.  (Pissing off a sea monster is never a good idea!)  The crewe with the most cumulative points wins 50 dubloons.
  10. GAME #6_TUG OF WAR.  No need to explain this one!  Mark a line down the middle of your room, give the kids an 8ft rope, and commence tugging!  The first crewe to pull the other over the center line wins 50 dubloons.
  11. GAME #7_TREASURE HUNT.  This one is for outdoor parties.  Give each team a treasure map (different, so they don't just follow each other around) and a riddle that, when solved, will reveal the spot from which they are supposed to start.  Then have them follow the directions on the map (so many paces north towards the tree, so manypaces south towards the rock), crisscrossing the yard until they arrive at a concealled "treasure."  Each crewe gets to keep the treasure they find!
  12. FOOD.  After rowdy fun, nothing settles kids back down like food.  Offer a buffet of pirate fare: bones (made out of piped meringue), hardtack (crackers), sliced apples and oranges (to prevent scurvy), and grog (ginger ale). 
  13. CAKE.  Must be a treasure map cake, of course!  Starting with a rectangle sheet cake, swirl brown and tan frosting together to create a "parchment" effect.  Ice cake.  Using piped icing, create the outline of a scroll.  Inside the scroll, draw a simple treasure map with a big red X marking the spot.  Finally, consider using sparklers instead of candles - they look just like cannon fuzes!

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