3/14/2010

15 Fun Themed Christmas Party Ideas


Holidays are supposed to be about getting together with family and friends, but there definitely IS such a thing as too many holiday parties, especially if they're all cut from the same mold: a few decorations, holiday music, appetizers, and conversation.  Next year, mix things up with one of the following themed holiday parties and make some memories that will actually last!
  1. CHILDREN'S CRAFT PARTY.  Invite the kids in your family over for an afternoon of holiday crafts.  Put a washable tablecloth over your dining room table (or a few card tables) and organize 3-4 holiday-themed crafts for the kids to do together.  (Project ideas: ornaments for tree, bookmarks for gifts.)  Don't forget to program in a break for food: allow the kids to decorate holiday cookies or cupcakes, then eat them.
  2. ADULT CRAFT PARTY.  Why should kids have all the fun? Invite your girlfriends over for an evening of holiday crafting.  You can provide the supplies or ask your friends to BYO.  (Project ideas: homemade christmas cards, homemade gift tags, decorated gift bags, ornaments.)  Supply hors d'oeuvres, beverages, craft tables, and basic supply "staples" - scissors, tape, glue sticks.  A great chance to laugh and gossip while getting some useful holiday work done!
  3. HOLIDAY MOVIE PARTY.  Invite friends/family over for a holiday movie screening or all-day holiday film festivals.  Turns out these holiday classics are even more special when you enjoy them with extended family/friends.  Over the years my family has turned White Christmas into an annual event, featuring a roaring fire, cookies, milk, and lots of shared memories. Other years, often after we've all come back from the Christmas tree farm, we gather the children of the family together for a double feature: Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  (Don't have a big screen TV? Rig up a temporary theater by attaching your DVD player to a projector and projecting the result onto a wall.  You may want to also attach your ipod speakers to boost the volume.) 
  4. HOLIDAY POT LUCK PARTY.  Better than a traditional holiday party because your guests provide the food!  To make this event more fun, assign a theme: "dessert bakeoff" competition & potluck (award prizes for best desserts); "Holiday Costume party" potluck (everyone comes in costume); "Christmas in Hawaii" potluck (everyone dresses in summer clothes, tropical decorations); or the ever-popular "Ugliest Holiday sweater" competition & potluck (person sporting the ugliest holiday sweater wins!).
  5. BAKING PARTY.  Invite 1-3 of your closest friends/family over for a day of baking holiday treats.  Baking is so much less boring when you do it with friends, and more efficient too, since you can rinse/reuse bowls and keep the oven constantly filled.  Gossip, share baking ideas, swap ingredients, and sing Christmas carols as you work.  My best friend Julie and I have been doing this for over a and it's one of our favorite holiday traditions.  (One word of advice: parchment paper!  This will allow you to reuse baking pans without having to clean them in between batches.) 
  6. COOKIE EXCHANGE PARTY.  In advance of the party, ask each guest to bake a big batch of their best cookie and print out multiple copies of the recipe.  (One recipe card + 3 cookies for each person invited.)  On the designated evening, everyone brings their cookies + recipe cards to a central location and sets them out.  After some food and conversation, everyone collects 3 of each cookie + recipe cards to take home with them.  SO much easier than baking multiple recipes, and a great chance to discover new favorites.  The gals who host the one I have been attending for years now always offer wine and non-sweet hors d'oeuvres to offset all the sugar!
  7. ORNAMENT/GIFT EXCHANGE PARTY. In advance of the party, instruct guests to buy and wrap (anonymously) a holiday ornament or gift.   (You can set a price limit if you want - say, no costlier than $10.)  At the party, all wrapped gifts go in a central pool and guests draw from a hat a number from 1 to #(where # is the number of people at the party).  The person who draws #1 goes first, picking and unwrapping a package.  Then, the person who draws #2 chooses one of two options: (1) select & unwrap a new package, or (2) "steal" an item that is in the possession of another guest.  If someone has their ornament/gift "stolen," then they get to replace it via one of the two options described above before play resumes.  The game continues until the last ornament has been unwrapped.  Done right, everyone leaves the party with an ornament, but impossible to predict which one!  My sister-in-law hosts this party every year and does a wonderful job, offering a plentiful buffet lunch before the gift exchange and desserts after.  Works best with good friends, because people who don't know each other well may be too timid to "steal"items from others, which makes the party a LOT less fun.  (To prevent the opposite - too much stealing - announce in advance that a gift can only be "stolen" three times; meaning, the person who steals it the third time gets to keep it.  This introduces a nice element of strategy into the game too!)
  8. GINGERBREAD HOUSE DECORATING PARTY. Cheap gingerbread kits are plentiful during the holidays. So stockpile a bunch of them, whip up a HUGE batch of frosting, lay out decorating bags/tips and a variety of candies, and invite your friends over for a gingerbread house decorating party.  Better yet, make it a contest!  My family does this every year and the fun starts in November, when we all start strategizing what our houses will look like.  Last year's winner was a "Zombieland" gingerbread house ... gruesome but unique!
  9. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS! PARTY.  Celebrate the reason for the season by throwing a birthday party for baby Jesus, complete with birthday games and cake.  Consider allowing the kids to stage a nativity skit, include bible readings, and join the rest of the guests in wishing for "peace on earth" as you blow out the candles.
  10. PROGRESSIVE DINNER/HORS D'OEUVRES/COCKTAILS/DESSERTS.  Christmas is the perfect excuse to organize a progressive celebration with neighbors or friends who live in geographic proximity.  The idea is to move from house to house, enjoying a different course or treat at each.  Divides the responsibility for entertaining between multiple hosts and gives everyone a chance to enjoy and admire each other's holiday decorations.  Tip #1: Set a time limit, so folks don't linger too long at any one destination.  Tip #2: If you're doing a progressive drinks/cocktail party, no driving!
  11. GIVING PARTY.  Organize a party to earn money for a charity, collect food for a food bank, make food for a food kitchen, or prepare care packages for local charities, overseas charities, or U.S. soldiers serving in foreign lands.  There are so many good ideas for how to give back to the community, I should probably start a new list ...!
  12. DICKENS CHRISTMAS PARTY.  Channel your inner Mr. Fezziwig and throw a traditional holiday celebration, complete with draped greenery, traditional Christmas carols, Victorian foodstuffs/hors d'oeuvres (wassail, goose, pudding), traditional games (blind man's bluff, 20 questions), mistletoe, Christmas crackers, and a yule log burning briskly in the fireplace.  Provide holly sprigs for folks to throw onto the flaming yule log for luck in the coming year, and don't forget to hide a coin in the plum pudding!
  13. CHRISTMAS IN __________ PARTY.  Choose a country and host a celebration that honors that country's holiday foods, games, songs, and traditions
  14. RETRO CHRISTMAS PARTY. Go retro by hosting a party that evokes the 1940s and those fabulous overseas USO shows during the war.  Think retro decorations, big band holiday music, dancing, cocktails, and Spam hors d'oeuvres!
  15. CAROLING PARTY.  Gather family and friends for an evening of caroling through the neighborhood or community.  If you have senior citizen residence or hospital in your community, be sure to include them in your itinerary.  End up somewhere that has hot chocolate!  Tip: Provide booklets of printed lyric, because those second verses can be tough to remember!  Tip #2: if possible, ask someone with some musical sense to begin each song in a key likely to be accessible to most of the guests. 

3/11/2010

Children's Halloween Party


My children always thought it was grossly unfair that they only got to wear their costumes Halloween. I thought so too, so one October I invited a bunch of their friends over for an impromptu Halloween costume party. It was such a hit, it became an annual event. While the games have gotten more creative as the years have passed, the essential appeal of the party remains unchanged: everyone gets to wear costumes and indulge in sanctioned mayhem! As such, I strongly recommend that this particular party be hosted out of doors. You could probably adapt most of the games for indoors, but do you really want a bunch of highly excited princesses, vampires and Sponge Bobs running amok inside your house?
  1. INVITATIONS. Use whatever invitations you like, but make sure they include the following "guidance": (1) dress appropriately for the weather, (2) costumes should allow guests to move (and run) freely; (3) no face makeup (it will come off during "Dunking for Apples". If costumes don't lend themselves to movement, then encourage the kids to wear them to the party anyway, so that they can show them off, but to have an acceptable layer of clothing on underneath so that the costume can be peeled away and safely stored until the end of the party.
  2. DECORATIONS.  Whatever Halloween decorations you have around the house will do!  We like to dangle cheesecloth ghosts and minature carved pumpkins from tree limbs.  Orange and black balloons add a festive touch.  Use halloween-themed plates/cups/napkins from any party store.
  3. PRIZES.  Fill a bag with novelty halloween items: plastic skeletons, glow in the dark spiders, glow sticks, etc.  After each game, the winner(s) has to reach into the bag and, without looking, choose a gift by feel.  I recommend that you hand out gift bags in advance so the kids can store their prizes in them throughout the party.  There's no need to fill the goodie bags in advance - each game will have multiple winners, ensuring that every child leaves with plenty of prizes and candy by the end of the day.
  4. THEME.  GAME #1_ZOMBIES IN THE GRAVEYARD.  As your guests arrive, start off with a few rounds of Zombies in the Graveyard - a spookier version of musical chairs.  Instead of chairs, create "tombstones" out of construction paper.  (Have fun cutting them out in different shapes & embellishing them with funny epitaphs.)  Set out tombstones in a large circle, with one less tombstone than there are guests.  Start a spooky music CD.  When the music stops, whoever isn't standing on a "tombstone" is eliminated.  Keep going until only one guest is left.  To add to the atmosphere, instruct the kids that they need to lurch around the tombstones with their arms held out in front of them, a la Frankenstein's monster, groaning and moaning as the mood strikes them.
  5. GAME #2_MUMMY WRAPPING.  For this game you will need lots of toilet paper!  Divide the guests into teams of 2.  At "go!", one teammate attempts to completely wrap the other in toilet paper.  The first team to achieve "total mummification" (no body parts showing) wins.  Plan to play this game at least twice, as each kid will want an opportunity to be wrapped!
  6. GAME #3_PUMPKIN THIEVES.  Setup: with masking tape, divide your room or yard in half, and set off a back corner on each side to serve as a "pumpkin patch" (big enough for approx 10 pumkins).  Place 5 small pumpkins in each patch. Also outline a "jail" at one ed of the center line, big enough to hold 4-5 kids.  Divide the guests into 2 teams and make sure they can identify each other easily.  ("Black team" can sport black crepe paper belts; "orange team" can sport orange crepe paper belts; or you can use black/orange pastic necklaces or leis from a party store.)  Objective: each team tries to steal the other' pumpkins adn carry them off to their own pumpkin patches.  Pumpkins can be acquired by either(1) stealing them from the opponent's pumpkin patch; or (2) tagging a player who is carrying a pumpkin.  As long as players remain on their own "side" they can't be tagged by the opposing team.  But once they venture into enemy territory (cross the center line), they are fair game.  When/if tagged, they must surrender their pumpkin and go directly to jail, from which they can only be rescued by being tagged by a teammate carrying a pumpkin.  The winner is the first team to collect all 10 pumpkins. 
  7. GAME #4_DUNKING FOR APPLES.  You know this one!  Fill a tub with water.  Float ~10 apples in the water.  Guests kneel in front of the tub with their hands behind their backs and try to "catch" an apple using only their teeth.  (TIP: allowing folks to kneel on a towel, and providing extra towels for folks to dry off afterwards, will make this game MUCH more pleasant!)  Limit each turn to 60secs.  Winners are those who succeed in catching an apple.
  8. GAME #5_MONSTER MASH.  In advance of the party, find an old board or door and paint a life-sized ghost on it.  Nail or otherwise secure it to a tree trunk.  (It WILL fall if it's not secured.)  Use masking tape to lay out a line ~10ft away.  Place apples in a container next to the line.  Have guests take turns pitching apples at the ghost.  Score 3pts for hitting the face, 2pts for hitting any other party of the ghost, or 1pt for hiting the board.  Go through the line three times, so everyone gets three throws.  The person with the most points wins.  NOTE: This is most definitely an outside game!  A big part of the fun is watching the apples "splat!" as they hit the board!
  9. GAME #6_GHOSTBUSTERS.  Inflate 10 white balloons and 10 orange balloons. Before the party (or as a gathering activity), use indelible markers to draw spooky faces on the balloons.  Divide the guests into 2 teams.  At "go!", each team has to launch their balloons in the air and keep them airborne for as long as possible.  The first team to have all their balloons touch the ground loses.  
  10. GAME #7_PUMPKIN BOWLING.  This is a great activity if you have a hill for it!  You'll need several (4-5) medium sized pumpkins and 6 partially full water bottles.  At the bottom of the hill, set up the water bottles in a classic bowling triangle.  (If they are too full they won't fall over, but if they're too empty they won't stand up, so do some experimenting first to determine the right amount of water to leave in the bottles.) Guests at the top of the hill take turns rolling the pumpkins down the hill in an attempt to knock down as many bottles as possible.  The guest with the most cumulative points wins.  (This activity is hard on the pumpkins, so that's why I recommend having plenty of backups on hand!)
  11. GAME #8_POPCORN RELAY RACE.  For this game you'll need 4 buckets, 2 cups, and a lot of popcorn.  Separate the guests into two teams.  Establish a starting line.  Fill 2 buckets with popcorn and place them approx ~15ft away.  Leave the other buckets (empty) at the "starting line".  Each team gets 1 cup.  Object of the game is to transport the popcorn from one bucket to the other, one cup at a time, relay-race style.  Winner is the team that fills their bucket first. 
  12. FOOD.  Offer a buffet of spooky treats, including bones (made out of piped meringue), fingers with blood dipping sauce (mini-franks with a side of catsup), eyeballs (green grapes), brains (popcorn), blood punch (any red punch wll do), and jellied spiders (squares of green jello containing gummy spiders).
  13. GAME #9_PINIATA.  Remember those prize bags you handed out earlier?  Have the kids retrieve them and then line them up, youngest to oldest (to increase odds that everyone will get at least one swing before the piniata drops its load).  If especially young kids are going to participate in this activity, we always make sure they have a parental "minder" who makes sure they aren't squashed in the ensuing mayhem and who also ensures that they get their fair share of the loot!

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!

Harry Potter Birthday Party




This party is suitable for ages 7+ and can accomodate a large number of guests.  It's designed for two “birthday kids” (joint party) – but could be easily adjusted for 1 birthday child , or up to 4.  Best of all, the cost is relatively inexpensive, as the party calls for relatively simple props and homemade decorations.  The party was a huge hit with our kids and their friends: after this one, kids lobbied our sons to be invited to their next birthday bash.
  1. THEME.  An ongoing competition between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw to successfully navigate their way through a day of magical “classwork” and earn points for their house team. At the end of the party the House with the most points earns the House Cup. Each birthday child serves as Head Boy for one of the houses, directing their team’s participation in each of the subsequent events.
  2. INVITATIONS.  We used parchment paper & envelopes, an antique-looking calligraphy font, a Hogwarts school logo downloaded from the internet, and wording as close to Rawling’s original as possible. 
  3. LOCATION & DECORATIONS.  Because of the size of the party & games, we rented a room at a local community center. On the walls, we hung big banners in the colors of each Hogwarts house (created at home using felt, scissors & glue). From the ceiling, we hung strings of banners sporting the symbols of the 4 Hogwarts houses (created at home using clipart, paper, scissors & string). For seating we set up two tables on opposite sides of the room, one decorated with balloons, placemats and centerpieces in the gold and black of Hufflepuff, the other decorated with balloons, placemats and centerpieces in the blue & silver of Ravenclaw. (Centerpieces were cute & homemade but too complicated to describe here(!); placemats were “woven” out of construction paper by the birthday boys.)
  4. GAME #1_DIVINATION. To provide structure while guests were still arriving, we had the kids proceed directly to Divination Class, a table against one wall equipped with all the supplies necessary to create fortune-tellers. Nothing more complicated than the paper fortune-tellers we all folded in elementary school, but created using parchment paper, Harry Potter stickers, and sporting funny Harry Potter-related fates such as “Due to a tragic transfiguration error, you will spend several years of your life as a sausage,” and “You will be stampeded by a herd or raging hippogriffs.” (We posted a list of fortunes such as these on a poster on the wall, for copying or to inspire creativity).
  5. GAME #2_QUIDDITCH. Once everyone had arrived, we launched immediately into Quiddich Practice, the objective of which was to be the first team to have every teammate successfully hit a bludger (balloon) through one of two goals (2 hula hoops hung by string from the ceiling) using the provided bats (nerf bats). This isn’t as easy as it sounds … balloons were flying everywhere! (This is why it is important to equip each team with different color balloons.) After each successful “goal,” the next player in line was handed the nerf bat & another balloon to try their luck, relay-style. (To make the game harder, set the hula hoops spinning.) Acquiescing to popular demand, we ended up playing 3 rounds of this game, awarding the winning team 50pts and the losing team 40pts for each round.
  6. GAME #3_TRANSFIGURATION.  Next came Transfiguration, the objective of which was for each guest to figure out who they had been Transfigured into. First, we lined the guests up facing a wall. Then, we affixed to each guest’s back a nametag displaying the name of a character from the Harry Potter series. Finally, we gave each guest a checklist of all the names that had been assigned. At GO!, guests had to run around the room chasing down other guests and checking off the names on their backs, using process of elimination to figure out their own mystery identity. Chaos ensued as the kids tried to simultaneously espy the nametags on other guests’ backs while concealing their own nametags from view! We lined up 7 chairs along a wall, labeled 1 through 7, and instructed the kids sit themselves down, in order, as soon as they thought they knew who they were. Whichever house had the majority of winning players (folks who guessed their names wrong didn’t count) was awarded 50pts, while the 2nd place team was awarded 40pts. At the kids’ request, we also played this game several times, in one case awarding both houses 45pts due to a tie!
  7. GAME #4_DEFENSE AGAINST THE DARK ARTS.  For this game, we created a “map” of Hogwarts, using a matrix (10 x 10) of pieces of parchment paper (8.5” x 11”) laid out on the floor with enough room between sheets so that guests could stand on adjacent sheets without touching. Each piece of paper was labeled with the name of a room in the castle (i.e., Potions Classroom, Dining Hall, Main Hall, 3rd Floor Corridor, Dungeons, Broom Storage Closet), with a paper labeled “Main Entrance” (i.e. START) on one side & pieces of paper labeled “Hufflepuff Common Room” & “Ravenclaw Common Room” on the other side, exactly the same distance away. This in effect became a “human game board,” with each House’s Head Boy (aka birthday boy/girl) acting as the game pieces for their respective House. Objective of the game was to be the first House to reach their Common Room, by avoiding various monsters, spells & other perils awaiting them on the hidden sides of the parchment paper “game pieces.” Using a coin for a dice (heads = 1 and tails =2), each team moved their Head Boy the appropriate number of spaces in any direction. Then, the Head Boy lifted the piece of paper they landed on to display the outcome. On the obverse of some sheets they found nothing – which meant that they had managed to achieve forward progress without running into any obstacles. But on the obverse of other sheets they found bad news – messages such as “There’s a boggart in the cupboard! Flee in terror to the Broom Storage Closet!” or “Your cauldron exploded while attempting to produce a sneezing potion; Professor Snape deducts 10pts from your house.” In some cases, the message contained a challenge for the whole house to perform, such as: “A mantacore approaches! Your House has 30 seconds to create a human pyramid which will serve as protection against the mantacore’s powers!” or “A sphinx guards your way forward! Either successfully answer it’s riddle or lose one turn” (whereupon the whole team has 60 seconds to guess the answer of a riddle). 50 pts was awarded to the team that reached their common room first, 40pts to the team in 2nd place. This chewed up lots of time but kept the kids riveted ….
  8. GAME #5_POTIONS.  Before reporting to the End of Year Feast, guests were dispatched to Potions Class (another table against the wall), where they found multiple bottles of 7-Up (any clear soda will do), each tinted a different color (using food coloring) – green, blue, red, and yellow. The kids had a ball mixing the various “ingredients” to produce drinkable “potions” in every shade of purple, pink, orange, and aquamarine! (Be sure to use clear plastic cups for this activity.)
  9. FOOD.  At the end of the party came the End of Year feast, featuring a buffet of food + cake. Goodies included celestial cheeses (cheese cut in the shape of moons & stars), dragon eggs (grapes), chocolate frogs (we found a frog candy mold at the local craft store & made our own), salted broomsticks (pretzels) and, of course, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans (jellybeans). The food was piled high on Harry Potter plates & napkins purchased from the local party store.
  10. CAKE.  For the cake, we used black icing to separate a rectangle sheet cake into four quadrants, then decorated each quadrant in the colors of the four Hogwarts houses. The sparkler-candles we bought at a local party store looked just like magic wands when lit.
  11. PRIZES.  While the kids ate, birthday dad – appearing attired in the purple robes, long beard, glasses and conical hat of Dumbledore – made an elaborate show of tabulating the house points and awarding the “House Cup” – a milk-chocolate trophy purchased from a local bakery – to the winning house. The Head Boy of the winning house thoroughly enjoyed smashing the trophy into bits and distributing them to his fellow students!
  12. GOODIE BAGS. Ensuring no grumpy feelings, everyone left with a “trunk” full of goodies -- explodings whizbys (party poppers), magic wands (sparklers), chocolate frogs, a bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, a magic trick, Harry Potter glasses & a wand. The “trunks” were shoeboxes painted brown, hinged with brown felt straps (glued on), and equipped with pipecleaner locks. Honestly, the kids seemed to enjoy their “trunks” almost as much as they enjoyed the goodies they contained!

3/10/2010

10 Halloween Costumes Using a Doctor's Coat

For about a decade there (college and beyond), October was sure to include one or more invitations to costume parties.  Being strapped for cash, I stopped by a thrift store and picked up a doctor's coat ... then proceeded to use it in new and different ways each year thereafter.  Here are some of my favorites:
  1. Dr. Feelgood/Dr. Ruth/Sigmund Freud.  Fill the pockets with random kitchen implements and let people use their imagination.
  2. Proctologist.  Random kitchen implements also work for this one.  Add gloves.
  3. Spin Doctor.  Pin phrases such as the following to your coat: "The economy is much stronger than it was this time last year," "We only go to Hooters for the great chicken wings," and, of course, the famous/infamous "I never had sex with that woman."
  4. Dr. Seuss.  Accessorize with a "Cat in the Hat" hat and insist on answering everyone's questions in verse.
  5. Dr. Doolittle.  Stuff your pockets with stuffed animals and talk to them.
  6. Dr. Jekyll.  Accessorize with a fright mask and a flask containing dry ice.
  7. Mad Scientist (generic)/Dr. Frankenstein.  Tease your hair until it stands on end and smear your coat and face with ash, as if you recently survived an explosion.  Stuff your pockets with testtubes and bottles of odd ingredients. Look crazy.
  8. The Surgeon General of the U.S.  Fill your pockets with cigarette, green leaves in plastic baggies, fast food wrappers, dirty needles, condoms, etc.  Give advice.
  9. Madame Curie.  Smear your face, hands and coat with paint that glows in the dark.
  10. Nikolas Tesla.  String your coat with Christmas lights, powered by a battery pack in one pocket.  Tease your hair until it stands on end for that "I've been playing with electricity" look.