Pirates of the Caribbean

Strange Tides Sleepover -11yr- Pirate Map




Laura in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada


March 2012


Runner Up

Pirates of the Caribbean--Strange Tides Sleepover Party.  For my son's 11th birthday, he requested a Pirates of the Caribbean theme. When deciding on activities, we found that he wanted both day and night time activities, so we made it a sleepover.

INVITATIONS: We had already made message in a bottle invitations for a previous party, so we wanted something a little different this time. After some brain-wracking we decided to send out treasure maps leading to our house with the BD kid's pirate name's code to break to find out the time and date.  You can create or look up your own code to suit the ages and interests of your specific group. We followed this up two days later by sending the parents an email with the details written out more plainly in case they had trouble with the riddles, and a hint in case the kids still wanted a try at the code. We also included a copy of basic pirate phrases found on the internet, and a request that they bring either water shoes or rubber boots and wear old clothing. To make the map, we used an internet map of our area, unchecked the labels box and chose satellite view. We then copied it into a photo-editing program to turn it sepia and blurred the edges with the soft focus feature. Then we printed it out on off-white copy paper, then trimmed it to be circular like Jack Sparrow's map to the fountain of youth.  We burned the edges lightly to add an aged feel to it, then scrawled the clues on the back of the sheet with an old calligraphy marker. We used plain gold-coloured rings to hold the invitations rolled up. We hand-delivered these, and scanned a copy for the one guest for which that was not possible.

DECORATIONS: Outside our door, we propped up some barrels and set up a couple of skeletons from our Halloween decorations against them. We added bandanas, an eye patch and a bottle of rum (old maple syrup bottle with the label replaced with XXX) to each. One of the barrels was actually our rain barrel, which looks like a regular barrel; the other one we borrowed from a neighbour. Inside we had some pirate music (A Pirate's Life for Me plus a few selected drinking songs by Great Big Sea, and selections from the various soundtracks of Pirates of the Caribbean). I labelled each room with the appropriate nautical name (washroom=head, kitchen=galley, sleeping area=berths etc.) with signs printed using Old English font (you can also use Blackadder, or download your favourite pirate font). We dug up old maps we had of the Caribbean and my older son drew a few by hand to add as well and hung those on some of the walls. We also used some fish netting to simulate rigging, along with assorted shells, some assorted plush, Playmobil and similar sea-creatures toys (some went into the netting, some were used on shelves & tabletops). We have a bedroom light that rotates an outer shade to create a wave effect on the walls, and we brought this with us from room to room to give the feel of an ocean. When the kids were settling down to sleep after the movie, we played a soundtrack of ocean waves we had borrowed from the library. In the morning we did the same, but this time it was the sound of a much rougher sea (we wanted to get them up and moving!). We also put up the pirates flags once they were made. Table d├ęcor included an old yellowed linen tablecloth, candles in lanterns, and regular tableware (real plates and cutlery no plastic). The idea was to simulate what it would have been like eating on a real ship (minus the wave action!). We added a few conch shells and other sea treasures here and there on the table and sideboard. Some other interesting touches we added included skull & bones decorations from Halloween, shrunken apple heads and toy rats located randomly around the house.

ACTIVITIES: We started with some pirate's lore as the guests arrived. I printed out some copies of pirate phrases  http://www.pirateglossary.com/, the pirate code http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/pirate-code-conduct.htm, some knot tying cards to try, a star chart for stellar navigation, and a few books about Aztec and Mayan civilizations. Mostly they enjoyed speaking pirate, but some of the kids tried some knots and looked through the rest of the materials, especially when I hinted that it could come in useful later on!  We also had a costuming station set up with black face paint, bandanas, beads & wire & eye patches I had cut from black bristol board and strung with fabric coated elastic. Two guests came in their own costumes. Once everyone had arrived, we determined the ships they would sail (two ships—The Black Pearl and Queen Anne's Revenge). The teams needed to design and make their flags. Each was given half an old black bedsheet I picked up at a thrift store and washed, cut and hemmed, some brushes, some white paint (acrylic with a little water and a little fabric medium), newspaper for beneath the fabric and pencils & scrap paper to plan their designs. Since the kids were older, I let them go freestyle, but younger kids might benefit from paper stencils of basic pirate shapes. There are lots of images and ideas for flags on the internet. The kids took turns and when they weren't painting, they beaded strings to hook onto their bandanas like Jack Sparrow. We hung the flags out on the clothesline to dry while we built mini pirate ships/boats/rafts for the next main activity.

For the boats, we collected natural materials including bark, sticks, shells, reeds and long grasses, egg and nutshells, dried seed pods, etc. I also made up some cornstarch paste they could use as glue. We used acorns as pirates each boat had to safely transport one acorn pirate. Since there was a fair chance of the boats getting lost during the activity, it was important that the materials be locally found and readily biodegradable to avoid littering. Some great boat building ideas can be found here: http://www.artistshelpingchildren.org/howtomaketoyboatsshipsart scraftsideaskids.html.  Once the kids had their boats, we headed for the nearby river. Where we are, the water is only a few inches deep with a slow current, so swimsuits etc. were not needed. We set the kids up in a line, with one adult at the start and two at the finish (to try and catch boats and decide on the winner) and had them race their boats to the first bridge. They had a blast doing this, and those whose boats were retrieved repeated it until they were lost, and the others found other things nearby to try floating. There is a small island in the centre of the river, and we joked about marooning people there (it's a rather trivial walk to shore).  If you have access to a lake or pool with deeper water, you can use inflatable rafts as ships and floating balls for canon balls and have a regular pirate attack. A visit from the Kraken might be in order too! We eventually brought them back to the house, wet and happy, to partake in some pirate food (see below).

After they ate, it was just beginning to get dark, so it was time for the great hunt. We were going to have them search for the thump-thump in Davy Jones' locker, but decided to go with the fountain of youth from the last movie since the kids were all pretty familiar with the movies. The teams were armed with a torch (decorated flashlight) and a compass.  For this hunt, some of the lore became essential in order to gain clues or to follow them. We had the kids keep to their teams so we could keep an adult with each team and one extra back at the house. The hunt went through the neighbourhood and surrounding parks. To gain clue #1, the kids had to tie a bowline and a figure 8 knot (one of each from each team). The cards were still out in case they needed them, but there were many knots in those cards! The first clue: Where can ye go where the wind do blow an' ye kin see far far away? Head to the dipper  but do not venture down, for it is up where the next clue be foun' The first chalice of Ponce de Leon is found here. These chalices were plastic goblets I bought at the $ store and decorated with toy gems & metallic paint.The second clue: Take out yer compass, (not yours Jack) said he, the answer to this riddle your heading shall be (we made a math word riddle with the answer as the correct compass heading) Follow the heading for XX (we gave them this #) paces, then search around for trees that have faces (two trees there had face-like knots on them) The mermaid is found here, played by a friend of my older son. The teams had to try and coerce her into shedding a tear for them, which we kept in a small test tube. The third clue: This one was written with some of the words replaced with Mayan and Aztec symbols. Since we knew it would be tough, we had a backup hint available that they could receive if they could answer some questions about pirate history and trivia. The second of the chalices of Ponce de Leon is found here. This clue led them to the Fountain of Youth. This was a covered punch bowl filled with a nasty-looking punch (mashed kiwi, gingerbeer, pineapple juice & coconut milk). They were each given a ladle full and we commented how it would take years off them they'd look like they were 20 again! And we kept on with that quoting cheesy beauty commercials etc. making it as silly, fun and ridiculous as possible. The punch was near home (but not at home, since these kids have gotten wise to our tricks over the years!), so we headed back where they cleaned up, changed their clothes and settled in for the movie and snacks before sleep.

I also left them with a pirate Madlib I made in case they needed more to do before settling in. In the morning after breakfast and before the parents arrived, we made ships in a balloon that I found  at the DLTK website http://www.dltk-kids.com/crafts/pirates/mship.html. To make it you need a clear balloon for each child, a toy ship for each child, water (a couple of drops of blue food colouring is a nice touch) and tiny shells & sand (optional). Fill the balloon 1/3-1/2 with the water, then stretch the opening to insert the ship and other odds & ends. Tie a knot in the top to secure it. It's a good idea to have a few extra balloons on hand just in case. The toy ships are hard to find, so if you wish to do this, give yourself lots of hunting time! One extra activity was a game of swab-the deck relay. Each team was given a dish mop and six balls (including an assortment of ping-pong & golf practice balls and a few plastic Easter eggs just to make it interesting). We added a dab of paint to each ball to help keep the team balls straight. Each person had to sweep all 6 balls across the deck, around a chair and back to the next team member. Our other extra activity was in case the weather got hot (spring here is unpredictable). I packed two coolers full of cannonballs (small wet sponges) that each team could use to fire upon the other. The teams had to stay on their boats (lines drawn with sidewalk chalk), and anyone who didn't was considered to have walked the plank. If you play this and are on a schedule, it's a good idea to plan a signal for the end of this game, and a little extra incentive to pull them away when they hear it!

FOOD: I wanted a mixture of authenticity and food that the kids might actually eat. I made hard tack from a recipe found on the internet, some homemade bread with some lightly cooked orzo pieces mixed in (to simulate weevils that often infested the bread), hard cheeses, limes, & tropical fruit served on steel skewers. I also made some pea soup. Non-vegetarians might also include fish and salt meats.  One idea is a giant octopus (Kraken) made from two orange peppers in a sea of tzaziki; the other is little pirate people made from Babybel cheeses with the wax cut to form the shape of a bandana along with olive bits for facial features. I served some cut-up carrots with the dip as well. To drink, we served rum of course well, a non-alcoholic version anyhow. I used 5 tablespoons blackstrap molasses, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract and diluted it with pineapple juice until it seemed drinkable. The kids could drink it straight or mixed. We also served a tropical punch (pina colada type with coconut milk, mango & pineapple juice) and ginger beer. Breakfast: We had more tropical fruit served with belgian waffles (they look like rafts). We also offered skull fried eggs (fry two eggs sunny-side up so that the yolks make the eyes then use a spatula to shape the white into a skull shape), but we had no takers. A couple of kids had scrambled eggs (which are much easier to make!). We also offered oatmeal for authenticity.

THANK YOU CARDS: We just used postcards from various Caribbean locations made from vacation pics collected from friends & family.

LOOT BAGS:  I kept it simple: bandana and jewels, gold chocolate coins, the ship in a balloon & a copy of the Pirate Madlib I made. I know others do more, but since most of it ends up broken and/or thrown in the garbage, I decided to put more into the party instead. Others who feel differently might add candy rings & necklaces, stickers, eye patches, hats, skull or pirate tension balls (Oriental Trading Company), and either a foam cutlass or a glowstick sword. The kids had a great time and the total cost of the party was ~$70 for 8 kids (with supper and breakfast). I've found that when you cut out the waste of stuff that gets thrown out and focus on the actual activities and creativity, you can have a great party without spending a fortune. To spend less, you could have the kids eat supper before coming to the party and just offer cake & snacks in the evening.

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