Pirate Party

Pirate Crew Party 8-10yr - Pirate Flag Craft




Jeanette in Reston, VA


Feb. 2004


February 2004 Winner

By chance our sons were born exactly 2 years and 6 days apart. We soon realized that throwing one large party for both of them was more efficient (and much less stressful!) than throwing two smaller gatherings a week apart. The challenge, however, has been to identify themes appropriate for a guestlist incorporating a wide variety of ages & both sexes - and that could be successfully hosted indoors, as their birthdays are in February!  The Pirate Party we threw when the boys were 8yrs old and 10yrs old succeeded on every level - in fact, even the parents stayed to watch when they saw the room & realized we had planned! This party included 20 guests ranging in age from 6yrs old to 12yrs old, boys and girls.

Location was a large room at the local community center, which we rented for a nominal fee.  In advance of the party I had the boys make up honorary pirate names for all their guests.  The more harrowing the better: Scarface Chase, One-Eyed Andrew, Cutlass Katie, Matt the Black, Brian Bones, Dirty Dog Daud  you get the idea!  We then encouraged the guests to use these names throughout the party by writing them on their pirate hats and "swag bags", and using them in all the subsequent games. (Names were piped onto party hats using white fabric paint in tubes; "swag bags" were black & red paper bags stamped with white "skull & crossbone" patterns, using a stamp & white ink.)  Even the best pirate captain can't go off marauding alone! Reflecting this, the party was structured around an on-going competition between two pirate crews.  As the guests arrived, we directed them to check out pirate crew "rosters" posted on the wall (on faux parchment in a suitably antique font), showing which crew each guest would belong to for the duration of the party.  Of course each crew was captained by one of the birthday boys!   As you'll see, most of the room decorations doubled as activity tables and/or game props.

For tables, we used two sets of two 8-person rectangle tables, arranged end to end on opposite sides of the room (one for each pirate crew). These were draped with pirate tableclothes purchased from a party store. For centerpieces we wrapped 8 small flower pots in black foil paper, secured by lengths of black wire tinsel, filled each with a chunk of styrofoam, and then added a small (10") skull & crossbones flag on a dowel (black felt stamped with white fabric paint). On one wall we posted copies of real pirate flags downloaded from the internet, another wall we used for the "Treasure Island" game, and on the third wall we hung with a full sized fabric skull & crossbowns flag ordered off the internet.

On a separate red-draped table rested a treasure chest (decorated shoebox) overflowing with foil-wrapped bubble-gum "dubloons," ready for awarding. To tie everything together, we tied red, white & black helium-filled balloons to just about everything in the room. The effect was definitely piratical!  As participants arrived, we gave them their "swag bags" (gift bags) first. These contained eyepatches, pirate swords, red handkerchiefs, and pirate hats. Guests were urged to don their piratical accessories at once, the better to create the mood. Thereafter, the empty "swag bags" were used to store dubloons awarded as prizes for games throughout the party. 

As the guests arrived, we started them on a pirate flag craft. First, birthday dad & I explained to the kids that "real" pirates used individualized flags so that unsuspecting ships knew exactly WHICH pirate was about to board them. To illustrate the point, we directed their attention to our downloaded pictures of pirate flag designs used by real pirates through the ages. We then equipped the guests with 14" x 11" pieces of black contruction paper, black & white pirate clip-art (hourglasses, cutlasses, skulls, skeletons, fists, anvils, etc.), scissors & markers and challenged each guest to create a pirate flag of their own something that would at once identify them (perhaps by making reference to their newly acquired pirate names) as well as inspire terror in the hearts of the potential victims. Their finished flags were then hung on the walls to become part of the decoration.  As guests waited for others to finish up their flags, we offered face-painting services - a scurrilous selection of scars, beards, curling mustaches, and skull-and-crossbone "tattoos" to complete their piratical disguise. 

After this, it was time for some rowdy fun!  Our first game was "Walk the Plank." For this game, 2" x 4" x 8' boards were laid out on the floor, end to end. Blindfolded guests were then challenged to walk the length of the "plank" without falling off. 5pts were awarded for reaching the end without falling off. 1pt was deducted for each time more than half a foot touched the ground.  After the game, each crew totalled their individual scores and the crew with the highest score was awarded a bag of 100 "dubloons," which their pirate chief then distributed evenly among them. (To make the game easier, arrange boards in a straight line and/or allow guests to perform without the blindfold. To make the game more challenging, skew planks so they meet at odd angles and/or set a time limit.) 

Next, it was time for "Swab the Decks." This hilarious relay race contest challenged crews to herd 5 ping pong balls across an expanse of floor using brooms. The captains split their respective crews onto opposite sides of the room. After one crewmate successfully shepherded the balls across the room, he turned the broom over to the next crewmate, whose job was to shepherd them back. First crew to swab their ping pong balls across the finish line won the bag of dubloons.  If this sounds boring or easy, you haven't tried it! Thanks goodness we thought to give each team different colored ping pong balls, because they were rolling all over the place and separating yours from the other teams' was half the fun! (To make the game easier, use only one ball, or use larger balls. To make the game harder, mark one ball from each team as the crew "mascot" and challenge teams to steal each others' mascots while simultaneously racing!) 

Next, we introduced "Sea Battle," in which each crew earned points by hitting "targets" (clipart pictures printed out from the internet) with beanbags. The targets were ships (5pts each), islands (2pts) and seamonsters (deduct 3pts - it's never good policy to tick off a sea monster!). The catch is that the crews must launch the beanbags from catapults! (We found easy - and relatively inexpensive - catapult kits at a store that sold cub scout supplies.) After each pirate got a chance at the catapult, the crew with highest cumulative score won a bag of dubloons. (To make the game easier, place targets on floor and allow guests to throw beanbags. To make the game harder, use smaller targets!) 

After so much rioting, it was time to calm things down and "board" the buffet table, laden with skeleton bones(meringue piped in the shape of crude bones), hardtack (crackers), fruit (to prevent scurvy!) and grog (ginger ale). We used pirate themed plates, cups & napkins from the party store. This was followed by "sorting the booty" (opening presents) and birthday cake - a sheet cake iced in parchment-colored swirls of brown (different shades) and then decorated to look like a treasure map. We used sparkler candles which looked very fuze-like and were a big hit!   

As folks finished their food & cake we introduced a more sedate game, "Treasure Island." Preparation involved turning an array of 12 x 10 index cards into a single "treasure map", complete with islands, reefs, rocks, and - of course - a big red X marking the treasure. Cards were then turned over (we used a stamp to add a skull & crossbones design to the "plain" side of each card, just so they weren't so plain!) and hung in a 12 x 10 array on one wall of the party room (at least 1" space between cards). In the upper left corner of the array, two pirate ship "game pieces" (clipart cutouts afixed with double-sided tape) sat poised, waiting to weigh anchor.

To play the game, each crew flipped a dubloon and moved their ship an appropriate # of spaces (heads = move 1 space, tails = move 2 spaces). Upon landing on a card, it was turned over to reveal that part of the map. Thereafter, crews raced each other to find where the treasure was hidden, with the first crew to find the treasure winning a bag of dubloons. (To make the game easier, introduce few obstacles. To make the game harder, create more obstacles - for instance, an island ringed in reef with only one way through; or, penalize crews for hitting hazards, reward them for good fortune.)  After that, it was time to send the guests on their way complete with their pirate props and "swag bags" swollen with dubloons!

To keep the kids occupied while their parents made ready to whisk them away, we organized an on-going game of "tug of war," another useful pirate skill. In the end, we didn't spend much $$ but had a wonderful, memorable time. The theme may not be very original but it IS universal … what kid hasn't fantasized about skimming across the waves in a fast clipper, a Jolly Roger snapping in the breeze off the mast as they sharpen their cutlasses and dream of chests laden with jewels, dubloons, and golden treasure? Even the adults enjoyed swaggering about for an afternoon, growling "ye' scurvy dog!" and "arrr, matey!"

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