Pirate Party

Pirates Down Under 4yr - Balloon Swords




Melissa in Canberra, Australia


Oct 2003


October 2003 Winner

We embarked on a pirate's party for my son's fourth birthday party. Invitations for 14 children were made like flags, black paper pasted around a dowel with a skull and crossbones cut out on the front and a "treasure map" made from a parchment art paper with invitations to little buccaneers on the back. The map showed our address. I burned the edges of the treasure map (after wetting the edges) to make it look a bit more weathered before sticking it on!

I used a mixture of old fridge boxes and washing machine boxes to create a pirate boat shape then covered it on the outside in heavy duty black plastic glued on with hot gun glue. I kept part of the flaps on the sides of the boxes so they could be glued together on the base with hot gun glue to give the ship more stability. I cut a lower edge for the prow of the boat and a few rectangles into the back edges to make it look a little like a deck edge. I drew cannonballs, a galley, a pirate cabin with treasure chests and a storage area for cutlasses, ropes etc onto the brown cardboard inside. I made a door, sprayed gold, out of a grid shaped piece of packing polystyrene and made hinges out of the cardboard to hang it. The ship measured about 3 1/2 metres in length. Inside I covered an old door with the same black plastic and placed it on polystyrene boxes to make a table. Cardboard cutouts, sprayed gold and green, were used to make palm trees to decorate cupboard doors in the party room and I found a couple of large balloons with skeletons on them to complete the effect. We made a pirate flag from black fabric with a white skull and crossbones outlined with laundry marker and stuck on with double sided iron on material. This was placed on a broom handle width dowel in the centre of the table. I spraypainted on old rams skull gold, and its horns black. This together with some old cow rib bones, sprayed gold, were tied onto a plank, anchored with bricks, to make a figurehead for the "Ramskullion" boat. I used bits of cow backbones, sprayed gold, to make crayon holders for the children's first activity, making a parrot. (Incidentally all the use of bones may sound awful but they looked wonderful, like sculptural pieces -- they were well washed and bleached beforehand!)

To do the parrots activity I used toilet rolls covered in green card. The children then coloured in wings, head etc of a parrot design I found on the internet before these were glued to make the parrot. A piece of black elastic threaded through the bottom of the toilet roll went around their arm so it looked as thought it was sitting on them. (One tip, it's advisable to cut out the parrot bits beforehand so it cuts down time on the day) They then received their pirates bandanas (I cut triangular shapes from  striped elastisised T-shirt fabric, cut a skull and crossbones out of white felt, outlined the skull and bones details in black laundry marker and then used double sided iron on material to stick them onto the bandana). The next stage was a trip outside to play musical islands (our version of musical chairs using cardboard shapes roughly chopped into islands). We used steel drum music because we couldn't get hold of pirate music in time. Once they were out -- and their island had sunk! (a situation which normally results in tears for some!) they went onto another activity, walking a plank. After that they fished (with a rod made from a dowel, fishing line and a couple of screw in hooks, a thread bobbin and a magnet) for little origami fish with paper clips. The fish contained a printed certificate on parchment type paper which read" Congratulations.  When your island sunk, you walked the plank and fished as of old, and you are now a pirate bold! They also received their eyepatches, bits of black felt "glued together" with double sided iron on material. I stitched the elastic down on one side before putting the patches together and made a hole on the other side so they could be adjusted.

We then proceeded to cannonball fights (black balloons filled with water). First they had to form teams and bowl at some skittles, when this paled the cannonballs (which were half filled and survived remarkably well on the grass) were finally thrown to the feet of the opposing teams, a few got a bit wet but they soon dried off and no real harm was done.  The children then had to push a balloon along a fishing line using balloon swords. Two adults held the line up and the balloon was attached to a washer with a bit of wool so it could slide. I made balloon swords by drilling holes in cheap plastic cups to fit a balloon holder sticks through, these served as the protective handle for the "cutlasses". I then used long sculptural balloons for the swords, but any long balloons would probably do. Even though this was meant to be as safe an activity as possible, some boys still managed to wrest their sticks out for "real" swords, so beware! We then came inside to try and catch round pretzels on candy cane hooks. The hooks were pushed through pre-drilled holes in plastic cups again, a great activity, interesting to see how many pretzels were eaten before the hooks were devoured!

Party food consisted of a piece of pre-crumbed cooked fish (which had a bit of a boat shape) with a straight pretzel for a mast, potato faces with one eye filled with tomato sauce for an eye patch and fruit salad (to prevent scurvy!) This was served on plastic boat shaped containers (used to place frozen chickens on) I made a mast for the container using a dowel and a black bead to hold it onto the plate and a couple of triangular sails using black plastic attached to the mast with fishing line top and bottom) The plates were a huge hit and once rinsed could be taken back with the children for bath play, a game for them and less garbage for us! The meal, served with not too many lollies in advance was also mostly eaten, much to the shock of a few parents! I had also made blue jellies with lolly gum sharks at the bottom (in recycled clear plastic containers for water from airlines) but admist the rush to get food onto the table we unfortunately forgot all about them. My children later however considered them a real hit! We served lemonade from a small keg (not used before for booze!) and mixed it with red cordial to make bubbling sharks blood!

We then embarked on a treasure hunt, I used parchment paper and made 12 rhyming clues, then cut these out from around the edge leaving a treasure map in the inside. The children had to find the clues (the tip was that a secret to the map was time), place them inside the map and turn it over to find a further clue (this rhyme was written a few words at a time on the back of each of the 12 clues) stating that they had to look under the "bones" of the pirate on the treasure island cake. They dug up a strategically place plastic box inside the cake with the final clue and trick, a reversed clue which had to be read with a mirror. This stated the treasure had been under their table all the time. (The clues and most of the party were designed so we could have it indoors if we had really bad weather) The treasure island cake was very simple, a red velvet cake (again for the sharks blood theme) covered in store-bought plastic icing coloured blue for the sea around the edge. I made an island shape of beige coloured icing with a bit of coconut around the outsides for the beach. A few rocks were made by colouring the icing black and I used dark blue for the waves. I found a small model boat, a small plastic skeleton and used some lego men and palm trees to complete it.

The treasure consisted of a bag made from plain curtain backing fabric with a bit of plastic twine in to draw the top together. I used the same stencil I made for the skull and crossbones for the invitations and stencilled these on with laundry marker, then dyeing the bags a browny colour. Inside were a treasure chest, one of my big successes. A $1.50 10-12 cm long pine chest obtained from a bargain shop. I dyed these with a mixture of beetroot and coffee to give them a mahogany look. I then used a leather-look brown paper to line the tops and insides and a similar black paper to make pretend iron clasps around the chests. A few gold dots on these completed the look before they were sprayed with clear varnish. These chests contained smarties, gold coins and jellybeans and looked very effective. A few extra lollies were added in the bag including gum sharks and pineapples and "bracelets" made from thin lengths of liquorish with lifesavers and chewy round jellies threaded onto them.

The final gift was one of those elasticised push up toys that flaps around when you push the bottom. I struggled to find anything not too plasticky as a toy and these worked well. I converted some elasticised soldiers to pirates by removing their hats and replacing these with a mini pirate headress in the same fabric as the kids ones. I painted on an eyepatch and converted the original drum to a barrell by painting a bit of black around the edge and pasting on some of the brown leather-look paper (pre-sprayed with varnish) The final touch was a thank-you with a picture of the children around the pirate table in the ship. All in all a lot of work but the children had a blast and went home with lots of bits to enjoy too!

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