Although I have three sons, I hadn't done another Pirate party since my oldest son was 4 and we were living in Japan. It was way before the whole Pirates of the Caribbean movie had come out, so it wasn't such a big thing back then. We had a little treasure hunt in our tiny apartment and decorated his cake with a Playmobil Pirate set (I love Playmobil). What's more fun than being a bad guy with weapons, tattoos and treasure? I think that's what makes the pirate theme so popular.
Evan is my youngest son, and quickly getting too old to really enjoy this fun theme, so it was high time to have another Pirate party, and finding a party keg of Virgil's Cream Soda was the clincher. Most of my party ideas seem to start out with a cool supply or prop I've discovered that gets my creativity flowing.
Invitations and favors.
I got the invitation idea from here.They were made in Photoshop with an overlay to make the edges look burnt, and printed on parchment paper. Then I tore the edges of the paper off to make them look rough. I got the effect I was looking for without having to burn the edges of every one. The skull and crossbones I found on the internet and the fonts are free ones that I downloaded. I would love to share what they are, but I can't seem to find my saved invitation file anywhere on my computer :(
I rolled the invites up, tied them with jute and put them in bottles. I didn't want to use glass bottles because my son had to take most of his invitations to school to deliver to friends. Plastic A&W rootbeer bottles were clear and had smooth sides, plus my kids were thrilled when I handed them each a couple of bottles and told them to drink up (okay, they had 2 days to do it). I spray painted the lids lightly with black spray paint to make them look older. I also 'hid' the ones he was taking to school in crumpled brown lunch sacks tied with jute.
The labels below were made with freeware clip-art from the New York Public Library digital library, (awesome - you must go there) and Photoshop effects, so feel free to use it. Just click on it for a larger image and right-click to save.
I wasn't sure what I was going to put the favors in until I read an idea from the blog Party Planning Mom (got other great ideas from her too) about how she made little treasure chests out of paper bags and black electrical tape. She didn't have a photo, but I understood the concept and they turned out really cute. The lock was also clip-art found on the internet and printed onto gold cardstock. They were really easy to make with one person holding the bag in the air while another adds the tape. Just fill, fold over without creasing, and tape. Then glue on the lock.
We filled them with pirate blow-outs, Lifesavers, Rolos, root beer barrels, fizzy taffy, skull whistles, gem-shaped Fruit Gushers, clip-on earrings, mini telescopes, mini finger hooks, and plastic pirate finger puppets.
Thanks to my friend Amy and her big bin of pirate decor, I think this was the most decorated party I've done in a long time. She had banners, hats, flags of several sizes, red bandannas that we tied together to decorate the swing set, paper treasure chests, backdrops that we couldn't get to work outdoors, and this awesome old trunk that we used for the treasure chest. I filled the chest with empty boxes, then covered it and put in all the treasure that myself and Amy had like coins, necklaces and plastic gems. My husband screwed two scrap pieces of wood together and we painted them for the X, and I draped a fish net over the top.
I purchased the big Jolly Roger flag that we hooked onto the swing set and we used our worn out trampoline net to make it into our Black Pearl. My Halloween skeleton had a makeover to be hung up as Shipwrecked Sam (more on that later). Tarps became water under the rope swing and the plank, and I purchased black plastic tablecloths for the food and eating tables. For the signs my daughter and I just tore up pieces of cardboard and used markers to get our point across. My luau parrot even found a place to hang out.
I did this the easy way. I went to Playlist.com and did a search for pirate music. It not only had the soundtrack from Pirates of the Caribbean, but Evan's favorite, 'The Pirates Who Don't do Anything" from Veggie Tales too! I just mixed up the songs I found in a playlist and then stuck my speakers in an open window so we could hear it outside. It worked great since we were only using it as background music.
First we had to get everyone looking like pirates. I purchased a dozen bandannas at Zurcher's party store so every boy got one tied on his head. Then they picked out some tattoos and while they were being applied they got to pick a beard and mustache for their faces, and even a scar if they wanted one. We got this idea from Party Planning Mom's site also. My daughter came up with these ideas and drew them on the boys with a brown eyebrow pencil. She did a great job. Evan chose various tattoos and had them all over his arms and legs.
Sharks and Minnows: We put two ropes about 20 feet apart and Evan stood in the middle as a shark. After a countdown, the minnows had to run from one side to the other through shark-infested waters. If Evan touched them then they became sharks and had to help catch the rest of the minnows. We played this several times because they wanted turns being the first shark.
Peg-Leg Pete: They had to stand on one leg for as long as the could and see who could do it the longest, then tried it on the other leg. To make it harder sometimes they had to hop in a circle.
Escape the Acid Water: I didn't plan this one, my boys came up with it themselves. They put a gray tarp under the rope swing and you had to swing across it without touching the 'acid water'. All of the kids had a ball doing this and went back to it whenever they weren't doing something else. There's a great photo of Evan above from this game.
Tick-Tick-Tock: Like Duck-Duck-Goose but with the Tick-Tock after explaining what happened to Captain Hooks hand and how he could tell when the crocodile was coming again.
Walk the Plank: The kids loved this. We took two cinder blocks and tied a 10 foot long 4x4 post to them. First they went across regular, then backwards, then blindfolded. If they fell off everyone yelled "Shark bait!"
Spin the Bottle: For opening gifts. Have the kids sit in a circle and the birthday boy spins. Whoever it points to gets to have his present opened next.
Cannonball Toss: I made four cannonballs out of wadded up paper wrapped with clear packing tape and painted them black. The boys had to take turns sitting at the top of the 'ship' and firing the cannonballs into the enemy ship (a small laundry hamper) to sink it. If they didn't get any in they were 'Shark bait' and had to go walk the plank, for 1 in they were promoted to 'Cabin boy', 2 was 'Ship's cook', 3 was 'First Mate', and all 4 in they were promoted to 'Captain'. Got this idea from Party Planning Mom's ring toss game.
Treasure Hunt: We saved this for the end of the party for them to find their favor bags. We started out by saying that a message had washed ashore and having my husband read the Shipwrecked Sam story. I have tried and tried to find you the link to that story, but I can't find it anywhere! Frustration. I swear it was on the Family Fun website, but not now I guess. They have some other fun pirate activities that you should check out though. So I'll post my copy of it here since it was so cute - and if I ever find the link I'll add it. It was like a Mad Lib, so we had the kids draw word strips out of a basket and hand them to my husband as he read. They really cracked up, but then any story with the word 'underwear' in it will make little boys laugh!
Here's the word list: the largest hill, tree leaves, a wild pig, some shoes, piece of land, drums, underwear, a ship, a few belongings, a loud noise, BoraBora, my fingers, wild cats, a fish, some berry stew, a large plank, a hat, home, cannibals, my family, my lips.
The story had clue #1 included with it and the kids followed all of the clues to the treasure. It was hidden in this little chest that I found at Deseret Industries thrift store. My dear daughter is a great poet and helped me come up with these clues for the treasure hunt. We got the pirate jargon from here. Since I couldn't find anything like this out there to copy and we had to come up with our own, I've included them as a help to someone else.
Clue #1: If ye be a pirate peek if you dare; but if ye be a chicken, ye best beware! (Hidden on the lid of our chicken's nesting boxes.)
Clue #2: In a chest of treasure lies a secret beyond measure! (In big treasure chest.)
Clue #3: Shiver Me timbers! Yer bouncing around. Pillage and plunder underneath to be found. (Under the trampoline.)
Clue #4: Beware of Kracken and Davy Jones below the flag of skull and bones. (Hooked to the Jolly Roger flag pole.)
Clue #5: Dead men tell no tales. Look fer Sam under the sails. (Tied to the skeleton's hand hanging from the swingset.)
Clue #6: Avast me hearties, I did depart. Take 10 steps North to the chicken cart. 15 men on a dead man's chest, X marks the spot and you know the rest! (Treasure chest was under our portable chicken pen. We marked an X on top of it with sidewalk chalk.)
I already mentioned cream soda keg that I found. We also had hot dog 'ships' with flags that I made with wooden skewers and a digi-scrap kit from Scrapgirls.com called VRA Buried Treasure. I found a fish ice cube tray at IKEA so you just have to be sure to notice them in the photo. The kids got to spear 'fish eyeballs' (grapes), 'monkey brains' (pineapple chunks), and 'bleeding hearts' (strawberries) on plastic sword picks, and have a scoop full of 'shark bait' (Goldfish crackers) along with their hot dog. I thought it would be fun to order a bucket of just chicken legs from KFC, but hot dogs were much cheaper especially when kids this age waste a lot of food.
I found this little pirate guy cupcake topper on the Hello Kids website. It came with one for you to color, but had a little one at the bottom already colored. That was the one I wanted, so I just cut it out in Photoshop, did a reverse image of it, and lined it up like the black and white one. Then I printed them on cardstock, cut them out and cut a slit in the center. I glued them onto wooden picks from the dollar store and they worked great.
Have to give a plug for Duncan Heinz cream cheese frosting because it is the best canned icing out there. Love it.