A Pirate Party

Last week's family project was the planning of a pirate party to celebrate our third son's 7th birthday. We sat down together and thought about the party, and all that needed to be organised. We brainstormed, and we all committed to various tasks we would be responsible for. The birthday boy sent out treasure map invitations which requested help in finding his (the Captain's) hidden treasure. We had fun tea-staining the maps. The boys had some great ideas for games, and we decided to plot the games on a trail around a home-made treasure map.

The guests arrived in pirate costumes. As they arrived, our second son helped them to make parrots out of toilet roll tubes covered in green paper. He had prepared everything they needed at a low craft table. The children decorated their parrot with googly eyes, a beak, feathers and coloured crepe paper. We stapled an elastic band at the bottom so that they could put their arm through and 'sit' the parrot on their shoulder!

Once everyone had arrived, our eldest son gathered them all around the treasure map and told them their challenge was to help the Captain find his hidden treasure. To do this, they must follow the map, completing challenges together along their way. The first challenge "Dead Man's Cove" involved a big, cardboard skull and cross bones the boys had made and attached to the back of a chair. It had holes cut in it, and the 'pirates' had to stand behind a line and try to throw a ping pong ball through the holes. It proved easier said than done!

The next game was "Blind Man's Bluff" - one of our boys' favourites! To play, sit one child on a chair blindfold, and place a pile of sweetie booty underneath. The child holds a rolled up tube of newspaper. The other children have to take turns to sneak up and attempt to 'steal' some 'treasure' (sweets) from under the chair. The blindfold child must listen and try to hit any approaching 'pirates' with the newspaper. If they get struck, they must come back and someone else takes a turn. We had a cardboard treasure chest into which all the treasure was placed to be shared out later. And of course, each 'pirate' needed a turn in the chair as well as a chance to try and steal some treasure.

After that, we played Brigantine Bay. This was a Lego challenge, and the boys went upstairs to use the Lego to design a pirate ship. They had about 10-12 minutes to design the best boat they could, and the results were quite impressive.

Then it was time for Pirate Point, which was a game of Consequences. The children sat in a circle, and each had a piece of paper. Pots of felt tip pens were in the centre. They all drew a pirate hat, then folded their paper over and passed it to the person on their left. Each child then drew a pirate head, then folded their paper and passed it on again. So the game continued with the children drawing bodies, legs, boots, then opening and accessorising their finished pirate pictures with cutlasses, parrots and other weaponry. A nice quiet activity before the rat slaughter ....

Our eldest son's determination to use his Nerf gun at some point in the party was incorporated into Rat's Retreat. He had made paper rats with ears, tails and googly eyes, and given them a points value - 2 points for the larger ones, 5, 10 and 50 points for the tiniest one. He stood them all along the back of a sofa. The boys stood some distance back and had to try and shoot the rats with the Nerf gun - like a rifle range. The next game, Rat Splat, involved dropping a heavier rat made for a heavy cardboard tube, down a cardboard shute which we had propped up. The idea of the game was to hit the 'rat' as it fell out of the bottom with a newspaper roll. This was great fun - and almost impossible.

The final game was a treasure hunt. I had prepared and hidden clues and treasure around the house. All the treasure was collected and out into the pirate chest. Then we shared it out into the children's party bags. We had plenty of sweeties, but also some shark tooth necklaces, which the boys had made with some sharks' teeth they bought at the Sea Life Centre attached onto thin pieces of wire, and threaded onto a piece of leather thong - very inexpensive. We also had some pirate pencils and stickers hidden as well. The clues were as follows:

Ahoy me mateys, the time has come to find the hidden treasure, you're sure to have fun.
Follow the rules along your trip or walk the plank and sink your ship.
Now mateys, listen, here are the rules - no fighting, no pushing, stay in a group .. no running ahead.
Aye, Aye me hearties, the hunt’s to begin, may all your ships come in to win.
Here is your first clue, the game has begun. Let’s all be sure to have lots of fun.

Clue 1: The ship’s rat eats up all the scraps. (The next clue was hidden by our guinea pig's hutch.)

Clue 2: Keep on hunting and the treasure’ll be yours. Look behind the Captain's door. (The next clue was hidden behind the door to the birthday boy's bedroom.)

Clue 3: A pirate’s life is the life for me, look for what you need to make a nice cup of tea. (The next clue was hidden in the box of tea bags in the kitchen.)

Clue 4: Any pirate ought to know - what do you need when the light gets low? (The next clue was hidden by our son's torch.)

Clue 5: To find the next clue, you need to mop the deck. Hurry up, before the ship is wrecked. (The next clue was hidden in the bucket by the mop in our broom cupboard.)

Clue 6: Cannon balls fly through the skies, how do we hear when our baby cries? (The next clue was hidden by the baby monitor in our baby's room.)

Clue 7: Land Lubbers’ Cove is next, me hearties. Where does the Captain's Mum hide the smarties? (The next clue was hidden in our sweetie cupboard with some tubes of smarties.)

Clue 8: The pirate’s life is awful gory, all pirates need a cheery story! ((The next clue was hidden in a storybook called "Portside Pirates" published by Barefoot Books and we watched the animated singalong story on the computer monitor. The boys sang along lustily - and a couple of them even did a piratey jig!)

Clue 9: Jolly Roger is my name, now find the flag that bears the same. (The next clue was taped to the flag pole of the Jolly Roger flag our third son had painted and attached to the back of his chair at the dinner table.)

Clue 10: Sit down and wait for all the ships to arrive, then you will get a big surprise.

So we brought the pirates to the table, which we had decorated with a pirate tablecover, plates and cups - from Tesco. We had even managed to find some skull and crossbone balloons. We had also made some coloured flags (which we hung like bunting) and printed cutlasses, anchors, telescopes etc on to them. With the winter wind and rain lashing around the windows, & the Jolly Roger flag flying on the Captain's chair, it reallt felt like we were on a storm-tossed galleon. We served fishfingers and chips with cucumber and carrot sticks, lemonade with a drop of blue food colouring, which we said was "Sea water", Coca Cola, which was our "rum" and tropical Lilt. Then came cupcakes, and the best treasure of all - a treasure chest birthday cake, which I had great fun constructing. All in all, a swashbuckling time was had by all!