Taking the stress out of your child's annual celebrations!

Buried Treasure: illustration of William "...

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Birthday party themes are fun. Having a theme can turn a simple party into an extravaganza. But do be careful not to let the theme take over and lose the fun in pursuit of the theme. Don’t let a theme prohibit you from playing your favourite game, for instance, just because it doesn’t really fit, play the game and have fun!

Your child’s  birthday is looming and your thoughts turn to planning their birthday party. The most popular theme for boys has to be pirates. Step into any party shop and you can’t fail to notice the absolute plethora of pirate paraphernalia. There are Jolly Rogers a go-go and eye patches galore.

It is indeed a fun theme, despite being built on a romantic notion of very dubious sea faring vagabonds; try explaining the morals underscoring the average pirate to your little one and I guarantee you’ll struggle! Probably the most edifying pirate story from a woman’s perspective is that of Anne Bonny  and Mary Reid who according to legend, were feared pirates active in the Caribbean who initially dressed as men. Surprising that in an exclusively male environment, early feminism reared it’s head in these two women. But back to parties…

So, you want to host a pirate party.

Pirate Decor

You’ve got jolly pirate bunting from the party shop, or you’ve made your own from triangles of spotty/stripey gift wrap/fabric stapled at intervals onto a long piece of twine.

You’ve bought the black balloons with their Jolly Roger emblem and hung them up on the walls,(do be aware that loose balloons on the floor are fun but can be a source of anxiety for those children who don’t like loud noise, balloons have a very bad habit of popping).

You’ve purchased a very jolly set of paper tableware festooned with pirate faces and pirate ships and have made /bought a cake that looks just like a pirate ship or treasure chest.( For ideas and how to, have a look at this site Coolest birthday cakes  )

Now what?

You’ll need something to do when they get there.

Pirate Games

As children arrive , it is a good idea to play a fun game of

Match the picture

Give each child half a picture of all things piratical, here are a few suggestions:

Snap My friendly crocodile

Sharkey cool dude my helpful shark

Pirate puppet show

Captain Punchdrunk and his parrot

Marina my mermaid

Then get the children to search for the other half of their picture. When they find it, they are rewarded with a chocolate gold coin!

Pass the pirate parcel

Pass the parcel is a good game and is easily adapted to a pirate theme. Instead of having prizes in between layers, maybe have pirate themed forfeits instead.Here are some suggestions:

  • Dance a pirate jig
  • Chop up a pirate ghost with your cutlass ( little boys will relish being able to actually use their cutlasses here! Just make sure the ‘ghost’ is pretend …
  • Walk the plank ( a piece of brown paper laid on the floor)
  • Say Pretty Polly like a parrot
  • Sing what shall we do with the drunken sailor ( with help from the group)
  • Shoot your pistol at a ghost crocodile

Once you get into the pirate mindset, the ideas should come flowing!

Then when the forfeits have been completed, reward the effort with a sweet or chocolate coin.

Save the main prize for the end of the parcel and make it truly random, thereby upping the tension. Believe it or not, Pass the Parcel is meant to be a competitive game albeit random!

Oh and for extra pirate flavour, try and find some pirate music to play the game to.

Musical Islands

( For instructions for this game, please see my previous party game post)

What’s the time Mr Crocodile?

Snap My friendly crocodile

Instead of playing What’s the time Mr Wolf , tweak it a little into a pirate game of What’s the time Mr Crocodile. ( Instructions in my previous party game post)

Tip: To avoid panic fighting with swords /hooks etc, ask your pirates to store their weaponry in the ‘safety chest’ ( a cardboard box ) before the game.

Please remember that if you provide play weaponry as part of your child’s costume, they will want to use it. They will not understand it is just for decoration!

Treasure hunt

The obvious game for pirates, this is a fabulous way to end a party. It can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it.

For very little children, keep it very simple; provide each child with their booty bag and send them off around the house or garden to search for simply hidden gold chocolate coins.

For older children,  you can make the game more complicated by providing a treasure map with clues. It can be obvious clues or more cryptic clues to up the stakes. Get the grown-ups involved for a really fun time.


Pirate Pete and his treasure chest

A pinata ( pronounced pin ya ta ) provides a perfect opportunity for your pirate party goers to use their weaponry in a constructive and controlled manner. This does require adult supervision but it is very much worth the effort.

Basically a pinata is a soft cardboard construction that is filled with sweets and small toys. It is suspended from a hook and children take turns to hit the pinata until its contents spill out.

Tip: If you can’t find anywhere to hang your pinata, suspend it on a long rope and have two adults hold it tight  at each end ( like a skipping rope). Have the children queue up and stand far back from the child who is hitting the pinata, well away from any swipes of the baton. Have a limited number of strikes, have the children count down as they hit the pinata and then move down the queue.

Many ready made Pinatas are available from all party suppliers and online, but why not have a go at making your own? A simple treasure chest pinata is easy to make.

Take a  cube shaped cardboard box( make sure it isn’t too strong) and fill it with sweets, confetti and cheap party favours. Fringe a few packs of brown tissue paper and glue the fringes around the box making a frilly brown cube. Decorate with a yellow paper keyhole shape and yellow paper rivets. Use a picture of a treasure chest to inspire your decoration. Seal the top and tie a loop so you can suspend your pinata.  That’s it, you are ready to go!

Lucky dip treasure chest

Instead of giving out party bags at the end of the party, why not turn the going away gift into a game? Make a treasure chest out of a cardboard box, fill it with party favours and confetti/ shredded paper/packing foam chips and then invite each child to be blindfolded and root around in the treasure chest. You can specify how many ‘dips’ each child gets. If you are lucky enough to have an old barrel, this would serve just as well as a box as a treasure chest and would make things very exciting.

Go fish!

Don't catch this on your rod!

This is an exciting way to dispense your party bags at the end of the party. Each child has a turn at swinging a fishing line over a sheet and ‘reels in’ their bounty . Sometimes the ‘fish’ can be a prize, other times it can be a shark or crocodile /old boot etc picture and then the child gets to fish again until the prize is eventually won.

Make a simple fishing rod from a bamboo cane and a length of string. Attach a wire loop to the end of the string. ( This is for attaching the prizes/pictures ) Suspend a sheet across a doorway/ the end of stairs and have an adult sit behind the sheet with a box of pictures and party favours. Each child is helped to swing the rod end over the sheet and fish for a prize.

This is great fun and really worth the effort.

John Browns Body

This is a little bit scary but is great fun for the older child’s party. Dim the lights, and have someone tell a spooky pirate story ending where a pirate is buried . At the end of the story tell the children that you’ve somehow managed to get hold of the pirates body parts ( euggh!) and hand around the group each ‘body part’. Now this is where your imagination comes in: use cooked oiled cold spaghetti for veins, a peeled grape/lychee/hard boiled egg  for an eyeball , jelly in a container for some brains, sticks painted white for bones…

Icky scary pirate fun!

Puppet Show

Captain Punchdrunk and his parrot

Most reputable children’s entertainers will have a pirate puppet show in their repertoire. I know I do! A puppet show can really focus the children and set a great atmosphere. A full pirate puppet show in an old fashioned puppet booth costs as little as £140 for an hour’s entertainment here at Diane’s Puppets.

Face painting

Pirate face painting isn’t difficult.  Here’s my video showing you step by step how to paint a very convincing pirate.

But if you don’t want the back breaking task of painting a whole crew of pirate wannabees, hire a professional. Save some money and ask around to see if there are entertainers that have face painting as part of their party package. That way you can have a puppet show and face painting at your party without too much expense. Here at Diane’s Puppets ,I offer an hours swashbuckling pirate puppet show plus face painting for as little as £170 for up to 20 children.

I think the pirate theme is very suitable for both boys and girls, for those little girls not wanting to wear pirate garb , suggest they come dressed as mermaids , but if they turn up as a princess, who’s going to complain?

I wish you all a wonderful pirate party !

Marina waves goodbye

Comments on: "Yo ho ho and a whole lotta pirates!" (1)

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