Connor turned five in June, and this was the first year we've actually held a proper birthday party with friends for him. (Bad parents.) I'll admit that the idea of the party made me nervous. Doing something cool that would entertain a bunch of five-year-olds? Ay yi yi. Maybe I just spend too much time on Pinterest.
Shortly after the new Target opened nearby I was walking through to check it out, and I came across a bunch of pirate-themed stuff in their birthday section. They even had a piñata. I figured Connor would be into that, so I floated the idea past him. He was in!
That's when I turned to Pinterest.
I created a pirate party inspiration board on Pinterest and there was no shortage of ideas to pin to it. (Evidently I'm not the first mom to host a pirate party for her kid.) My initial idea of a simple but fun party with some pirate-themed stuff quickly started to grow to Pinterest-like proportions.
After briefly entertaining the idea of creating a giant pirate-ship birthday cake and a treasure chest to rival Harry Potter's vault at Gringotts, I scaled it back. Moms have enough to do without making everything a Pinterest competition. (I also chose a few strategies that made the actual day easier, so make sure you check out my post about that if you get heart palpitations just thinking about hosting a birthday party.)
Luckily, a pretty cool pirate party isn't hard to put together with some good printables and a trip to the dollar store.
Here are some ideas and photos to inspire you, and you'll find links to the printables I used at the bottom.
Every pirate needs a treasure chest, and the one above is a dollar-store specialty. This wooden chest (and a few extra I bought for a dubloon-tossing game) and the treasure are all dollar-store finds. The gold coins are actually "pirate gold," and the rest is just sparkly stuff Connor and I chose to fill up the chest—necklaces and jewels in various sizes. We put it on the food table, which also featured a pirate-themed tablecloth from—guess where?—the dollar store.
To be a proper pirate, you have to have two things: an appropriately menacing (or scruffy) hat and an eye patch. My husband likes doing balloon animals, and he found a tutorial for pirate hats online. They weren't hard to do, and he made one for each kid when they came in. The kids got to choose whether they were a happy pirate or a mean pirate and my husband decorated the skull piece accordingly. (I think we only had one mean pirate. Go figure.) If you're not up for doing balloon hats the dollar store has pirate hats too.
We also set out a package of eye patches (dollar store, baby) so the kids could each take one to wear.
We planned three games. The first was Pin the Patch on the Pirate and my husband (because he's an over-achiever like that) painted this pirate on a big piece of cardboard. A bandana and an extra eye patch with some sticky tack on it and we were good to go. The kids had fun with this one (but any game where you get spun around is bound to be a hit).
The second game was a Dubloon Toss—a few treasure chests and some extra pirate gold was all we needed. We set each kid up with an empty treasure chest and a bunch of gold and had them toss the coins into their chests from a foot or so back. The kids LOVED it. We played a few rounds of this one.
The last game we planned was Swab the Deck. I found some dish scrubbers at the dollar store that looked just like miniature mops (but anything they can "scrub" with would work too) and bought some ping pong balls. The goal was to push the ball with the mop across the room and be the first to cross the line.
I had fun with the food, and this is where Pinterest really came through for me. I found some "sea water" labels for bottles of water and some menu cards to use with snacks, then just picked food that fit the labels and that I thought the kids would like.
I also found a post about making pirate gold cookies. Who could resist? (Not me. I used golden Oreos and ate, um, a few of them myself.)
Goldfish crackers. Shark bait. Genius, right?
There are so many things you could use for skeleton bones.
These cannon balls are Maltesers. (Even pirates like chocolate.) The pirate jewels are jujubes, but anything colourful would work.
And that's it! A Pinterest-worthy party without overdosing on insanity. Your little pirates are sure to love it.
Pirate menus (and lots of other stuff)
Happy birthday banner (not shown)
I, like a lot of moms, tend towards a particular parenting philosophy: NO. This is not how I intended to raise my kids. It's not even how I want to raise my kids. It's just how things go sometimes, especially when you're tired, and you have to entertain your kids during the summer, and you're tired...
I've been trying to change that lately, though. I've been catching myself about to say no to Connor and realizing I have no reason to say no other than habit and an irrational fear of messes. But as my mom says, kids and clothes (and floors and couches) can be cleaned.
Here are eight things I've said yes to lately:
1. Having a second popsicle.
2. Playing in the water at the kitchen sink.
3. Sitting on my lap when I'm hot and need space.
4. Eating yogurt on the couch.
5. Taking LEGO into the bath.
6. Staying up late to watch one more TV show.
7. A hot dog for lunch AND dinner.
8. Taking bath toys to the water park.
These things aren't complicated. And they aren't hard. They're just tiring or fiddly or one more thing I have to potentially clean up. But really, what's a little yogurt on the couch?
I just don't want to be the NO mom anymore.
What have you said yes to lately?
Connor turned five last month, and this was the first year we've had a birthday party for him. The mere idea of it gave me the shakes as I tried to figure out how to entertain a bunch of four- and five-year-olds, but by nothing other than luck we managed to get through it with no tears, no yelling, and no need for a stiff drink at 10 a.m.
I'm all about sharing the love and making parenthood easier, so here are the five strategies I believe saved the day.
1. Do it somewhere other than home
I didn't really want a bunch of kids running around my house and spilling juice, even in our unfinished basement, so we started looking for other options. The community we live in has a facility and they rent rooms, which was perfect because we had lots of open space for the kids to play and it was close to our house. It was also fairly cheap, but shelling out some money was totally worth it to me to avoid having chaos in my house.
2. Have family and friends help you
My husband and I gathered all the stuff we needed—decorations, snacks, cake, etc.—and took it down to the room on the morning of the party. But we also recruited our families to help set up, and I was so glad we did. It didn't take much to set up, as we weren't going for a Pinterest-worthy party (though we did have an awesome pirate theme, which I'll share more about in my next post), but it was nice to have a few extra hands to put crackers on plates and stick banners to the walls with sticky tack. It was equally helpful afterwards when we had a bunch of people collecting recycling, taking out the garbage, sweeping floors, and keeping the hyper birthday boy occupied. We had both set-up and take-down done in about twenty minutes.
3. Have prizes for games
A friend came to the party with her son and commented that she was surprised at how well the party games worked. I was too, frankly. I had initially hesitated on games because I wasn't sure if the kids would want to play them or if the logistics were more complicated than it was worth. But they were great! We planned on three games (plus a piñata), and though we only played two of them the kids LOVED them. The secret? Have prizes. We had a bag full of kitschy stuff from the dollar store and we let each kid choose a prize after each game. Maybe we got lucky, or maybe this particular group of kids has just enough of a competitive streak to make games appealing, but either way it helped them have fun and filled the time.
4. Entertain the kids with balloons and dollar store toys
One of the things I worried about most was keeping the kids occupied so they didn't (a) get bored and start acting up or (b) want to leave before we had even blown out the candles. My husband bought some balloons, which we originally intended to use as decorations, but as soon as we blew them up our son started playing with them. When the first kids arrived they joined in and the balloons officially became birthday party entertainment. A big space + kids + balloons? They could have played for hours. Same with dollar store toys. We had some extras after our games were done and the kids wanted to play with them. We had some of those styrofoam gliders and some bouncy balls and a few other things, and that filled in the last bit of time while we were getting the cake ready. Cheap, easy, fun. (Win!)
5. Have these supplies on hand
Whether you're doing a party at home or somewhere else, there are a few things it helps to have handy. The night before the party I grabbed a bag and tossed in:
- Mack tack
- Garbage bags
- Ziploc bags
- A bag for recyclables
And voila! No scrambling for supplies when we needed to put up decorations or clean up afterwards.
Looking back, I don't know what I was so worried about. A kid's birthday party? Easy peasy.
What are your best tips for successful birthday parties?