Henry, like some other four-year olds I've known, is lately besotted with pirates. I couldn't say for certain, but I think it started with a screening of Hook a few weeks ago. If you can get past Robin Williams as a defeated, amnesiac and middle-aged Peter Pan, Dustin Hoffman's turn as Captain James Hook really is quite exciting. Don't get me started on Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell. Oh Hollywood. So back to parties. Pirate parties. Henry's little summer camp did a terrific job with this week's theme of Treasure Island and I thought some of their ideas would easily work for a birthday party. Avast ye little mateys! Time to board the good ship Bearded Squid as we sail the high seas in search of treasure. (Get your own pirate ship name here.)
Bottom: Cupcake, Mask, Treasures
Get everyone in the pirate spirit with costumes and props. Kids were given black bandanas that had been stamped with pirate-themed designs (skulls, swords, treasure chests) using white fabric paint. The bandanas can be tied around heads, necks or wrists. Use cheap-o black broadcloth (or a remnant) and be sure to trim with pinking shears to prevent fraying. The triangle-shaped bandanas to fit 3 to 8 year olds measures 33" along one edge and 22" along the other two. Eye patches, cardboard swords, tattoos or face-painting cool moustaches are other ideas.
Activities. I always like having a craft table on the go. It's a good place for guests to gather and keep busy while you're waiting for others to arrive. If things get cuckoo, as they sometimes do at these things, a craft table is a good way to focus and bring the energy back down. It could be as simple as pirate colouring pages that you print out and have a bucket or two of markers, crayons and glitter pens at the ready. Or something more involved like the painted pirate masks mounted on a stick, and which the kids decorated using glitter glue pens and stick-on jewels. Little kids might enjoy making a hidden treasure bottle using an empty water bottle filled with sand. They can add glitter and jewels or secret messages before sealing the lid.
Main Event. Bake or simply decorate pre-made buried treasure cupcakes. After the batter is poured, add a Smartie or M&M to the top of each; the candy will sink and kind of melt as it bakes, making "hidden treasure". Kids can mix their own small bowls of frosting to get the right colour. Or, have candy and licorice on hand to make something like this Betty Crocker special:
If there is cake too, have some cello or small boxes on hand so guests can bring their cupcake home to eat. It all becomes part of the loot bag in the end!
Part Two: What pirate party would be complete without a treasure hunt? Gold coins, mardi gras bead necklaces, chocolates, and other small treasures can be found using written clues for older kids, or, like they did at summer camp, using coloured paper footprints to create a trail.