Knights of the Picnic -5yr- Search 4 Holy Grail
Paige in Tucker, GA, USA
Knights of the Picnic Table - 5th Birthday
Invitations: I sent the invitations on stationery that looked like a parchment scroll, purchased at an office supply store. I also purchased a JPEG of our family's coat of arms from houseofnames.com and pasted it into the invitation, along with the announcement, "Hear Ye, Hear Ye, All Ye Knights of the Picnic Table. Queen Paige & King Craig Invite you to Join in a Day of Merrymaking, Jousting, & Dragon Slaying in Honour of the Birthday of Sir Jared of Smith." The details followed, and then the invitations were mailed to "Sir Jacob" or "Lady Grace."
Place: A playground near our home has a massive wooden climbing structure that looks like a castle. It's full of mazes, hiding places, and swinging bridges, and has a dragon painted on the side...the perfect place for this party and this very active group. We decorated the picnic tables with purple tableclothes and purple, gold, and green balloons. A "happy birthday" banner was hung from the trees, next to an 8 foot suit of armor made from cardboard and aluminum foil. Family crests were attached to trees, and my great aunt's old trunk was used for storing the birthday gifts. The birthday boy had his own throne, made from an old card table folding chair spray painted gold and decorated with ribbon, jewels, his name, and a regal red seat cushion.
Activities: As the guests arrived, they were each "knighted." In recognition of their new status, each received a crown, a lance (made by cutting swimming pool noodles into three pieces), and a shield. The shields were made from cardboard, spray painted with metallic spray paint and covered with laminate, with a cheap drawer handle attached. I used washers to make sure the handle didn't pull out of the cardboard. In the center of the face of each shield was each child's family crest, downloaded from the internet. As the children gathered, they had free play in the castle. I brought along a dragon puppet and the mask from a dinosaur costume, and my husband and I took turns being dragons and "trapping" the knights in the castle.
When everyone arrived, it was time for the jousting tournament. I explained what "jousting" was...the medieval equivalent of our baseball or football games that take place in a stadium...and then explained the rules for our jousting tournament. The first two dueling knights each received a hobby horse, which they held along with their swimming noodle lance. I tied a scarf around each of their waists, with a large rubber ring from an old ring toss game hanging off their backs like a tail. The object was for each knight to get his lance in his opponent's ring before the opponent captured his ring. It looked like puppies chasing each other's tails, and everyone had a wonderful time. The winner of each match would face a new opponent, until every child had a turn and we crowned the champion.
Next was Giant Tag. My husband and one other dad were the giants. The giants tried to catch the children and put them in the "dungeon" (a bench on the playground). Once a child was in the dungeon, they could not escape unless tagged by another knight. To fight the giants, I put on a cape and wizard hat and said a magic spell over some water balloons, turning them into crystal globes full of "giant stopping potion." If a child hit a giant with a water balloon, it froze the giant until he could be tagged by the other giant. If both giants were frozen, the game ended. The adults almost had heart attacks trying to escape the children, but other than that this was a huge hit. My son wants to play Giant Tag all the time now.
After giant tag, we had our ice cream (which was quickly melting) and castle cake (I found several decorating ideas on the internet that I pulled from, including using upside down ice cream sugar cones as turrets). This gave everyone a chance to cool down, and gave me a chance to prepare the next activity. I had also brought a basket of our children's books about knights and dragons, which some of the children enjoyed while they were eating. It was also nice for some of the younger children who needed a break from the (hyper)activity of the day.
After cake was the Search for the Holy Grail. I told the kids a little about the legend of the Holy Grail, and told them the reason the knights had never found it in medieval times was because it was here on this playground and they were looking in the Old World. The child who found the Holy Grail (an old silver goblet) won a special prize, but there was also gold and treasure to be found during the hunt. I bought small gold net drawsting bags from the wedding aisle in a crafts store and filled them with castle stickers, fake coins, small plastic silver goblets also found in the wedding favor aisle, and other medieval-themed trinkets. The gold nuggets were actually treasure stones. I mixed 1 cup flour, 1 cup used coffee grounds, 1/2 cup salt, and 1/4 cup sand with some glitter, yellow tempera paint, and enough water to make a bready dough. I then hid small prizes (plastic knights wrapped in tin foil) in balls of dough about the size of a tennis ball, dried them for about three days, and spray painted them gold. The kids thought the gold rocks were cool, but when they found out they could open them up and find a prize, they were astounded.
Next was "Slaying the Dragon." We purchased a dragon pinata from Birthday Express and filled it with candy necklaces, chocolate doubloons, more plastic knights, ring pops, and other jewel shaped candies and fruit snacks. The children were given the option of donning armor (purchased at Halloween) and were given a sword to "slay the dragon." Each child was given a lunch bag with their family crest on it for saving their Holy Grail Search and pinata favors. I also made homemade coloring books from knight, princess, and castle pages I downloaded from Birthday Express.
Next we opened gifts. The birthday boy sat on his throne, and the child whose gift he was opening got to sit in the seat of honor beside him. After gifts, each child received a bubble sword to take home, and the rest of the afternoon was spent making bubbles and enjoying freeplay on the playground. The internet, the dollar, craft, and school supply stores, and the local Renaissance Festival were all great resources in planning this party. We all had a great time, and the kids learned a little bit of history in the process.
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