Pirates & Mermaids (5-7yr) Caribbean Island
Heather in Herriman, Utah, USA
Since my 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter have birthdays one month apart I decided to combine their parties together this year (they play with all the same kids anyway!). We started thinking of ideas at the beginning of the summer and decided to do "Pirates and Mermaids" theme since that would work for both boys and girls.
For the invitations I had my kids draw pictures of pirates, treasure islands, mermaids, etc. We photocopied them and then glued them onto brown lunch bags that I had cut so they would lay out flat. Then we rubbed black crayon along the edges of the paper bag to give it an antiqued look. Beneath the kids' drawing I wrote: "AVAST ME HEARTIES! Thar be mermaids and treasure in these waters! Come aboard ye old pirate ship with yer swimmin' booty as we sing 'YO HO!' to a couple o' birthday buccaneers! Set sail from Port (last name) on Friday, Sept. 22nd from 2-4 pm...or walk the plank! ARRRGH!!" Then I drew some little skulls with crossbones at the very bottom. We rolled them up and tied them with red raffia and they looked like old treasure maps! I wrote each child's name on the outside of the scroll with another little skull and crossbones. They looked great and all the kids we delivered them to were so excited to open their "treasure map."
I collected some pirate/mermaid music and combined it all to make a soundtrack to play over and over during the party. The music included songs from "Muppet Treasure Island," "A Pirate's Life" from Walt Disney's "Peter Pan," the "Pirates" song from the film "Finding Neverland," songs from Disney's "The Little Mermaid," theme songs from "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," songs from "The Seal Maiden" by Karan Casey, the "Yo Ho" song from the Pirates ride at Disneyland (Classic Disney Vol. 5), "A Whatle of a Tale" by Kirk Douglas (also Classic Disney cd), and a few Irish sea shanties for good measure! My kids and I listened (and still do) to this soundtrack over and over weeks before the party because it's just a lot of fun.
The parents who came asked me about the music too. Later I thought it would have been fun to make a pirate CD for each child, but I had already put together goody bags instead. I had planned on having the party in my back yard with kiddie pools, slip and slides, water balloons, and a Bounce-Round. But the weather was against me as we woke up to SNOW blowing past our windows the morning of the party! (And two days after the party was over it was 75 degrees outside...that's September in Utah!) So I had to quickly think of extra games we could play inside since we would no longer be having an outdoor swim party. I was a bit worried at this point because we had invited 29 kids and I don't have a big house! It was quite crowded and chaotic at times, but the kids all had a blast and didn't want to go home when it was over. I had planned some games for outside, but I just had to throw a couple together last minute to fill the time.
I wasn't sure how the decorations would work indoors, but our family room looked like it had been transformed into a Caribbean island! I borrowed some things from my mom since she had a luau party a few years back, included a tall inflatable palm tree. She also happens to have some large "treasure chests" which she uses as storage/decor at her house. They were perfect for the party! I threw a fishing net that I found at the party store across the back of the sofa and put some stuffed sea animals on it (starfish, seahorse), and we pinned pirate flags to each of the three window curtains in the room. I decorated our media console with my son's seashell collection, my dad's wooden pirate ship he got when he was a kid, a wooden lighthouse, and some small hand-carved fishermen my mom bought in Norway. I also set out a nice illustrated copy of "Treasure Island" and a big collage my kids and I did during the summer of beach things.
Along the railing I taped a "Caribbean blue" tablecloth that I was originally going to use for a table outside. My kids and I had made some fish, crabs, sharks, jellyfish, etc. out of construction paper for decorating that table, so we just taped them onto the table cloth on the railing and we had an instant area to play "fishing pond and it added a lot to the feel of the room. I decorated the sofa console with a plastic Captain Hook tablecloth I found at the party store (which was perfect since it looked like a big map of Neverland with pirate ships, treasure, and even the Mermaid LagoonI was very excited to find this!).
On top of the table I placed a fresh pineapple, mangos, and bananas, some small toy treasure chests, a book called Pirate Girl, my daughter's bath toy mermaid, and a framed photo of Captain Jack Sparrow which I just happened to take in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland this summer. The kitchen table was covered with brown butcher paper, the coloring pages and cups of crayons, more tropical fruit and a small treasure chest. I also scattered pirate gold all over the tables.
Above the table I hung a small ocean themed mobile that my son and I made when he was really little, just out of a wire hanger and felt, etc. I was surprised how many little things we just had around the house that came in handy for decorating the party! The wall in the kitchen was covered with a large white sheet of butcher paper on which I painted a big blue ocean, an orange sun, and a tropical island with a big red X on it. We used this for Pin the Pirate Ship or Mermaid on the Ocean, so it worked double duty as a decoration! I also hung a Pirates of the Caribbean birthday banner from the ceiling.
To start the party, my husband and I tied pirate bandanas on the boys heads as they came in the door and gave them each an eye patch. The girls each were given a luau-style flower barrette and a lei. They were so excited to be dressed up as "pirates" and "mermaids!" I printed some "Little Mermaid" and treasure map coloring pages off the internet for the kids to color as we waited for all the party guests to arrive. My 25-year-old brother happens to be hilarious and a great actor, so I asked him to come be a pirate at the party just to help entertain the kids and make it more memorable. He wore a pirate bandana, gold hoop clip-on earring, an old leather vest, rolled up jeans, bare feet, and drew a Jack Sparrowesque beard on himself with my black eyeliner! He popped into the room after I had the kids sit in two big (crowded!) circles.
I cranked up the pirate tunes on the stereo and he shouted in his best pirate voice, Who's ready for a round o Hot Potatuh?!! The kids were surprised at seeing him and jumped, then burst out laughing! We played hot potato with the stuffed toy starfish and seahorse as my brother did his best Irish jigs to the Yo Ho song and Under the Sea! As each child became out they were sent into the kitchen to get a pirate tattoo! Luckily I have a lot of family who were willing to help me out my sister, sister-in-law and my husband were all in the kitchen prepared to paint mermaids, starfish, skulls/crossbones, sharks, etc. onto the kids arms, cheeks or hands. They looked great! My husband is an excellent artist so he took about 10 minutes per kid, but their tattoos looked unbelievable!
The parents were amazed that they were hand-painted and not the purchased rub-on tattoos! My sister and sister-in-law painted some pretty cute little mermaids and goldfish, and I did some palm trees. All the kids loved it and were excited to show their parents at the end of the party.
Next we split into two teams (boys/girls). One team played games in the family room/kitchen area--Pin the Ship or Mermaid on the Ocean (I just printed little mermaids and pirate ships off the internet for this and copied and cut them out) and did the fishing pond over the railing by the stairs. They fished for small bags of Swedish fish. I had three sisters-in-law helping me run these games.
The other team was downstairs playing a game-- Walk the Plank (I laid two long planks of wood on the floor with one my mom's treasure chests at the other end. I put some balled up aluminum foil inside to be the treasure and the kids had to do a relay race, carrying their silver treasure back and forth across the plank with a spoon), and potato sack races.
For the potato sack races I took four white pillowcases. On two of them I painted a sparkly aqua green and blue mermaid tail with puff paint, and on the other two I painted pirate legs with stripey pants, a black boot and a peg leg! It was really funny. My mom and brother helped supervise (and videotape) and gave out a small prize to each child at the end of the games (gold coins, pirate finger puppets I had leftover from the goody bags, etc). Then we rotated the teams.
Next we had all 26 party animals come squish onto the kitchen floor for Treasure Island cupcakes and Ocean Coolers. I had baked cupcakes using gold metallic cupcake liners then frosted them white. I sprinkled yellow sugar on top to create an island and used blue decorating gel to make ocean waves around the edges of the GÇ£islands. Then my kids helped me stick in a palm tree toothpick into each one, and the finishing touch was a red X on top with
red decorating gel. We put them on baking sheets lined with aqua blue construction paper and put a few gummy sharks around them so they really looked like tiny treasure islands! It was a lot of fun. For the Ocean Coolers I just made blue Kool-Aid then added ice cubes in which I had frozen Swedish fish. The kids absolutely loved it. My 20 month old was covered head to foot in frosting and my kitchen floor was blue and sticky, but the kids had a blast and asked Can we have second helpings?
The gift opening was next and it was absolutely insane with that many kids! My dad was at the party too wearing a black t-shirt with a skull and crossbones on it and was just teasing the kids and making jokes while my kids opened gifts. It was really nice to have so much help since we had so many kids there! If the weather had cooperated, it would've been easier to have everyone outside, obviously, but overall it turned out to be a great party, even though we had to bring the Caribbean indoors!
As the party winded down, the sky cleared up a bit so we had the kids run around out in the back yard until their parents came to pick them up. I had goody bags in one of the big treasure chests, and each child was able to get their buried treasure before they left. In each cellophane bag I put a package of Pirates of the Caribbean fruit snacks, a small hard candy in a luau-style wrapper, some plastic and bubble gum gold coins, and a pirate finger puppet (from Oriental Trading Company).
They also took home their bandanas, eye patches, leis and flower barrettes. I bought all of the supplies at either the party store or from Oriental Trading, and I didn't spend a whole lot of money, even for so many kids! Plus it was a 2-in-1 party since it was for both my son and daughter so I think I actually saved money by combing the two. And the tropical fruit we used for decorating became a fruit salad for dinner that night! I saved everything else from the party and plan to use it again in the future! I think I could spin it out into a Peter Pan/Neverland party all I'd have to do is incorporate a tee-pee and some pixie dust!
When I asked my kids, "What was your favorite part of the party?" they both answered, "ALL OF IT!"