Ahoy, all ye pirates! We hear 'tis ye birthday 'n ye want to throw a parrrty. We're goin' to show ye how 'tis done, scurvy pirate-style. Ye want a cake? Snacks? Favors? Games? We've got it all. Just beware ye're not forced to walk th' plank. Remember … dead men tell no tales.
OK, that's enough of that.
Most kids can't get enough of pirates, pirate toys and pirate movies. The pirate theme lends itself quite well to birthday parties -- there are so many opportunities for dress-up and treasure-hunting! So, for your little pirate's next birthday, grab a cup of grog, slap on an eye patch and get your "Yo ho ho!" ready to go.
Let's get starrrrted!
Dress the Part
A party isn't a party without costumes and props! But don't stress out the parents of your child's friends by making them come in costume. You can set up pirate accoutrements in a treasure chest by the door for kids to slip into as they walk into the party. Or, you can place pirate accessories at each child's spot at the birthday table as party favors.
Purchase some of these pirate-themed props at a local party store or online:
- Eye patches
- Skull-beaded necklaces
- Message-in-a-bottle necklaces
- Pirate tattoos
- Pirate rubber band bracelets
- Skull rings
- Paper pirate hats
- Pirate dog tag necklaces
- Head scarves with fake hoop earrings
And, if you approve of that sort of thing, fake plastic swords are always an option.
Some might argue that snacks are the most important part of a party. Try some of these pirate-themed nibbles for your little buccaneers:
- Veggie sword snacks: Slice some long, thin carrots into quarters (lengthwise). Slice up some cucumbers into round slices. Slide the cucumber rounds down each carrot stick -- from the pointy end toward the fatter end. Don't forget to leave some space at the end for the handle. Give each child a little cup of veggie dip, too.
- Deviled eggs: Make your deviled eggs as usual, but add a little paper sail on a toothpick.
- Fish snacks: Spread a little cream cheese on a cracker. Add a couple of goldfish-shaped crackers and some alfalfa sprouts for seaweed.
- Crocodile blood: Make ice cubes out of red fruit juice and serve them in clear cups of lemon-lime soda. As the cubes melt, they'll "bleed" into the soda.
- Chocolate coins: You can find these at just about any party store. Drop them on the birthday table in random spots for decoration. Let the kids discover that they're really chocolate!
Get the pirate theme rolling right from the start by sending out fun, themed invitations. Buy little plastic bottles and send out "message-in-a-bottle invitations." Write out the invitations on parchment paper or print them out using a pirate font (yes, there's a pirate font). Roll the paper up and put it in the bottle -- along with a little sand or a tiny seashell. Seal the bottle with its cork (and a little tape to be doubly sure it's sealed). You'll need special postage for this invitation, but it can be done.
Or, how about drawing up a treasure map that leads to your house? Or, make paper treasure chest invitations that open up to show details about the party. You can slip little gold chocolate coins into each invitation as well.
Set the Stage with Decorations
Décor is always important to set the theme of a party. You'll find pirate-themed decorations online, or you can go the DIY route and make some yourself. Here are some ideas:
- Make a cardboard box pirate ship: Get a refrigerator box from your local appliance store and cut off the top to make a ship. Have the birthday boy or girl help you paint and decorate the box a few days before the party. You can make a flag from an old pillowcase -- paint it with a skull and crossbones or your child's name.
- Decorate the party table: Use rope netting and shells to create a seafaring look. You can find these at your local craft store. Sprinkle the chocolate gold coins, too.
- Don't forget the trusty parrot: Every pirate worth his weight in salt has a parrot on his shoulder. Buy a couple stuffed ones and place them around the house or yard. You could always give them out as prizes later on.
Walk the Plank!
A pirate party surely isn't complete without a traditional walking of the plank. You can set this up in the backyard or in a room with carpeting. Get a long piece of wood (a 2-by-4) and some smaller blocks to put under each end. The blocks only need be a couple of inches high -- you don't want anyone to get hurt. Nail the blocks to each end of the plank and one in the middle for stability.
Treasure Hunt Game
A treasure hunt is a good way to keep the kids occupied while you get the cake or other food prepared. You can set it up outside or inside, depending on the weather and how much room you have. The children can play on teams or alone, depending on how many guests you have. If you do put them on teams, let the kids choose a team name based on some favorite pirate characters (Jack Sparrow, Blackbeard, etc.).
Hide a "treasure" somewhere on your property. Fill it with small gifts and trinkets. Then, write a series of notes on parchment paper. Each note contains a clue, which will send them to another location with another clue … and so on and so on, until the treasure is discovered!
'X' Marks the Spot Game
This activity is a takeoff on the classic "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" game. Instead of a donkey and a tail, you'll use a treasure map and a bunch of big "X"s. On the treasure map will be a picture of a treasure chest. Blindfold each kid one at a time, spin them around a bit and have them try to pin their "X"s as close to the treasure chest as possible. Whoever lands their "X" the closest wins a prize, or gets to choose one from a treasure chest you've set up. Whoever lands his or her "X" furthest away from the chest has to walk the plank!
Make Pirate Flags
Pirate flags are a fun craft for your little swashbucklers and can also double as a takeaway party favor. Visit your local craft store and purchase:
- Felt fabric in a variety of colors
- Safety scissors
- Sticky letters
- Fabric glue
- Marker pens or fabric paint
- Chopsticks or wooden dowels
Pre-cut the felt into flag shapes, and also leave enough leftover pieces so the kids can use them to make their own decorations. Set up all the craft supplies on a plastic- or newspaper-covered table, and make sure there's enough for everyone. Encourage your pirates to be creative and make personalized flags. After they're finished, set them aside, so the kids can take them home at the end of the party.
'Captain Hook' Game
This is a fun and silly little game for a pirate-themed bash. Have each child take a turn being "Captain Hook." For this game you'll need:
- Paper lunch bags with a small hole punched in the bottom
- Plastic-wrapped candy canes
- Bucket of pretzels
- 30-second timer
To be Captain Hook, the child must place the paper bag over his or her hand. Then, slip the candy cane through the hole in the bag so the child can grasp it. This way you're left with a candy cane "hook" sticking out from the end of the child's arm. Give each child 30 seconds to see how many pretzels he or she can grab with the hook. The winner gets a prize. The loser walks the plank.
Make a Pirate-themed Cake
Of course no birthday party can be without a birthday cake! If you're into cupcakes, top them with chocolate gold coins, small plastic swords or mini-pirate hats -- the ideas are endless. And you can find lots of fun pirate-themed cupcake toppers at a party store or online.
If you're feeling inventive, try making a treasure chest cake. Here's how it's done: Make two rectangular cakes. Put a layer of frosting in between, and stack the cakes on top of each other. Frost the entire cake with chocolate frosting. Make a "lid" out of cardboard and attach it to the cake using wooden skewers, so it looks propped open. Cover the top of the cake with things like gummy fish, candy necklaces and gold coins.
For more on food and party ideas, spy the links on the next page, ye mateys!
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- "The Pirate Party." BirthdayPartyIdeas.com. 2010. (Oct. 3, 2010)http://www.birthdaypartyideas.com/html/the_pirate_party.html
- "Pirate Party Snack Ideas." www.Fun-Kids-Birthday-Party-Ideas.com. 2010. (Oct. 3, 2010) http://www.fun-kids-birthday-party-ideas.com/Pirate-Birthday-Party/Pirate-Party-Snacks.shtml
- "Treasure Chest Birthday Cake." Taste of Home. Aug/Sep 2007. (Oct. 3, 2010)http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/Treasure-Chest-Birthday-Cake
- "Ye Pirate Grub." All Foods Natural. 2009. (Oct. 3, 2010)http://www.allfoodsnatural.com/articles/69-cheap-and-healthy/505-ye-pirate-grub.html