Friday, January 25, 2013

Harry Potter Party

   I recently threw a Harry Potter birthday party for my son. I thought I would share some of the details of the party with you with the hopes that someone else might find it useful. Seeing as how there is NO Harry Potter party section at most of the chain party stores, if you plan to host your own party you should be prepared to do your homework and GET CREATIVE!

Invitations
: I didn’t realize that the party pack I ordered online (more on that later) included invitations, so I made my own. I created the invitation document to look like an official letter from Hogwarts (in green ink and all) inviting the child to come to the school for a special party. I also included a separate train ticket to platform 9 3/4. If you are familiar with the book, this will all make sense. If you haven’t read the book, you have a lot of work ahead of you! I didn't take a picture of the invitations, but I provided a link to another blog at the end of this post with an example of someone else's invitations which looked very similar to mine.


Party Supplies: I was unable to find any Harry Potter party supplies in any of the stores I visited, however I was able to find them online. I discovered that Target sold a party pack online (but not in the stores). The pack included 2 different sizes of themed plates, napkins and cups, a blue tablecloth, maroon and gold balloons and curling ribbon,  maroon and black crepe paper, a “sorting hat”  helium balloon, themed party invitations, black eating utensils and blue candles. The price was a pretty good deal for the amount of stuff, so I ordered it. This was enough plates, napkins, and utensils for the amount of guests we were going to have, so I didn't need to buy anything extra.

 
Party Decorations: Although balloons and crepe paper can take you pretty far with kids (as far as decorations go)...



...I knew I was going to need more stuff, so I went to my favorite store for party supplies: The Dollar Tree. This particular dollar store chain is great for party supplies and the price for the quantity of things you get (like plates, napkins, etc.) is way better than the packs you can buy at the larger party stores. I picked up a few nice touches like these:




Although the dollar store and the party pack I ordered were helpful, I ended up making most of my themed decorations like this banner:




(This shot turned out a little funny because the sun was so bright but you get the idea.)
And these signs:




I got the printouts from a blog that was incredibly helpful during my planning. I’ll share that with you at the end!

Games and Activities
: I like to have the games at my parties correlate with the theme of the party as much as possible, but sometimes you have to consider other factors. These include the number of children attending the party, the kind of kids that will be at the party (is it a wild boy crowd? a calm group of girls? etc.), how many adults will be around to help, how much time you have to fill, and several other things that can affect your game choices.

For example, one of the games I planned on playing involved two teams of 3 kids. Each child would have a Popsicle stick in their mouth and the children would have to pass a pretzel on the stick to the stick of the child next to them. The last child in the line would drop the pretzel from the stick in their mouth to the bowl they would be holding. After being timed for a minute, the team with the most pretzels in their bowl wins. This sounded like a fun, competitive game, however, we received one cancellation on the morning of the party which would have messed up the number of children on each team . Plus, several children had been out of school that week for the flu, so I didn’t think passing food items onto sticks in mouths sounded like a good idea. Luckily, I had enough other activities that filled the time nicely.

One of the things I liked that I saw on some of the blogs that I referenced staging the activities/games as “classes” at Hogwarts. One of the classes that looked like fun was the potions class. While I really liked this idea and thought it could be very successful with the right crowd, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of several little boys mixing liquids at my dining room table. It sounded a little too messy for my liking! I wanted to do something that resembled a magic potion though, so I considered having the children dump Pixie Stick powder into jars that looked like they held magic potions. However, when I got to the Dollar Tree (again, best dollar store ever!), I found these glow-in-the-dark sand art kits that were perfect...and only $1! The kit included 3 bags of colored sand, a container with a lid, a funnel, and a stick (to create designs). Amazing! This was the first activity I had the kids do. I called it “Magic Sand Potion Class” and it went surprisingly well. The children were very careful about their sand creations and were very excited when they discovered that they could take them home!





After sitting still for so long (and concentrating so carefully on pouring sand into a tiny funnel), I knew the kids would need to move around, so I had them play “Magical Musical Chairs” next. This was a great way for them to burn off some energy and they had a great time dancing to the music! (By the way, I didn’t do anything special from the normal way of playing Musical Chairs, I just gave it a fancy title.)

The next game we played was “Catch Hedwig Before He Flies Away”. This game was basically like the traditional fishing game, but with owls. To create the “Magic Pole” (or fishing pole), I tied a piece of yarn onto a wooden dowel that I already had. I then hot glued it in place and glued a refrigerator magnet to the end of it. Then I cut out 10 owl shapes from construction paper and wrote the numbers 1-5 on them. I laminated them with my top-secret-super-cheap laminating system (i.e. clear Contact Paper from the shelving paper section of Walmart) and put 2 paper clips at the top so that the magnet would be able to pick them up.



I had each child kneel backwards on a chair and hold the pole over the top. They then had a minute (I timed with the kitchen timer) to catch as many owls as they could. I wrote down the numbers as they caught the owls and the child with the highest total was the winner. I was surprised at how carefully the boys tried to catch the owls with the higher numbers. They were great! Of coarse, the ones waiting in line basically beat on each other while they waited, but the game went very smoothly. The kids were really excited to help add up their numbers and figure out their grand totals.

Next, I had the kids grab some snacks to munch on at the table while they played their last game. I knew the game would take up quite a bit of time, so I wanted something to keep them busy while they sat so nicely for so long. Harry Potter Bingo was the final game. This game took the most time to create but it was worth it. To create the bingo board, I used a larger size piece of white paper and made it big enough for about 1 1/2 inch rows (5 x 5). I left space at the top to write Bingo. For the pictures that were going to go in the squares, I Googled black and white coloring pages of various themes (Harry Potter Coloring Pages, Dragons, Cats, Eyeglasses, etc.). I copied and pasted the pictures on to a Pages document (or Word) and played around with the size until I got all of the pictures small enough to fit perfectly inside of the squares I drew (this took a couple times of printing and then going back and resizing and printing again). I used about 28 different images. I printed several copies of the images and then cut out all of the little pictures and glued them randomly on to the Bingo boards, leaving a “Free” space in the middle. I made sure that no two Bingo boards were the same. I then covered the Bingo boards with my top-secret-super-cheap laminating system so that the pictures couldn’t be peeled off from the boards. I cut up an extra set of the pictures along with the letters BINGO and put those in a small plastic bag to use to call out during the game. For the Bingo markers, I purchased some small green vase gems from the Dollar Tree and put them in the middle of the table.

 

This game went very well and took up a lot of time. The children sat still very nicely and munched on snacks while waiting to hear what picture would be called next. Even though some of the children weren’t familiar with the characters in the book, they quickly caught on to the names and images that were on the Bingo boards. Towards the end of the game, I started to peek at what was left on some of the kids’ Bingo boards so that I could specifically call out those images and letters (so that everyone won a prize by the end). The games and activities went VERY well and took up about an hour and a half, which was perfect!

Food/Cake: I didn’t do much in the way of food because our party was held in the middle of the afternoon (not during any major meal times). I simply put out a good mix of a few snacks (my son’s favorite kinds of chips, carrots, strawberries, cheese, etc.).



I saw a lot of really wonderful ideas on the blogs I looked at for how to set up a beautiful spread of food and candy with clever titles and cute labels, but I didn’t get that fancy. If I were to throw another Harry Potter party for adults (or a larger number of children AND adults), perhaps I would make more of an effort.       

For the cake, I saw a really cute idea on Pinterest (so wonderful for craft and food ideas!) for owl cupcakes. This went along with the theme perfectly so I recreated those.




They were really easy to make and the kids (and parents) loved them! I baked chocolate cupcakes and frosted them with chocolate frosting. The eyes were created with Oreo’s (which needed to be sliced through the cream with a knife, not twisted apart) and Junior Mints. The beak was made with a banana candy from a package of Wonka Runts. I used a little white frosting in a tube for the owl feathers. They were adorable!

Prizes/Goody Bags
: For prizes, I mostly purchased special candy from the party store (Party City) and threw in a couple of non-candy items. I wrapped the prizes and put them in a bag and let the kids choose their own prizes. I learned my lesson on wrapping them from a Halloween party I hosted back in October. For that party, I just put all of the prizes in a bag and let the kids pick out their what they wanted. This didn’t work so well because the kids took FOREVER to make a decision and the other kids started to complain that the prize they wanted was already taken, it wasn’t fair, etc. Anyhow, so I wrapped them this time. The biggest hit for prizes was a mini basketball game/whistle/sucker thing.

For the goody bags, I purchased gold bags with handles from Michael’s. Some of the goody’s included Snape’s Slime (which was noise putty from the Dollar Tree that I relabeled):




Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Jelly Bean’s (which were normal jelly beans that I repackaged and labeled):




I also threw in some other wonderful surprises (Come on, I can’t give away ALL of my secrets)!

Magic Wands
: I debated for awhile on whether or not to hand out magic wands upon the children’s arrival (like they were arriving to Hogwarts and were given their wands as a gift for entering Wizard School) or upon their departure. Last year, I threw a pirate themed birthday party and dressed each child up upon their arrival with a head wrap, eye patch, earring, and gave them each a sword. This led to intense sword fighting for the next 20 minutes, but that was what I wanted! We had rented a large open room where the kids could run around and be crazy, so it worked (although I’m sure there were a few minor pokes and whacks). But this party was going to be held in my house and these wands were a little bit more pointy at the top, so I didn’t want them to turn into swords and eyes to get poked out. I wisely waited until the end of the party to reward each child with their wands and I’m really glad I waited.

To make the magic wands, I purchased two thick dowels from Michael’s and cut them into 3’s with a table saw (THANKS DAD!). I then took a hand saw, and cut a notch all around the dowel about an inch and a half from the bottom. I sanded the notch so that it would be smooth. This was going to be the part that the child would hold. Then I took the other end and sanded it with a high grit sandpaper until it started to create a point.



I then painted the wands with two coats of brown paint and sprayed it with a acrylic sealer. I was quite proud with the way they turned out and my son was thrilled with how “realistic” they looked!

   I hope you will find this blog entry helpful if you decide to plan your own Harry Potter party. Some of the blogs I found most helpful were this one: http://justsweetandsimple.blogspot.com/2011/07/harry-potter-party.html, for the free printables, and this one: http://myharrypotterparty.blogspot.com/2009/03/invitation.html, for the invitation idea and potion class idea. Both of these blogs were amazing! These people got VERY elaborate with their parties and pretty much transformed their whole houses into Hogwarts! I wasn’t willing to get that fancy, but they were really great for ideas and inspiration. I also used Pinterest quite a bit!

   This party was a lot of work but a lot of fun! The kids had a great time and I thought it was a big success! Please keep in mind that this party was planned while I was working full time and traveling between Michigan and Massachusetts, so if I can do it, trust me YOU CAN DO IT! Enjoy! 

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