Today we held our son Max’s 4th birthday party. Usually, we do a small family get-together for these kinds of occasions, but as the kids get older, it has expanded to two separate parties — one party with the friends, and one party with the family. I’m not sure how it evolved into two parties for each child (do you do this too?), but it’s far too much work in my opinion!
So, usually I choose to “outsource” the children’s party by hiring a venue. This makes life soooo much easier — you don’t need to clean your house before or after, nor do you need to organize games or even the food. All you need to do is pick up a great cake! (I know I’m not alone in this because I only need to look at my sponsor Help! We’ve Got Kids site to see a complete list of awesome locations for kids’ parties.)
But as this year is the first year that Max has had a party with little friends, I hadn’t clued into the scheduling hiccups I’d run into with the Canada Day long weekend just around the corner. Most venues have openings for the long weekend, but most friends are away. And vice versa: most friends are in town the weekend before the long weekend, but most venues are fully booked.
You know what this meant, right? Yep, Hubby and I were going to need to pull off a Pirate Party (the birthday boy’s requested theme) ourselves. This didn’t faze Hubby one bit. But at this time of year, where both our work places tend to be running at more than full steam, I wondered how we would find the time. But, alas, I am happy to report that we managed to do it!
I sent out email invites for a Sunday party so that we’d have Saturday to pull it all together. And here’s how it all turned out …
Getting in the Mood
If it’s not Hallowe’en season, you’re going to need to hit the local party store (PartyMart in our case) because the regular stores and dollar stores won’t be stocking the right materials for the mateys.
I picked up pirate-themed temporary tattoos and plastic eye patches to help all the little invitees to get in the mood once they arrived. We held the party at a local park, so I also picked up some hanging decorations that we could drape from the trees.
Chocolate Cake (of course)
Upon being asked which flavour of cake he would like, Max requested chocolate (to which his mother replied, “of course!” since that would be my choice too). I didn’t actually want to do cake per se though since cupcakes are a no-brainer — no cutting, no forks, no plates!
Two out out of the five little invitees have nut allergies, so I was going to bake them myself on Saturday. A few weeks ago, I’d seen a pirate cupcake decoration kit at HomeSense, so off I went to find that. But of course, there were none left at my local HomeSense nor at two other Ottawa-area HomeSense stores (which my sweet friend Tanya scouted for me).
However, Google came to the rescue (as he usually does). I was thrilled with how they turned out, but owe all creative kudos to this site.
The cupcakes even managed to survive the transport and the summer heat until being promptly devoured by some very cute little pirate people!
A Pirate Ship Pinata
As long-time readers know, pinatas are a bit of a tradition around here. Stella kicked off this tradition on her third birthday and this year is Max’s first pinata request — a pirate ship. True to form, a pirate ship was indeed delivered by Hubby. He worked into the dark on it on Saturday, and it was so detailed that it really felt like a shame to let it be strung up in the tree for destruction by the little pirates!
The pinata held treasure (gold chocolate coins and candy rings) that all came sprinkling out after many bats with a hockey stick.
The Treasure Hunt
Hubby went out to the park on the Saturday to come up with a plan for a treasure hunt that he was then going to sketch into a map. And what a map it was!
He got a kick out of adding labels to the various elements in the map, like the Kanatasaurus (the park is located in a suburb called Kanata) and the Gazebo of Lost Souls. Yes, this is a nod to Dora the Explorer (Max is a fan)!
The kids really got into this treasure hunt. And when I asked them at goodbye-time what was their favourite part of the pirate party, almost every single child said, “The treasure hunt!” So, if you do nothing else, do a treasure hunt!
The Pirate Booty Loot
The treasure hunt culminated with a big “X” where a treasure chest lay waiting. The children were all told that I was a specialist with locks so we’d need to bring the chest back to the picnic area for me to take a look.
So a merry band of pirates eagerly awaited for me to work my magic. Inside lay all of the lootbags as a party finale.
While most children might prefer a bag full of sugary treats, I am that mother who gives a book for “loot.” (But I swear I don’t give out toothpaste at Halloween!)
I had waltzed into Chapters and asked for some Peter Pan books, thinking I could simply take a page out of Giulia’s party planning tricks. Uh, no so luck. Not a single Peter Pan book in the entire children’s section.
BUT, I totally did score some luck because right in the bargain books section was a pop-up pirate ship book — and in the exact number I needed! Yah!
Stella helped me prepare these by adding a pirate pencil, some pirate tattoos, and a thank-you note.
Naturally, a party is nothing without great company. Big huge thanks to all the parents who joined in the fun and to all of the little pirates for being such good sports!