We hosted an (ill-timed) pirate party for our 4 and 2 year old sons and i wanted to share our party preparations back with the internet. Many of my initial ideas came from various web pages i saw so i felt like i'd like to both a) give back and b) show off a bit; isn't that what the web is all about?
I used the suggestion you'll see most everywhere to tea-dye paper and write the invitations on this paper. We found what worked best through some trial and error. It turns out regular old lipton definitely work best. Green tea and mugicha are just too light. Tear the paper when it's too wet. I soaked two sheets at a time in a baking sheet and then put them on wire racks to dry. My 4-year old helped with this process and had a ball. I made some extra sheets for invite mishaps and to write the treasure hunt clues.
I had some scarves left over from an international trip. I didn't have enough for everyone so i split the scarves in half and sewed up the edges. The kids tied the sashes around their waist. I made some eye patches out of felt, used an ice pick to poke a hole in the sides and tied some skinny elastic in the holes. I really made the elastic too tight but figured the kids would just tuck them in their sashes or wear them around their neck-- which they did. My mother-in-law found a treasure trove of old beaded necklaces and i gave each child two necklaces. The remaining "booty" we used to decorate the table. I also made pirate hats from this pattern (http://www.kidscraftweekly.com/pirates2_issue.html) and added feathers to the hats.
I had all the parts of the costumes lined-up and as the kids arrived i let them pick a scarf with all the rest of the costume. I measured the child's head and stapled the hat band-- voila! They were off to my my mother-in-law for the crafts table.
In advance i made some spy glasses. I collected paper towel tubes and toilet paper tubes. For the toilet paper tubes i used two and rolled-up thick paper inside both of the toilet paper tubes. I cut-out squares of cellophane, covered the ends of the tubes, and put rubber bands around the cellophane. Then i covered the tubes with brown construction paper. These were all pre-made and on the table. We also had jeweled stickers, other stickers, etc for the kids to decorate the spy glasses. I had planned to print out some coloring sheets but just ran out of time.
The kids then started to play outside and then we moved on to the "planned" activities. First i did the treasure hunt. I made a treasure-chest by painting a shoe-box with a hinged top all black-- just with acrylic paint. Once it dried i "painted" the shape of a lock on the front of the box and coated it with gold glitter. I made little envelopes out of blue construction paper, put gold coins inside each envelope, wrote each child's name on the envelopes, sealed them with gold wax, and put them in the treasure box.
I wrote out three clues for the treasure hunt (the kids were aged 2-6, although it was mostly 3-6 year olds doing the treasure hunt.) The first one said something along the lines of "as any good pirate should know, this is where the tomatoes grow." The next clue was in the raised-bed and said something about the clue being by the front gate. The last clue took them to the pirate box. I wish i had done several more clues-- probably about 6-8 total. The treasure hunt was the kids' favorite part of the party and i should have dragged it out longer.
Afterwards i attempted a "walk the plank" game but my plank wasn't really balanced and this didn't work out so well. I should have had a longer plank and some concrete blocks or something-- for some reason i used paint cans-- but the little ones. I covered everything with a blue sheet.
I made a chocolate cake with chocolate icing from the Kings Arthur cookbook. I highly recommend the cake recipe (which also works as cupcakes) although like all icing, i found the icing too sweet. I basically used the Betty Crocker pirate template which uses 8 and 9 inch cake pans (http://www.bettycrocker.com/Recipes/Recipe.aspx?recipeId=40763) It turned out great and was delicious too. Although we were worried that for 10 kids and 17 adults the cake wasn't big enough and we supplemented with a double-batch of cupcakes-- just one would have sufficed.
I bought two black sheets from the thrift store. One i folded over and painted Happy Birthday Henry and Silas in big white letters. I printed out the letters on my printer, big enough to be basically one to a page-- cut each one out and traced around it on the black sheet with my sons' white crayon. Then i painted in the ouline using white acrylic paint. This took two evenings worth of time so i decided to not put any kind of temporary decorations on the banner so that i can re-use each year-- simply adding whatever the theme is to the banner. This year i made little pirates out of felt and pinned them on to the corners. I hung the banner on the window behind the table where the boys blew their candles out.
I used the second table cloth to cover the dining room table. We covered the table with gold coins, the extra necklaces, the treasure box, and a toy pirate ship the boys have (draped with necklaces). The food was here early in the party and this is where we did cake as well. We did black and red cups, plates, napkins and utensils mixed-in with some pirate cake plates.
I made little gift bags out of a pirate-print exclusive to Jo-Ann. This was the least cost-effective thing i did but it was fun to make them and they were super-cute. Basically they were receptacles for the costumes and the spy glasses the kids used at the party. We also sent them home with a balloon, some stickers and a tattoo.
Really the party was a huge success. Thankfully my boys share a party for now because it was quite a bit of work!