Thursday, April 12, 2012

RE-ceiving Guests: Percy Jackson Birthday Party

MAKING MEMORIES.  When our daughter was younger, I always made a big deal out of her birthday parties but when she hit 7, she started wanting parties at places like Chuck E. Cheese and LaserTag so I stopped doing as much for her parties.  For my daughter's 10th, I felt like I wanted to do something special again for the big double digit turn.  I talked her into going with a Percy Jackson themed birthday party at home.   If you are not familiar with this popular book series, you can read about it HERE. The books made my daughter into an enthusiastic reader so I was very keen on them and I thought the Greek mythology focus in the books would lead to fun party ideas. The author, Rick Riordan is from nearby San Antonio so a local bookstore hosts a wildly popular Percy Jackson/ Camp Half-Blood summer camp that many of my daughter's classmates attend, so I knew her classmates would know all about the books and be into the theme. The only down side to the theme choice was that there are no licensed Percy Jackson birthday party supplies so I had to look around online and I found some really great resources that I am sharing below.
INSPIRATION #1  I got invitation wording, games and food ideas at the peanut one blog HERE
INSPIRATION #2  Another great Percy Jackson party idea post this time by  blogger micahcmicahdo HERE

INSPIRATION #3  posted TONS of creative Percy Jackson Party ideas HERE

INVITATIONS:  After being inspired  by the above blogs, I decided to make the party invitations above by using sheets of old parchment looking paper, rolling them up and tying them with twine to look like old messages. I found an image of Camp Half-Blood via google search and used copy/paste to insert it into the invitation text.  I found the Greek alphabet font I wanted to use, called DALEK for free download via this SITE .  I got frustrated with the font at first bc after downloading  the font, it didn't install automatically until I found online instructions how to install a new font. If you're also not very techy, here is a video that goes thru the process step by step:
The invitations were a big hit.  Several parents complimented the invitations in their rsvp's ("so clever" "adorable" "Fabulous!") which was very rewarding. I was also amused because a couple moms replied in the spirit of the invitation and addressed me as "Eldarose, Daughter of Goddess Hera" and said their "demi-god" child would be attending.  LOL

SETTING THE STAGE.  In the Percy Jackson books, Percy attends Camp Half-Blood with all the other offspring of Greek Gods and humans where they go thru warrior training competitions. While trying to image how to create a similar party experience, my mind went from fight to the death Spartan battles to "Battle of the Network Stars" LOL.  Now, I knew I couldn't really capture the surreal glory of  BOTNS without a track-suit-wearing team captain, Telly Savalas, smoking on the track or Amazonian babe Lynda Carter carrying Gabe Kaplan aka Mr. Kotter on her shoulder like he was the studly hero of his team, but I thought I could copy some of the cheesetastic fun if I got the kids to feel like they were part of a MAJOR, serious business competition.  To do this, I bought an an orange pennant banner from Oriental Trading and I made a big "CAMP HALF-BLOOD" banner from orange butcher block paper bought at a Teacher supply store to hang on our gazebo.  I also bought aquatic themed name tags to set up teams when the guests arrived.   For the games, I went to a sporting goods store and bought an archery set for an archery competition.   For a moment, I thought about using pool floats for some version of the BOTNS kayak competition, but decided regular swimming for clues would be cheaper, easier and just as fun.  I also thought about doing a Tug O'War and calling it a "Clash of The Titans" but ultimately blew this off because I had more activity ideas than time for the kids to realistically do them.
GREEK LIKE ME.  I rented Greek columns for the party to greet the guests.  Above some guests took a picture beside one of the columns.  I guess it was fun, but I don't think it was a "must have" decoration or anything.  

THE MADNESS BEGINS.  I will be honest. The party started off crazy.  I expected 24 kids to come and I prepared for an extra 3 kids just to be safe.  However, I got RSVP's the night before and the morning of the party for an extra 6 kids (which meant extra favors and craft supplies were needed) which I had not planned for.  Also, I was expecting 2 helpers that morning and one was a no-show and the other arrived after the party had started. I was seriously pressed that morning.  I was SUPER lucky that the mother of one of my daughter's friends and her husband offered to help me when the guests started arriving.    The kids came ready and EAGER to start their "quest" and the 1st activity (making a shield at a craft table) wasn't ready for them so my 2 recruited party volunteers above helped buy me time by handing out pizza for the kids to eat when they arrived.   Meanwhile, my hubby put out drinks & trays of greek olives, cheese and party meats.  

SAY CHEESE.  My super awesome party volunteer took this pic of the girls eating their pizza before the activities began.  The party menu was simple.  Lots of cheese, Hawaiian and pepperoni pizzas were delivered and we put out Greek olives both stuffed and whole, cheese and party meat trays, ambrosia (a cocktail) for parents who stayed, sodas, waters for the kids, blueberries (Percy's favorite color and fruit), strawberries and birthday cake.
SHIELD MAKING.   Since we ended up having 30 kids, I decided to break the kids up into boys and girls to do their 1st activity = shield making.  The boys played with inflatable swords I bought from Oriental Trading to give as favors, swam or ate pizza while the girls made their shields. The shields were made of cardboard, spray painted black on one side with duct tape used for handles on the other side.  Several of my MOM camp friends helped with this craft so I could attend to the other kids.  They helped the kids put 2 strips of duct tape on the shields. One strip wide enough for the kids to put their arms thru and the other for them to grip with their hands. Above, the girls are using the gold paint and paint brushes I put out to design their shields.  I also put out a couple of pages of Greek shield designs as examples for the kids.  Both the boys and the girls enjoyed this activity. Now, I want to share a lesson I learned with this activity.  As you can tell from my RE-cycling posts HERE and HERE, I try to recycle as much as I can, so at first, I tried to make shields out of recycled cardboard boxes.  BIG MISTAKE!  It was harder and more time consuming than I imagined it would be.  It took hand strength (of which I have *ZERO*) and the repetitive motion sorta hurt my hand after doing  about 10.  I gave in when I realized I would still have to spray paint them black which would also take time and so I decided I needed to just buy round cardboard cake plates at Hobby Lobby. Unfortunately,  my Hobby Lobby didn't have enough of the size I needed so 2 nights before the party I made a run to the other Hobby Lobby store and bought theirs out, too. Even so, when the extra RSVPs came in right before the party, I was going to be short if I hadn't made some more from recycled boxes the morning of the party.  If I had to do this over again,  1) I would have bought the cake plates to save time and 2) I would have bought the cake plates earlier and I would have bought WAY more than I needed.  I could always return unused ones later.  Please learn from my mistake and consider these issues if you do this activity.

KING OF THE SEA.   I made a Poseidon figure as a decoration for the party and put him beside the pool.  Celeste, one of my book club/ MOM camp friends generously lent me her husband's Poseidon costume for the party.   The costume had a torso, a white beard, a crown and a trident.  I stuffed the torso and bought a styrofoam head from the craft store to put on top of it.  I painted the head with acrylic paint to look like a human head.  I used old packing material for white hair and used some green fabric stuffed with newspaper for fins.   I didn't have hands for my Poseidon so another MOM camp friend, Renae, also of Fabulous Christmas Dinner Under The Stars fame, lent me some fancy flared black gloves from her kids' dress up/make believe bag.  The kids really enjoyed seeing "Poseidon" at the party.

IMAGINATION RULED THE DAY.  Once the kids made their shields and got their swords, they were into acting out duels.  You can see the sons of our neighbors battling Greek warrior style above.

ALL INJURIES WERE PRETEND.  Even though the kids were often "fighting" with each other during the party  no one got hurt bc I brought inflatable swords from Oriental Trading.   I got the kids to leave Poseidon's harder plastic trident alone and I tried to keep the kids very occupied throughout the party so they were always under adult supervision so the pretend fighting never got out of hand.
SWIM TIME. After making swords, the girls got free time in the pool while the boys made their shields.
INFLATABLE SWORDS.  You can see some of the girls playing with the inflatable swords in the pool above.

SHOOTING MEDUSA.  After everyone made their shields, I gathered all the kids in a line and they were each given a chance to shoot Medusa using the archery set I bought as part of their "Quest".  I made sure to get a set that would be appropriate for kids at the store which is important for safety.

GIVE HER YOUR BEST SHOT.  I used an old styrofoam ice chest filled with landscaping rocks and sand for the target.  I painted a piece of styrofoam with green paint and hot glued snakes to it to make it Medusa's head.  I then hot glued the green piece to the ice chest.  The kids who won this quest were given extra points for their teams.  I was again very lucky because my nephew volunteered to guide/supervise  the kids one by one to take their shot.   Even though this activity made me nervous, I have to admit the kids *loved* it.  It was something new and action-y that made them all feel like tough warriors especially the kids who had never shot an arrow before.
THE QUEST.  For the main activity, I made clues to lead the kids all around the yard on their quest.  For the 1st clue, I gave each team a clue saying Poseidon would help them on their quest but he left his helpful letter in his home.  (I'm sorry I don't have the clues anymore bc they rhymed and it took me awhile to make them up, but I didn't have a blog so I didn't think about keeping them. ) The kids all knew Poseidon is King of the Sea and they saw plastic baggies in the pool so they were eager to jump in the pool immediately, but I held them back and told them they'd have to take turns.  I split up the kids into teams and let each team have 30 seconds to gather up all the clues in the pool. I had cut up pieces of the paper with the next clue on it, put them in double ziploc baggies with rocks to make them sink and put them in the pool.  The kids got all the clues very easily within those 30 seconds.  The next clue was about looking for Athena's animal form which is an owl.  A few of the kids really into the Percy Jackson books knew this already and so they shared the info with their teammates.  I hid an owl from my Halloween decor in the gazebo on the ledge where they could find the last clue.  The last clue was about looking for gold under Hercules' weapon.I had made a large gold lightning bolt and put it in the yard against the fence with a box filled with twenty Sacagawea gold dollars from the bank.   In the end, 2 teams were close to the finding the box but there was a lot of chaos, so I set up a race with representatives of the teams to swim over and find the box.   You can see that race about to start above.

PIECE OF CAKE.  I set up a cake table in our cabana with shells, gold chocolate coins and seashell necklaces all around.  The kids were very attracted to the table and while we were doing other activities they ate all the chocolate coins and grabbed most of the necklaces.  Oddly, it was the boys who took the seashell necklaces.  I think they saw them as trophies from their quest.  I thought that was pretty adorable.  The cake was vanilla and ordered from a bakery.  I ordered the cake the week before the party. Normally this isn't a big deal, but for some reason my favorite bakery was too booked to take my order and my runner up bakery which is not as good with designer cakes gave me a hard time about using the wedding cake columns I had purchased at the craft store hoping for a Greek Temple style cake like the one in the first Inspiration pic above.  Our compromise was a cake with blue frosting and a large yellow trident seen above.   Even though the cake is rather simple decoration wise, I like it because the bakery makes incredibly moist cakes.

THE CAKE.  Sorry I don't have a better pic, but I was still scrambling to keep up with the kids and by this time many of the parents had returned so people were leaving and vying for my attention to look for missing clothing items, thank me for the invitation/good time etc.   The favor bags were orange bags with labels saying "Thank you for visiting CAMP HALF-BLOOD. From Renata" on them.  Inside I put blue colored candy because that is Percy Jackson's favorite color in the books and a cord necklace with a single blue bead to represent finishing a session at Camp Half Blood as in the book.

In the days following the party, I got several incredibly sweet emails from parents about how much their kids enjoyed the party and were still talking about it and how much they liked different elements/activities etc.  Even though I had received nice comments about other kids parties we'd given before, I have to say the amount of glowing feedback and compliments about this party were in another league.  The kids gave it rave reviews and my daughter said it was one of her favorite and most memorable birthday parties which I think had to do with the theme of going on a quest seeming very exciting and adventurous to the kids.  Percy Jackson and the Camp Half-Blood really is a great birthday party theme for kids this age.  I highly recommend it for anyone.


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  1. how cute. This sounds like a really fun party. Isn't it great to get awesome feedback? Glad everyone enjoyed it, and thanks for the tips.


  2. Lauren,

    Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. I think the kids really had a great time and I know my daughter did which really made the party preparation worth it. It seems like their youth passes so quickly, I was glad to be able to create a truly memorable birthday for my daughter. That was very rewarding for me.

    Please visit again soon. Don't be a stranger! :D


  3. What a fabulous party! This might be the theme for my son's 13th as his friend's are into Percy Jackson too! My 2nd son had a Rangers Apprentice party for his 13th- has your daughter read those books?

    1. Deanne,

      I give the theme two big thumbs up. We entertained kids plenty of times and gone to lots of kids parties, but this theme really stood out for me after having the party. It works for both boys and girls (which is no longer easy in this age group) and the kids were VERY into everything. There was no urging them along. They were *eager* to play act and participate in all the themed activities. If you decide to do this party and blog about it, let me know. I would love to link up your post as a reference. :D

      I haven't heard of Rangers Apprentice. It sounds actiony though and my daughter likes action stories. I tried to get her to read Jane Austen (which I loved at her age)and she said Emma was "boring." She specifically said she wanted something with fighting in it. LOL. My heart was crushed. Maybe she'll grow into Austen. In the meantime, I will look up your suggestion. It sounds like something right up her alley.

      Thank you for visiting and commenting.


  4. And I thought that the Nancy Drew Party that my daughter and I threw for the oldest granddaughter was creative. We are not even in the same league as you. Wow, wow!!I understand the obsession with Percy Jackson. Again, the oldest granddaughter went through those books like lightning. I even read the first one and enjoyed the movie. Those young people must have had the time of their lives and what a lucky birthday girl to have a mother like you!!!

    1. Diane,

      My heart skipped a beat when you said "Nancy Drew Party." WOW! I loved Nancy Drew and mystery novels as a kid. I would LOVE to go to a Nancy Drew Party myself. LOL. But, I am a big kid at heart honestly. I think that is why I like kids' parties - they allow me to do all the kid stuff I would have loved as a child.

      If you have a link to the Nancy Drew Party, I would LOVE to check it out.

      Thank you also for your lovely comment and for visiting the blog, it was sincerely appreciated.


  5. That is one heck of a kids party. I can see why the parent and kids gave such rave reviews. Thanks so much for sharing with the newbie party.

  6. I love Percy Jackson. We had a percy jackson party a couple years ago and it was the best party. You went above and beyond...what a fun time!

  7. Great theme for the party! I loved the one Percy Jackson, haven't read the books yet. Were on Magic Treehouse series now. LOL Thank you for joining me at Home Sweet Home!

  8. The kids surely enjoyed the birthday party supplies inspired by the Percy Jackson series judging by the pictures you posted! Creating those supplies must have been hard but they're worth the time!

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