Pirate Birthday Party; or, thar be no fool’s gold here, only doubloons — savvy?


Lil’Bro doing the Captain Morgan at cake time

Prior to the Star Wars Birthday Party, there was an easier birthday party to plan.  Aye, me hearties, ’twas a pirate birthday parrrty.  Why was it easier?  If it’s okay that everything looks rustic and requires a great deal of brown craft paper and red paint that you already have in abundance, it’s easier than a Star Wars party.  This was actually a Jake and the Neverland Pirates party for 3 year olds, but why limit yourself to one Disney show when there is such  large pirate universe to explore?

Cardboard Box Pirate Ship

It all started with a box.  Again, that pesky bat in the spare bedroom that caused me to want to sell the house was the reason why I had so many boxes sitting in the garage.  In the midst of searching the internet to get pirate ideas, I came across this post for a cardboard box pirate ship.  It was on like Donkey Kong then — “Well I already got me some boxes cluttering the garage!”  This was the point when Dave knew I had lost my mind, when I started dragging huge boxes in the house and tried to say very nonchalantly, “Oh, I’m just building a pirate ship.  Well actually two.  No biggie.”  Batten down yer hatches, me darlin’ husband.

Using the inspiration from the post, I took a microwave appliance box (yes!  The very same box that later spawned the Star Wars styrofoam spaceship window!) and a wardrobe box (yes!  The very same box that later spawned the Millennium Falcon Wading Pool!) to create the stern of the ship and the bottom and sides.  I cut off one panel of the wardrobe box and used that piece to form the nose of the ship.  It was kind of scary how easy the frame came together.  After I completed the second one, I had to clean out the garage to make space in order to answer Dave’s very good question: “You made ’em — now where the hell are you going to put them?”


I toyed with the idea of spray painting them, but it was gonna take a lot of spray paint and possibly convert me into a tagger or a huffer.  This caused me to toy with the idea of not painting it at all, but that un-perfectionist insanity was short lived.  Where did I turn?  To craft paper of course.  I measured the circumference of the ships and unrolled a length of paper a little bit longer than that.  I folded the paper lengthwise (quite a chore) about three times to get six rows.  Using brown acrylic paint, I painted lines on the folds, a simple step which took a lot longer than I imagined.  A very very thick Sharpie might have been quicker but then again maybe not.  Anyway at random intervals I painted vertical lines to resemble wooden planks on the sides of the ships.  Now here was one of those little steps that made me do the Happy Crafty Dance (It looks a little like the Cabbage Patch and the Elaine put together and it ain’t pretty).  To mimic the nails on the boards, I dipped a wine cork (thanks Jen for the selfless hours of wine drinking to create that cork collection!) in black paint and stamped away on the 4 corners of each board. Boom.  Nailed it.  I taped the paper to one end of the ships and wrapped it around the ship, and then folded it down over the edges.  After looking at the silhouette, I ended up adding two small packing boxes to the top of the stern (the helo deck my ex – Navy co-worker Chris called it, remembering that fine tradition of pirates and helicopters).  I wrapped those too and glued them to the ship.


The ships were pretty much done.  A few weeks later I decided to add a porthole made out of blue and yellow paper, and a leaded glass window made to of blue paper and black electrical tape.  The last one did not stay on too well but it looked cool while it did.  I also found some blue striped wrapping paper to make sails — I ended up double siding them together to make them stffer, and printed out the Jake gold doubloon symbol to glue to it.  On the day of the party I took some spare moulding to make a mast and scuttled the ship (i.e. cut a slit in the bottom) to anchor the mast, and then taped it to the small packing boxes.  I hadn’t thought this part through beforehand and didn’t count on how the wind might actually catch the sail and kind of threaten to literally drop the boom on some poor kids, so I would advise further anchoring the mast in the ground or otherwise securing it better.  I made some cannon balls out of packing paper wrapped in small sections of black plastic trash bags, and invited the kids to have a battle between two ships, or try to sink the small “boats” I made out of leftover “wood siding” and diaper boxes.  Moms are never at a loss of small boxes while there are diapers in the house, heeyyyyyy.

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Roguish Decorations

Once I get a good idea going, the ideas just seem to keep on coming — my brain is like a hamster on a wheel sometimes.  I mean roll of brown craft paper, will craft.  I decided to make a birthday sign, table runner, and door sign that referenced a pirate map.  There was a great deal of cutting of gold doubloons printed from the Disney website, black sharpie treasure trails, and Disney character cut outs.  By the end, there were little bits of brown paper all over the house from weathering the sides to look like maps.

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I also took some scroll printer paper and created a useless but cute map of the house to show first time visitors where the bathrooms were, basically (or poop decks, and I didn’t even care if that is not what a poop deck is).


Using more character cutouts, scrapbook paper, fishing wire, and some wooden pirate cutouts from Michael’s, I created some dangling centerpieces for the table.


A totally inexpensive idea was the cutlery table.  I spray painted a wine box you get from the grocery store with a glossy red paint — it was a glossy surface so it took the paint well.  This was a utensil and napkin caddy.  I also happened to have a striped bedsheet which mimicked the ship sails, which i used as the table cloth.  Had it been slightly bigger I would have used it for the table.


Treasure chest and Loot bags

I really had no need for a treasure chest but it was such a damn good inexpensive idea.  A styrofoam cooler chest, painted brown, and glued with more wooden pirate cutouts from Michaels.  If I could have lined it with velvet I would have, but I did take a scrap of brown pleather and some leftover upholstery nails to cover up the top of the chest.  I decided to use it to hold the loot bags, which were large brown lunch bags with a pirate map glued to the front.  I made telescopes out of cardboard paper towel tubes, the scraps of pleather, and yellow paint.  I also included gold chocolate coins, gold Rolo-nuggets, and colorful Hershey kisses to mimic jewels.  I also included cheap eyepatches, Jake bubbles, and Jake stickers (the girls got pink patches, and I tied those bags with pink string instead of twine like the others).   BIG hit, like a cannonball on a British frigate.

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It has been my experience that corralling kids at a party for organized play is like herding cats, so I am a big believer in free play.  I set up a few stations:

Cardboard ships of course:  as explained above

Cork ships in a wading pool (yes!  The same wading pool that spawned the Millennium Falcon wading pool): At the last minute I decided to make a water station using a very clever cork ship idea.  My friend Jennifer came to my rescue with wine corks — I glued four together with two popsicle sticks for masts.  I cut pieces of craft foam for the sails.  I did test them beforehand and they floated fine, but at the party it was like Admiral Nelson and the British Navy beat the crap out of pirates — the ships fell apart.  I wish I had used the skewer and cork catamaran I tested before:


Unfortunately I did not take any close up pictures of the pirate ships, but since they apparently weren’t seaworthy, just pretty, it doesn’t matter.

Walking the plank: My dear husband, after much prodding from me, made a simple plank from a 2×6 and some other wood scraps.  I added a blue sheet to mimic water and made some shark fins from black card stock in a triangular shape (much like the Yoda ears from the Star Wars birthday party) weighted down with stones.  You can see it in the background (barely) below:


Food and Cupcakes

I made a pirate themed menu with little cards using the pirate map template and card stock.

  • Fish & Chips (Goldfish and potato chips)
  • Cannonballs and Peg-Legs (olives, carrot and celery sticks)
  • Guac the Plank (Guacamole and tortilla strips)
  • Fruity Booty (grapes, apples and pineapples)
  • Lemon Grog (lemonade), Apple Grog (apple juice), & Sea Water
  • Map-aroni and Cheese
  • Sea Dogs (hot dogs) — I had to look this up to make sure it wasn’t some obscene pirate reference but it’s Sir Walter Drakes’ crew.

Cupcakes were decorated with white frosting, mini chocolate chips to mimic a treasure trails, and strips of red licorice to make the X that marks the spot.  With some of the leftover batter I made a small cake for Lil’ Bro to blow out the candles, and decorated it basically the same way:


That was our Pirate party — there was fun for every-booty!  Even the grandpas made fools of themselves:



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Kathyann
    Sep 14, 2014 @ 08:50:03

    The fort was too cute and the treasure map looks like extra fun for the kids. Good job.



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