Monday, January 31, 2011
A Winter's Knight Party: Putting it All Together
Our son requested a knight party for his birthday. I wasn't sure how this would go at first, since the party would be in January and most knightly games involve ACTION more suited to out-doors, but we brainstormed and came up with a plan...
On the back of the invitation, a small poem set our party mood and gave hints about our games:
What’s a knight to do?
Rest until the snow melts?
Wait for something new?
Lances, swords and arrows
Are never quite at rest.
A knight must always practice
For future games and quests.
The dragon’s gotten restless,
The falcons need to fly,
So come to (name)’s party
And give your skills a try!
For thank you notes, we included a photo of each child in knight attire that could fit inside the castle doors.
We covered our cake/party table with a yellow plastic cloth. With purple plates, gold napkins, and goblets (plastic wine glasses from Target with self adhesive jewels from craft store), we really had a royal-looking, knightly gathering place! My kindergartener LOVED making the goblets. Our table center piece was a "fire lamp" found on ebay. I scattered some silver tinsel around the base of the lamp, then sprinkled the golden dots from the helmet construction for more pizazz. On each plate were several sword shaped plastic food picks for grabbing fruit/cheese/snacks in medieval style.
The castles, stone full of swords, spider webs, falcons (extras were hanging in key locations), joust props, and dragon from the games also acted like decorations and gave our party place a great atmosphere.
We decorated our guests, too! I sewed tunics from felt (red, blue or yellow). These were simple, over the head rectangles (13x18.5ish inches, or, two tunics out of 3/8 yard of 72" felt from fabric store). I added a neck hole, cut a narrow "D" shape for the arms, and added 1 foot of 1" silver ribbon to each side for ties.
Also, each knight was given a favor bags were made from brown remnant fabric. I sewed simple drawstring bags and added a long handle so the knights could wear the bag over their shoulder to collect prizes from the games as we went along.
The final part of the costume was a very cool helmet made from poster board found at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cool Knights section: http://www.clevelandart.org/learn/Educator%20Programs.aspx
The visor really lifts! (Held by brass fasteners).
ACTIVITIES AND GAMES
1) Decorate your own shield craft A perfect way to keep our guests busy while waiting for everyone to arrive.... I cut shield shapes out of medium sized cardboard boxes and hot glued a 1" strip to the back for handles (add some duct tape for extra security). I just set out the markers and let them at it. Some of the boys were really into their art, others did something quick. However, they ALL enjoyed their shields and eagerly took them home. We didn't use the shields until the end of the party, so a couple of kids returned to add more decoration at different points of the party.
2) Cleaning the Castle: Centipedes Game Over the fall, our castle had became dirty... there were large centipedes taking over the walls... Knights to the rescue! It was their job to remove the centipedes, which they were happy to do, because they were gummy candy. The creatures were hung by string from the ceiling. The knights had to keep their hands behind their backs and use just their mouths to remove the centipedes. Much laughter and joy ensued from this simple party game! It was a silly way to start the party and help the kids get over their new-place jitters! Setting the stage for the next game... I asked, "would their be another way for knights to clear insects from the kingdom?" Each knight received a homemade felt knight finger puppet for their favor bag.
3) Flying Falcons Game Knights and falcons go together like... HISTORY! We discussed how the falcons that knight's used to fly get restless over winter, so it is critical that knights take them out of the castle to stretch their wings and catch some fresh grub! In this game, knights work with a partner. The falcon is made of cardstock paper with painted details on a recycled cardboard tube. A string is stretched through the paper tube falcon from one knight to his/her partner. To fly the falcon, the child nearest the bird must raise their end of the string up while the other child lowers their end to the floor, keeping the string taut, so that gravity glides the bird down the string. Once the kids got the hang of flying the falcon, it was time to go insect hunting. On the bottom of the falcon's outstretched feet was a hot-glued magnet. On the floor between the fliers were small popsicle sticks with stretchy/rubber insects rubberbanded to one side and magnets hot-glued to the other. (Of course, real knights would use hawks and larger falcons to go MAMMAL hunting. In this party game, we opted for a smaller, insect eating species because my boys didn't want to hunt rabbits or other furry "game" for their party.) Each knight collected a squishy bug for their favor bag from this game.
4) Storm the Castle Catapult Game The knights flung tiny boulders from miniture catapults at a castle cut out and retreived a "boulder" (bouncy ball) for their favor bag. I mostly followed the directions for making a teeny tiny catapult from http://www.stormthecastle.com/catapult/teeny-tiny-catapult/make-the-teeny-tiny-catapult1.htm , but substituted colored duct tape for all but the hinge, thinking that kindergartners might be hard on regular masking tape. I also used craft sticks rather than popsicle sticks. So, I had to adjust the dimensions a bit as craft sticks are wider than popsicle sticks. For "boulders", I cut squares out of a dark green piece of packing foam (soft) that I had lying around. I snipped the edges to give them a cut-stone look and soaked them in a paste of corn starch and baking soda to add weight. I didn't want the knights to fire at each other, trying to keep this as non-violent as possible, so I made two castle targets out of foam board. The knights were having so much fun targeting the castle (windows, open doors) that firing against each other never came up.
5) Clean the Castle: Spider Webs! Outside the castle had gotten full of spider webs throughout the fall. Could the knights help clean them off using a bow and arrow?
I drew spider web targets with a silver pen on black cardstock. I taped the cardstock onto cardboard box sides (the ends of the boxes from making shields) to make them sturdy, and stood two cans of food behind to weight them. My plan was to stand them up on our deck railing outside and let the kids take turn shooting at it. However, it was snowing heavily, so we shot the bows and arrows inside, with the targets set on the couch. This worked just fine, but was a bit squishy for elbow room. Usually, bows are made from a strong but flexible piece of wood and a sturdy string. Ours were made from a sturdy, inflexible stick and rubber bands looped together. We used pencil-width wooden dowels for the arrows. The ends were notched so they could better fit/grip the rubber band string. The knights recieved a lego bow and arrow piece for their favor bag (from pick-a-brick online). (Note: this game was a parent/kid compromise. Kids wanted a bow and arrow game, mom wanted non-violent alternatives, so shooting at spider webs was our compromise!)
6) Feed the Dragon Game (The kids insisted that we didn't play a game that would hurt the dragon.) Oh, no! The friendly dragon that lives near our castle has lost his fire! The dragon is feeling sad and grumpy! Are there any brave knights that could deliver fire back to the dragon and save the castle? In this game, our knights attempted to throw magic "fire" balls (from Merlin, of course!) into the dragon's mouth. Dragon eggs for all who attempt the brave deed (I hid dragon puppets and some candy in large easter eggs that looked like jewels and a parent helped me hide them in another room while we were throwing fire).
I assembled a dragon from boxes and hot glue. The dragon's mouth was open, with teeth made of regular paper, so the knights would be able to throw the fire in. I made fire balls just big enough to fit a bouncy ball inside (basically a red pocket with "flames" sewn in the edges from black, red, and gold remnant fabric with yellow, orange and red ribbons for effect). The knights put their bouncy balls from the catapult game in and took turns tossing the fire into the dragon. The fireballs were my favorite creation of the party.. .they look really cool flying through the air with their flames dancing around. I will definitely be making these again!
7) Joust Game With Lances "Here ye, hear ye," says the King. "It is time for the knights to show off their jousting skills!" Object of game: throw lance through golden hoop
How to play: saddle up your horse, grab a lance, charge at target and toss lance through
Bystanders: cheer on their fellow knights with friendly bugle calls
Reward: bugle, chocolate silver coins, and king finger puppets
First I made bugles for the bystanders from 1) cardboard tube (paper towel or wrapping paper), 2) top third of a 1 liter pop bottle, 3) handle from 1 gallon milk jug, 4) gray poster paint, 5) golden spray paint, 6) hot glue gun.
To make the joust target, we made a wood frame from 2"x2" lumber pieces. The frame was decorated with red flags sewn from a small fabric piece and draped with blue and yellow plastic table cloths. The target was a cardboard loop painted gold.
The lances were made from a pipe foam insulation tube striped in royal purple duct tape.
For the stick horse and scooter horse, I fashioned sock horse heads from materials we had around the house: stuffing from an old pillow, old socks, felt pieces, googly eyes, and ribbon. I fitted the head over two dowels and duct-taped it on to the scooter. For the stick horse, I just duct-taped the head to a large dowel stick. The kindergartners all chose to play the game with the stick horse, leaving the scooter to some of the 3rd graders.
8) Sword In the Stone Game What would a knight party be without swords? Instead of just handing the swords out to the knights, I put them in a "stone" that made from the box the swords were shipped in. I used a sponge and several shades of gray paint to give it a rock like look. The kids didn't seem to care if it mostly still looked like a cardboard box. They really roll with it when you get their imaginations going! I told them the story of Merlin and the sword in the stone and challenged them to see if they could become king by pulling the swords out. Of course they could, and I gave them a merlin finger puppet to help remember the story. The weather did eventually clear, so I first let the kids try out the swords as boys do, against each other. They had great fun chasing each other and employing their shields and helmets. When the excitement notched down a bit, I brought out red/yellow/blue balloons for the boys to target. This was a GREAT idea..they would have continued for dozens of balloons, I'm sure. It was a relief for everyone to focus their energy on the balloons instead of each other! The kids played with their swords until their parents came to pick them up.
CAKE AND PARTY SNACKS
We took a cake and present break between games 6 and 7 above. When I saw photos of a dragon cake on family fun (http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/fire-breathing-cake-687620/), I was sure this would be a hit with my son... It was! Perfect for a knight party and easy to make. Of course, theirs is much cuter than mine, but the kids loved it anyway...It is cut from one cake mix/recipe baked in two 9" rounds and frosted in green. Candy pieces for decoration include: gum drop claws, marshmallow/choc chip eyes, Hershey kiss nostrils, chocolate graham scales, fruit roll up tongue/wings. Also on the table were bowls of fruit (grapes and strawberries) and snacks (cheetohs and pretzels). At each place setting was a chocolate champagne bottle and a star lollipop (blue and yellow).
I had two very tuckered out knights after this event, Birthday Boy and his big brother. One tuckered out Mom, too. But boy did we have a great time making forever memories. My son's eyes shone with glee the whole time. And guess what? One of guests wore his costume to show and tell at kindergarten the next week! And knights still play in costume at our end of the neighborhood...