Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Treasure Island Birthday Party and Treasure Hunt

Zack initially wanted to have a "regular" birthday party this year. I guess by regular he means no theme?  I guess that's a clue that my asking him what theme he wanted was not going to work!  When I started talking pirates instead, he was all for it.  I was excited too until I realized that everything pirate has skull and crossbones all over it.  It's not that I'm anti-skull and crossbones.  See, there is one in the picture.  But I didn't want absolutely everything covered in skull and crossbones images for a five year old (ok, six now).  I'm trying to hang onto his youth!

So, we made it into a Treasure Island party.  Zack has a children's illustrated abridgment of the novel Treasure Island (sorry, I don't have a link to the abridgment we have) that we read to him last summer and he still loves it.  I even got him a matching coloring book at Christmas.  I hadn't read the story until I first read it to him.  I followed up by reading the full version myself and thought the children's version was well done.  It just came from the bin at Hobby Lobby so it was totally affordable for a party favor!  We gave that to the big kids and the matching coloring book to the younger siblings.  It was fun to give something we have a personal attachment to.

We were out at garage sales (at Zack's request) when we noticed the boys playing around with a pile of something that looked like it would make a ship.  I did a double-take, envisioning the centerpiece it could make.  James was so shocked at my interest in a giant plastic toy that he almost fell down, but the boy selling it said he thought most of the parts were there so we piled it all in a box and left with it for the super bargain price of $7.  James had to figure out hot to put it all together.  Check how it turned out:

There is a Jolly Roger at the very top that doesn't show in the photo.  It has maybe eight different sounds it makes, multiple trapdoors, cannons that flash and shoot little darts, a breakaway side, a lifeboat, a treasure chest, barrels and more.  It's quite an impressive item (it appears to be the large ship from this set with different sails) measuring 30 inches long when assembled!

I had fun with the invitations but forgot to save one so I can't show the finished item.  I can show the inside, which has the map from Stevenson's book as a watermark in the background.  Isn't that fun?? I was pretty tickled with it.  It was printed on tan paper and then folded and decorated to make it look like a treasure chest. The treasure chest look was created by stamping with a woodgrain background stamp, inking the edges, rounding the top corners and adding some darker vertical strips to the outside.  The lock was an office supply brad glued onto the top so that when closed, the brad overlapped the bottom part (clear as mud?  I really need a picture here! Oh well.).

Now, here's the problem:  I put this text about looking for treasure on the invitation... so I was compelled to come up with some kind of treasure hunt!  Aaack!  I didn't know how to do a treasure hunt.  I stressed and wrung my hands about it for the entire time between writing the invitations and the night before the party.  I got great input from friends and family but I had this vague sense in my mind that I wanted it to follow the book and didn't know how to make that happen.  I kept putting it off - preferring to stress and complain rather than do something I guess? - until the very last minute.  James took the children on an errand and I told myself, "I must figure out the treasure hunt right now in case I need James to pick up anything."  I sat down and wrote the whole thing in about an hour and came up with something we loved!  Now why couldn't I have done that two weeks before and saved myself the anxiety??

The Treasure Hunt

If you would like to see how the treasure hunt was done, here you go. 

The uncut piece of paper was a list of numbered instructions I read, one at a time.  Each gave a bit of narrative and a hint where to find the corresponding clue.  Each clue was a strip of paper that gave a little bit of the story. 

We did them in order, revealing the basic (slightly nice-ified) plot of Treasure Island.  When we had all the clues, we fit them together in order and taped them, then turned the taped paper over to reveal the simple riddle of where the final treasure was hidden.

The papers were all just printed on tan cardstock with the Stevenson Treasure Map in the background.  I used the Blackadder ITC font for a cool pirate-y look, though even the readers couldn't always read the script lettering. 

The treasure box was a hinged top shoe box (Nike) that I painted brown and added some horizontal black brushtrokes to make it wood-like.  I painted a lock with gold - all cheap craft acrylics.  We filled it with little mesh bags of chocolate gold coins, one for each kid, and glow bracelets. Pretty fun stuff.

Our final activity was dessert.  Instead of cake we served Treasure Sundaes with ice cream, various syrups, crushed oreos and gingersnaps, peanuts, walnuts, m & ms, sprinkles, whip cream and cherries.  Good times!


  1. Very VERY impressive. I always say that time pressure is the best fodder for the imagination; I do my best work on a deadline.

  2. Thanks, Sadia! Yeah, you are right - a deadline focuses the mind :) But, I wish I'd remember that and not stress earlier, ha.

  3. Sounds like it turned out great! When so I get to see the rest of the pictures??? Maybe you could ask all your friends if anyone kept one of the invitations and if so could you have it back to take a pic of it?? I really want to see how they turned out!

  4. That invitation is still on my fridge. I'll see if I remember how to send it electronically so you can share it.

  5. Ahoy, Deanna! Job well done on the party planning! I’m glad that you brought the idea of pirates and treasure hunt to Zack. Having a party with a theme sounds more fun than having a regular one. Also, having a specific idea on what kind of party you want would make the planning easier and convenient. I’m sure Zack would want a repeat of his treasure hunt themed party next year! Maybe you can spruce it up a bit and have a whole new theme for his next party!