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Instruction manual for a Percy Jackson party

Ever decide to save money on a child’s birthday party and just throw the party yourself? 

Year after year our parties graduated from hiring clowns and magicians to renting the go-cart range.  This year we wanted to put all the money into his present (a new computer since the old one was driving US crazy), and just have a nice at-home gathering of his friends. 

The biggest problem- and I can see that now- is that I put myself in charge of planning it.  Stephen still wanted a cool party and...wait for it....I am competitive.  Challenge Accepted! (I am also jonesing for the next How I Met Your Mother, if you hadn't caught onto that!)

As I tried to decide on a theme, my soon to be ten year-old came up with the theme for me.  He wanted the Percy Jackson books to come to life.  Yay! Then I spent nearly two weeks coming up with Camp Half-blood ideas, scouring the internet for patterns and creating the items needed.  Poor me.  And poor you if you decide to go as crazy as I did.  If you do, I hope my details here can save you oodles of time. 

Party plan summery: welcome each child in and give them their camp shirt and sword.  While they await other campers they can put on the shirt and battle each other with their swords.  This would be a good time to explain the difference between ‘playing’ and ‘hurting’ and have them agree to only hit the swords, NOT the people. Offer them the ambrosia (sherbert and 7-up) if they feel they need their strength restored in-between battles.

Once campers are ‘in camp’, they can create their shields which they will need in battle. A supply of paint and a dollar store tablecloth (tarp to protect surfaces) are laid out and they will chat and design and paint. 

When the shields are done and while they dry, they are told of their mission.  Tell them the story of how Hades and Ares teamed up to try and take over Olympus and thus the world.  Once the story is told, explain that each camp must do their part to follow the clues that will lead them to find these wicked Gods and once found, they must be battled into submission.  

Each camp is then given their dried shields and their first clue.  They will follow the clues until Camp Half-blood and the world are saved from the villainous Gods. 

With the ungrateful world saved, the heroes will receive their laurel wreaths, as all worthy Greeks and Romans should have crowning their proud heads, and all will celebrate with Blue cake.  (You can explain Sally and Percy Jackson's blue food joke to them if you feel up to it.) Once the cake is consumed, a few games can be played until the parents arrive.

When the parents arrive, cleaning will be postponed and shoes will be removed.  Praises for an awesome party will be accepted, then any remaining child will be shooed away for one hour as parents experience a little ‘me time’.

Plan is not to be changed or any part of it to be deviated from, especially the last ‘me time’ section.  All individuals involved must agree before proceeding with following plan.
                                           _________Okay, ready? _____________

Plan, Step one.  The invitation.  I usually make my invitations and my thank you notes using Walmart’s photo cards.  I can make each one personalized and amazing, order it for one hour pickup, and it costs me a lot less than buying a pack of standard cards in the stationary dept.  (I know the dollar store would be two dollars cheaper, but, come on…personalized!  And still inexpensive.  To create invitations I usually find a picture of my son that fits the theme and design the card from there. Sometimes I find a way to incorporate the invitees faces into the invitation- like with the go-cart party.  I Photoshopped him and his friends into race cars.  They loved it.  Then I uploaded the image into the Walmart online card maker.  But often I am lazier and it’s just a picture of him. 
Like this invitation for an outdoor games party with a piƱata. 


This time though, I decided to just print up my own.  No help from Walmart.  Although I still used them for the Thank you cards.  This time I just opened up Photoshop and made my own.  The template will be on my Facebook page.

Step two.  Camp Half-Blood shirts.  This is a design I found on another blogger's site.  She didn’t have the template up so I downloaded the picture of her shirt and fixed all the distortions in Photoshop.  Then I decided to have four camps and added in their sigils. Hopefully my templates will save you time. 

To use the templates, just download the image, and after insuring it fits a 8 by 10 page spread, print it up.  Pull out your freezer paper (if you don’t have any, it’s usually sold next to all the wax paper and Ziploc baggies).  I set the shirt aside and taped the template onto a sheet of freezer paper and used an exact-o knife and a cutting board to cut out the pattern.  Then I ironed the waxy side of the freezer paper onto an orange shirt. (I picked up a handful of them at the .99 Only store.  Seriously, $1 each!)
When ironing the freezer paper to the shirt, use the cotton setting with NO steam.   

Once the template was ironed on, I used black    
fabric paint and dabbed (not rubbed- the freezer paper doesn’t hug the fabric that tightly!) the paint onto the shirt.

I let it dry and pulled the template off.  For the tiny pieces (like the circles I put back into the O’s and the B’s) I just pinched the fabric at the edge of the orphaned freezer paper and stuck my nail under.  Here are the templates, as well as print-ready sigils to cut and tape to clues I mention later.

Shirts done!  Now every camper can be outfitted for camp!  Since they keep their shirts, this also counts as part of the party favor.  A very NICE party favor!  

Now, to be true campers they would need to be outfitted with weapons.  I ordered swords off of Amazon because the ones in the party store were too pricy.  Had his birthday been in the summer I’m sure I could have found them at the dollar store.  Those stores rock!

For those of you who want to make your own, good news!  The storm up north prevented my swords from arriving, so I received a lesson in sword making as well.  

 Did I think to take pictures of the process?  No.  But I went to Home Depot and had them cut a length of 10 foot (½ inch wide) PVC pipe.  Each ten foot piping cost a little over a dollar.  After them cutting out the PVC, I grabbed the foam pipe covers just across the isle.  Luckily, I already had some pleather in my old sewing scraps.  If you find some, it makes for a nice touch on the handle.  I hot glued the foam cover to the pipe, leaving a five inch space for the handle, which I hot glued the pleather to.  I also cut the tip of the foam cover to a point and hot-glued that to hold a sword shape.  To create the hand guard, I cut a four inch section of the pipe cover, spread it out flat, cut a hole (an X really) in the middle and hot-glued that between the padding and the handle.  I was surprised at how well they held up.  After beating my husband (Hades) to a pulp, only the tips of a few of the swords were broken. 

For the shields, I could have just cut circles out of cardboard- and I did for one of them.  But I was running out of time and cheated a bit.  I found large cake boards at Hobby Lobby in a set of six.  They were the cardboard cutouts, but in circles much more perfect than I could have done.  They were the first six shields and the template to cut out the extra one I needed.  I hot-glued pleather straps to the back for handles and spray painted the fronts of the shields black.  I set aside gold paint for them to decorate over the black.  This was the first activity for the party, each child creating their own unique shields.  

Once each child had their shields designed and painted, it was time to save Camp Half-Blood.   

Each camp was given a clue that started them in their element.  Poseidon started with water, Zeus with the sky, etc. They all used the same clues, but in different order so they could compete.  Then each ended with the same clue, the one that took them outside to battle Hades and Ares. 

These were the clues they needed to solve.  I modeled the idea off of another site, and you are welcome to do the same here.

The Underworld.  The hall has arrows that say ‘descend’ and then as they walk on, ‘down’ and in the laundry room, ‘to the underworld’.  I did a last minute job of it, I know you can do better! These were the clues for those looking for the underworld.  (the garage.)  There were flashlights on the floor.  The floor of the garage had a 10 foot spread of blue paper from the school supply store ($4) The boatman was waiting for them by the “river Styx”.
Clue to get them there:

Descend, descend- it’s a dark, black sight.
To travel there you’ll want a flash light. 
Into the underworld your fears must be shed,
Then through the river Styx which flows with the dead.
You’ll need one drachma to get you through,
And send you back with one more clue. 

(The boatman does not let them cross.  He tells them they must have a drachma to cross, and once they have the drachma they must return for their clue.  He recites the drachma 'clue'
and hands them the a paper copy so they can go off to figure it out).  This clue lead them upstairs where four balloons were stuffed with a coin each, blown up and tacked to the dartboard.  Believe it or not, even with the balloons looking out of place tacked to the dartboard, some of the kids still needed the 'Oracle' to help them think it through- BUT NOT TELL THEM!

Your archery lessons served you well,
So up the stairs your arrows dwell.
They are sharp and small, the size of a spoon.
The perfect arrow to hit your balloon.
In the balloon your drachma does hide-
Then back to the river to turn the tide.

Once they get the drachma from their popped balloon they go back and get the underworld clue: they toss the drachma into a bucket and are allowed to cross the River Styx.  There they are handed the next clue, each camp has their own clue stamped with their camps sigil on it. (Each has the sigil so the boatman doesn’t get confused and hand out the wrong clue!)
Zeus’s Sky. The roof of the club house has lightning bolts, made from poster board hung at different lengths with fishing line.  Four of the lightning bolts have a sigil on it.  The campers must find their Sigil and yank off only that lightning bolt clue. The clue that guides them there:

Go outside and stand up tall.
Reach for the sky where Zeus rules all.
Climb to his realm and stop the revolt,
Look for your task on his Lightning Bolt.

Poseidon’s Sea. I found these party favor bubbles at Party City. I used them to hold the clues, and later, reused them for the party favors!  Each bubble, or as I called them, Pearls, had the camper’s sigil on it so they could easily spot the one they needed and fish it out with the net. I took this picture after I had already collected them from the campers and removed the sigil to reuse the bubble so I could fill it with candies and such. 

For some people a bathtub might be a better choice.  That way, no net or guardians will be needed. The clue that leads them here:

The sea of monsters can suck you in,
If the water’s in a spin.
But today you are lucky- and the water is still,
Reach right in, but reach with skill.
Floating in a water bubble
Is the clue to help your trouble.

Apollo’s $##@!  Apollo was an addition- part of the stress- we had need for one more camp and Stephen wanted Apollo!  So we sent him to Athena’s clue, since Apollo likes words and so does Athena…depending on whose books you read.  We put this clue in a little owl purse. Each rolled up scroll was tied, and a sigil was taped to the back.  Each camper was to find their sigil, same as always. (The scrolls were tucked into the purse so I didn't make it TOO easy.  I pulled this one out to show you how the clues looked.) Here is the clue that lead them to the purse:
The Goddess Athena
wants you to be wise,
When you seek her mascot,
who is small in size.
You’ve probably passed him many a time,
As you took the stairs and made your climb.
Printed on a little, white scroll,
Look! Tucked inside will be your goal.

For the last clue they meet Hades (Dad) and Ares (uncle David) who awaited their arrival, and the campers battled to save the world.  If you don't just happen to have a very Ares looking brother-in-law laying around the house, perhaps other parents of the invitees might want to play Camp Half-blood with you!

Ares was the god of war,
Fighting never was a chore.
He and 'ol Hades made a pact,
The odds against you are truly stacked.
But if you’re strong and do not rattle,
You may join them in a battle.
Step out front, you’ll be well matched,
And earn your crown when they’re dispatched.

This final clue was their favorite part.  After defeating Ares and Hades (and let me tell you, Hades was stubborn about being defeated!), they then battled each other- just because they didn’t want the battle to end! 
But after each camp won a battle against Ares and Hades, they received their laurel wreaths. 

These were just a top and bottom leaf repeated over and over.  Perhaps you’ll find another medium that is firm yet flexible, or maybe you’ll get as lucky as me and find a set of three shirt boxes in the wrapping supply section of the dollar store. (These were found at the .99 Only store.) I was able to get two wreaths from each piece, and used the top and bottom sections. I painted these with the same gold paint I gave the boys for their shields.  That way they matched.  I’m kind of fashion savvy like that. 

Before camp was officially over, each camper was given a cord necklace with a bead to celebrate their first year. When I presented these, the kids all asked what bead I would make for their second year, because, as they said, they really wanted to do this again for Stephen's 11th birthday.   We'll see.  Who knows what great book they will want to emulate by then. 

To make these I used a slip knot so the kids could adjust them to the length they wanted.  (I Googled how to do this and watched tutorials on You Tube until my eyes went cross.  Perhaps you catch on quicker than me, it really wasn't as hard as I thought it was.)  

For the beads on the necklace, I used polymer clay (easy to find at Hobby Lobby) which I shaped into triangles, circles and such, used a toothpick to create the hole, then added a different color clay for the design ( I just used the sigils as the design), and baked at 275 for 30 minutes. Ta-da!
After that I tried to draw them in for blue cake, but they loved the sword play so much, it took eons!  The party ran over time!   I had planned a few Minute To Win It games, but we never got time to play them.  (If you would like to try a few, I’ve added them at the end of this party manual.)

You wouldn’t think all of that took so much time in planning, but it did.  I’m a slow thinker…and the shirt designs and the clues and the order of the clues was so…so brain-melting hard for me!  And shopping for the perfect “pearls” for the clue in the pool…okay, I’m just whining now.   

Go plan your party, and have fun- I know the kids will!

Final step: With the party over, you still want to leave them dreaming of that awesome day.  A party starts with invitations, and it closes with those troublesome thank you letters.  Only, these thank you letters will keep the party fresh in their memories.  I’ve already shared my card making secret with you- Walmart one-hour photo cards.  Here is a sample of my Thank you card.  
 I’ve left out any mention of what they gifted to Stephen- I figured they already knew- and just thanked them for being a part of it all.  Feel free to use this part as well.  Each Child had his name on his card, and the middle pictures of that child battling the Gods, and then receiving their laurel wreaths were personal to them.  All the other pictures I imbedded in all the cards.  Just keeping it simple

 Please visit our children's book website: HoustonChildrensBooks 


Minute To Win It games 
(If you find you still have time!)

Box scramble  (Discovering your demi god)  Use Percy Jackson pictures instead of cereal.
This challenge is great for children and easily adapted based on the age. Collect the front of various cereal boxes. Cut them into 16 pieces of the exact same shape. This can be adapted for younger children by cutting less pieces or using different shapes, puzzle style. Everyone has a Minute to Win It by putting together the front of their cereal box. Be sure and collect and cut one cereal box front for each child, this one is not as much fun to watch as it is to play.

Nose Dive (collecting the pearls)
The only supplies needed for this challenge are 2 bowls, cotton balls and petroleum jelly. The contestant dips their nose into the petroleum jelly then moves 5 cotton balls from one bowl to another, one at a time. Place the bowls on two tables about 5 feet apart. Too little petroleum jelly and the cotton ball will fall off, too much and they won't be able to shake it off their nose. Be sure and "clean" the petroleum jelly before the next child sticks their nose in it. You can also adjust the number of cotton balls based on the age of the child.

Dizzy Mummy (Making Medusa’s statues)
This challenge is a Minute to Win It favorite. The object of the game is to unwind an entire roll of toilet paper, mummy style without tearing it. The only material you will need is a roll of toilet paper and a pole of some kind to hold the roll of paper. Set up a pole, and drop a roll of toilet paper over the pole. A plunger works well on a table top for a child's height. Attach the plunger to the table so it does not fall over. (Again, Duct Tape works.) The child must hold on to the end of the toilet paper and spin around, unrolling the toilet paper, wrapping it around themselves, mummy style. If the toilet paper tears, it is game over.

Marble race  (Or the taxi ride from the lotus casino)
Using a piece of construction paper, you will need to balance a marble on the paper and race from one side of the room to the other. You have to keep your hands on the very end of the construction paper. You must use both hands, and it cannot be held in the middle of the paper. Once you get to the finish line on the opposite side of the room, you need to quickly roll the marble from the construction paper into a plastic cup. You can only use your hands to manipulate the construction paper but not to touch the marble.

Defying Gravity (floating Olympus)
Challenge each contestant to defy gravity by keeping 3 balloons in the air at the same time by gently tapping them. Depending on the child's age, you can use fewer balloons. It is harder than it sounds. There are no special requirements or prep work for this other than blowing up the balloons. If you have more than one child playing at a time then assign specific color balloons to specific children. If a child touches the wrong color balloon they are out.

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