For our daughter's 8th birthday this year, the mission (and we did choose to accept it) was a Secret Agent Birthday party. What follows is an account of what happened and how we pulled it off. We've included links and downloads, if you're inspired to do something similar.
For your eyes only...
A good theme makes all the difference for a great party. Our daughter chose "Secret Agent" this year (and by chose, we mean, "Mommy has a cool idea for a party, what do you think about Secret Agents?"). It wasn't total railroading - they are both into Club Penguin agents and Spy stuff so it was an easy sell.
Our premise was this: all the guests were selected to attend a Secret Agent Training Camp, with us as the agent trainers. This gave structure to the day, reasons for all the goofy things we would do, and an excuse for us to boss them around like Drill Sergeants in Full Metal Jacket (not really).
We've learned the hard way to game plan our parties with more activities than we believe can fit. While having an agenda with times specified in 10-15 minute intervals sounds a bit anal-retentive for a kids birthday, it is a million percent better than running out of things to do with 20-30 minutes left. That would invite mutiny. We always keep a reserve activity (this time a 20 minute spy movie) in case we are running short.
Here is our idea list and final agenda for Secret Agent Training Camp:
|You can see that many ideas didn't make the final cut and even on the final list the "Clue ID" and "Spy Movie" both got canned due to lack of time.|
The day started with a pre-training briefing:
- They were told they were now in Secret Agent Training Camp.
- The first mission: Ninjas had stolen the birthday cake and the loot bags. Once all the agents were trained, the ninjas agreed to call with the cake's location. (Why Ninjas? We dunno, ninjas are cool?)
- Following that, the newly minted secret agents could complete the Final Mission: find the loot bags, which the ninjas also made off with.
Here's how the party activities shaped up:
1. Secret Agent Passports:
We made fake agent passports from around the world. The Passports let them keep track of what they had to do next and provided some excitement for coming "Spy Classes".
You can print our passports by clicking on the images below:
2. Secret Agent Names:
Secret Agent Names were created by drawing two slips of paper from 2 jars:
- One with a colour (one for each child)
- One with a noun (again, one for each child) to create cool names (thanks to Chicken Babies for inspiration for this). They wrote their code names on a name tag sticker and on their passports.
Here's what we used (click here to go to the printable):
The kids were encouraged to call each other by their agent names (with varying degrees of success - Silver Ninja was cool; Orange Dancer, less so).
3. Interrogation Practice:
In a blatant knock-off of Headbandz/ 20 Questions and other such games, we taped pictures to the backs of each kid and had them circulate around asking "Yes/No" questions of each other. The goal was for them to guess their own identity.
Click the images below to print:
You definitely need to keep the instructions simple and give them ahead of putting the pictures on their backs. There will likely be at least one, "Ohhh, coool! You're Lighting McQueen!", but for the most part it worked pretty well. Most kids had a lot of fun with this, others found it infinitely frustrating (and let us know it...over and over).
4. Master of Disguise (Craft):
Isn't this Disguise Kit from The Project Girl fabulous?
Once we saw it we knew we needed to use it somehow to make a craft. We kept it ultra simple by making paper plate masks. The idea was to cut out disguises from printed copies of the download, but we kept it loose. We had lots of markers, glue sticks and all kinds of bibs and bobs the kids could use how they like.
5. Target Practice:
Our spy target game featured a giant drawing of a cartoon-like agent as the target, along with doodles of othery agenty forms of transportation. We used our fun Nerf foam dart guns. There were points written all over the page and the kids collected points for the numbers they hit. You got bonus points for disabling his car or helicopter. (He also looked a bit like a flasher, so we figure the kids are learning an important safety lesson there, too.)
We did this training activity in our basement workshop and kept a small table between the kids and the target. Extra foam darts would be helpful, because despite hanging a sheet behind the target, many misses went wide and into the workshop mess, yet to be found.
6. The Laser Course:
This laser course was the idea that inspired the whole party. We saw the idea on Pinterest and came courtesy of Chicken Babies (check out the link for even more spy party ideas). This was hands down the biggest hit of the day! Kids came back to go through it again and again at the end of the party while we waited for pick-ups.
To create the Laser Course:
- get some streamer paper in the laser colour of your choice
- use low tack (painters) tape to create "lasers" at various angles across a hallway. (We started with three lasers and because our basement hall was so short we added a sofa table as the entrance to up the challenge.)
- After each kid went through the lasers another laser was added.
You could play this like Limbo - eliminating any players who touch a laser. We chose to just let the kids go through it till it got really tough and then move on to the next event (basically because they loved doing it so much, it was going to cause tears if we started eliminating kids).
7. Ninja Bomb Cupcakes:
We're not sure if it's just the gang our children hang out with, but special desserts made of the finest ingredients are entirely wasted on them. Basically, they eat the ice cream and lick the icing off the cake. We minimized the cake baking and cutting labour by using cupcakes. From a mix. And canned frosting. Seriously, anything more will go completely unappreciated. We baked chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, then popped in some licorice 'wicks' and tada! you have mini-bombs that Spy vs. Spy would be proud of.
Robin printed some mini-ninjas from Zakka Life (find it here) to make them even more sneaky looking. And yes, spys and ninjas are not mutually exclusive themes. But, again, ninjas are just plain cool and these cupcake-ninjas are adorable.
8. The Final Mission: Loot Bag hunt:
The final mission was to locate the loot.
We put the Loot Bags in an old, black Samsonite briefcase that looked very Spy-y and locked it. The hunt then became about finding clues that would lead them to the keys for the briefcase.
We used this QR Code Generator to create printable codes that would be clues. (If you're wondering what QR codes are, they are the little, square bar codes meant for Cell Phone or iPod scanning. They usually take you to a website or contest). This code generator allows you to create text based clues that don't need internet access.
We created clues that specified which spies had to go and what areas they had to look. This meant all kids could take turns hunting. They went in pairs to find each clue and bring it back to the home base where Ed then scanned it and read out the next clue. The final clue lead to the hiding spot of the briefcase keys. The loot bags were rescued!
9. Secret Agent Music:
Since our party activities migrated all over our house, the music created atmosphere from every radio we own by sending the music via fm transmittor (read more on that in Ed's previous post here).
Our final Track list (all culled from eMusic at $.50 a track) were:
- Secret Agent Man - The Surfessentials Cover Version
- Peter Gunn Theme - Henry Mancini
- 007 - John Barry
- Mission Impossible - Electronic Version - Lalo Schifrin
- Theme From Get Smart (cover) - The Remotes
- The Pink Panther Theme - Henry Mancini (that guy is a theme machine)
- James Bond Theme (From Dr. No) - Ingrid Peters
Not tonnes of variety, but enough to keep it interesting.
Our daughter loved her birthday party - and so did we. This Secret Agent Training Camp was our favourite so far!