Our First Minecraft Party was a pretty big deal. In the cyberworld, over a quarter million folks have checked it out - and dozens of people have been kind enough to leave comments about how well their party turned out with our ideas. #bestpartofblogging
More importantly, in the real world, our son loved it. For months leading up to his birthday this year, he was been telling us "I want a Minecraft Night Party this time." We smiled and nodded and said, "Wouldn't you rather do another type of birthday?". Nope.
So, as it became clear that we were committed to a second coming of Steve and friends, we needed some clarification. Chiefly, a Minecraft Night Party isn't a sleepover or a party at night. What he wanted was a bigger kid version of Minecraft, with more of the creepy monsters (or MOBs, in Minecraft-speak) that come out at night. Once we established this, ideas began to percolate.
Read on, check them out and enjoy laughing at our scheduling genius that saw us plan a 4 hour party for 8 kids. Yup, you read that right. Four. Hour. Party.
So first-things-first. Our son has a summer birthday and we try to coordinate with people to make sure as many friends as possible can come. With travel, camping, cottages, etc you can't as easily guarantee attendance as you can during the school year. So we gave his closest friends a time range to see if it could work,
"Something like Sunday afternoon - between 4 and 8-ish. Does that work?"
When we got the OK, we sent the invite out for the masses, never thinking to narrow the time-frame down from 4-8. We had intended to make it, say 4-6 or 6-8 or even 5-7.
But we didn't. We totally forgot to do that part.
All the other parents must have silently smiled as they said, "Oh, yes, ______ will be there" and envisioned their own four hours of peace and quiet. The night before, we sat around thinking about all the activities and realized, "Holy Crap, we have a 4 hour party tomorrow! For 7 and 8 year-old boys! Run!!!!!".
But we stayed.
How did we survive? We just ran these activities, each with a good break for playing between each one:
1) Enderman T-Shirts:
Once again, we did shirts for all kids attending as a "Loot Bag item". But, the creepy Creeper shirts from last year were not creepy enough for a Night Party. Big 7- and 8-year olds need something much more scary.
A glowing-eyed, disappearing and reappearing Enderman was a fine inspiration.
|Yes, the eyes do indeed Glow in the Dark. As long as you print on Glow in the Dark paper.|
- Pick up some plain, black t-shirts in all the sizes you need. (Michael's is great if you can score a ___% off on your entire purchase coupon.)
- Buy some Glow Transfer Paper for Dark Fabrics. If you're just doing the eyes, one package will do.
- Print yourself our Enderman Eyes.
- Cut each eye out as close to the edge as possible and position on the front of the shirt as shown. Iron carefully as per your transfer paper instructions.
|Jolee's has a really good explanation of why you should trim - with visuals!|
- We also found another cool Minecraft image and printed it for the back, but the shirts look very cool with just the eyes too.
The unifying theme of this party was the crafting table. In Minecraft, you collect and combine items to create new items on the crafting table. This allowed us to create a "Recipe Book" for the party of things that would need to be crafted. Think of it as a scavenger hunt that must be done in sequence.
- Some Samples:
- Collect three Sticks to make a Sword (they bring me three little sticks from the yard, I give them a pre-made plywood sword).
- Collect a dandelion, water, green leaf, soil to make Paint (they bring me the items, I give them real paint).
- Collect a stick and dry leaves to get a Torch (I give them a leftover Minecraft Torch from last year)
- Loot Bags were Paper Bag + Markers to make a Minecraft Item Chest.
|Download the Blank Version and make up your own treasure-hunt recipes.|
You get the idea, I'm sure. The Crafting was great for a few reasons:
- It was a greater challenge, and even the 10-12 year-old kids at the party liked it.
- It was in our control - if we needed to speed things up (or stretch them out, as it were), we could add extra rules on the fly.
- It allowed for a layer of realism from the game that they all related too immediately, and no detailed explanations were needed.
- The kids pulled a few weeds for us ;)
3) Minecraft Swords 2.0:
Last year, I made the mistake of trying to replicate the pixelated look of Minecraft Pick-axes for the party. It was tedious and made me hate plywood, my jigsaw and pretty much everything in general. I encouraged you to ignore making the jagged edges as the kids don't care enough to warrant your frustration.
This year, I followed my own advice and again made swords that only looked similar to Minecraft ones, rather than tried to copy them exactly. I made them a little bigger and also added some Bigger-Kid challenges to the actual party craft:
- Get the Sword via Crafting Table Scavenger Hunt
- Get Sandpaper via Crafting Table Scavenger Hunt (paper + Sand = Sandpaper (I premade a bunch of sanding blocks with dollar store sandpaper; yes, Dollarama has sandpaper!)
- Have the kids sand the rough edges on their plywood swords. They got into this, with one even saying, "This is like when you have to rub a real sword on stone to make it sharp". I think he just saw that in a movie. I hope...
- Have them get paints via scavenger hunt and paint swords.
- Let them dry and then use to kill Mobs (monsters) in next activity.
4) Mob Battles!
This was extremely fun for everyone (including the worn out parent hosts during Hour 2 of the four hour party). So, of course, we were having too much fun to remember to take pictures. (Bad Bloggers. Bad.)
This was again used to get "tickets" for supper. This time the tickets were the "heads" of Night Creepies: Spiders, Skeletons and Zombies.
I printed these Faces onto cheap glossy paper and we taped them to balloons. The challenge was to find a safe (or safe-ish) way for them to all "kill" the balloons with the swords without it turning into a real-world bloodbath. (These Pixelated Minecraft balloons would be amazing, too!)
- One kid at a time in our net-walled trampoline with two-three balloon faces and sword.
- Kids bounces around and use Sword, elbows, butt, whatever to try and pop the balloon.
- Other kids stand around and cheer. Part Lord of the Flies, part Hunger Games. Just what every 8 year-old's birthday needs.
- Kids take turns till all the baddies are dead and everyone has tickets for supper.
It takes surprisingly long for each kid to "kill" their respective balloons. The plywood swords are pretty dull and if you slightly under-inflate really large balloons, they become even more difficult to pop. Use this to your advantage as required.
If you don't have a trampoline, sectioning off part of your lawn using tape or ribbon as a "Wrestling Ring" or Kill Zone or whatever you want to call it could work.
5) Mining in the Dark, a.k.a. Let's Make Some Cake!
No, Not really. Can you imagine baking with a houseful of birthday party wound-up kids? Even we aren't that foolish.
We instead used a recipe in our crafting book that made the kids go into our basement looking for Loot Bag Candy that would also unlock the ability to get Cake.
|There are millions of Minecraft Cake ideas out there - ours was a double batch of simple box mixes baked in square brownie pans, iced with chocolate and vanilla and decorated with Marshmallow Strawberries. So easy and the kids thought it was AMAZING.|
How we organized The Mining:
- Last year was a free-for-all, candy hunt in our darkened basement. This year we wanted more organization, so we made the kids partner up.
- We hid a bunch of candy, chocolate and these cheapo Dollar Store plastic Diamonds that Ed bought on a whim and turned out to be the most sought after item. We kept light levels near pitch-dark and and played this YouTube Playlist of creepy Minecraft Music.
- We still had two of the Minecraft torches we made last year, so each kid in the pair got one. For this you could substitute flashlights without any complaints, I'm sure.
- We had a timer and each pair got 1 minute to find as much loot as possible. The "Story" we told the kids was that after 1 minute, Minecraft Nightime happened and the monsters would get them. If they weren't out of the basement before the timer alarm went off, they had to leave their candy behind. We never actually enforced this, but it upped the excitement level for sure.
- Our basement was pretty dark, so we gradually upped the light level using dimmers, and finally turned the lights on and brought all the kids in to find any remaining candy.
Again, this activity was designed to be a Big-Kid event and would possibly scare younger Minecraft fans. For even bigger kids, you could up the intensity with all sorts of haunted-house-type scares. Know your audience, though, or expect angry phone calls from parents.
6) Creeper Pinata!
Of course you can buy a Creeper pinata - by now you know that's just not our style.
We had just purchased a larger, tower-style fan and the box was perfectly Creeper-shaped. A quick green paint job, some black tape for a face and green painter tape for green pixels and it was ready to go:
|Maybe Grandpa's a Minecraft fan? He seems to have painted his workshop classic Creeper-green.|
Again, we wanted them to use their swords and we wanted them to take turns so the injuries could be minimized. Robin had the idea to use our clothesline as a way to move the pinata to each kid, giving them all a chance to take a swing at it as it rolled past them.
|This worked fairly well (no deaths, other than pinata) and the kids got more candy to top up their loot bags.|
7) Played Minecraft
Of course, we opened presents, ate food and snacks and had boatloads of free-play time. We also used some laptop-connected-to-TV and some tablet time to let the kids actually Play Minecraft (which is something they will want to do - despite how lame it might sound to you).
Whew. That was a long one!
Any Questions, Comments or Bold Accusations, please feel free to comment away.