Last year my son discovered Harry Potter. We’d tried reading the first book when he was in third grade, but we didn’t finish it because it got too scary. Half way through fourth grade, though, he tried again and was hooked. He read all seven books within a few months and I read along with him. I’d caught up by the seventh book but he wanted to finish first. So I stayed up all night reading the entire thing and then lied to him and let him think he finished first. I’m not sure if that makes me a good mom or a bad one.
At any rate, I loved the books and movies as much as he did, so I went completely crazy making the most fun Harry Potter 10th birthday party I could. The story is just so rich with things to use for party planning: food, costumes, props, spells, characters, games . . .I could have gone on forever. I did spend a little too much but I did a lot of it myself too, with simple craft supplies and things we already had or borrowed from friends. It is by far my best birthday party yet, and I don’t know if another theme can come close to the fun and excitement of this one.
Here’s a bit about how I did it, followed by a gallery of images so you can see for yourself. Where applicable, I’ve also provided a link to the source of materials I found when shopping for this party.
I found recordable envelopes online and covered them with red scrapbook paper to make Howlers. My son recorded a message like “Hey Ben! You’d better come to my party or else!” or something like that, so when the kids opened the invitation it yelled at them. The real invitation was inside the Howler, made in Publisher with a clip art scroll and a free font I downloaded. (Update: I’ve added a PDF of the invite I designed for you to use. Just click here to download!) The Howlers were tied with string and sealed with a wax Hogwarts seal, then put in 9X12 envelopes. The mailing label featured a owl-and-scroll line drawing, to emulate mailing them by “Owl Post.”
Here’s where I went perhaps the most crazy. I completely wallpapered my dining room with flagstone paper to create the Great Hall. We taped it to the crown molding at the ceiling, then to itself, until we reached the floor boards and taped it down again. It was a slow process, but not really that hard. And it absolutely made the party magical. In the morning (because of course my husband and I hung the paper at midnight) my son stood in the room and sighed “This. is. so. cool.” Absolutely worth the $75 in paper and the hours on the ladder.
I also hung glow sticks from black tulle to create floating candles and taped paper from a Harry Potter themed scrapbook pack (all bought at Micheals) on the walls for art. Toys and props, many of them borrowed, surrounded a Hogwarts banner and created a great display area for the Quidditch broom cake with Golden Snitch cupcake.
The entrance to the Great Hall was set up as Platform 9 3/4. A trunk, Hogwarts robe, Gryffindor scarf, and toy Firebolt (all borrowed from a friend but readily available online), the Quidditch balls I made, and Hedwig and a poster (Amazon) made a dramatic entrance to the hall. Even 10-year-old boys can appreciate a tablescape.
The hardest part was narrowing down the activities to just a few. We settled on Dueling, Potions, OWLs, Wizard Chess, and of course, Quidditch.
Each child was given a wand, which I made (with my husband’s help) from oak dowels and bits of leather, twine, feathers, and beads. I got this idea from my friend Kristen’s Harry Potter party and her amazing wands. And by got this idea I mean totally copied it. My husband cut them to size and sort of whittled them down so they were narrower on one end. I stained and distressed them and then decorated with leather, twine, feathers, and beads. Fortunately, the wand chooses the wizard, so I just handed out each wand from behind each child, making a ceremony out of it. There was then no chance for argument about a favorite wand. I just had to repeat “the wand chooses the wizard,” which of course they accepted as absolute fact. Everyone knows that.
To calm down and cool off (my son’s birthday is in July), we came back to the Great Hall for OWLS, or Ordinary Wizarding Levels. These were actual tests I created about spells and Harry Potter trivia. Again, I really couldn’t believe how seriously they took this – they actually quietly sat and took their tests. (Download PDFs of the Spells Test and Harry Potter Trivia.)
The kids fueled their duels and exams with unrestricted access to ridiculous amounts of sugar at the Potions table. I had these bottles stored in my basement for years because I just knew I’d want to use them some day. (I’m like that.) We filled them with soda and Gatorade in every color we could find. Then I did a quick search on “Harry Potter Potions” and came up with these actual Potions class ingredients. A little Publisher action, printing, cutting, and gluing later and I had these neat labels. The kids had a ton of fun making really gross-sounding potions that probably all tasted like Grape Crush.
We also set up a Wizard Chess table with two kid-sized chairs. (The chess set was borrowed and I had the table and chairs.) Each one of the kids actually sat and played chess at some point during the party, and it was a great calming activity between Dueling and Quidditch and mixing super-sugary potions!
But the most fun of all was Quidditch. I found several blogs online describing how to play Quidditch without flying, and modified the suggestions to work for our small group. My husband made hoops from some playground rings we had, dowels, 2X4s, and PVC pipe. They worked . . . well enough. I found a red ball at Target for the Quaffle, covered two foam balls in black paper and lots of tape for the Bludgers (I didn’t want them to actually hurt), and bought a Golden Snitch toy online.
The hardest part, though, was figuring out how to make the Snitch dart about frantically. My solution: my husband would BE the Snitch. This was hilarious to watch, and he did a great job weaving and dodging and making it hard for the players to catch him. (I even made him wear this yellow shirt with a snitch painted on the front. He’s an extremely good sport.)
Favors and Treats
I also went a little crazy creating treats and goodies from the books. There are so many in the first book alone – Acid Pops, Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, Licorice Wands . . . we made them all!
I found a chocolate frog mold on Amazon and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans on Alivans.com (a dangerous site if you love Harry Potter like we do!). We made Acid Pops by dipping regular lollipops into Pop Rocks, and Licorice wands by dipping Twizzlers in white chocolate.
I went back to my loyal HogwartsWizard font and made some labels to print on sticker paper. A little assembly and the Honeydukes logo (another quick Google search, print, cut, glue) and we had our favor bags. Chocolate frogs were the hands-down favorite, but I liked the Cockroach Clusters best myself (chow mein noodles in chocolate).
The birthday boy requested a Firebolt cake and while I didn’t exactly nail the details, it was close enough. It was a late-night decision (I always do birthday cakes at 2 a.m., don’t you?) to use a branch for the handle instead of try to construct it with cake. Perfect. Just a bit of cake to frost and then I scored the broom with a fork. Done.
The Golden Snitch cupcakes were more fun. I traced a wing pattern onto some gold cellophane (available in a roll at Michaels) and cut out. I just stuck them into the yellow-gold frosting and dusted with gold sugar and displayed on a cupcake stand that makes it they look like they are flying.
Last but not least, Butter Beer of course! They were simply cream soda bottles with the labels soaked off and replaced with these awesome free printable labels. The boys were incredulous that I had managed to find Butter Beer. As if I was, indeed, magic. Printable downloads, boys. That’s my magic.
This party was the absolute most fun of the 13 themed kid birthday parties I’ve planned to date, all homemade and at home. Though I have a few birthday parties ahead of me (how long will my boys indulge me and let me throw these?), this one might be my magnum opus.
Check out the gallery below for more images. To see a larger image, click the thumbnail. You’ll be taken to a page where the image appears sort of medium-sized. If you click on that, you’ll get a very large version of the picture. Enjoy!