I will update you on Seattle shortly, but first there are more pressing things to do. Yesterday we held a Harry Potter party for our son who turned 7. When he said he wanted a Harry Potter party, I did loads of internet research. The stuff you can find online is amazing and thanks to a bunch of enterprising mums out there, I got all the inspiration I needed. I mentally promised that I would add to this collective pool of knowledge to help out any other mums who are tasked with this same job.
So here is a guide on how to throw a Harry Potter party:
I made this on my PC - a simple letter with the Hogwarts logo on top (google hogwarts images and you'll find loads). This was the wording:
Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore (Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. Of Wizards)
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and wizardry. Please join Harry Potter (also known as X X) in celebrating his 7th birthday on the first day of the school term.
You’ll find the magical school entrance at the XXX Village Hall. Term begins Sunday 13 February at 3.30pm sharp (the Sorting Hat won’t like latecomers). You may leave by broomstick with your parents at 5.30pm. Don’t worry about coming in uniform or bringing wands. They will be provided.
We await your owl by no later than 25 January. If your parents are muggles and don’t have an owl, they can email xxx or call xxx.
Professor M. McGonagall
I printed out the Hogwarts logo and stuck it on the back of the envelope and printed a small pic of an owl and stuck it where the stamp would go. They looked like the real deal. The RSVPs I got back from parents were hilarious. They all got into the swing of it. You can download the invitation here.
Location and decor
We used our local village hall as it was cheap and gave us the space we needed. To create ambience, we shut the curtains, turned the lights off and strung up fairy lights all over the place (we borrowed extra from friends). I printed off Hogwarts logos and stuck them onto pieces of cardboard and stuck them on the door and walls. We also made signs for Madam Malkins Robes, Ollivanders Wands, Potions Class, Care of Magical Creatures and Honeydukes. The kids made these with me - so it was a fun arts and crafts thing leading up to it. Cost us nothing too. We downloaded some of the Harry Potter theme tunes from iTunes and played them on an ipod.
What we did
My husband for his sins got to be Professor Snape. We re-styled an old hippie wig we had in the dress up box and smeared it with hair gel to give it a greasy look. He looked more like Wendolene from Wallace & Gromit, but whatever. He also wore a long black morning coat, shirt and flouncy tie to look the part. I was Professor McGonagall. I paired an old green bridesmaid skirt with a black PJ top, black wrap and medallion style necklace and did my hair in a bun. I also wore a witches hat which became the sorting hat. The birthday boy wore his Harry Potter outfit. So most of this stuff we had without having to spend anything.
Kids arrived and were sent straight to Madam Malkins to get their robes. The robes were black bin bags (the kind with handles) that we cut in half lengthwise, which they could then tie around their shoulders. They could then decorate them with sticky stars (you get a pack of 250 stars from Sainsburys for about £2.)
Once they had their robe, they went to Ollivanders Wand Emporium to select their wands. The wands were sticks that we'd found on walks. I spent one Sunday afternoon whittling the sticks and sanding them down till they were smooth but you could skip this step if you're not fussed. We had a tub of white glue and tubs of different coloured glitter on the table. The kids could dip their chosen wand into the glue then the glitter to make the tip sparkle and become a bit magical. Be warned: the glitter/glue combo will make a mess as the kids instantly start waving their wands around. So take a scrubbing brush to clean up afterwards.
I had an old witches hat in our dress up box. I printed off the house logos (I found some handy dandy ones ready made by another mum which I copied but you can again just google the houses and see the logos online). You can download the logos I used here. I then printed off the logos, stuck them on card and made little badges by sellotaping safety pins to the back of them. All of these were then put into the hat. The kids then took turns to put their hand into the hat to choose a house - Slytherin, Griffindor, Ravenclaw and Huffelpuff. Lots excitement about who was going to be in evil Slytherin.
Care of magical creatures class
We got a company in called Aquasplash Reptiles. They are based in Berkshire UK, but there are plenty of other companies that offer reptile handling parties. What I liked about this company was that they were happy to just come for an hour and cost £100. Most of the others wanted to charge a heck of a lot more and would put on a complete 2 hour show. I told them it was a Harry Potter party but the guy assigned on the day (Chris) hadn't got that message. Which was sad because he is the world's BIGGEST Harry Potter fan and has been to the filming locations etc. He said he would have come dressed up completely had he known.
Anyway, he and his assistant spent 30 minutes showing the kids snakes, lizards, toads, giant beetles, tarantulas and any other number of creatures. Chris was great and told the kids how each of the animals could be used in potion making and what their magical qualities were. They all got to hold the creatures, with lots of screaming and brave faces. Chris also awarded points to the house who was bravest or cleverest, which we kept note of.
Once they'd all had a turn to hold the creatures, they moved over to the other side of the hall where we had set up potions class, run by Professor Snape. This is the most time consuming bit of this party preparation-wise but we had a ball doing it. And I've saved you time as you can simply use the potions we created by downloading them here. You can tell we were aiming our potions class at little boys who think poo, farting and snot are hilariously funny.
We bought a job lot of plastic cauldrons on ebay. Here's the link. They cost £4 for five. I also bought plastic spoons and a job lot of plastic tubs - go to the picnic section of your supermarket and get the cheapest there.
Before the party starts, ensure that you measure out the ingredients for each potion. We had 12 kids at the party - 3 in each house. So each house was given three cauldrons and we had three potions to make, which they all worked on together. They LOVED IT!! Especially when the bicarb reacted with the vinegar and you got green liquid bubbling over the top of the cauldron. Be warned: you will need kitchen roll to wipe up the mess! You will need to buy a job lot of food colouring, bicarb of soda, vinegar and cornflour too.
Professor Snape then awarded points to each house based on their success, with an obvious bias towards Slytherin...
While we tidied away the potions and washed out the cauldrons, the kids duelled with their wands. No need to try and synchronise this. They will naturally team up into their houses and shout 'Expelliarmus!' and 'Stupify!' at anyone else. Just warn them in advance not to get too carried away and actually hit anyone with their wands.
Once they had all cast spells on each other, they sat on the floor for a picnic. I bought these plain party boxes in red, blue, yellow and green and stuck the house logos on the respective coloured boxes. Food was bog standard party fare - there's loads you could do by calling things butterbeer or pumpkin pasties, but in my experience kids just shove the food in and then lose interest pretty fast. So we kept it simple and as it was all prepared in advance, was very easy to do.
Interhouse Sports Day
After they'd eaten, we put them into their houses for the sports day. We started with 'Quidditch' or broomstick races. I bought four of these broomsticks online but you could use regular ones. The kids had to race on their broomsticks from one side of the room to the other and back, before passing the broom to the next team member. The winning team had all of it's members home first. We did this race a few times as they loved it. Lots of house points awarded.
We then moved onto 'Pass the mandrake'. It was going to be pass the pumpkin but it's not pumpkin season, so I bought a celeriac instead. These root vegetables look remarkably like Mandrakes (for those of you who have seen Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets). The game was to pass the mandrake and if the music stopped and you were holding it, you were out. The last person left was the winner. Another very successful game, and another chance to award house points.
We had two additional games up our sleeve which we didn't do because we ran out of time. Musical Spells (when you shout 'Immobulus' or 'Petrify' and stop the music, they have to freeze) and Find the Philosopher's Stone (we wrapped a stone in tin foil and hid it outside for the kids to find).
The party finale and a massive hit. We created Honeydukes sweet shop. We bought (mostly from Sainsburys):
Strawberry liquorice (Liquorice wands)
Chocolate frogs (buy them online here)
Flying saucers (fizzing whizbees)
Chocolate cornflakes clusters (Chocolate Cockroaches)
Jelly Beans (Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans)
Gummy fangs sweets (Fangs & kisses)
We put all the sweets into jam jars and made colourful labels for them (another crafts project the kids did). The kids then got to put the sweets into their now washed out cauldrons, which became their party bag.
I made a Hogwarts Castle cake. I used this video as inspiration but adapted it so mine was blue and had Harry Potter lego figurines on it. The kids got a slice of this put in their cauldrons.
We announced in reverse order the house points. Each team got to come up and choose a little prize (I got a job lot of party favours from the supermarket but went with ones that could be magical - like a magical whistle, magical looking glass, monster finger puppet etc). The winning house got to keep the broomsticks and they got to hold up the Triwizard Cup - an old kids beaker wrapped in foil.
Then they all went home and I went and drank a bottle of wine. Hope that helps out any other parents whose child desperately wants a Harry Potter party. I wish I could post more pics of the party but my camera died halfway through. So take note: make sure you have a working camera on the day!