How to organise a pirate-themed party

Pirate toddler

Everything you need to throw a swashbuckling bash – from decorations and party bags to themed food and the perfect birthday cake…

Invitations

Pirate party invite

Let everyone know about the theme of the party with a pirate-appropriate invitation. Use tea on thick paper with ripped edges to make the invitations look old and weathered . Roll up the invitation and tie it with string – if you're feeling particularly creative, you could even deliver it in a bottle…

Costume ideas

If party guests want to dress up (and it's always fun, right?), pirate garb can easily be pulled together. All you need are:

  • Striped t-shirt
  • Long coat or waistcoat (optional)
  • Bandana or eye patch
  • Eye-liner or face paint, to draw on stitches/a moustache

Decorations

Pirate party props

Set the scene with nautical props.

  • Make your own bunting, with skulls and crossbones, anchors, seagulls, and so on
  • Hang up different flags – including the Jolly Roger, of course.
  • Use blue streamers or balloons to create a sea setting.
  • Play pirate music, sea shanties or sounds from the beach – gulls and waves.
  • Buy or spray-paint paper cups and plates gold or silver.
  • Search charity shops for cheap costume jewellery, clocks and silver plates.
  • Appoint a toy parrot (or recruit a real one) to watch over proceedings.

Activities and party games

Pirate facepainting

As children arrive, get them crafting: ask them to decorate a pirate bandana, paper hat or T-shirt.

  • Have pre-cut pieces of material, paper or card ready for children to fold into hat shapes, or buy cheap multipacks of plain white T-shirts for the children to decorate.
  • Set out fabric pens, glitter and paint on a table, and let each child personalise their own item.
  • They can wear it for the party, then take it home at the end.

After that, they will be ready for activities…

  • Sword fights. Buy a pack of blow-up ones, get the children to blow them up, then stand back and let battle commence.
  • Walk the plank: place a piece of wood on a raised platform and get children to balance on it, walking from one end to the other. For older children you could have two teams race to get across, one at a time, with the fastest team winning a prize.
  • Fishing. Use a paddling pool, or simply put a piece of blue material on the ground, and cut out fish shapes (and maybe some hidden treasure), then attach paperclips to each piece and make fishing rods with sticks, string and a magnet on the end.

More party games that can be given a pirate twist

  • Musical chairs becomes musical islands – you could place mats on the floor, between which the kids have to 'swim' while the music plays, then find an island to stand on.
  • Pin the eye patch on the pirate.
  • A piñata is always great fun – choose a palm tree or treasure chest shape.
  • Blind man's bluff.

No pirate party would be complete without a treasure hunt…

Pirate treasure map
  • Draw out a map (of the house/garden/park where you're holding the party).
  • Depending on the children's ages, you could write cryptic clues to direct them along the route – and give them a compass to follow.
  • Hide toys, gold coins or more clues along the way.
  • The hunt could lead to a treasure chest – or to the birthday tea/picnic.

Pirate party food

Pirate party food

Tasty fare fit for hungry pirates after an action-packed day on the high seas.

  • Veggie planks. Well, carrot and cucumber sticks.
  • Cutlass cheese and pineapple. Buy sword-shaped skewers, or use wooden toothpicks.
  • Catch of the day. fish fingers or fish cakes.
  • Canon balls. Black olives, grapes or chocolate balls all work well.
  • Peg legs. Breadsticks.
  • Pieces of gold. Cheese chunks.
Jelly boats
  • Jelly boats. For these we're grateful to one creative Mumsnetter: “Cut an orange in half and scoop out the insides to create a clean shell. Fill to the brim with jelly and allow to set. Once set, cut in half again, and voila – jelly boats! Add little pirate flags to finish them off.”
  • Seaweed pasta salad. Use shell-shaped pasta and pesto sauce (not actual seaweed – their tastes probably aren't refined enough for that yet).
  • Submarine rolls. Use various fillings, adding a flag on a toothpick for full effect.
    Dead man's fingers and skeleton teeth. A gory treat, arguably borrowed from Halloween, but frightening things happen at sea.

Cake inspiration

Pirate ship cake

Create an impressive centrepiece for the birthday feast, with this pirate ship. The design is easier to pull off than you might imagine:

Cut and layer sponge cakes into a boat shape before covering the whole thing in icing and decorating. It's simple and, as one Mumsnetter says: “You can have a huge homemade pirate ship cake with candles coming out of the sides.”

What to put in the party bags

Pirate loot

Say goodbye to guests with bags of loot! Little gifts could include:

  • Bandana or eye patch
  • Bag of gold (chocolate coins)
  • Treasure costume jewellery
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Toy compass or telescope

If you've made any crafts as part of your activities – bandanas, pirate hats or balloon swords – children can take those home, too. Plus a piece of birthday cake.

You could also do a lucky dip from the pirate's chest – make one out of an old box, fill it with shredded paper and small toys or treats, then the kids can pick one out as they leave.