Help me plan my 11-year-old son's Lord of the Rings party!
February 6, 2010 7:02 AM   Subscribe

My 11 year old son wants a LOTR themed birthday party. I'm ashamed to admit this, but have never watched all three movies. He's much more knowledgeable about all things LOTR than I. Help!! We've had a tough year, and I truly want to make this party a blast for him. (One party to rule them all, as he says!)

We've come up with a couple games, but I'd like to hear your ideas for decorating, games, activities, costumes, food, and any other ideas you have. We're planning this for February 20, and we may or may not be able to be outdoors (we're in the Virginia Beach area). We have one sizeable living room for about 10-12 kids, mostly boys.

I'm trying to think of things to have on hand as costumes. We purchased a ton of foam swords. I'd love to make cloaks, but I don't know about making ten to twelve of them. Any simple ideas that I could pull off? Time and money will come into consideration for anything I do, as I have a smallish amount of both. (My budget is about $75.)

I'm reasonably crafty, and the day of, I'll have some assistance from close friends. We're thinking of converting a carport into a hobbit house, or something similar, just so the kids wouldn't necessarily be inside the whole time.

My son is begging for some sort of archery event. I can't think of a safe way to do that. He's quite into authenticity...not necessarily to the LOTR film, but more to medieval times.

I'm writing the invitations today, and if you're in any way capable of helping me write them in a groovy elvish font, I'd really appreciate that.

Thanks so much!
posted by littleflowers to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (47 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Well, first things first -- no birthday cake. Instead: birthday lembas.
posted by Robot Johnny at 7:04 AM on February 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you made angelfood cake, or cake in a bundt pan, you could use some yellow frosting and make it look like a ring.

Here's a cheap suction-cup bow-and-arrow set. Just make a it a contest where you get points for getting in each color.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:13 AM on February 6, 2010

I really like the idea of a One Ring cake. If you're really slick, you could even recreate the inscription in red icing.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:23 AM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here are some awesome LOTR fonts for your computer. Let us know if you aren't sure how to install/use them.

I recommend "hobbiton brush hand" for the invites. I would also put some "tengwar annatar" font in there - you can't read it, but it's the exact font that's used to write elvish on the ring of power, and elsewhere. I bet your son will do his nut (pardon the expression) if you can make the printer write Elvish. Heck, I'm pretty excited about it.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:27 AM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

My daughter went to a jedi themed party (8 year olds) and the parents fashioned cloaks for each kid by just cutting a square of ultra cheap-o cloth. No hemming or anything so I can't imagine it took long, and it was so thin you could see through it so I can't imagine it was spendy. I'm looking at joanns online and they have broadcloth for $1.99/yd - although 11 year olds are significantly bigger then 8 year olds... if it takes a yard apiece (??) that's still a $20 outlay. Do you know your local fabric stores and whether you might be able to find something even cheaper?

Alternately, what about hoods? or vests? or even like gauntlets and greaves? Cut a rectangle of fabric then use a long strip of contrasting fabric to wrap around them to secure.
posted by lilnublet at 7:29 AM on February 6, 2010

Make the party into a quest, with a series of three or four party games that echo the quest in the books/movies. Maybe ask each attendee to adopt a character (elves, dwarves, etc) and construct the party as if the group was moving through the storyline. It wouldn't have to be a continuous narrative (play a game around the Mines of Moria, for example, then reward them with cake; after a while have Helms Deep, then a break, etc).

I haven't had coffee yet so I can't come up with any specifics (too fuzzybrained), but I think that could be a very memorable party for everyone.
posted by arco at 7:34 AM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

My son is begging for some sort of archery event

Go to your local dollar store and get some cheapo bows/arrows - yes, not quite authentic, but my 10-year old daughter had lots of fun until they broke.
posted by jkaczor at 7:39 AM on February 6, 2010

Oh - and as you have not watched the movies, then use wikipedia for a plot synopsis.

(BTW - what a great mom!, while at that age my parents were pleased I was reading Lord of the Rings, they would never have considered a theme party)
posted by jkaczor at 7:41 AM on February 6, 2010

These LOTR Birthday Party Ideas are arranged by age and will probably help you with some ideas of what might work, although some ideas look a little more involved than others.

Another link--more general ideas
posted by BlooPen at 7:47 AM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

No cake? Crazy talk.

Even if you have never read the books, you may wish to read the very first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring (the first book), which is called A Long Expected Party, since the entire thing is about Bilbo's birthday party, and the preparations theretoward... including some excruciatingly detailed descriptions of food and decorations.

If you don't have the book, I suspect the text is online, or some MeFite* will have it in their text documents collection.

* Many, I suspect.
posted by rokusan at 8:04 AM on February 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

(But really, the only essential ingredient is fireworks.)
posted by rokusan at 8:05 AM on February 6, 2010

Yeah, get some bottle rockets. They're cheap, and pretty safe. Extra points if they have paper dragon-heads taped to them.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:18 AM on February 6, 2010

Response by poster: all are so BRILLIANT! LOVE the idea of making the party into a quest, Arco! One idea son had was a ring toss into (around) a volcano, and I like the idea of making that the final quest. Can you help me flesh that idea out?

Solon and Daint, I have a friend making a cake, and she is incredibly creative. I know she'll do a bangup job there...passing on your ideas to her. Son's request for food is loaves of bread (I'll make) and wedges of cheeses, baskets of fruit and chicken legs. Definitely making lembas, Robot Johnny!

I'm dashing out before snowmageddon hits us and checking the dollar bins at Target and the dollar store for good props. Didn't find bow and arrow on our last outing.

Lilnublet, sadly, no fabric stores in a 20 minute radius so will have to save that outing for later. Will definitely look on line. Have checked thrift stores, but everything is coming up too pricy. Will look for cheap curtains and tablecloths for the cloaks, but at $1.99 I could make that work.

Jkaczor, why did I never think of reading the PLOT. Duh. Thanks for the complement. He's the most important person in my life. It's easy to do stuff for him, and he appreciates every little thing so much. We've always had more fun having kids over than going out for parties, and this year...well...we've had a lot of challenges. I really want to make it about fun and friendship and memory making for him.

Printer is on the blink, so was planning to hand write invites in gold pen on green cardstock....sure wish I could print it instead! May come back for the offer of help, Salvor!

Keep the ideas flowing! You all are great!
posted by littleflowers at 8:21 AM on February 6, 2010

If you could figure out a way to make one of the swords glow blue, that would be extra badass. Maybe a UV-paint and a blacklight?
posted by CKmtl at 8:28 AM on February 6, 2010

Oops, meant to add this video of a replica Sting for context.
posted by CKmtl at 8:29 AM on February 6, 2010

You can find some child-safe archery sets. Here is one with suction cup arrows, as an example.
posted by gudrun at 8:31 AM on February 6, 2010

For cheap fabric, sometimes you can find used sheets at thrift stores - there may be appropriate solid colors you can chop up.
posted by dilettante at 8:35 AM on February 6, 2010

Get some good natured parents / older siblings to show up at some point as Ringwraiths and try to steal the cake. Expect a furious beatdown from the foam swords...
posted by ecurtz at 8:59 AM on February 6, 2010 [8 favorites]

It would be a fun project for you and your son to make some paper-mache or clay replicas of these statues. You could put them on either side of the back door or something.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:59 AM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

How about Washers instead of a ring toss? I'm not on a PC, so I can't link, but would be tossing rings into a volcano instead of around.
posted by piedmont at 9:12 AM on February 6, 2010

The big thing about the One Ring is that when you wear it, you become invisible. Bilbo Baggins does this at the end of his birthday party, to great effect.

You'd need to set this up in just exactly the right spot, and you'd need to get the birthday boy's help, but if he did the ol' illusionist's disappearing mirror trick at the end of the party, it'd be legendary.
posted by bonaldi at 9:31 AM on February 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

What fun! You could dye old sheets dark brown or black for the cloaks.

Love the idea if someone trying to steal the ring/ cake.

Fireworks-maybe someone has old ones sitting around.

I think it would be worth seeing if a friend could print your invites fir you, or go down to kinkos or something-you could then embellish with colored ink.

You could hide a gold ring in the cake and award a prize to he who finds it.

I'd throw cheap gold rings into the volcano-they should have them in the wedding section of a craft store.

I think something like a horse race would be great-race on stick horses or bikes-hmmmm.

Ooh-tree climbing or something else Entish.
posted by purenitrous at 9:32 AM on February 6, 2010

@ Solon and Thanks's comment, I did make a One Ring cake in a bundt pan once and wrong an inscription in icing. It was really easy and it went over well.
posted by basthrohmnse at 9:51 AM on February 6, 2010

The Alamo Drafthouse (a hybrid movie theater / restaurant in Austin, Texas) once did a back-to-back-to-back showing of the entire trilogy, complete with meals that reflected the course of the films. You might get some food ideas from their menu for the event.
posted by jedicus at 9:59 AM on February 6, 2010

Mount Doom volcano cake?
posted by cadge at 10:07 AM on February 6, 2010

How about hobbit feet? If you really want to get crafty - these giant feet slippers would be pretty cheap to make - attach some fake fur to the top and you're set.
posted by Dojie at 10:22 AM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

This could be a fun gift for your son. It's Sting! It glows!
posted by inmediasres at 10:25 AM on February 6, 2010

Elf ears and dwarf beards.
posted by Widepath at 10:38 AM on February 6, 2010

A la Bilbo Baggins on HIS birthday-- your son should distribute little gift baggies to the guests. Since that's what Hobbits do on their birthdays. (Maybe you could work it in to be the prize for completing the quest or whatever, but it's still on theme.)
posted by egeanin at 10:47 AM on February 6, 2010

If you do decide to make cloaks, the characters receive them from the elf queen, Galadriel, who would be the perfect role for mom. She gives each member of the fellowship a cloak and a small personal gift. You'd want to do this after their first quest activity.
posted by ecurtz at 11:02 AM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I was younger, we always had a "spider web" to give out party bags. You might adapt for the occasionally.

Basically, my Dad would take all the party favors and tie each favor and to a ball of yarn. He'd hand the balls to me and my sister, point to a room that had been stripped of everything breakable, and we'd spend an hour or two before the party winding each ball around, about, through, over and under objects of the room, keeping the yarn as tight as we could in the process so it wouldn't droop on the floor. The result, if we were enthusiastic enough about criss-crossing the room, was a giant, barely-passable "spider web" that the guests had to navigate to find their goodies.

After we ate (presumably when my parents wanted some downtime to clear away the mess without kids underfoot), each kid would be given the end of a string leading into the web and told they had to follow it to find their prize. It can be kind of chaotic if all kids are looking at the same time, but it can be a good kind of chaos. Or, if you think kids will dribble in instead of arriving all at the same time, it might be a good thing to do to help "break the ice" as you wait for latecomers.

To make it theme appropriate, block off one room and hang a sign that says "Shelob's Lair" (Shelob was a GIANT spider that almost killed the ring-bearer when when his guide took him on a homicidal "shortcut" through a cave system). If you have any spidery stuff left over from Halloween, now's the perfect time to use it. Creepy lighting could be fun, but be sure there is enough light that the kids can see the string and don't fall over things (having the web snap halfway through the game because someone tripped over the string is a guaranteed downer. PS: Use strong string. Kite string, construction site line, it's all good. Dark colors would add to the ambiance.).

Good luck & post pictures after the party!
Also: Keep in mind, the larger the balls of yarn, the longer unwinding it will take. Eleven year olds probably have enough patience for a game like this, but you do NOT want the jumbo 5 lb balls. Also, having a winding stick or something along the lines to wrap the string around as they search for their loot helps a lot, not to mention it helps YOU out with cleanup ;)
posted by Ys at 11:27 AM on February 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

Oh, and make sure the goodies at the end of the string are hidden, so spoilsports just run to a prize & take it off its string.
posted by Ys at 11:29 AM on February 6, 2010

Could you label all of the snacks after the Hobbit meals? Like stick a small sign in the candy bowl that said "Elevensies" and a sign near that cake that said "Afternoon Tea." Maybe this is too vague of a reference, and it is discussed more in the books than in the movies, but I think it would be funny.
posted by sararah at 12:02 PM on February 6, 2010

Hobbits are also known for eating a lot. In the movie Pippin names breakfast, second breakfast, elvenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner.

If you set new snacks out (like food, then cake) you could announce it as something like "and here's second lunch!"
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:05 PM on February 6, 2010

oh, terrible previewing of me!
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:05 PM on February 6, 2010

decorate one wall with a gigantic eye of sauron!
paint the eye in red and orange on a white bedsheet, and have have a light source behind it. Ask your friends to bring any old clothes or costume items that look elven/dwarfish/medieval so the kids can dress up and make themselves characters.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:00 PM on February 6, 2010

Just throwing out an idea that I’ve seen people integrate in other themed parties that would fit in well with Lord of the Rings:

One of the scenes/parts of LOTR has members of each race (an elf, a dwarf, human, etc.) assemble and agree to take on a quest (and as part of this quest, they are going to work together and go through many adventures).

On that note, can you randomly assign kids to be an elf, a dwarf, etc., and give each kid a different puzzle piece that you make in advance (puzzle = a map, directions, whatever that you cut up in advance and can easily fit back together), so elf has puzzle piece 1, dwarf has puzzle piece 2. Have the number of pieces that match the number of kids in a group.

Start a group off for their quest at another point – they have to assemble the puzzle. If you want to take it to the next level, you could have a word or two in their in some sort of elvish writing, but one of the kids will also have the letter or word defined on their piece (so they won’t have a piece of the puzzle, but a “key” to interpret the final words). The assembled puzzle could be “start the quest”, a map, instructions as to where to go next, etc, but it starts them out working as a group. Maybe at this point you could give a ring to the birthday boy and the ring will be carried until the last challenge of the quest

For the next parts of the quest, you could have a person stand in with directions as to where to go next/or the next puzzle piece to solve. If you know anyone skilled at magic tricks for an 11 year old, then perhaps that person could be Gandalf the wizard for one of the rooms/points along the quest. Brief magic show plus directions. But you could blend in all the interesting ideas that are stated in some of the other posts above.

When will mefites receive an invitation? LOTR quest? Cake? Just kidding
posted by Wolfster at 1:08 PM on February 6, 2010

Did you ever see the episode of Gilmore Girls where Lorelai and Sookie catered a LOTR birthday party?
posted by kenliu at 1:12 PM on February 6, 2010

Try Walmart for cheap fabric - they usually have a section of fabric for $1 a yard. Cheaper is some of the gauzy stuff, should be under a dollar a yard and usually is folded in a way that you could get several out of a yard.

For games, if you have access to a couple of trees and a length of rope (from the dollar store for clothes line) you can make a spider web between the trees out of the rope leaving good sized holes. The kids then have to work together to get through the web without triggering it to notify the spider. The challenge is, that only one kid can go through each hole so they have to figure out how to get kids safely through holes up high. This is kind of a ropes course thing, but does fit in with the spider scene in the movie.
posted by 445supermag at 3:19 PM on February 6, 2010

Some cheap Halloween cloaks here were made from black plastic, eerily like garbage bags. Some black garbage bags and some stickytape could make basic - and cheap - cloaks, adjusted to size - cut down one side of the bag leaving the two corners for shoulders, and then attach a hood that you cut out of the corner of a second bag.
posted by quercus23 at 5:03 PM on February 6, 2010

Whatever you go with, clearly, you and your adult helpers should be Gandalf and the other Istari (aka the wizards). They're clear authorities and are also super cool, but manage to get away with wearing robes and pointy hats. Gandalf is the one who sets off all the fireworks in the hobbity-er parts of the story, so you could get away with in-character fire safety. Also, mom in a beard equals hilarious.
posted by Mizu at 5:56 PM on February 6, 2010

Response by poster: This is the greatest basket of brilliance! Keep the ideas coming!

I should have mentioned, the friends who are helping will definitely be coming in costume...they had a LOTR wedding, and were thrilled to help.

Truly, thank you all...and don't stop thinking!

I'll be sure to post photos!
posted by littleflowers at 6:10 PM on February 6, 2010

Response by poster: Oh...and just leave your address if you're in SE VA. I'm working on the invites now! :)
posted by littleflowers at 6:11 PM on February 6, 2010

You must be a wonderful mom. I've loved reading this.
posted by bookshelves at 7:32 PM on February 6, 2010

Response by poster: Shopping score! Enough fabric for oodles of capes, suede and suede laces, plus all the notions for less than $35!

Did I mention how much I loved all your suggestions??
posted by littleflowers at 5:44 PM on February 7, 2010

Ooooohh. He needs one of THESE.
posted by Spyder's Game at 1:37 PM on February 8, 2010

Response by poster: The party was amazingly fun!

I made all the kids cloaks, and (silk ivy) leaf clasps edged with gold (microbeads). We had foam swords and axes from the dollar bins at Target.
I made hobbit feet from felt. Used a rotary cutter to shred up some felt, glued it to a long strip and laced it onto sneakers.
Dwarf beards were my favorite! I made those from felt, cut a mouth hole and shaped the upper portion more like a moustache. Put pipe cleaners around them to loop onto ears. Two of the kids wore them home!

For games, we hid about 100 gold rings in the back yard. I found those in the wedding section of Michael's. I hung them from trees, bushes, hid them on fenceposts, and flung a handful in the grass. The kids divided into two teams, dwarves and hobbits and elves and humans. The losers had to chew two pieces of supersour gum! The winners ended up doing it too, but that was fine with me.

The second game was more fun. I painted large floral rings gold and hung them loosely with wire from the clothesline. The teams had to blindfold one member and direct them to the rings, which they removed with their swords. This game was a GIGANTIC success. They played this one over and over and over.

Food was chicken legs, cheeses and breads, veggies, a bowl of grapes and apples, as well as supplemental hot dogs for the non chicken leg eaters (like my son, even though this was his menu request).

I had friends come in costume like a woman of Rohan and Gandalf. They also built a Hobbit door for the pathway to the party! It didn't have a door, but it was indeed round, and they had to enter through it.

As we were cutting the cake, a Ringwraith appeared to try to steal the cake. I had the kids ready with their swords by telling them they had to salute the birthday boy with their sword upon completion of the song. They beat my poor friend UP! It was hysterical!

It was perfect! The only thing I'd change would be the chicken that we wanted to grill. It was too time consuming. And the fireworks. I'd try to get some sparklers at least.

All told, I would say I spent about $100 on this party. I do have supplies left over (some of them intentionally), and I decided at the last minute I wanted to get balloons. (Yes, we sucked helium after...and I made EVERY child say "They're taking the hobbits to Isengard!"

I can't thank you all enough. You helped make this an incredibly memorable party!
posted by littleflowers at 5:53 PM on February 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

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