Need ideas for a Titanic-themed birthday party for an obsessed 7-year-old boy!
October 12, 2012 7:53 AM   Subscribe

My Titanic-obsessed son is turning 7 in a couple months. I want to throw him a party he'll remember forever. I have the cake planned -- a friend is baking a Titanic-shaped masterpiece. For the rest, I need AskMe's help.

The party will be in Brooklyn in the first week in December and will include about 20-25 children and many parents. We have rented a large room with a fireplace for the party. The room comes with long tables and chairs, but nothing else.

I'm open to ideas for food, party favors, entertainments -- anything that reflects the theme. I'm looking to decorate the room in a fun, "Titanic-y" way (forgive me for using the word "fun" in relation to this disaster, but I hope you know what I mean; the audience is 7-year-olds). If I can figure out how & where to get costumes, I would even like to dress in a period-appropriate way and my husband would love to dress as Captain Smith.

Any thoughts on how we can create the birthday of a lifetime for our little one, who pores over books about the disaster, watches documentaries, and has even been to the Titanic Museum in Tennessee? We're open to anything!

(FWIW, he has never seen the movie "Titanic," so references specific only to that film won't work. But he knows a surprising amount about the actual historical event, and loves James Cameron's "Ghosts of the Abyss.")
posted by Professor Horatio Hufnagel to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think if I were throwing a Titanic themed party, I would divide it up into two "acts".

Act One, when the guests arrive, is experiencing life aboard the ship -- so period-appropriate music, nautical games, maybe some posh finger food. You and your husband could do some roleplaying and tell the children stories about how the ship is the biggest ship that has ever been built. You could get them to guess what they might be seeing on their voyage, maybe do a "pin the tail on the whale" type thing.

Then, Act Two, "Captain Smith" spots an iceberg! Oh no! (Maybe paint an iceberg on a cheap blue sheet and unroll it down one wall?) If you're allowed, you could clear away the furniture and do some more physical games, maybe that involve running from one side of the room to the other as the ship "sinks". Then everybody has to climb aboard the "lifeboats" (you should probably make sure all the kids "survive" this one) and they can listen to your son (or you and your husband) read aloud his favourite story about the Titanic as you drift towards rescue.
posted by fight or flight at 8:02 AM on October 12, 2012 [11 favorites]

Rent a ship's wheel from a prop company?

I have ideas of places to call if you decide to go this way -- memail me.

How morbid is this Titanic obsession? If "very morbid", I'd suggest incorporating lifeboats somehow or maybe hiring some musicians to play as they "go down with the ship". If less morbid, maybe hire some kind of seafaring character to sing shanteys and spin salty yarns in front of a "roaring fire" (not sure if this fireplace is an active fireplace or just for show).

Obviously these are pretty high dollar suggestions. What is your price range? Are we talking "I'd like to find some navy blue napkins and paper cups with an Edwardian motif"? Or, like, build a lifesized replica of a lifeboat?
posted by Sara C. at 8:03 AM on October 12, 2012

Distribute paper cutout boat costumes and have the children spontaneously sink during the party.
posted by Nomyte at 8:03 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

A big punch bowl with ice in the shape of an iceberg.
posted by xingcat at 8:04 AM on October 12, 2012 [9 favorites]

Pin the boat on the iceberg? Bobbing for icebergs*? Iceberg/titanic pinata? Titanic themed charades contest?

*iceberg lettuce would be funny to adults but cruel to children. Hmmm, sounds good.
posted by shothotbot at 8:07 AM on October 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Pin the tail on the donkey? Except in this version you have to locate the Titanic?

If you were feeling more ambitious, you could do a version of a treasure map so the kids had to work out where the Titanic was on the seabed from clues you set.

You could create a menu like that of the first class passengers and give all the birthday foods Titanic/maritime names (Captain's cake etc).

You could do version of musical chairs where instead of having to sit down it was the last child to put on a "lifejacket" (or cotton bib) [to avoid carnage, you'd want one lifejacket per child, rather than x-1 lifejackets].

You could make greeny-blue jello that looked like the sea - so the Titanic at the bottom but maybe some fish candies embedded in it.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:07 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Titanic and iceberg ice cube tray!!!. It's hilarious.

Warning: the Titanics are a little hard to pop out of the mold, rinse the mold quickly with warm water first. I would get a couple because the mold only makes four boats and four bergs at the same time. I don't have any personal experience with this, but you may be able to use the mold to make something other than ice, like chocolates or some type of candy, which can then be used to top a cake or cupcakes or....
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:14 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Come into Manhattan and take pictures of the birthday boy at Pier 54: In April 1912 following the Titanic sinking the RMS Carpathia picked up survivors. The ship first went to the White Star piers where it discharged the Titanic's lifeboats that had been brought aboard before coming back to Pier 54 to discharge the passengers.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:14 AM on October 12, 2012

Mary Pope Osborne has a Titanic Magic Tree House book and research guide. It's also available on audio ....
posted by tilde at 8:21 AM on October 12, 2012

Create an invitation which looks like a ticket or boarding pass for the RMS Titanic.

Captain's hat for the birthday boy to wear.

Some sort of treasure hunt for artifacts.

Photos of the ship, enlarged to poster size, for decorations.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 8:21 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

This might be a misuse of the ask.mefi search, but melodykramer said she threw a Titanic party (several years ago....) so maybe she'd have some ideas for you? She mentions Lifesavers and donuts, which are kid-friendly and delicious.

This Pinterest board should also be helpful.
posted by Flamingo at 8:22 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't know if Heston Blumenthal is as big in America as he is over here, but a few years ago he did a series for Channel 4 where he cooked incredibly elaborate feasts for a select group of guests. Like, shed-sized gingerbread house elaborate. One was Titanic themed. I don't think you'll be either able or eager to reproduce any of the recipes exactly, but if you can work out how to watch the programme you may find it inspiring.
posted by Acheman at 8:32 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't do posters of the ship; pretend you are IN the ship and make portholes with the outside view to decorate the walls. Foamcore circles to the rescue! Make them big, and hang them at 7 year old height.

This whole thing is, in fact, much easier and more cohesive to pull off if it is done as if you are in the dining room (and ball room) of the Titanic.

Also: iceberg pinata.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:33 AM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Party game: how many kids can fit on the "floating" door and not drown?
posted by Etrigan at 8:44 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

The room can be as elegant as it wants to be, it can be a ballroom or a dining room on the ship.

Perhaps do an offical picture, with an RMS Titanic Life Preserver. Like they do on cruise ships today, this can be a favor for the families, either for pick up at the end of the party or to be mailed afterward.

I went to a Titanic Themed dinner once, so to the adults you can serve things typical of the period. (I remember asperagus spears in a tomato vinagrette).

Someone can be Molly Brown and run around in her "wrapper" (I believe she said Kimono, but you get the gist.)

Encourage people to dress up, either in period cosumes or fancy party clothes. (I'm always looking for an excuse.)

You can hire a traditional Irish band to do fun, upbeat music. (like would have been found below-I know, movie reference, but Irish bands are fun!) Have someone teaching the kids how to do Irish dances or just let them dance.

For a desert, you can do Floating Island, only call it Floating Iceberg (a dollop of merengue in custard. So freaking good, and period approprite for the dinner.)

Can I come?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:57 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Foamcore circles to the rescue!

Actually you could also make foamcore life buoy rings and thread them with rope.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:09 AM on October 12, 2012

Response by poster: These are all fabulous and inspiring ideas. Please keep 'em coming!

The idea of "Act I" and "Act II" is brilliant. The challenge will be to hold the attention of a bunch of 2nd graders. I think that, with sufficient entertainments/games on tap, it can be done...

Sara, I love the idea of a ship's wheel. My son loves the idea of being at the helm. I will MeMail you. Our budget is fairly generous for a kid's party, but not unlimited. Say about five or six hundred (above what we've already spent for the rental).

lakersfan1222, I've just ordered two of those "Gin and Titonic" trays. Great find!

More general background: The room is in a historic house, so I doubt we can actually light a fire. We have the room for 4 hours, so realistically whatever we do has to be able to be set up/staged in about an hour and a half to leave sufficient time for the party.

Flamingo, I will MeMail melodykramer. I did search for this topic on here, but somehow missed her post!

RuthlessBunny, it might be a long trip from where you live, and a room full of mostly male 2nd graders is a bit taxing, but hey, I can always use extra hands… I do love the idea of "official photos" of the attendees.
posted by Professor Horatio Hufnagel at 9:13 AM on October 12, 2012

The CBC up in Canada has been running a series on the titatic that might interest your son, perhaps a gift rather than for the party: dvds and book

I attended a fabulous exhibit on the titatic and when you entered they gave you a ticket, and on the back was the info on one of the passengers.

You could also take an "archeological/historian" approach ... this site has an online museum has lots of images of fragments of objects found. you could make colour cards to represent the artifacts along with a challenge to identify what each are and what room they would come from.
posted by chapps at 9:21 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can totally make gummy Titanics and icebergs from those trays lakersfan1222 linked to, either in advance for favor bags or for treats on the day. Here's the recipe. Signed, mother of a 7yo Titanic obsessed boy.
posted by cocoagirl at 9:23 AM on October 12, 2012

People who lost loved ones on the Titanic were given black (mohair) teddy bears. Possibly a gift for the birthday boy or party favors if you can find small ones?
posted by momus_window at 9:42 AM on October 12, 2012

I doubt we can actually light a fire

Can you make a fire with orange cellophane and colored paper and fake logs? Can you fit a computer monitor or old CRT combo TV/VCR in the fireplace and play one of those "yule log" videos? This is also something the folks at the prop house I memailed you can potentially help with. Actually, you should tell the EXACTLY what you're doing -- they might think it sounds fun and have all sorts of cool ideas for effects like this.
posted by Sara C. at 10:04 AM on October 12, 2012

The telegraph operators on the Titanic were fairly famous for staying at their posts well after they were allowed to leave. So perhaps a game where you have Morse code messages that the kids have to decipher (you'd have a big printed key somewhere) for prizes. Kids love secret codes (right?)!
posted by marylynn at 10:09 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

What you need is a cardboard box that was used to hold a refrigerator.
We had one for a "Thomas the Train" party. Used Sona tube for stacks, cut holes for windows and painted it up minimally.
Kids will go into the box and stay there for most of the party. It's amazing.
They really love it and it's easy to clean up.

You could ask your local furniture store or keep an eye out for people getting new appliances.
posted by Ignorance at 11:03 AM on October 12, 2012

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has a large Titanic exhibit and Titanic memorabilia in their store. They don't seem to have an online store, but contact info is here if you want to call and see what they have that may be good for gifts or decorations.
posted by TedW at 11:53 AM on October 12, 2012

Telegraphy would be great-- you could have a basic Morse Code lesson. Titanic was rather famously one of the first vessels to use the new-fangled code "SOS" when telegraphing her mayday. Prior to that, and with some overlap, vessels would send "CQ" ("seek you"), but even a rising 7-year-old can see that SOS is easier to utilize and recognize: 3 short, 3 long, 3 short.

Also, when the party has would down, and everyone's just stuffed with cake and bobbing listlessly in the North Atlantic, chuck an SS Carpathia life-ring (cardboard) around the party-goer and send him into the car that'll take him home, etc.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:56 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

2nd-ing Nomyte's suggestion--a bunch of seven-year-olds running around in these would be hilarious.
posted by tinymegalo at 3:00 PM on October 12, 2012

Divide the children into 2 groups, Steerage and Upper Deck, and have some of the adults dress as ship’s officers. Then get a replica lifeboat and fill it with prizes and goodies, letting only the Upper Deck kids in it to enjoy, as the “Officer” adults hold off the Steerage kids with squirt guns.
posted by PaulBGoode at 12:14 AM on October 13, 2012

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