Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Star Wars Birthday Party

Doodle Bug's 10th birthday party was a debate.  He really liked the idea of "Star Wars" but also had a hankering for an "anime" themed party with Bakugan, Pokemon, Bey Blades, etc. as the focus.  He waited until just two weeks before to finalize "Star Wars" as his theme.  This put me into scramble mode LOL.  We had $200 to weave magic with and here's what I ended up with.

Star Wars

The first hurdle was in deciding which genre of Star Wars we were going to go with.

CLASSIC: the original films with the likes of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader.


 PRE-QUELS: the newer films that tell the back story of Darth Vader and the demise of the Jedi with Jar-Jar Binks, Anakin, and Padme.


CLONE WARS: this is one of the franchises aimed at children as it's computer animated and tells the story of Anakin, the war when the Clone troopers were still good guys, and the golden age of the Jedi Council.

LEGO STAR WARS: another popular franchise for children where-in all of the above forms of Star Wars are depicted as Lego characters, tossing in humor and Lego quirkiness.

After looking around at the decorations, plates, and invitations available in stores we opted to stick with a blend of the movies and pass on Lego Star Wars.


There are a lot of cool blogs out there with specialty designed graphics and invitations with their children all photoshopped up.  There are even these cool custom cards that unfold into light sabers... but time and energy levels (I am currently pregnant and feel pretty tapped most of the time) didn't allow for as much homemade fare as I'm used to putting into a party.

In the end, we chose to go with a pre-printed invitation with the Clone Wars version of Jedi Master Yoda on the front.  

Decorations & Tableware

A sign on the front door to greet Doodle Bug's guests.
Again, we didn't do a lot of homemade this year.  I made a sign for the front door of the conference room that said "Jedi Knight Training", but the rest was store bought.

We picked up a "Happy Birthday" banner with a Star Wars theme and plastic Star Wars table covers.  For streamers, dangling foil stars, and balloons we had to settle on a color theme that was appropriate to Star Wars.  Most blogs have taken different approaches to this.  Some did red/black, probably because this is a running theme for the 'dark side', Vader, and the Sith.  Some did black/gold to match the theme of the opening credits of all six films.  Some chose primary colors to match the light sabers used by the different Jedi in the films.  I've seen a simple red/green theme used to honor the clash of good and evil light sabers.  We, like several others, chose blue/silver to go along with the droids and mechanical gadgets of Star Wars.  Blue/silver is also a running theme in the more child friendly Clone Wars franchise that is our son's main Star Wars fix.

Along with streamers and balloons, we gathered plastic cutlery and napkins in the silver/blue colors.  For meal plates we chose Star Wars themed ones from the store, with images of Jedi and Sith Lords on them.  Cake plates repeated the silver/blue theme.

We decided to have the children dress as Jedi Knights for the party.  This involved creating Jedi wraps and lightsabers for all of the kids.  This sounded easy in my head.  It was not.  LOL

Jedi Wraps

(L) source:
(R) source: Carmen on
Jedi wraps come in all shapes, shades, and sizes on the internet.  My research was a bit overwhelming because... #1) Star Wars is a popular party theme for children AND adults... and people are super clever and crafty when it comes to costumes.  #2) Within the genre, Jedi wraps can be drastically different depending on the age and skill of the Jedi, the species of the Jedi, the rank of the Jedi... suffice to say that if you have the time and are willing to put in the effort, they can get complicated in a hurry.

After scanning everything from paper grocery-bag vests to patterns for elaborate hooded cloaks with draping sleeves and muslin underwraps, I decided to do my own thing.

I bought about 10 yards of a dark brown cotton/polyester blend fabric.  While purchasing it, I debated between the 48" length or the 60" length.  The 48" was on sale and our budget was tight and I figured in my head that 48" was plenty long for children.  This was a mistake and even for elementary school kids, if I had to do it all over again, I would have spent the extra money on the 60" length.  I also bought a 2 yard remnant of sandy brown muslin to create belts with.

Along the folded edge, I measured and cut out 20" segments.  I decided on this width after measuring my son's shoulders in his sleep.  I ended up with 18 segments.

20" x 48" folded brown cloth

Next, I folded each segment along the 20" edge so that the cloth was now 48" long by 10" wide.

Wrap now folded over to measure 10" x 48"

 Here's a little diagram for clarification.

Next, I cut a hole in the folded corner, about 4" wide and 2" long.  This fit over the heads all of the children.  At this point, they were pretty much brown ponchos. 

A head-hole cut into the folded corner.

Finally, I did something that I don't recommend.  I cut the front of each wrap from the top to the bottom to make them like vests.  While it was a good idea in my head, it enabled these suckers to slip off the children's shoulders really easily.  If you want to save yourself some hassle, don't do it.

Bad Idea:  Cutting down the front center of a Jedi wrap to make it vest-like. 

To accompany these, I cut the muslin into 4" wide strips to use as belts.  They were also of a 48" length, which worked marvelously for most of the children, but several of the heavier set kids, including our son, ended up having a pretty tight fit.


Source: The Modern Jedi blog
The most overwhelmingly simple way to make fast, cheap light sabers for parties all across the internet involved the use of pool noodles.  I loved the idea!  Simple, fast and all I needed were pool noodles in a few traditional Jedi colors, black duct tape, and silver duct tape.  Well, as Doodle Bug's birthday is in November I quickly found that stores were no longer carrying the ubiquitous foam noodles that had been overflowing off of every shelf and dump bin just two months prior.  I called around to see if anyone had anything in storage or packed away for next summer.  I came up with NOTHING.  I resorted to searching Google, Ebay, and Amazon and got a few hits... but these foam noodles that had been clearance priced at $1 each just months before were now going to cost me around $7 each or a case for about $70 plus shipping.  My budget could not absorb that.

I called my MIL near tears, asking if she could call anyone she knew with a swimming pool to tell them that I was willing to pay up to $5 a piece for any used pool noodles they had in their garages.  By some miracle, she ended up finding 3 clearance priced noodles at a tiny little shop near her house and bringing them to me.  I could find no one willing to dig through their summer toys to help us out and I was sitting on the floor one day frazzled out of my skull and chatting with my fiance and a neighbor of ours.  Eager to help solve my dilemma, the two of them concocted a plan that I initially hated.  They were going to dissect our 3 lonely pool noodles.  I protested, knowing that that was not what dozens of blogs had told me to do!  Yes, I was having a freak-out moment.

However, my fiance got out a razor knife and a measuring tape and carefully cut each 60" noodle in half so we now had six 30" foam noodles.  He measured and cut each of these lengthwise into thirds so that our six 30" noodles were now eighteen 30" by roughly 2" foam strips.  See the diagram below for clarification.

Pouting, but trying to be a good sport, I wrapped the end of one with the black and silver duct tape and let my son see it.  He was ecstatic!  He insisted on testing each one as I continued to tape the ends.  After all my worry, the size ended up fitting better in a child's hand and was more proportional than a full pool noodle would have been.

Light sabers made from 1/6th of a pool noodle and some duct tape.

Did they look a little odd?  Sure, with their concave undersides and without the weight of the entire pool noodle to keep them straight, some of them bowed a bit by the next day.  Did the children care?  Not for an instant!


Honestly, after everyone got dressed up, the children took their lightsabers outside and pretended to be Jedis for about twenty minutes before they had any interest in snacks or the scheduled games.  This suited me and the rest of the parents just fine :)

Because the theme of the party was not just Star Wars, but "Jedi Knight Training" we devised a series of activities (with much help from the internet) that the children had to complete.  These were not competitions.  We put an emphasis on team spirit at the start by telling the children that everyone had to complete the tasks for the group to 'graduate' together.

We had six tasks.  Each task was inspired by a notable Jedi, or Jedi sympathizer.  We printed out photos of each character and taped them near each task.  Unfortunately I didn't get as many pictures as I'd have liked, but this is what we did.

Mace Windu says... "Let the Force guide you."

Pin the lightsaber on Darth Vader.

I blew up an image of Darth Vader and taped it together on a door.  Above it we had a picture of Jedi Master Mace Windu.  We told the children that Master Windu wanted them to learn to trust that the force will guide them.

Each child was blindfolded, spun once, and then sent forward to tape their construction paper red lightsaber to the poster.

Han Solos says... "Learn how to free a friend from carbonite."

This one involved mini Star Wars figures frozen inside ice cubes.  The figures were something my fiance had in his own collection of Star Wars toys.  They're called Star Wars Fighter Pods and they come with tiny rubber characters about the size of a nickle.  They fit perfectly inside my ice cube tray. 

I froze them overnight and when it was time to complete the task, the children took the bowl of helpless Star Wars characters outside and were told to free them in any way they could.  I expected the kids to try and melt the ice, but they were dastardly and threw the cubes, almost instantly smashing the ice off.  It was a quick game LOL

Yoda says "Help those smaller than yourself."

In this task, the children had to carry a small stuffed Yoda doll (again, from the normal stash of Star Wars items we have laying around the apartment) through a green swampy cave on the planet Dagobah.  I will admit that I totally botched the cave LOL  I simply ran out of time and in the end I duct taped a series of flattened boxes against the wall lean-to style.  I dangled green christmas tree lights and green streamers from inside and put some burlap on the floor.  The kids were good sports though and played along with my miserable, swampy cave. 

Luke Skywalker says... "Learn to use your lightsaber well."

This was another super simple activity.  We blew up two dozen small balloons and the children had to use their lightsabers to keep their balloon in the air for 10 seconds.  We did this outside and with the breeze that day, it was harder than they thought it would be.

Clone Trooper says... "Learn to maneuver well on molten terrain."
The idea behind this one was that the children had to cross over lava to get to the final task.  This was pretty simple to put together.  I bought a red plastic table cover and laid it on the floor to represent lava.  I had cut sheets of black posterboard into fifths and quarters.  I laid them randomly on the "lava" and the children were instructed that they had to pass over the lava by only using three stones.

After this it was time for the kids to destroy the Death Star, a candy filled pinata that my fiance hung from a tree behind the community center.  I created the Death Star from a clearance halloween jack-o-lantern pinata that I picked up at Walmart for $3.  All I did was strip the pumpkin crepe paper off, break off the paper stem, fill it with candy, and then paint it to roughly look like the infamous Death Star.

Friends of ours had told us horror stories about Walmart pinatas and how they'd had to go after their's with a bat before it even cracked.  So, we were shocked when my son's first swing at the thing sliced it in half!  The children rushed over with the homemade goodie bags I had put together and filled up.

The mad dash for fallen candy.

Goodie bags made from paper bags, Star Wars stickers, and colored embroidery floss.


There are a hundred really cool Star Wars themed party foods online.  Because we knew that our main dish was going to be pizza, we tried to keep the snacks light.

My fiance stirring up batches of 'Yoda Soda':  Sprite and Ginger Ale with 
 tons of green sherbet swirled in.  We served it with green plastic cups 
 to add to the green flair.
'Wookiee Cookies': oval shaped no-bake cookies with white and black icing
piped on to look like Wookie faces.  They were a hit even if they looked a bit funny.

'Padme Pineapple': simple, healthy fruit cut up and named after the queen.

'Vader Veggies with Droid Dip': another simple and healthy snack.

Just as the Jedi training was winding down, my fiance stepped out to meet the Dominoes delivery driver.  For 16 children and their parents, we got 4 extra large pizzas square cut and had only a few straggling pieces left over.  

Cake and Prizes

I ran into the same problem I did last year when it came to ordering a themed cake from our local Walmart: they didn't have what I was looking for.  Not a single Star Wars cake set to be found.  In the end the ladies dug out the last half empty bag of Star Wars cupcake topper rings that they had and I ordered three trays of cupcakes airbrushed in blue and silver.  

For the happy birthday cake, we ordered a small 10 inch cake, decorated in the same blue and silver.  The ladies did a fabulous job of making the cupcakes feel no different than if we'd have ordered an actual cake... they even put the last few Star Wars rings on his cake at no extra charge.  

Cake with a Darth Vader candle holder.

As each child left they got to pick out a Star Wars cup filled with these nifty color twist glow sticks and those little sidewalk snapper fireworks that kids go nuts for.  The cups were around 80¢ each, the snaps were 50¢ each, and the glow sticks were on halloween clearance for 75¢ each.  

Hooray for Star Wars!

By the end of it, we had one tired, but happy Doodle Bug.