What is the perfect birthday party for a soon-to-be 11-year-old? A Harry Potter themed birthday party of course!
The owls with their Hogwarts letters were all sent to the invited children, welcoming them to the wizarding world and giving them directions to Platform 9 3/4. The house decorations were on point with the LED floating candles and the Hogwarts house flags hung on the high ceiling. The party favors, consisting of homemade Chocolate Frogs and their accompanying wizard trading cards and Bertie Bott's Every Flavored Beans, were displayed neatly on the table. The Quidditch pitch was set up in the backyard and the fantastical beasts were all hidden around the house with clues ready for the kids to find them. These parts of the birthday party I am not going to cover in this instructable though, as they have already been shared and outlined either here on instructables.com or elsewhere on the internet.
Instead, I would like to share with you the main party game I created to have the kids, sorted in their houses, compete against each other to see who could claim the Sorcerer's stone the fastest. At the end of the night, all the house points were awarded--from the quidditch winners to the fastest puzzle solvers of the Sorcerer's stone--and the winning house's students received small prizes. (Yep, I sure went there. Not everybody can be a winner, and I hoped 5th graders could handle the disappointment if they didn't win--which they did graciously!)
At the same time planning this 11th birthday Harry Potter themed party, I was pulling together a Harry Potter themed geocache and even though they both closely resemble one another, the dynamics of solving them is completely different. I love the Harry Potter themed geocache puzzle because it allows strangers to solve it alone at home and discover it "in the wild" when they have the opportunity. I love my Harry Potter themed party game because it requires a group of kids to solve the challenges together and have a fun time competing against one another as the different houses of Hogwarts.
Step 1: Sorting the Kids Into Hogwarts Houses
This can be done different ways. We had the sorting hat placed on the kid's heads and while they were sitting on a stool, a hidden speaker phone behind them projected my husband's voice as he talked about the child's many talents and personality traits before placing them into their respective houses. We placed house-themed lanyards and buttons on them so the different houses could spot their teammates.
Another route to sort the children, in case the hat was too shy to speak, is by putting buttons representing the different houses inside the hat and letting the kids pick out a button to determine which house they were placed in. This would result in a more random selection, which may be better for kids who are upset being placed in a certain house by a talking hat!
Step 2: Starting the Sorcerer's Stone Challenge
One house at a time was invited into the front room of our home to complete the Sorcerer's stone puzzle challenges, while the other three houses were in a different part of the house defeating Professor Quirrell (more about that later).
The following Sorcerer's stone story can be read ahead of time to all the houses together as a group, or it can be read when each house is alone, but before they undertake solving the puzzle portion. Once the story has been read, you can start the timer and let them know the first puzzle they need to solve, and then stop the timer once the first puzzle is solved correctly. We allowed a maximum time of 5 minutes to be spent on each puzzle section and if the team hadn't reached a solution by then, 5 minutes was marked as their time taken for that puzzle. They were allowed to ask us for help up to three times during the Sorcerer's stone challenge because “help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” The kids could give up to three wrong answers to a puzzle before having to move onto the next puzzle and the maximum amount of 5 minutes recorded for their score.
Step 3: Fluffy and the Recorder Puzzle
The first challenge in the Sorcerer's stone story is to put Fluffy to sleep with music. I had a costume for my 3-year-old that was a three-headed black dog outfit. My son was to play the part of Fluffy and only lay down and pretend to sleep when the team managed to play Hedwig's Theme with their recorders. (Mentioned in their invitations was a message to bring their recorders to the birthday party.) Not all the kids remembered to bring their recorders, which was mandatory for all fourth and fifth graders at their school to have for music class, so we also had plenty of nose whistles (kazoos work well too) on hand for them to play. Fluffy was very obedient and went to sleep as soon as a few notes could be played well, until it was his sister's team's turn and he refused to sleep even though they could play it note for note perfectly. Hopefully his sister learned to be nicer to him in the future, because you never know when you might need a little brother on your side!
Step 4: Plant Puzzle
The second puzzle in the Sorcerer's stone story had the children "trapped" by Devil's snare and needing to reorder the words on the plant's leaves to read a Dumbledore saying in order to be released.
I copied six famous Dumbledore quotes on paper that was printed with a frame border and had them posted on a wall where the groups would be solving their puzzle challenges. The team would select a sealed envelope with a group of plastic plant leaves in it, and try to rearrange the leaf words to make the correct quote on the wall. I added a hidden element to the puzzle though--the words were written in UV paint, so the kids needed to shine the UV flashlight on the leaves to first make the words appear!
How to make the hidden plant quotes:
I bought a few sprigs of plastic plant leaves from the craft store and then painted the individual words on the leaves with glow-in-the-dark paint. When it dried completely, I then covered the entire leaf in green glitter glue to obscure the glow-in-the-dark word from the visible eye.
Step 5: Winged Key Puzzle
For the winged key puzzle, I used five math problems from Sean Connolly's "The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math," but adapted the wording and situations to be more Hogwarts themed. The math problems in this book are meant for grades 5 through 7, so for my 5th grader and her classmates who are ahead of their peers in math, these were challenging but solvable problems for them (plus they got to ask for help three times during the challenge if they needed it). The word problems were printed and placed in sealed envelopes from which the team got to choose one to open and solve in five minutes or less.
After they found the correct answer to their math problem, they would hunt for the correct winged key that had that same number on it and show it to us to stop the timer.
How to make the hanging winged keys:
I used my collection of neat looking faux antique keys for this challenge. I had been collecting them whenever I came across them in the craft stores, etc. I printed different wing designs on tracing paper to give a translucent look and then laminated the cutouts to keep them from tearing when they were secured around the necks of the keys. I used shrinky dink (shrink plastic) numbers that had a hole punched into it before baking so I could slip a jump ring on it afterwards and attach it to the wire holding the wings wrapped around the keys. The keys were suspended from a low ceiling with fishing line and small S hooks at the end, which enabled the keys to be removed easily for the puzzle.
Step 6: Chess Puzzle
Ah, I teach chess to the students at my kids' school so I know what chess puzzles the kids are capable of solving. Even so, I let the teams pick from one of two chess puzzles: A) place eight queens on the board so that none of them are in check from another queen, or B) how can four queens and a bishop be placed so that the opposing king is always in check, whatever his position. This turned out to be too challenging of a brain teaser to solve in just five minutes, so maybe next time I'll just have them play me in a game of speed chess.
(Eight queens are pretty hard to come by in one chess set, so we just use the pawns to represent the queens while doing this challenge.)
Step 7: Potion Puzzle
The riddles for the potion puzzle that were placed in sealed envelopes for the kids to pick from and solve, came from the book "The Big Book of Puzzles, Puzzles and Engimas." The teams had to use simple logic to find the correct answer (a number) to the problem and then select the correct potion on the table with that same number on it. I had six riddle envelopes for the teams to choose from, so no riddle was repeated between teams yet the last team to pick still felt like they had a choice between envelopes.
How to make the potion bottles:
The potion bottles were something I made for myself to display on my craft shelves. They were small bottles found from craft stores and I filled them with clear colored resin or glittered resin using medicine droppers. The Harry Potter potion labels were found from the internet and mod-podged (glued) onto the fronts of the glass bottles. I used shrinky dink (shrink plastic) numbers that had a hole punched into it before baking so I could slip a jump ring on it afterwards and attach it to the wire wrapped around the bottle's neck.
The riddles are as follows:
Friar Luke is the steward of the abbey. Very economical, he recycles the stubs of used candles to make new ones. He is capable of reconstituting a candle from three candle stubs which he melts together. How many candles can he make from the nine candle stubs that he has recovered this morning from the abbey's chapel?
Mechanical Alarm Clock
You need to wake up early tomorrow morning so you use your mechanical alarm clock (with hour and minute hands) because it has a loud ring. You set it to ring at 10 am and you go to sleep at 9 pm. How long will you sleep?
A water lily doubling its surface area every year covers an entire pond at the end of ten years. If there had been two water lilies with the same properties, how much time would it have taken to cover the pond entirely?
How many times can you subtract 6 from 36?
A man arrives. The guard says to him, "Five," and the man replies, "Four," and the guard allows him to pass. A second man turns up. The guard says to him, "Six," to which he replies, "Three," and is allowed through. A last man appears. The guard says to him, "Four," he responds back, "Four," and he enters. Now it's your turn. The guard says to you, "Seven." What should you answer?
Quasimodo, the bell ringer of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, takes three seconds to ring four o'clock. How long does it take him to ring midday?
Step 8: Defeat Professor Quirrell in a Video Game Challenge
Like I mentioned before, one house at a time was invited into the front room of our home to complete the Sorcerer's stone puzzle challenges while the other three houses took turns playing the Lego Harry Potter Wii game and defeating Professor Quirrell in a different room in the house. This part of the challenge could have been counted in their total puzzle solving time, but I decided against it because I thought it unfair if they solved the rest of the (mental) challenges quickly but struggled playing the ending of the video game. So we just let them play the Lego Harry Potter Wii game challenge for fun and didn't count their time defeating the professor into their puzzle solving score.
Step 9: Record Each House's Puzzle Solving Time and Award House Points
We had clear tubes filled with gems that represented house points, and each house was awarded points based on how well they solved the Sorcerer's stone puzzles. Points were also awarded for the winners in the quidditch game between the houses, and those gems added to the tubes as well. The "Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them" scavenger hunt was more of a cooperative Hogwarts ice-breaking game, and therefore no additional points awarded to the houses.
If you don't have a full quidditch team in each house (one keeper, one seeker, two beaters, three chasers), you can combine two houses together. In our case, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff played as one team against Slytherin and Ravenclaw combined, and two out of three games won were declared the quidditch winners. The winning team's houses both got awarded house points.
The winning house of the party received prizes of Harry Potter bracelets. I also made red resin Sorcerer stones as a neat prop for the kids. (I only had two kids in each house so I didn't have to make a large amount.)
Now that you have gone through the puzzles in this instructable, do you think you could have done better than the kids? In other words, are you smarter than a fifth grader?
The Sorcerer's stone challenge team times are as follows:
Ravenclaw--Helped 2 times
Devil's Snare 3:44
Winged Keys 5:00
Slytherin--Helped 3 times
Devil's Snare 4:10
Winged Keys 4:30
*this house was filled with the 3rd grade siblings of the 5th graders invited, so this puts their time into perspective!
Hufflepuff--Helped 0 times
Devil's Snare 2:17
Winged Keys 5:00
Gryffindor--Helped 2 times
Devil's Snare 1:27
Winged Keys 2:44