Host a Harry Potter camp (or birthday party)!
Our daughter is a huge Harry Potter fan and always wondered what it would be like to be accepted to Hogwarts (school for Witchcraft and Wizardry) when she turned 11 (which is what happens to Harry in the story).
As our daughter's 11th birthday approached, and since sending her and all of her friends to Universal Studios was not in the budget, we decided to turn our house into Hogwarts and invite her closest friends to be witches and wizards at a Harry Potter camp!
To set the stage of what to expect, we sent each prospective "student" a "letter of acceptance," which included the details fo the party/camp, and which was signed by the headmasters of Hogwarts.
The idea was to make our house into Hogwarts by setting up several of our rooms to each include a Harry Potter-themed activity. We also made a marauder's map to help the guests navigate, and which showed what the various rooms were.
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Step 1: Platform 9 3/4
In the story, the witches and wizards catch a train to Hogwarts by running through a brick wall on platform 9 3/4 at the train station.
In our house, we also had a platform 9 3/4 that you had to break through (to get to the Great Hall)!
Our platform 9 3/4 was made from a shower curtain, which we cut in a strategic location for inconspicuous entry. The actual brick wall in our kitchen added to the effect.
Step 2: Great Hall
You can't have Hogwarts without a Great Hall!
My favorite part of the entire camp was how our dining room was transformed into the Great Hall. We hung up castle-like decorations on the walls, and made a bunch of candle sticks float all around the room. (Invisible fishing line and battery-operated candles came in handy for this.)
Family style meals and desserts, as well as Harry Potter-themed plates, napkins and goblets helped complete the effect. The headmaster also enjoyed some poly juice potion :)
I think the result was stunning and magical!
Step 3: Wand Making
Who can do magic without a magic wand?
The students/campers made wands by wrapping clay around a chopstick, letting the clay dry, and painting it. These wands were used to make magic for the rest of the camp/party.
Step 4: Levitation Class
Once the magic wands were made, it was time to test them out!
The kids got their wands, pointed them toward a feather, and said the levitation spell: "Wingardium Leviosa"
It usually took a few tries, but it eventually worked! The wands were indeed magical!
We used the invisible fishing wire, tied it to the feather, fed it through an eye-bolt in the ceiling (which was already there), and added a small weight to the other end. The weight was light enough not to weigh down the feather, but easy enough for a "professor" to grab to help the feather float (if the spell wasn't too strong).
Step 5: Quidditch
Quidditch may be the most popular part of Hogwarts, so we had to have it at our camp!
To set up the Quidditch pitch (we just did one side of the field), we needed three goals, broomsticks, a ball, bludgers, and a golden snitch.
The goals were made by stacking tomato cages at different heights, and zip-tying a hula hoop to the top cage of each goal.
To make each broomstick, we painted a pool noodle brown, and taped yellow party decorations to one end - that and some imagination was all it took to make them fly!
We used small inflatable balls for the bludgers, a soccer ball for the main ball, and a remote-control golden snitch (which was a Christmas present).
The kids had a lot of fun playing Quidditch...until the dementor came and ruined the game :)
Step 6: Diving for Potter
While pool games weren't part of the book, we had do to something to beat the heat!
Who knew diving for Harry Potter characters could be so much fun?!
We printed out and laminated pictures of a few characters, tied them to dive sticks, and had the kids rescue the characters from the bottom of the pool. It was a fun way to cool off while still keeping the theme going!
Step 7: Dorm Life
This is no better way to end a Harry Potter party than by sleeping in a dormitory!
We simply put a few mattresses, air mattresses, and sleeping bags on the floor in two rows - similar to what you may expect to find at Hogwarts. The kids enjoyed reading (Harry Potter stories, no doubt) before falling asleep beside their co-newly minted witches and wizards.
Second Prize in the
DIY Summer Camp Contest