Jake and the Neverland Pirates Birthday: Party on a Shoestring

When I said that I was gathering ideas for a “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” party, several Sisters asked if I would share what I found.  My love-hate relationship with Pinterest continues: so many fantastic ideas, but so many of them take a lot of time, talent, and/or expense to execute.  I’m willing to put in a little time and use whatever talents I have, but I’m not throwing down tons of money.  I’ll focus my time and energy on things that the kids will get a kick out of, since they’re the reason for the party! 

That being said, I found and adapted several ideas that could be used for a Jake party, and many of them could be tweaked to go with another party theme.  There were some hits and misses in this party, but all that mattered was that my little guy and his friends had a great time (and it didn’t cost a fortune–yay!).  So here it is: the good, the bad, and the ugly of our little adventure into Neverland, along with links to the sites I found through Pinterest that inspired me:

The Good:

Scavenger Hunt: I’m not one for planning tons of activities at birthday parties, since it always seems like I’m interrupting happily-playing children to stick to the party agenda.  I’m also not big on treat bags, since they either cost a ton to fill, or they’re filled with trinkets that end up strewn across the house.  So for this party, we settled on one activity.  The kids decorated white paper bags with pirate stickers (3 sticker booklets from Pat Catan’s at $1 each, and I used some of the stickers for decorations too). 

When they were finished decorating their bags, they each received a “treasure map.”  The “map” had a list of pirate-themed items that were hidden around the basement, along with the quantities that the kids could take.  They included “Jake” themed items like pencils, tattoos, and Gold Doubloons from the Target Dollar Spot; extra Christmas candy (gold-wrapped Rolos were “gold nuggets,” red & green-wrapped candies were “gems,” and candy canes were “Captain Hook’s Hooks”); and clementines + Sharpie marker = “Smiley Pirates” (adapted from a Halloween jack-o’lantern Pinterest idea). 

The kids loved it, it served as both an activity and take-home treat, and I probably spent about $1 per guest on the whole shebang.

 

Themed food and decorations:  The party stores have tons of decor and accessories for every party theme.  I’ll order plates, and maybe a tablecloth, but I usually don’t go all out on expensive paper products.  Solid-colored “extras” like napkins, cups, etc. usually do just fine for considerably less cost, and that’s what we did for this party.

To pump up the “piratey” theme, I made a few signs using a pirate font in my word processor, then decorated them with some of the pirate stickers.  We also used the boys’ pirate ship toy as a centerpiece on the food table…pirate theme accomplished with minimal cost. :)

We had a mid-afternoon snacks & cake party (another way to help keep costs down vs. hosting your party at mealtime).  For each snack, I thought of a “piratey” name, and made a tag using the pirate font.  We had “Fish of the Sea” (goldfish crackers), “Cannonballs” (Whoppers), “Skully want a Cracker? …and cheese” (Skully is Jake’s parrot), “Tick-Tock Croc’s Veggies & Dip,” and “Tropical Island Fruit.”  Simple prep, all stuff kids like, and they got a kick out of the names.  Easy peasy.

 

The Bad

Well…maybe not “bad,” just not as good as they could have been.  My little fleet of orange pirate ships on their seas of blue jello actually turned out pretty cute, but I thought I’d get creative and add a gummi fish to the “water” in each cup.  Bad idea.  Something happened with the gummies and the jello–the fish got squishy and gross, and caused a watery puddle on the top of the jello that needed to be poured off before I put the orange boats on for the party.  The kids didn’t seem to mind too much–they just fished out the slimy gummi fish and ate the rest of the jello.  :)  So for future reference, no gummis in the jello. 

Two big boxes of blue jello made enough for 24 cups, and I was able to do that part in advance.  The “sails” were just scrapbook paper taped onto bamboo skewers, with pirate stickers on them.  The morning of the party, I cut the oranges into quarters, stuck the sails in, and put them in their water.  Overall a cute, fairly simple idea (minus the squishy gummi fish).

 

The Ugly

Ugly might be a little strong for the cake, considering it ended up well, but it sure was ugly for a while.  I love decorating cakes for my kids, and have made some pretty cute ones over the years.  This time though, my cake decorating skills outpaced my cake “structural engineering” skills, and the dumb thing collapsed on me. 

Long story short, I thought that if I took three half-circle layers and stuck them together, then put them with the flat side facing up, I could get both the curved bottom of the boat, and the flat deck.  As I built up the front and back of the boat with extra pieces of cake, the ends got too heavy, and the whole thing started to crack and collapse.  Not cool. 

We propped up the back with a graham cracker and some bamboo skewers, and I decorated over the graham cracker so it wouldn’t look quite so much like a mistake.  Then the morning of the party we woke up to find that the whole front half of the cake had collapsed too, so we squished it back together with more graham crackers and jacked it up with skewers, and it was good enough for the party.

So…if you attempt to make a cake like this, just start with flat pieces, and stack them up to create the shape you want.  That should work fine, with a lot less frustration.  For the other cake accessories, I made the crow’s nest by melting some leftover Christmas chocolate, and putting it in a cupcake liner.  After it cooled, I poked a hole in the center with a skewer, then used a marshmallow and a little more melted chocolate to hold the “mast” (a bunch of other skewers around the center skewer) in place (I rubber banded them together while the chocolate cooled).

I made the sails out of paper, more bamboo skewers, and some thread to tie them all together, and kind of hung it from the chocolate crow’s nest.  The other accessories were chocolate-covered pretzel rod cannons, mini-pretzel railings, a graham cracker plank and Whopper cannon balls, along with a thoroughly-washed Jake toy.  The gummi fish worked well as decorations in the “sea” around the ship–at least they were good for something! ;)

 

So there it is, our Jake and the Neverland Pirates party.  We planned for about 23 kids plus about 12-13 adults, and I think I spent less than $60 to put the whole party together.  Everyone had a great time, and I had a super happy little pirate as he celebrated with his friends.  Let me know what you think, and if you have any other ideas or suggestions, please share them in the comments so everyone can benefit. 

If you found this site through Pinterest, we invite you to stick around and check things out–we specialize in deals, coupon matchups, and frugal living, and we’d love for you to join us as we do life “on a Shoestring.”

Comments

    • Megan says

      Aww, thanks! I always get done with a project like this and hope one of the other boys ends up wanting the same theme so I’ll actually know how to do it the next time! ;)

  1. says

    As I read and saw about your adventures with the Jello, I couldn’t help but think back to the middle school cell models we had to make — I tried putting jelly beans in jello as my mitochondria. Bad idea. I woke up the next morning, and the mitochondria were nothing but little red puddles. Live and learn. :)

  2. Erika says

    I have also tried to make a special treat for someone who loves gummi bears and put them right in the jello and they were a mushy mess. I have since mastered adding candy to jello. You have to wait until it is semi-formed. If you put them in immediately they “melt” from the heat of the hot water in the jello. If you place the cups in the fridge for about 30 min-an hour once it has started to set you can then add the gummi things to jello and they just suspend in the jello instead of melting. Hope this helps for future endeavors because I think your whole party was a great inexpensive idea.

    • Megan says

      Thanks for the tip, Erika! I actually put mine in when it was already cooled and starting to gel, because I wanted them “floating” in the water, and they still kind of started to dissolve around the edges. A friend reminded me how back in middle school we had to do cell models, and she made hers out of Jell-o and candy, and the same thing happened (she was devastated!). I wonder if the Jell-o is acidic or something and it reacts with the gummi stuff? I think timing worked against me too–if I had served them soon after were cool, it wouldn’t have been as much of an issue, but I made them the day before, and they got more liquid-y as time passed. Live and learn! :)

Trackbacks

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