In the wonderful wizarding world of Harry Potter, children receive their Hogwarts Acceptance Letters at the old age of 11… so naturally, we celebrated Colby’s 11th birthday with an epic Harry Potter party.
(Unintended side effect: Now all the kids want a Harry Potter party this year!)
The party began with wands and sorting… but not in the usual way.
My incredible sister-in-law made custom wands for each child using chopsticks and liberal amounts of hot glue. These wands were spectacular! She even made Voldemort’s wand for my teenager, who insisted on being bald and cloaked for the entire party.
Anyway, we laid the wands across the end of the table because it was our first activity.
The guests lined up, took a wand and pointed it at our Twinkly tree. If the tree didn’t react, it was the wrong wand and they had to try another. When they found their wand (because the wand chooses the wizard, you know), the tree would immediately light up with their house colors.
This was an easy activity that had a huge “Wow” factor for the kids. Twinkly trees are easily controlled with a phone app. Using the app, you can design custom colors and patterns for the tree. I had pre-programmed all of the Hogwarts house color patterns in advance. With one click, I could change the tree to whatever I wanted!
The young wizards participated in a few Hogwarts classes.
Our party included four Hogwarts classes: Charms, Potions, Care of Magical Creatures and Defense Against the Dark Arts.
Charms: “Wingardium Leviosa.”
Instead of levitating a feather for Wingardium Leviosa, our young wizards were challenged to keep white balloons in the air. The real challenge? Doing this without popping their balloons!
Potions: Color-Changing Drinks
During potions, the guests watched in awe as I poured ordinary Sprite into different plastic cups… where the soda immediately changed to different colors!
It seemed like magic and many of the kids took me aside after to ask how I’d done it. This was one of the most fun and affordable tasks we’d included in our party!
Our party began in the afternoon, so that morning I placed a drop or two of food coloring in each of the clear plastic cups. Just before the guests arrived, I covered that dried food coloring with ice so it couldn’t be seen.
As soon as the cool, fizzy soda was dumped in the glass, it mixed with the food coloring and changed the soda to a fun color.
Care of Magical Creatures: The Beasts Escaped!
During Care of Magical Creatures, our young wizards were tasked with finding the escaped beasts. It was a simple themed scavenger hunt, but everyone had a great time finding the hidden animals.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. You can download our scavenger hunt pages here (print one per guest) and the sheet of creatures to hide here (print one per party) for free!
We hid the creatures in ridiculous places (like taping one underneath the mantle so it could only be seen from below) and in various plants around the house. One was tucked into the middle of a roll of toilet paper. Be creative!
(Bonus points if you do some research and hide the creatures in places they might actually hide… but I didn’t do that.)
Defense Against the Dark Arts: Dementor Attack
A Dementor appeared as the scavenger hunt concluded. The kids had to fight it off with a big stick (oversized wand?). Everyone took a swing at it and some had the good sense to yell, “Expecto Patronum!”
The Dementor Pinata was ridiculously easy to make. We filled a plastic grocery bag with candy and added some balloons for extra filling. We hung the bag on a plastic hanger, covered it with a black skirt and hung the entire assembly from a broom handle.
There’s a troll in the dungeon!
We had hung a sign on the downstairs door warning everyone not to go downstairs… and for good reason! We had set up an entire Sorcerer’s Stone Challenge Course downstairs!
In the first book, our trio of heroes must face several challenges to save the Sorcerer’s Stone. We recreated as many of those challenges as possible… and then of course we forgot to take pictures! I’m really disappointed about that… but I’m sure we’ll get better pictures soon because now every one of my kids wants to re-create this for their next birthday.
Anyway, after the classes concluded, my younger son ran through the house shouting, “There’s a troll in the dungeon!!!”
Everyone gathered at the top of the stairs to hear their next challenge.
Challenge #1: Devil’s Snare
Our “do not enter” warning sign on the door had a picture of Fluffy, which was technically the first challenge in the books.
The first challenge we could actually recreate was the Devil’s Snare. We wrapped the downstairs staircase in crepe paper. Bellatrix added some spiders for an extra creep factor.
The kids, with the Birthday Boy leading the way, had to fight their way through the Devil’s Snare. Unfortunately, holding still didn’t work as effectively as it did in the books.
Challenge #2: Find the Flying Key
At the base of the stairs, we hung dozens of tiny flying metal keys from strings. We taped them to the ceiling.
A sign at the base of the stairs showed an image of which key they had to match. Bellatrix blocked the path so they couldn’t progress until they found the correct key.
Challenge #3: The Potions Challenge
I couldn’t figure out how to make chess work with a crowd of 20 or so kids, so I simply hung a sign that said “
Wizards Chess Fluffy Ate It.”
The troll had been previously defeated by Quirrel, so we simply stuffed one of the boys’ snowsuits with a giant stuffed animal and draped it in the corner of the room.
The next challenge our young wizards faced was the potions logic puzzle. I directly copied the rhyme from the books, substituting “nettle wine” for “pickle brine” so that none of the kids thought I was actually offering them alcohol…. especially since the small bottles we used for this were washed-out liquor bottles that my sister provided!
We washed out and filled those bottles with liquids and food coloring. The “poison” was very thick salt water. The pickle brine was actually pickle brine. The two acceptable potions (go forward and go back) were sugar water.
The kids had to work together to solve the puzzle. In the end, they all figured it out and we moved on to the last challenge: The Mirror of Erised.
Challenge #4: The Mirror of Erised
At last, our wizards had to figure out how to get the Sorcerer’s Stone from the Mirror of Erised. In the books, Harry sees his reflection put the stone in his pocket. In real life, I couldn’t work that kind of wizardry.
For the Mirror, I spray-painted a cardboard box black. I placed a red bouncy ball inside and taped tin foil over the front for a reflective surface. Obviously, the stone was to be retrieved by punching through the tin foil and grabbing the stone.
To make this challenge a little more complicated, Bellatrix and Voldemort were guarding the mirror. The Birthday Boy and his pals had to storm past the defenders to get the mirror and secure the prize.
Finally, it was time for Quidditch and a feast.
After all the obstacles were overcome, our wizards went out to the backyard for some backyard Quidditch. We also opened up the kitchen for a feast of treats.
Somehow, not a single person thought to take a picture of our Quidditch pitch. However, it was relatively easy to build. We purchased six hula hoops and six 3′ sections of PVC pipe. We cut the hoops and slipped a T-connector onto each one. We taped the hoop back together and glued the T-connector over the tape. When the glue dried, we stuck the hoop on top of the 3′ sections of pipe. We used a mallet to drive the 3′ section into the ground.
We also had a plethora of themed treats. It wasn’t exactly a Pinterest-worthy spread, but the kids loved it!
We had Pumpkin Juice (orange soda), Butter Beer (cream soda), Licorice Wands (Twizzlers), Dementor Chocolate (Hershey’s) and Dumbledore’s Pensieve (blue Jello).
As one of my son’s friends noted, I missed the mark on Dementor Chocolate. I should’ve used Hershey’s Kisses and called it “Dementor’s Kiss.”
We also had Dumbledore’s lemon drops (Lemonheads) and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (Jelly Belly mix from Winco). I used the Firewhisky and Elf-made Wine labels because I had them. They’re really Ginger Ale and Cream Soda.
For the chocolate frogs, I bought a cheap frog mold on Amazon and poured melted chocolate chips into it. I made them the day before and stored them in the freezer overnight. They were delicious!
For the cake, we made the Monster Book of Monsters. It didn’t turn out as planned but that chocolate buttercream is delicious.
There were other little details, too.
We also had some fun signs throughout the house. We had a “Ministry of Magic This Way” sign above the toilet on the main floor. We also had a sign that clearly reminded everyone that Dumbledore had said that “The third floor corridor is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death.”
Overall, Colby thought it was a great party.
Colby said, “I really liked it! I liked picking the wands and the Sorcerer’s Stone challenge… except for when I dumped pickle brine all over myself.”
Based on this picture, I think it’s safe to say he even enjoyed being trampled over the pinata candy…