Our Onward Party was a great way to interrupt the coronavirus quarantine blues! We bought the movie on iTunes as soon as it became available, but Disney generously made it available on Disney+ less than one month after releasing the movie in theaters! Click here for a free trial of Disney+!
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What is Onward?
Onward is a heartwarming story of two brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot, who tragically lost their father at a very young age. Barley barely remembers his father; Ian doesn’t remember him at all.
Barley is a magic-loving adventurer, while Ian is more reserved. At first, they couldn’t be more different. However, they have to team up when they are presented with the opportunity to magically return their father for one day.
The spell goes awry, and the brothers have to band together on a quest full of magic and adventure in order to bring their dad back before time runs out.
This is a great movie for families.
When we watched Onward for the first time, we laughed and cried together as Ian and Barley went through their adventure. There were so many important life lessons in this movie, and it truly reinforced the importance of family.
Nine year old Joseph said, “I was really impressed with the part where he has to walk across an invisible bridge and trust that it was there. When he looked back and started to fall, it really affected me.”
The ending is what affected our oldest, 14-year-old Jack. “After Dad almost died in November, I realized that I could’ve been in Barley’s situation. The other kids would have looked up to me and I would have been the man of the house.”
Onward is a great movie, but it’s also a great starter for many meaningful family conversations. I encourage you to watch it with your kids!
This Onward party plan calls for great adventure in your own home.
We love parties, and one of the hardest things about coronavirus for our family is the lack of large social gatherings. We miss hosting our friends. However, when I first saw Onward, I couldn’t help but think of all the fun party activities we could do!
Start with this Onward Mad Lib!
The spell that Ian and Barley cast to see their father again goes like this:
Only once is all we get,
Grant me this rebirth.
Til tomorrow’s sun has set,
One day to walk the earth!
Since my kids love Mad Libs, I turned this into a quick Visitation Spell Mad Lib that went like this:
Only once is all we get,
(Verb) me this (noun),
Til tomorrow’s (noun) has (verb),
One day to (verb) the (noun; rhyme with the first noun)!
You can find party-friendly printables of this Mad Lib here.
While I set up the party in the house, the kids went out front and used a wooden staff to cast their spells.
This Onward Party adventure has five phases.
Just like Ian and Barley’s adventure, our party had several challenges that the children had to work through. You can watch the summary video on YouTube here!
Introducing the Onward Party Adventure
Our children found a note taped on the door from Ian and Barley. The message, which you can download here, says:
We need your help!
We accidentally lost the Phoenix Gem somewhere in your house and we need you to help us. Dad ran away and we have to catch him, so it’s up to you to find it.
You have 30 minutes to find it before he disappears forever.
Ian and Barley
PS: We know you can do this!
The First Challenge: Unscrambling Guinevere’s License Plate to Find the Hidden Clue
Once the children opened the door, they found a pile of hot wheels cars and a license plate template on the dining table. Another note, which can be downloaded here, awaited them.
This time, the message said:
We didn’t have time to unscramble this mystery but we think we know what you need to do.
First, you will need to use the cars to spell out the license plate for Barley’s van. You remember what it’s called, right?
Once you’ve done that, you’ll have to find some way to uncover the invisible ink so that you can solve the mystery.
When you’re finished, this will lead you to the next clue.
Ian and Barley
PS: The vehicle’s name was Guinevere, remember?
Each of the Hot Wheels cars had a letter taped to it. They had to unscramble the license plate GWNIVER.
This is where I messed up, guys. I meant to also have a number taped under each of the cars, and the message written in invisible ink scrambled to match the numbers… but I completely forgot this step. Oops!
Anyway, the code that was written in white crayon was DWNSTRS. They eventually figured out how to read the “invisible ink” by holding it up to the light.
The Second Challenge: A Relay to Find the Manticore’s Coloring Pages
If you’ve seen the movie, then you know that the Manticore’s coloring pages are a major clue on their quest. In honor of that, I hand-drew coloring pages with the Phoenix Gem and hid them downstairs.
The kids discovered another note from Ian and Barley on the downstairs door (available here). It read:
We need you to retrieve the coloring pages that we got from the Manticore’s Tavern. We accidentally lost them downstairs.
A strange curse seems to have been released in the air down there, so you can only safely be downstairs for 15 seconds at a time. You will need to hurry, or you will not be able to complete your adventure!
Make sure to have someone stay at the top of the stairs and keep track of the time for you. I recommend that you go relay style, one at a time, in 15 second bursts. Work together!
Ian and Barley
PS: Be sure to work together! Teamwork is an important part of every quest.
This was absolutely hysterical to watch. In hindsight, I should’ve given them 20-30 seconds instead of just 15. In 15 seconds, they ran down the stairs, barely made it to the end of the play room and then back up the stairs.
It took them almost 20 minutes to get through this part of the challenge! In the end, only two of the children were not lost to the gas… so everyone’s hopes were pinned on our youngest! To see the chaos, be sure to check out our YouTube video.
The Third Challenge: Solving the Puzzle and Following the Ravens
Just like on the Manticore’s coloring sheets in the movie, the puzzle on the page unscrambled to be “Raven’s Point.”
The children followed black paper ravens (click here for printable) throughout the house. In the printable, you’ll see a variety of raven shapes. Make sure that the beak always points toward the next clue!
The ravens led them up the stairs, where the kids were surprised by a pixie attack! Instead of the crazy little pixies from the movie, this was just me throwing stuffed animals at them while they tried to follow the ravens. lol
Eventually, they ravens led them to a cut-out shape (printable here) that I had taped under the upstairs walkway.
The Fourth Challenge: Finding the Phoenix Gem
Our oldest correctly identified the shape as the map piece that directed Ian and Barley to look at the end of the water. The children deduced that they needed to then find out where that piece fit.
They wandered into the kitchen. However, as they approached, the curse emerged in the form of a dragon!
Their littlest brother, Sam, had to fight off all his older siblings as they tried to match the shape they’d found to the template where it fit.
(Our awesome dragon costume was provided by Little Adventures, by the way.)
Once they managed to get the piece in place, they opened the cupboard door to reveal the location of the Phoenix Gem. It was a large orange Easter egg filled with Reese’s.
Don’t forget your Onward Party snacks!
Of course, snacks are a critical part of any party. Since our party was happening during the social distancing period, I tried to focus on things that I could buy easily.
I picked up a discounted cake and called it Ian’s birthday cake. After all, the movie starts on Ian’s birthday, and his Mom says she needs to pick up his cake.
We also had a gelatin gelatinous cube. The green jello cube appears in the movie as an obstacle to Ian and Barley. This was simple green jello, cut into a cube shape.
Pixie Sticks were, obviously, the pixie’s sticks. Oreos were themed as “Guinevere’s Tires” and pretzel sticks were themed as Ian’s magic staff. As my son described it, “there’s magic in every fiber.”