Seize the Momentum--and Throw a Harry Potter Party

By Elizabeth Wells for Real Families, Real Fun

Harry Potter--nothing's hotter. If you're reading these books by J. K. Rowlings aloud to your children, you know about Harry's adventures at the Hogwarts School, World Quidditch matches, and all the magic in the stoires. Bring some of the magic into your own home with a Harry Potter party--a perfect way to bring the books to life.

A Potter Party is great for birthdays or other special occasions. A Connecticut family also thought it was the perfect way to spend time during a very rainy day. Peggy L. of upstate New York said, "Our Harry Potter Party fit into a surprise early birthday party for Ryan (11), which made it easier for me (Mom). Ryan knew we were having a party but he didn't know it was for him." Invite a few friends or extended family to come over. Tell everybody--that means the adults, too--to dress up like his or her favorite character. Encourage them to reread parts of the books for descriptions for their characters. Or just ask your kids to help you escape from the world of Muggles (the Potter-world word for ordinary people). Since the book has so few illustrations, you can let your imagination go wild. Harry's world is a world of dragons, wizards, unicorns, good guys posing as bad guys and vice versa. The kids will love to see you having so much fun in what they see as "their world," and the memories will be priceless.

The Connecticut mom said that her kids were too young to read the books, so they created a magic party instead. "We made 'magic' outfits and Mom the magician did some tricks," she explained.

Costumes can be as simple as a face-painted lightning bolt--use a cold cream, disheveled hair or braids, and a cape (the Invisibility Cloak) made from a large bath towel. During the rainy-day party, mom had to be creative with material she had on hand so the kids each made their own 'magic hat' and chose a 'magic wand' from plastic straws. In upsate New York, "Rachel(9) was at our friends' house and she found some capes and hats. Then she printed a sign about the party on the computer."

Create the Great Hall by draping a tablecloth over your kitchen or picnic table. Top it with candles, a Hogwarts' "Sorting Hat" (a big hat from a consignment shop or novelty hat stand) and your favorite snacks (We have it on good authority that chips and sandwiches count as wizard food.) For dessert, make up a batch of fudge as the "rejuvenating chocolate" found in the third book. How about a bowl of jellybeans and some licorice ropes just like the Every Flavor Beans and Licorice Wands introduced in the first book? Serve root beer to mimic Harry's "butterbeer."

Peggy L. said, "I set the table with a lace tablecloth, used real gobblets, and had a lot of candles. We baked a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting instead of fudge."

Once your characters are assembled, let them create their own wands using a dowel stick cut to length and decorated with feathers, floral tape, glitter, glue, leaves, etc. Provide a table full of stuff and let them at it. And then watch as they try to make the dog or cat disappear! One mom reported, "Instead of using dowel sticks I bought squiggle straws and we attached ribbons to them to make them into magic wands."

Another hands-on activity is broom decorating. Whether it is an individual broom for each participant or one for a team or the whole group, they can choose just the right gadget or gizmo to make their broom the fiercest and fastest. The upsate New Yorkers imporvised on the activities. "We played hot potato. We also made rain sticks to go along with the magic theme."

Although Harry's Quidditch matches have him zooming around at altitudes too high for your guests, Potter fans will love to play Seeker-in-the Middle. This variation of the keep-away game, Pickle, uses a medium-sized superball, handball, or tennis ball. The object is for those players in the middle to snatch the ball from the two players throwing the ball back and forth. When a player catches the ball, he or she changes places with the one who threw the ball.

Make sure you have plenty of film at hand. If you've got a real devotee with artistic impulses, have him draw a large character on a cardboard stand-up with a hole for the guest to put his head in and pose. It can be as much fun as Halloween when everyone gets to pretend and experience the make-believe world of favorite book characters, in this case, Harry and his friends.

Web sources
There are a bazillion or so Harry Potter sites on the Web, and not all are worth spending time on. But one worth checking out is the publisher's site:

Harry Potter sites can be busy so be forewarned. One mom said, "I tried to get some pictures printed off of a web site, but I kept getting bumped so I gave up."

Also see:
Hideously fun Halloween party ideas
Plan your next birthday party

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