Pirate-themed Birthday Party

Pirate-themed Birthday Party

If a pirate life’s the one for your child, go all out with this swashbuckling party theme.

By: Shelly Reese

Pirate-themed parties are simple to throw and fun for a wide range of ages. Best of all, you’ll have as much fun preparing for the party as your guests will have attending it.

Set the tone for the party by using an old-fashioned font and art of a pirate ship or the Jolly Roger (skull and crossbones flag) off the Internet. Print the invitations on parchment-style stationery.

Want a more homemade look? Tear or scorch the edges of parchment-style paper to give it a weathered look, handwrite party details in black ink and draw a treasure map to your house. If you plan to hand-deliver your invitations and want an authentic look, roll them up in a scroll. You can tie them with a little ribbon or seal them with a drop of red wax!


  • Let your guests know they’ve arrived at the right house by flying the Jolly Roger and marking your front door or doorstep with a big red “X.” (Every pirate knows “X” always marks the spot.)
  • Use a red, black and white color scheme.
  • Give every guest a red-and-white-striped bandana and an eye patch. (You can find these online or at party stores, or make your own eye patches out of black felt and a bit of elastic string.)
  • Make pirate banners with messages such as “Yo Ho Ho!” “Ahoy Matey!” or “Beware of Pirates!” with ribbons and triangular pieces of card stock, or decorate your walls with ocean maps and fishing nets. (The cargo net from the back of an SUV will do in a pinch.)
  • Hang up plenty of cardboard signs warning passersby of your motley crew!
  • Pirate booty — chocolate coins and plastic beads — makes great table decorations and can be given out as party favors at the end of the day.


  • Temporary Tattoos: Ever meet a pirate who didn’t have a tattoo? Applying temporary tattoos is a great time-filling activity while you wait for all your guests to arrive.
  • Walk the Plank: Pirates are a ruthless lot. Spread a blue tablecloth or tarp on the ground and fill your “ocean” with cardboard cutouts of shark fins. Create a low balance beam by placing a sturdy wood plank on top of cinder blocks and make party goers walk the balance beam. Reward those who make it across without falling in with a bit of booty.
  • Hunt for Treasure: A pirate party is an ideal opportunity for a treasure hunt! Provide your guests with a series of clues and each time they solve a clue, guests will be directed to a new location where they’ll receive a new clue. Solving the final clue will lead them to their treasure (Vary the difficulty of each clue based on the ages of partygoers.)
  • Pirate Hook Toss: Buy plastic pirate hooks from a costume shop and glue them to a decorated sheet of plywood or cardboard. Get some plastic rings and you’ve turned the classic carnival “ring toss” into the perfect pirate game!

Looking for simple snack ideas? Now is the perfect time to dig out those little plastic saber skewers. They’re ideal for skewering cheese cubes.


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  • Create a fruit ship by hollowing out a watermelon, poking it with a long bamboo skewer mast and paper sail, and filling it with fresh fruit.
  • Chicken wings and cheese balls are instantly transformed into “Grilled Parrot Wings” and “Cannon Balls” with the right labels!
  • Naturally you’ll want to serve your thirsty crew plenty of grog. Root beer in plastic mugs makes a great stand-in here.

Tip: Check out our tips and instructions for throwing fun sportssafarisuperhero and rock-star themed parties.

The Cake
A pirate ship birthday cake makes an impressive — and delicious — centerpiece. If you love to decorate fancy cakes, break out the fondant and strut your stuff. Getting your cake in ship shape isn’t too difficult, either! Just use these steps for a great start.


  • Bake a cake in two round layer pans
  • Cut the layers in half and use icing to glue the four pieces together for a four-layer semicircle-shaped cake
  • Trim off the round edge opposite the flat side and turn the cake on its side. Voila! You now have a boat-shaped cake to decorate

Tip: To make decorating easier, secure the layers by sticking bamboo skewers or drinking straws through them. Wrap the cake in plastic and freeze it for an hour. Frost your cake with chocolate icing for the wood and decorate to your heart’s content.

You can use rolled wafer cookies for gunwales and cannons, malted milk balls for cannon balls, toy figurines for pirates, paper for sails and bamboo skewers, chocolate covered pretzels for masts or come up with your own ideas.

Shelly is a writer, communications consultant, wife, mother of two, and artist. When she's not in her office, she's in her studio with her kids making a really big mess. To find out more about her work visit www.shellyreese.net.

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