Hogwarts made up the bulk of the party time and activities, of course. We had another table (across the pavilion from Diagon Alley) set up with another black tablecloth and another sign that read “Hogwarts.”
Firstly and very importantly, we had the Sorting. I bought a $1 costume witch hat at the Dollar Tree, which was lacy and purple (not very much like the Sorting Hat). By chance, I found a large remnant of fuzzy brown fabric for $2, and I used it to cover the hat with a combination of sewing and hot glue. $3 Sorting Hat! Not even Amazon can beat that.
Now, some people got all crazy and stuck a baby monitor up in their hat so it could ‘speak’ to the kids and tell them their house, but I just printed off Hogwarts House Badges onto cardstock and put them into a cauldron we had in our Halloween decorations. I added the badges in sets of four until there were enough for all the kids plus a few. We put the Sorting Hat on a child’s head, had them close their eyes, and draw out a house badge. There was another mom standing by with safety pins to put them on the kids’ shirts.
Max got Gryffindor, and he was very proud. Charlie got Ravenclaw, and was reasonably pleased. We only had one meltdown over the Sorting – Tommy drew Slytherin at the very end and started crying. Fortunately we had one leftover Hufflepuff badge in there and I was able to convince him that the other kids in Hufflepuff (Teddy among them) would be fun to be teammates with. I think the twins were the only kids there young enough to cry over their House who also knew what the Houses meant, but if you’re doing a party with younger kids be aware of the possibility of drama during the Sorting.
Why did we need to have roughly even Houses, you ask? Because we were awarding House Points!
Yes, those are M&Ms. Yes, we actually sorted a bag of M&Ms by color. No, I didn’t do it myself. For some reason the children were strangely willing to help. Yes, it might have been a crazy idea, but yes, it was fun, and I totally made a batch of cookies using all of the leftovers.
I found these plastic champagne flutes at the Dollar Tree and they made great point containers. I awarded points as needed (I avoided removing any, because party! fun!) and at the end the houses were fairly equal with a slight lead by Ravenclaw – because they were very competitive, not because the birthday boy was on that team. Points were given to houses that did the best in the classes, for silly things like “rising to meet expectations” when Slytherin got out of control, the house that found the most hidden bags of treasure, etc.
Next, we had classes! I told the children that there had been an emergency at the Ministry of Magic and so Dumbledore, McGonagal, Hagrid, and the rest of the teachers all had to leave, so I was their substitute professor! (I actually printed off a piece of paper that said, “Hogwarts Substitute Teacher Handbook” on it, folded it in half to look like a book, and wrote my class itinerary in it so I wouldn’t forget anything.) I made a big show of saying how I hoped all the classes would go well and there wouldn’t be any problems so I wouldn’t get in trouble with Dumbledore, for reasons you will soon see.
- Defense Against the Dark Arts. I sent the kids out on the grass with their wands and spellbooks and had them “practice” for as long as it held their attention. Don’t underestimate the appeal of pointing a wand at your friend and yelling spells at them.
- Care of Magical Creatures came next. Before the party I had placed a bunch of plastic coins (Dollar Tree again) in favor bags and had them hidden around the park. I also had a cardboard box, taped shut, and had Greg rip a corner so that it looked like something had escaped from it.
Like so. I had it placed on the table so that the hole wasn’t visible to the children. I started off by telling the kids that I had Nifflers to show them, told them that Nifflers are little, furry creatures that really love shiny things like gold and silver. At some point while I was talking, I pulled out the box, being sure the hole was facing the kids and not me. They pointed out the hole almost at once, and I made a show of surprise and dismay. I ‘checked’ in my other box of supplies and told the kids the Nifflers took the gold I was supposed to use for the lesson! I sent the kids out to look for the gold so Hagrid wouldn’t be upset I had lost it.
- Potions Class was up. You could use any kind of fancy kitchen science for this, I did two experiments. One was a baking soda/colored vinegar “potion.” I’ve seen these around, just fill the bottom of a pan or tray with baking soda and have containers of vinegar (colored a few different colors) out to drip onto it. It went over well, everyone wanted to try.
Next we did ‘bubble snakes‘ aka ‘Potion of Foam Snake Summoning.’ I hadn’t tried it out beforehand and so I told the kids Professor Snape left me directions but I wasn’t sure if it would work. (See? The sub thing really works.) Follow the link above for directions. I did NOT use food coloring, and I discovered that if you have a flimsy-sided plastic bottle it does NOT work as well. It worked well enough for the kids, but if you’re doing it you’re going to want a plastic bottle with rigid sides.
- Charms was one I wanted to do but had a hard time coming up with an activity for. In the end I bought a couple packs of party poppers – they were cheap and in the party section at Walmart – and had the kids line up to shoot them off one by one. This needs to be closely adult supervised, we had one kid decide to wander around and almost had one shot in his face. The incantation we used was Flagrate, which allows the caster to write in the air. Close enough, right? Make sure you bring a few extra poppers, we had one with no string, and another too tight for the kids to pull. This was well received.
- Transfiguration: we turned suckers into spiders.
If I was doing it again, I’d have pipe cleaners cut in half before we started. Kids just needed 4 half pipe cleaners, a sucker, a pompom, and glue. I decided against googly eyes, this pretty well did the trick as far as the kids were concerned. Some of the younger kids needed help, the older ones managed alone.
I was GOING to do Flying Class (broomstick maintenance by making broomstick pencils), but the kids were starting to get antsy and hungry by the time we finished with our spiders so I just awarded final points and let the kids head over to Honeydukes – which is a post of its own.
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