My son Zion was turning 7. In years past I’d ask him, “What’s your favorite thing?” so that we could try to theme his birthday. His answer was usually very simple and unsure, with answers like, “dinosaurs” or “presents”. This year, his answer was said with a bright face of enthusiasm and confidence, “Minecraft!” Ok little buddy, Minecraft it shall be!
I’m a filmmaker. Stories engage kids. Perfect match. I wanted him and his 1st grade friends to have the best experience, not just a typical party.
I was going to immerse the kids in a custom adventure, and the activities they were doing contributed to the storyline. So, I looked around for inspiration and ideas on what to do. After a lot of revisions and planning, I came up with the following adventure.
Looking to download the PDF’s I created?
I’ll just put there here at the top so it’s easy to find. Here is a zip file of all the ready-to-print PDF’s I created and/or downloaded.Download the Minecraft Party Pack (40MB Zip File)
Now, keep reading to see how it all went together…
The Birthday Party Events
First let me just explain the experience to you, from beginning to end. Then I’ll break down how I put together each piece.
The kids arrived to find our kitchen island covered with tons of Minecraft-inspired foods. We tried to mix it with healthier snacks along with sweets, but they all were tied to Minecraft in some way.
When the kids had all finally arrived, I gathered them around and putting on my best storytelling voice, told them what they would be doing.
Make a Minecraft Torch
I then brought out a stack of pre-cut torches and pointed to two tables with crayons and announced,
I helped tape a small battery-operated tea light to the end of each finished torch, and then sent them onto their next mission.
Search for Elements
I would lead them with their finished torches to the door of our basement which had a sign for “Mine! Enter with Caution!”
The kids found we had rearranged the couches in the basement, and placed a bunch of small squares of paper all over the place for them to find. Minecraft music played softly from my computer in an adjoining room to set the mood while they were mining. They excitedly came and went from the basement, surfacing to get a better look at what they found.
Craft Your Materials
When they came back up from mining with their torches, and with a handful of elements, I then had them combine and “craft” the elements they wanted to make the sword.
They each had a “Personal Crafting” checklist so they could see how each element needed to be combined, in typical Minecraft fashion, to create their sword. Simply, they would show me they collected the right elements, and I would hand them a crafted element. This was fun, the kids trying to trade and collect all the different kinds of elements and crafting materials.
Build Your Sword
Eventually it was time… I brought out the pre-cut foam board swords and thousands of pre-cut foam colored squares, and some glue.
I printed out a cheat sheet for each crafting table with the colors for various types of swords they could make, but most of them got super-creative and made their own designs. I was blown away with the creativity of a bunch of 1st graders.
My inner parent voice worried, “What if they hit each other with the swords? Oh dear!” Well, it worked out in my favor that when they were done making them they had to let them sit to dry, and they couldn’t really touch it until they were getting picked up by their parents. But, just to be safe I gave them the following information,
I then gave them a raised eyebrow, and a glare, “Trust me. They will disappear forever.” Happy to report, we had no incidents.
Survive Creeper Tag
The kids had ants in their pants after being inside for so long. Perfect! Time for some Creeper Tag! Two kids became creepers and were given a special Creeper t-shirt to wear, the rest were adventurers. The last adventurer to be tagged got an “Ender Pearl” All Mincrafters know that you need 12 Ender Pearls to open the Ender Portal… so we played until the kids had enough to open the portal (and they were thoroughly wiped out physically too).
Fight the Ender Dragon!
They now had their swords (which were still drying) and they needed to fight the Ender Dragon! After a brief break to recover from tag, they came back out to discover an Ender Dragon pinata. The kids took turns swinging the “sword” (pinata stick) I gave them. I made sure each kid got a turn before I’d let any serious damage happen. Eventually, the head split open revealing the fun candy treasure!! They had finished their adventure!
All the the kids left the part with:
- 3x Minecraft Cookies (TNT, Creeper, Steve)
- A Minecraft sword (that they made)
- A Minecraft torch (that they made)
- Some Ender Pearls
- A bag full of candy
- A belly full of fun Minecraft food.
The Prep.. Oh dear, the Prep
So that sounds all fine and dandy, when you hear how “easily” it all played out over the 2 1/2 hour party. Whew! The preparation took me several weeks of work, including a few full days off of work to make sure I got it all done in time.
Prepping the Snacks
I’ll admit, I cheated… a LOT. I poured through pages of Pinterest photos looking for ideas. I then made a list of what food we needed to make, and created all the food tents to match. We ended up with 12 different kinds of snacks plus water bottles.
Ingredients: Red Vines
Details: I cut 3x Red Vines in half to make bundles of 6 TNT each. Wrapped with a simple B&W printout with “TNT” on it, and taped them in place.
Ingredients: Pretzel Sticks
Details: Easy and inexpensive snack!
Ingredients: Green Jello
Details: The first time I tried to make it, they all fell apart when I tried to cut them. I had to follow the “Jigglers” recipe which called for double the gelatin mix compared to water. Those were much more firm, and cut into squares much more easily.
Details: Cut the tops off Strawberries, and turned them upside down.
Ingredients: Water Bottles
Details: I grabbed a case of 24 mini-water bottles, and pulled off all the labels. I then measured the labels to help me make the replacements. I had all sorts of variations: Experience, Regeneration, Healing, Strength, and simply “Happy Birthday.” Just cut them out, and tape them in place.
Ingredients: Colby Jack Cheese
Details: Got a block of Colby Jack cheese from the supermarket and cut it into squares. Easy, and healthy.
Ingredients: Blue Jello
Details: Similarly to preparing the “Slime”, I had to use the “Jigglers” recipe so that they were firm enough to cut into squares.
Details: A bag of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds.
Ingredients: Goldfish Crackers
Details: We always have these around the house anyway, so that was easy.
Ingredients: Chocolate Cake
Details: We used a simple off-the-shelf chocolate cake mix, and mixed up some frosting with green food coloring and decorated them with a star-shaped frosting tip.
Ingredients: Rice Crispy Clumps
Details: My favorite!! Start with the standard Rice Crispy Treat recipe, then add some black food coloring. Instead of pressing into a cake pan, just shape into clumps.
Ingredients: Baby Carrots
Details: Finally, we needed something “healthy,” right? My wife always has some baby carrots around for salads, plus some ranch dressing in the middle for dipping.
Baking the Cookies
Making the cookies was a whole-afternoon ordeal which we tackled a week ahead of time. We already had a square cookie cutter, so I just measured it and created the right size template in Photoshop. Using images from the Internet, I resized them to fit the template. I printed out the template on cardstock, then cut out the details with an Exacto knife. The cookie recipe is just a simple sugar cookie recipe, and a standard icing recipe made from powdered sugar and food coloring.
The first few cookies, I used the template, but I’ll admit that once I got the hang of things it was easier to just freehand them. The first step is to outline all the elements with a firmer icing, but then you mix up a more watered-down version of the icing to “flood” the color. It’s like filling a small pond of icing. We only had one decorating tip so this took many steps of making icing, then filling, then more icing, then filling.
Prepping the Torches
I found this template for a cool paper Minecraft torch (original link now broken, sorry). I didn’t want to print them in color, partially because it would have been way more expensive, but also it wouldn’t have been as fun for the kids. I modified the original template so the greys were much lighter and could be easily seen for coloring, then printed them out on B&W cardstock. I then pre-cut them out and pre-creased them a little to help the little ones get a head start.
I purchased a small pack of battery operated LED votive lights at my local Michael’s craft store which I helped them tape to the end. The original template instructed you to put the tea light inside the torch, which looked really cool. But when I did a test, it didn’t give off enough light to be practical. I needed actual light for the next part of the challenge. The other option was to print them in color, but I opted for them to color them in because it was more fun than just taping them.
Prepping the Swords
I found an excellent DIY Minecraft Sword Template online. I printed in B&W since I was just using it to trace the pattern onto the foam board. I was lucky to be able to make pretty good use of the board without much waste. After they were cut out, I took time to pencil in where the squares would be, as guides. These were 1st graders, and they would need as much help as possible.
I purchased a bunch of soft foam sheets from the local Michael’s craft store, and then methodically, and painstakingly used a ruler and Exacto knife to cut them into 3/4″ squares. The work took a LONG time, but I was able to put on a several Netflix documentaries while I worked. The benefit of documentaries is most of the information is given through interviews (audio), and video is only used to support. This allowed me to look down to work most of the time, but then look up occasionally. Worked out perfectly. The result is several zip-lock bags of colorful squares.
Making the Creeper Shirts
I bought a few small green t-shirts. I created a very simple paper template as a guide and cut it out with an Exacto knife. I put the template down on the shirt and used a black Sharpie to put small dots at each of the corners. I could tell that if I tried to trace the template, that it would have moved all over the place., Once I had the dots, I could then carefully connect the dots one at a time without the template. I used a black Sharpie to color in the area. I made sure to put a piece of card stock inside the shirt before coloring it in so it wouldn’t bleed through to the back. Comparatively, this was the easiest project in the bunch.
The Ender Dragon Piñata
I took a shipping box from a recent Amazon order for the main head, then added two smaller granola bar boxes for the snout. I bought some black poster board to cover the cardboard, and glued some black streamers and some colored felt to round out the details. I cut a small opening for loading in the candy. It took about an hour to put together, but it was unique and fun. (In writing this article, I realized I didn’t really get any good in-process shots of the piñata, sorry bout that.)
From what he has told me, my son had the “best birthday ever!” Considering he was only 7 and probably couldn’t remember his prior 6 parties, I’ll still take that as a complement. Happy Birthday little buddy!