Plan a LARP Party: Great Birthday Idea for Imaginative Kids

Jul 28, 2014

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Last summer, my son came home from camp excited about something called LARP. He nattered on and on about knights and swords, and yes I admit it, I was only half-listening. I’m sure I kept up my end of the conversation with the odd ‘oh yes!’ and ‘that sounds so fun!’ while cooking dinner, washing out lunchboxes and getting ready for that evening’s soccer game. So ten months later, when I asked my son what he wanted to do for his 12th birthday and he told me that we had already agreed to host a LARP party, I was confused. What was that again?

After a little bit of research, I discovered LARP stands for Live Action Role Playing—basically, dressing up and becoming characters, then creating an adventure for them. I now saw what was so appealing to my son. He and his friends are constantly running around, pretending they’re someone else, playing dress-up, having an adventure. Suddenly this was sounding like a GREAT idea for a birthday party!  All we needed were some costumes, a nice big park to play in and kids with good imaginations, which is, like, ALL KIDS. So even though I don’t remember agreeing to it, I suddenly felt very smart. Score one for mom!

What You Need:

First, I spent a couple of weeks hoarding costume-building materials. Our little house looked like it had been attacked by cardboard boxes and foam packing material, but I felt it was probably good to have more than not enough. Places that sell large electronics (TV’s, stereos, and computers) are good to hit up for this kind of thing. A trip to the dollar store yielded more great building materials, including duct tape (in different colours), pool noodles, red and blue paint for decorating costumes, markers, face paint and a cheap white tablecloth to make team flags. On the invitations I asked parents to send the kids along with a pair of (labeled) scissors, as I didn’t want to end up with a scissor collection, but you can also buy pretty decent ones at the dollar store.

Day of the Party:

Before the kids arrived, we separated out the materials into two piles; one for the red team and one for the blue team.  As the kids arrived, we gave them a team and an assignment: create a costume and decorate your team flag. They had one hour to complete this task, and it did not take them long to get into it. I was floored at all the different ideas they came up with. One of them took an entire box and created full-body armour that he called ‘the tank’. Another went a different route and made a trident out of pool noodles. One team worked together on their flag and came up with a symbol they put on all of their shields. It was really incredible.

How to Play:

Once they were done, we began by having supervised one-on-one "battles" so that they could learn the rules: any place you are hit, you lose use of that limb. So if you’re hit in the leg, you need to hop on the other leg. If you are hit in the right arm, you need to hold your sword with the left. If you are hit in the chest you’re out. Oh, but before you leave make sure you make a VERY DRAMATIC exit. I enlisted my older daughter to act as referee, gave her a whistle, and the battles began.  The kids took it very seriously, and the dramatic deaths were quite hilarious. 

Then we played a second game called Gladiator. The rules were the same as above, except everyone plays at the same time. If you "die" you sit out, but you can come back to life if the person who got you out dies. It was a bit of a free for all, but the kids loved it.

After those two games, we had a pizza break, where the kids ate and spent some time refurbishing and adding to their costumes and weapons. Seeing how the games worked sparked some new ideas, and they wanted to try to reinforce some items.

After the break, we played a final full-out game of capture the flag, using the whole park. The kids had a blast running around, sending each other to jail, and searching for the other team’s flag!

We ended the day with cake and juice. If you are ordering cake from your local grocery store for an outdoor party, ask them to make it a cupcake cake. It’s the same cost as ordering a slab cake, but they make it with cupcakes, and you don’t have to worry about bringing a knife or having plates and cutlery. Win! 

My kid said it was the best birthday party he EVER had… and then he started nattering on about “Dr. Who”.  
I can’t be sure, but I think I’ve already agreed to throw a TARDIS party or some such thing next year…


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