I am no goddess of Pinterest. Crafts give me cold sweats. I’ve never been Room Mom, or even contributed a clever, creative snack to a class party. But after ten years of parenting, I finally pulled off an epic themed birthday party for my oldest daughter: An unforgettable Harry Potter birthday party.
Yes, it was work. Yes, it took time. But it was do-able, even for a craft-impaired person like myself. I’m going to tell you exactly what I did to make it happen, and share all the fantastic resources I used to pull it off. I did rely heavily on Pinterest, and you can follow my Birthday Party Ideas Pinterest board for a whole bunch of ideas, some I used and some I didn’t.
The ambience was key to the party, maybe the most important part, in fact. Some of these were things my husband and I made ourselves, and we also used a LOT of printables from other websites to help decorate and add details to the party. (Oh, the details. There were SO many details, many of which would go unnoticed by the non-Harry-Potter-crazed person.)
My husband made the above yard decoration: he nailed together some boards, spray painted them black, and then I added the Harry Potter locations (Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, you could add your own favorites) with white chalk. We got the idea here.
We had Platform 9 3/4, of course. I made the sign with poster board, which we spray painted red and used Sharpie to add brick details, and then I Googled “Platform 9 3/4 images” and printed out the number. Boom. Easy.
The coolest part though was the *actual* Platform we made. My husband spray painted a plastic sheet (a regular sheet would work fine, too) red, made the Sharpie brick details, and then cut slits in it and hung it up for the kids to walk “through.” We hung it at the top of the stairs, but the front door or another doorway would work great. We got the idea here.
Our front door was Diagon Alley: (you’re getting the idea with the poster board, spray paint, and Google-able text images, right?)
The kids arrived at Diagon Alley by Floo Powder; my daughter met her guests at the bottom of the driveway, where they took a handful of Floo Powder (green glitter), tossed it into the firepit (with a safe, low, manageable fire and adult supervision, of course!), and said, “To Diagon Alley!” It was a hit.
Other magical touches by our front door: These decorative items which were quite literally trash turned treasure. I’m not even sure how to describe them. My husband rescued this first “decoration” from the garbage, spray painted it black, lined it with foil, and added dry ice to it on the front steps to our house.
We fashioned the dining room into “The Three Broomsticks,” where I (Madame Rosmerta) served Butterbeer and other refreshments. (Thank you, Internet image search, poster board, and black crepe paper) The food was all labeled with TONS of printable labels we found online.
On the walls, we hung pictures we found via Google image searches for “Daily Prophet articles.”
My daughter had a ball hanging these all over the walls.
We found a cool Gryffindor banner on Amazon, and ordered these cute plastic cups with a “royal theme” for Butterbeer. Amazon also supplied a few plastic cauldrons, which, once we filled them with sturdier ceramic pots, were perfect for dry ice. We hung Gryffindor colored balloons and strung gold or purple holiday lights in various rooms of the house. We played the Harry Potter Pandora station for background music. I’ll share the rest of our decorating ideas below as part of our Scavenger Hunt.
Fun Harry Potter Birthday Party Activities
We thought originally about having different “classes” the kids could go to: Potions, Divination, Care of Magical Creatures, etc. There are some great ideas online for those types of activities, including creative Quidditch match games. But we ultimately decided that 5th grade girls may not be into too many different games and crafts, so we decided instead to have one epic Scavenger Hunt. And it was fantastic, if I do say so myself.
We had seven stops, the last of which was The Three Broomsticks, where they could pay me (Madame Rosmerta) a Galleon to buy a Butterbeer. Each team had a different course (complicated for me, but ensured they wouldn’t all be rushing from the exact same stop to the next . . .) and each station provided an envelope with their team name and clue number, as they were all going in a different order.
We pulled teams (pre-decided, because, 5th grade girls and complex friendship dynamics) out of the Sorting Hat (yes, we have an actual Sorting Hat thanks to some friends who passed it on!), and then I explained the rules and handed each team– Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin, of course– their first clues.
You can get creative, adapt your own hunt to incorporate the rooms of your house, your yard, and use your own super-awesome ideas, but here’s what we did, in case you want to copy it step by step. (We found great, inexpensive brown stock cards and envelopes from Hobby Lobby for the clues, and labeled them with print outs we found online.)
Station #1: The Quidditch pitch
The kids went out to the front yard, where spray-painted gold hula hoops hung through the trees. We had a Quaffle, a ball spray-painted gold, resting on the table with the instructions. After they scored a goal through each hoop, they retrieved one Golden Snitch each and placed them in their baskets ($1 aisle Halloween buckets from Target).
Station #2 Honeyduke’s Sweet Shop in Hogsmeade Village
The kids were to scoop one scoop of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans into bags to take with them. We used more printable food labels for this station in particular.
Station #3: Moaning Myrtle’s Bathroom
This was a fun one: transform your bathroom into Myrtle’s bathroom with a Chamber of Secrets message, Moaning Myrtle herself, some snakes, and some spooky lighting for effect!
Station #4: The Forbidden Forest
The kids passed through Hagrid’s hut (aka the back porch, staged with a wooden black sign with “Rubeus Hagrid” written in chalk, a wheelbarrow, and some other rustic items) to get to The Forbidden Forest, where they captured black spider rings, aka Aragog’s 8-legged children. Plastic spider rings are pretty easy to come by, we got ours at Hobby Lobby or Target.
Station #5: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: The Potions Lab
This one may have been my favorite. I had the kids mix actual potions, following a “Veritaserum” recipe, and using water, corn syrup, purple food coloring, and glitter. They filled glass potions bottles we got for like $2 apiece from Hobby Lobby and decorated with more printable labels.
We labeled the Potions Bottles with these labels.
Station #6: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: A Magical Chamber (from Book One)
The kids were to retrieve flying keys, which were inexpensive “vintage” keys we ordered from Amazon with more white feathers (golden snitches) glued to them. We hung them from string taped to the ceiling. They were SO cool!
Station #7: The Three Broomsticks
This is where the kids found their final instructions and got their refreshments. See below for Favors and Food/Drinks.
After the Scavenger Hunt, the kids ate dinner, opened presents, had cake, and then changed into PJs to watch one of the Harry Potter movies. (*Note, we did NOT have a sleepover, but rather a “half sleepover” where they brought pajamas, pillows, stuffed animals, etc, watched a movie and had popcorn, and got picked up by 9:30 pm. You’re welcome for this amazing idea. For obvious reasons, we were unwilling to have another sleepover party.)
Harry Potter Birthday Party Favors
Here’s the beauty of the Scavenger Hunt as an activity: Everything they picked up at their stations was placed in their favor bags to take home. I bought plain brown paper bags from Hobby Lobby, decorated each with a printable Honeyduke’s Treat Mix label (find online) and the child’s name. When they completed the hunt and arrived at The Three Broomsticks, they then filled their bag with everything from the hunt– the Golden Snitch, the flying key, the spider ring, the jelly beans, the gummy snake, and their homemade potion– and also got a Chocolate Frog as a reward. The winning team also got a bag of Jelly Slugs. I put a fake gold coin by their favor bags with which they could “buy” a Butterbeer.
Food and Drinks
You can’t do everything creatively (well, maybe you can, but I can’t), so I was clever with a few snacks and kind of boring with the rest. We had carrots, grapes, and zucchini muffins (labeled as cockroach clusters, herbology bites, etc with free printable labels), and ordered pizza. But I *did* make Butterbeer with this amazing recipe (see #2 on the list, that’s the one we used, but there are other great choices to try) and used the printable labels for our cream soda bottles. Essentially, our Butterbeer was cream soda with butter and rum extracts, and an amazing whipped topping made by whipping together heavy cream, marshmallow cream, and rum extract. YUM.
I also made Polyjuice Potion Punch with a 2-Liter of Sprite, a container of lime sherbet, and a few drops of neon green food coloring. The kids loved it.
And we ordered a Harry Potter cake from Target, which turned out great.
Yes, it was a LOT of work and planning. But if you take advantage of free printable labels, downloading images from Google searches, make best friends with your glue stick, invest in some spray paint, and put a little thought into it, you can pull off an absolutely incredible Harry Potter birthday party that you and your child will remember forever. Hint, it helps if you yourself adore Harry Potter. Then, all the effort pays off extra, because it feels magical, people, absolutely magical.
And one final word: It’s impossible for everything to go perfectly. If you’re anything like me, a Type-A perfectionist, these deviations from the plan could drive you crazy, but try to let it go. Despite my best planning, instead of watching the Harry Potter movie at the end of the party, the girls wound up putting balloons under their pajama shirts and pretending they were pregnant. What’re you gonna do? (I had a beer and pretended it wasn’t happening.)
Enjoy! If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or contact me using the Contact Me form above! Cheers! To Diagon Alley!
You can buy my latest book, So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood! It’s NOW available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Let’s get real about parenting and remember that we’re all in this together!
Want a dose of parenting reality, some laughs, and reminders that you aren’t alone in this crazy motherhood gig? Sign up below to receive weekly emails with my latest blog posts! You can also join our Facebook community– Mommy, for Real— where we like to laugh and tell it like it is about parenting.
I am absolutely blown away with this complete post about the Harry Potter party. The creativity is beyond amazing. Although I had some pre party information, the blog provided the real picture. What fabulous memories were made that day. So proud of my son-in-law, daughter and granddaughter for planning and carrying out an epic birthday party.
Ahhh I love everything about this!
I don’t think I’m going to wait for a birthday, I need to do this NOW!!!
I am stunned, awed, amazed, envious and inspired by your Harry Potter birthday party!!! What would you charge for me to rent all of your stuff for Jack’s birthday party in November????? 🙂
Bravo!!! You’re Amazing! Fabuloso!!!
Really GREAT Idea! I’m planning a Harry Potter birthday party for my 5th grader as well! I was looking into doing a party with classes and the like, but it was starting to get very complicated and scary. Your idea seems a LOT less intimidating! Can you tell me how long it took your kids to finish the scavenger hunt? I’m trying to time it all out. Thanks!