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Tips for Hosting Swashbuckling Soiree for Your Pirate

Does your birthday boy or girl want a pirate party this year? Cheryl Najafi, author of You’re So Invited: Panic Less, Play More, and Get Your Party On!, shares her tips to host a pirate party, including party decorations and food.

pirate party boy getting mustache

Round up your scallywags and treat them to an “aargghhh!”-worthy affair. Creative touches like skull-and-crossbones water bottles and a watermelon pirate ship will make your table irresistibly naughty.

Buckle up the kids.

As the little ones arrive, hand out eye patches, clip-on gold hoop earrings, big belts, and red bandannas—if you can find some with skulls on them, even better. Walk around with a black eyeliner to give kids crazy curly mustaches, and give kids temporary tattoos on their arms to add to
the bravado.

pirate party place settingBust out a bootylicious table.

Use a rustic table if you can—it’ll look like the base of a pirate ship—and place a wooden plank down the middle, the long way. Mix brown rice with raw sugar, and pour it into mounds on either end to look like sand, then scatter plastic gems, bones, and skulls (you can find these at party supply stores) along with gold coins in the “sand.” Write “fish bait” on a silver pail with permanent marker or paint and fill with gummy worms and other slithery creatures. For place settings, use black bandannas as place mats topped with canvas napkins that you draw on (think dashes and palm trees and spiders) to look like an X-marks-the-spot treasure map. Plastic swords serve as utensils, which the little pirates can use to spear pieces of fruit (sword kebabs, anyone?).

Yo ho ho, have a bottle of H2O.

I’m not into serving kids soda or even juice—I’d rather give ’em some healthy pirate grog (in this case, good old-fashioned water). You can customize the labels of these mini bottles at We put a white skull and crossbones on a black background and wrote “Poison”—but you could also write “Jack’s Brew” or something similar.

Gnaw on yer pirate grub.

When pirates eat, they do it in excess, so bake up some big turkey legs that are even bigger than some of the kids’ heads. A watermelon ship, filled with fruit and complete with a Jolly Roger flag, is a great way to prevent scurvy. But of course, all little swashbucklers need something sweet: Skull sugar cookies (recipe available in Najafi’s book) are sure to satisfy their lily-livers!

Find Najafi's recipes for turkey legs and barbecue sauce, as well as a watermelon pirate ship, here.

Cheryl Najafi is a mom of three, an entertaining expert on The Today Show, and the New York Times bestselling author of You’re So Invited: Panic Less, Play More and Get Your Party On! ($29.99; available at major booksellers) from which this article is excerpted. Learn more about Najafi and her work at,, or

Also see:

Five Tips for Hosting a Spa Birthday Party


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