Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Deconstructed Quidditch for a Harry Potter Party

This is going to be one of those “Do as I say, not as I do” posts, because I will now tell you about how I envisaged Dash’s party games, not how they actually went. There were reasons why things didn’t go exactly as planned, mostly (a) too many kids, and (b) SOMEONE insisted on getting pool noodles so everyone could decorate foam swords, so of course they spent the whole party whacking each other over the head with them instead of playing elaborate themed games, and (c) way too many kids; but let’s not go into that just now. Dash had a good time and if your worth is measured by the percentage of invitees who show up at your birthday party, his stock is high.

But I had this idea, which was really all my own (unlike the wands, which I totally copied from that guy on Instructables), so I’m going to tell you about it in case you have a more modestly attended event, without pool noodles, in which case I really think this would work pretty well.

Deconstructed Quidditch

So you know that Quidditch is a flying game of three balls: the quaffle, the bludgers, and the snitch. The players, on broomsticks, try to score goals with the quaffle, the bludgers try to knock them off their brooms, and at some point the snitch magically appears and must be caught by a team’s Seeker to end the game. Not entirely practical for real life, though I know people do, somehow, play it now. I decided that for a kids’ party it would be better broken down into its component parts. This also stretches the whole event out nicely so that time passes before you get to the cake.

Part 1: Quaffling

Prop up two (or four) hula hoops as goals at each end of your playing area. You might need to stake these on either side to be secure, and they might have to be based at ground level so that nobody breaks a window. Divide your players into teams (five a side sounds good, though if you’ve a big playing field you could do more) and either have them stand still, spread out on the area, and throw a ball or a foam lawn dart or a frisbee from one to the other and finally through the goal, trying to intercept the other team, or let them take it at a run if you’ve lots of space. Something like ultimate frisbee might work well here.

Part 2: Bludging

I initially thought we’d use something like hard round paddles or bats for this, and maybe balloons, which could work (indoors, not on grass), but then we found a couple of sturdy foam cricket bats in Five Below, so we made it a bowling and hitting game. We used a foam ball that was larger than a cricket ball but smaller than a soccer ball, so it was pretty easy to hit with the bat, and the aim could just be to hit it as far as you can, or to defend a wicket if you have a wicket, or whatever seems right for your participants’ skill level. A parent could bowl/pitch or the kids could take turns at it. We had a cricketer and a few baseball players, so they were happy to pitch.

Part 3: Seeking

We have two snitches in our house: one nice metal one that’s actually a pocket watch, and one larger plastic one that came as part of a HP costume. But even if you had no official snitch you could use a small bright ball like a golf ball for this. As this part is a seeking game, you could hide it and let everyone search, or you could blindfold each player in turn and give them hot/cold directions to it. Alternatively, you could go for the catching aspect of getting the snitch and have it be a throwing/catching game. (Be careful if you’re throwing a golf ball around, though.)

Then you go and eat cake and congratulate yourselves on a party well themed.

Dash in Harry Potter costume

Old photo, but the Harriest I have.

Making impressive Harry Potter wands out of paper

Six finished "Harry Potter"-style wands in a variety of sizes and natural wood colours

Are these not mighty impressive? Made by me, out of paper, glue, and paint. You can do it too.

Dash’s party is Harry-Potter-themed this year, with elements of Percy Jackson. Don’t ask me how all this will work out; planning is ongoing and involves a lot of negotiations because the type-A child has two type-A parents and everyone wants to run this thing.

But wands will be needed, obviously. I noodled around Pinterest for ages and found a good tutorial for wands using chopsticks and a glue gun, and then I procrastinated on ordering the chopsticks because deep down inside I had a vague notion that providing twenty ten-year-old boys with sticks to poke each others’ eyes out with was maybe not the best idea.

I mentioned this dilemma to a friend, who said her daughter had made paper wands at a party. Paper wands didn’t sound great – I imagined long floppy tearable things – but I googled it anyway. And lo! Instructions for wands made with paper that looked really great, and seemed achievable even by such crafting-averse people as me, given enough time and a modicum of preparation.

So, here’s the thing. This is not a craft for your party guests to do themselves. (Sadly, because that would be great.) It’s best to give yourself a few days to make them, so you can let each stage dry well and not stress yourself out over it. But, that said, there are some great things about it:

Children can help you, if they’re over about six, or maybe even younger. I’d advise you do the first one yourself to get the hang of it, but in general neatness is not important, so it’s an ideal way to let your kids help prep for the party.

Each wand really does turn out unique, because you never roll exactly the same way twice, and with a couple of paint colours you can mix lots of variations on “wood brown” (I kept thinking it looked like poo brown instead, but really it’s all in the eye of the beholder).

Enough blathering. I found the instructions on Instructables from CaptinSkarlet, who is clearly very clever indeed. You you should definitely read them too, for completeness, but I’m going to tell you my version, because I have photos, and it’s slightly different. Prepare to be amazed.

You will need:

  • copy paper (as many sheets as you want wands, and a few over for messing up)
  • double-sided sticky tape (you could use a glue stick, but the tape really does make it easier)
  • a few different colours of thread, foil, or maybe a tiny feather for the inside (nobody sees this, but you know it’s there; makes all the difference)
  • paper glue, like Elmer’s (liquid is better than a glue stick here because you need some smushability)
  • kitchen paper or tissues for stuffing the wand to make it more rigid
  • a glue gun (fun!)
  • spray paint, any colour, but brown is ideal
  • acrylic paint (or any non-water-soluble paint – apparently it’s emulsion in the UK/Ireland) in a couple of shades of brown and a black
  • metallic markers or paint for the finishing touches

    Three acrylic paint pots, a small clear spray paint, Elmer's glue, and double-sided sticky tape.

    Most, though not all, of my supplies.

Step 1 – Tape
Stick a length of double-sided tape diagonally across a page of copy paper.

Step 2 – Add magic
Cut a length of thread (red thread is dragon heartstring) or some very thin strips of foil (unicorn hair) or take a feather (phoenix, of course) and stick it to the tape. This is the magical core of your wand.

Page with sticky tape diagonally across it and red thread on the tape

Dragon heartstring this time

Step 3 – Start rolling your wand
Roll the paper tightly from the bottom left corner if you’ve taped as above, lengthways, so that it’s roughly parallel to the tape. Once you reach the tape it will stick well. Make one end slightly (or a lot) wider – this will probably happen without your even trying, and wands the kids rolled were much fatter and shorter than the long narrow ones I made. Variety is good, though you might have a personal preference.

Two-thirds rolled with glue on the rest of the paper

Be careful at this stage to keep rolling tightly

Step 4 – Finish rolling
Put paper glue (Elmer’s or similar) all over the last third of the page and finish rolling. The glue will smush out to the edge so that it seals up nicely. Leave to dry for a while.

Rolled paper wands

See how they’re all different?

[Take a break at this stage.]

Step 5 – Cut and stuff
Cut each end across in a straight line (as pictured above). Then stuff each end with small pieces of rolled-up tissue or kitchen paper, using the end of a small paintbrush (or whatever you have to hand) to push it down as far as you can. You might not be able to stuff the whole thing, but whatever you can do will help it be more rigid.

Rolled kitchen paper inserted in the end of a wand

Stuffing with small pieces of rolled kitchen paper

Step 6 – Add decorative hot glue
Plug in your glue gun to heat up. Fill in the ends of the wand with glue, and then artistically drizzle bands or lines of glue on the wand to define a handle (the wider end) and make patterns. My 10yo is a glue-gun master, and I let the 7yo have a go (with supervision) and they were both fine with this, though they did go through the glue sticks at a greater rate than I would have alone. Again, more variety is a good thing, so this is fine. And accuracy is not the aim. Leave it for the glue to dry.

Hot-glue pattern on the paper wand

Glue close-up

Wand with glue resting on a ceramic shape to dry

Mabel’s abstract ceramic masterpiece comes into its own as a glue-drying rest

[Take a break at this stage.]

Step 7 – Spray paint for rigidity
Spray paint time. This is not something you should let the kids help with. I did it outside on the deck and made them watch through the window while I held my breath: inhaling spray paint is no fun. The spray-paint step is just to make the wands more rigid – you’ll be painting over it, so it really doesn’t matter what colour you use. I got clear paint the first time, which basically just put a sheen on the paper. My small can ran out after about 18 wands, and I bought silver the next time, which looked uh-may-zing and was also more rigid. It was also easier to see where I’d missed with a colour, and in hindsight brown would minimize touch-ups later, so if you can, get brown. Let dry, turn over, and spray the other side. Let dry.

Three silver wands

Primed with spray-paint (and a bunny, for interest)

[Take a break here too. See why it’s best to do it over a couple of days?]

Three paint pots from above, showing the labels: metallic coal, satin camel, and satin chocolate

Two browns and a black

Step 8 – Paint it “wooden”
I got some acrylic paint in Target, and mixed the dark brown, the light brown, and the black in different quantities as I went along, so that each wand was a different shade. The trickiest part is doing the ends and finding somewhere to put your fingers, and then propping them to dry so that the paint doesn’t touch. I went back and touched up the smudged parts when I painted my next set of wands; it doesn’t matter if your touching-up shade isn’t quite the same as your base shade. Leave to dry. (This needs to be a non-water-soluble paint because the next coat will be watery and you don’t want it to wash off the paint you’ve just put on.)

Wands drying on newspaper

Painted wands drying

[Take a break! Yay for breaks!]

Step 9 – Black wash for fake aging
This is when you make the wand look old and yucky, because those are the best wands. Dash didn’t like the sound of this at first because he wanted his wand to be shiny and new, but in the end he let me do this for all of them. Mix some black acrylic paint with a few drops of water so that it’s thin and easy to swish on quickly. Swish it on to part of your wand quickly with a fat brush, and then wipe it off straight away with kitchen paper or a rag. (The black paint I got was accidentally a metallic black, which I really liked for this part because it left a sheen even where it was rubbed off.) You want the black to stay in the crevices of the glue bumps, to make it look aged and worn. Keep brushing on and smudging off until you’re happy with how it looks. Leave to dry.

Wands drying on newspaper

The five on the left are pre-black-wash; the six on the right are post. You can see the difference, right?

Close-up of wands

Close-up of the black-wash

[Take a break. Though they dry pretty fast.]

Step 10 – Final touches
Decorate your wand! The most fun part, I think. I had some cool metallic markers that have probably been in the house since pre-kid days when I would buy fancy markers to write schmoopy love notes in B’s Valentine’s cards, and they proved to be perfect for this job. I really enjoyed deciding whether bronze, gold, or silver would look best with each “wood”, and then I just traced over the glue blobs with the markers. You could use metallic paint here too of course. Let dry.

Bic metallic markers in gold, bronze, and silver

Fun markers

Finally, astound your friends, amaze your enemies, and cast spells with aplomb. Stupefy!

Finished wands close up.

Detail of wands

A short rant about Harry Potter

One of the very important things I had to bring back from Ireland this time was my own copies of the Harry Potter books, volumes one to five inclusive. (The other two were already here.) We’d started reading them to the kids last year, but to do so I had picked up the first three books cheaply in the thrift store here.

The problem with that, of course, being that they’re the US editions.

I have a beef with there being such a thing as a US edition of anything. Or a UK edition, for that matter; but, and maybe I’m kidding myself here, but I don’t think so, I can’t help thinking that the amendments made to UK books to change them to the US editions go deeper than the other way around.

So it was with a great sense of satisfaction and smugness that I went through the first few chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – sorry, that’s The Sorcerer’s Stone in the US, because heaven forfend the US publishers might credit readers with a little intelligence, apparently – and see exactly what changes were made. Here’s a little list I made.

Original (UK) vs. US edition

  • Philosopher’s stone – Sorcerer’s stone
  • dustbin – trash can
  • shan’t – won’t
  • sherbet lemons  – lemon drops
  • motorbike – motorcycle
  • bobble hats – bonnets
  • jumper with bobbles – sweater with puff balls
  • got – gotten
  • cooker – stove
  • Sellotape – Scotch tape
  • video recorder – VCR
  • comprehensive – public school
  • letter box – mail slot
  • post – mail (but the editor missed one!)
  • holiday – vacation
  • roundabout – carousel
  • food mixer – food processor
  • toilet – bathroom
  • rucksack – backpack
  • hoover – vacuum
  • crumpets – English muffins

(but not [luggage] trolley to cart, oddly enough, which I would have thought a very obvious one)

Now. Really. What a waste of time and a pandering to the US psyche and a dismissal of everyone else that all is. Why not just change the location to suburban New Jersey and be done with it? I mean, if the reader understands that this book is set in the UK, why not let the characters talk like Brits? As soon as Hermione says “gotten”, you can tell that something’s very rotten in the state of Hogwarts. Ron’s mother knitted woolly jumpers, not sweaters, for Christmas; and why on earth would anyone not understand what a motorbike is? Not to mention the fact that the changes aren’t even consistent – sometimes “sweets” become “candy” but other times not.

I want to know if they change the vocabulary in Pride and Prejudice for American readers too. Wuthering Heights? Or The Secret Garden, if we’re just talking about children’s books? If not, what a shuddering shock American students are in for when they have to decipher those tomes, since they’ve had everything handed to them on a plate whenever they read more modern British books.

Growing up in Ireland is not exactly the same as growing up in England, but nobody made any changes to all the British-authored books I grew up devouring. I learned what comprehensive schools were from the context (not in Harry Potter; well before that), because we don’t really have them in Ireland; the same goes for O levels and A levels and GCSEs. I’ve never eaten a sherbet lemon, but I would probably imagine it pretty easily, just as well as I could imagine a lemon drop, for that matter.

Looking in the other direction, my copy of The Outsiders was not a US edition, but I puzzled over the mention of a girl’s bangs for a long time, because we called that a fringe. I figured out that it was something to do with her hair, and the world must have kept turning because I managed to read the book anyway. Similarly with Amy March’s jar of pickled limes in Little Women. I was barely familiar with limes, never mind pickles of any nature, but I coped admirably in spite of it. (I still have very little concept of how you would go about pickling a lime, or why you would want to try.)

Massive generalization alert, but here goes anyway: people all over the world have a greater understanding of daily life in the US than the US does of other countries. People all over the world see US movies and television shows, for the most part not dubbed into their own languages but only with subtitles if necessary. And I’m pretty sure when we read American books they’ve been much more minimally dealt with than everything going in the other direction.

Far be it from me to take a good job from some editor’s hands, but turning UK books into US books (and vice versa) is totally unnecessary. At best it’s busywork, and at worst it’s contributing to the dumbing down of American society.

But (she said as she finally climbed down off her high horse) at least now I can read my children the right versions of Harry Potter without second-guessing every awkward-sounding phrase. It turns out there just are some of those anyway.

US and UK copies of Harry Potter first book

With bonus Star Wars cup because I didn’t bother to crop this.

Pandora’s Potter

I thought it might be nice to start Harry Potter with Dash this summer, maybe even with both kids. I had visions of us cosily (that is, coolly) curled up reading of an afternoon while the sun beat down outside. But Dash was surprisingly against it. He’d heard B and me discussing it, probably, and talking about how the later books are pretty scary; or maybe he’d just decided to be ornery and that he wouldn’t like it just because we thought he would.

A week or so ago, B was away at a conference and I needed some sort of bedtime carrot. I announced that I was going to start reading the first book. Mabel was interested, even though Dash said he wasn’t, so I sat on her bed and started in on the description of Privet Drive.

Dash was brushing his teeth, just about within earshot. By the time he’d finished up in the bathroom he’d changed his mind, and came in to listen to the rest.

But then.

Then it turned out I’d opened a Pandora’s box. You’d think I’d have known. I did know; I just chose to forget. When Dash gets into something, he’s like a dog with a bone. He won’t leave it alone. He wants to know what will happen. He wants to hear the next chapter. He can’t deal with a cliffhanger. But then it keeps him awake at night … And he’s started campaigning to watch the films, of course. I’d like us to spend some more time just with the books first, so that they have their own mental images well cemented before the movie version imprints over them.

A few times I’ve said “If you want to find out what happens so badly, read it yourself,” and yesterday he did sit down and plough through a couple of paragraphs. But it takes him FOREVER. The words aren’t hard, but he says the print is too small (even wearing his glasses) and he has terrible difficulty reading things like the stylized all-caps of the chapter titles. I’m wondering if I should look for a “large print” version in the library, or download one onto the Kindle that I can change the size on. Hmmm….

Boy reading

That’s not HP, actually. This photo is for general effect only.

I tried to keep both kids at the same place in the books, but once B came home again that went out the window. Now B and Dash are streaking ahead on book two, and Mabel and I are proceeding at a more measured pace near the end of book one. Dash keeps bugging me to read him another chapter (which, just sometimes, is good leverage) and asking me questions like “Do Harry and Ron ever get expelled from Hogwarts?” Much as I hate giving away the story, I accept that sometimes he needs an answer so that he can relax and stop worrying.

I know there are recordings. I know I could borrow a book on tape from the library or download it from Amazon or whatever. But half – maybe all – the fun of introducing your child to a book you’ve enjoyed is reading it to them; even when that child then does their best to squeeze all the joy back out of it by bugging you to read until you’re hoarse.

I tend to read in my own voice with little distinctions for anyone except Hagrid, but B gives everyone a different accent, which is (a) very impressive and (b) far too much like hard work for me to even attempt. He only has about three accents, mind you – dodgy Scottish (McGonagall, mild Hagrid), dodgy Cockney (Ron, Fred and George, possibly Neville), and dodgy French (not yet, but wait till he gets to the fourth book). Also “extra-Irish”, for Seamus Finnegan, and some sort of basic “English” for everyone else, with varying tones from Dumbledore (deep) to Ginny (high pitched), whiny (Hermione) and Alan Rickman (Snape, obvs).

I don’t know how far we’ll go with this – I suspect the third book might be a lot for Dash to take and he might want to stop before, during or after it and metaphorically put the series in the freezer for a while. Whatever happens, I have a feeling it’s going to become one of our defining memories of the summer.