Recently, I helped create a “Hunger Games”-inspired party for a dear client. If you know me at all, you know that I am thrilled to create new parties on themes we’ve never done. Earlier this spring I came up with a bunch of ideas for activities and games you could do at a Hunger Games party, but now I was finally going to bring them to life and test them out! Thankfully, I had an amazing family who had wonderful ideas of their own.
In our early planning discussions, we decided that we didn’t want to focus on the morbid “to the death” aspect of the book, and instead go with a “kids against the machine” feel. Hence, the kids would not be out to try and kill one another, but instead work together toward a final goal. In our case, they would race through this incredible wooded area at the back of the family’s property to find their District-numbered backpacks. The backpacks would each contain one item that was necessary for the creation of s’mores. That way, the girls would have to work together to get their ooey-gooey treat. The only thing oozing in our party would be melted marshmallows and chocolate!
With this notion in mind, we focused on some of the fun aspects of the book. Here’s a brief rundown...
- We broke the kids up into different Districts, and offered them up as Tributes.
- We had “weapons training” with specially-made safety weapons
- The girls dressed up for the opening ceremonies
- We had interviews with “Cesar Glickman”
- And finally, we had a battle in the woods where the parents took up arms against the kids to serve as barriers to the hidden backpacks
There were two parts of this party in particular that blew me away. The first was the bow-and-arrow making during our “training.” The detail, time, and ingenuity behind the girls’ work was awe-inspiring. We spent an hour on this activity alone, and long after the last s’more had been eaten, the girls were still shooting their arrows at the neighboring hillside. Our birthday girl, Sammy, must have been channeling Katniss Everdeen, because she took to that bow and arrow like a true champion.
To make your own bow, you’ll need...
- 1 sturdy but flexible branch or stick, approximately 3 feet in length
- 1 yard of 1/16” or thicker cord elastic, twine, or heavy-duty string (not yarn)
- Duct tape
The basic construction of the bow is really pretty simple. For the base, I used dyed bamboo sticks that I found at the gardening store, similar to these. I think their real purpose is for tomato stakes, but the fact that they had enough flex to bend into a gentle arch made them ideal.
For your bow, all you really need is a sturdy-but-flexible branch about 3 feet long. You’ll also need a nice, heavy weight elastic cord (which you should be able to get from a fabric or crafting store; you want cord elastic 1/16” round or thicker, not flat elastic), similar to these. However, when Stephen (my warehouse guru) and I were testing out our designs, he found that normal, heavy-gauge twine worked just fine too. Basically, you just need an elastic or cord that is strong enough to hold your bent branch in shape.
To construct your bow, here’s what you need to do. (Note: it may help to have two people, one to bend, one to tie.)
- Tie one end of the elastic to one end of the stick, about 3 to 4 inches down from the end of the stick.
- Hold the tied end of the stick against your pelvic bone for support (being careful not to poke yourself), and pull the untied end into a curved bow shape.
- Tie the other end of the elastic to the free end of the bow, again about 3 to 4 inches from the end. Make sure you tie the elastic tight enough to maintain the bow shape. The arch of the bow does not have to be incredibly deep to work; you will have to play with the depth of your bow’s arch to get the power you want.
- Play with the pull of your bow. If it is too loose, then wrap the elastic around the ends a couple of times, until you get the desired tension from your elastic/string.
- Secure the tied ends with thin strips of duct tape.
- In the middle of your bow’s arch, wrap a foot-long strip of duct tape. The strip should be wound on top of itself to create a little ledge or shelf for your arrow. If one foot is not enough, add a bit more; the object here is to create a solid resting place for your arrow.
The arrows are also really simple. The only tricky thing is how long to make them! The girls and I discovered that you need the arrow to be at least twice as long as the arch in your bow is deep. In other words, you need to be able to pull your string and arrow back at least one-half of the arrow’s length. Therefore, your arrow needs to be at least two times the distance between the string and the center of your bow’s bend. 2 ½ times the length might even be better. Again, I used the bamboo stakes for the base of the arrows, but you could probably use dowels or nice straight branches too.
To make your arrows, you’ll need...
- Wooden dowels, tomato stakes, straight branches -- all cut to a length that is at least 2 times the distance between the bow bend and string
- Duct tape
- Foam stickers or some sort of padding for the tip (so you don’t hurt anyone with a sharp point!)
- Feathers (optional)
- Popsicle sticks
- Hot glue gun (adult supervision, please!)
To make your arrow...
- Wrap the end of your arrow with a foam sticker. Or, you can wrap a cotton ball in a bit of fleece or fabric and secure it around the end of the stick with a rubber band.
- Secure the padded end with duct tape.
- Cut a popsicle stick in half, and glue one side on either side of the arrow body, with about ¾ of an inch sticking past the back end of the stick. This will create a “notch” and help secure your arrow to the string, as the string will rest between the popsicle sticks.
- Secure the popsicle sticks with duct tape.
- If you like, add feathers to the back end with hot glue.
- You can also decorate the arrow shaft with duct tape.
Quivers are the perfect way to store and carry your arrows. I found that Pringles cans make great quivers, although you could also use a cardboard mailing tube; both have that nice, rounded shape.
To make your quiver, you’ll need...
- 1 Pringles can or mailing tube (you want something that is long enough to hold the arrows without them tipping out)
- 1 to 3 inch wide ribbon or flat elastic -- something to make a strap (even duct tape will work!), about 3 - 5 feet long (it will need to go across your chest and secure to your back)
- Hot glue gun (adult supervision, please!)
- Duct tape
- Fabric, leather, construction paper, etc. (optional, for covering and decorating your quiver)
To make your quiver...
- Take the material you plan to use for the strap and cross it over your chest (from one shoulder to the opposite hip) and around to your back. Cut at the point where the two pieces meet. (If you are using elastic, make sure you stretch the elastic a bit as you measure, so that you don’t end up with a really loose strap.)
- Hot glue one end of the ribbon inside the top part of the Pringles can (about 2 inches down).
Once dry, secure with duct tape.
- Loosely duct tape the other end of the ribbon to the outside of the Pringles can, at the top and bottom of the can (keep in mind that this is just the testing round).
- Slip the quiver over your head. Does it feel secure? If not, adjust the length of the strap by un-taping the strap on the outside of the Pringles can and re-adjusting up or down. Once you have achieved the proper length, glue the ribbon in place with hot glue. Once cool, cover with duct tape for extra strength.
- Decorate the can if you like.
You can also experiment with other packaging materials, like long skinny boxes, milk jugs, or other kinds of tubes, as shown below.
After we made our bows and arrows, the second part of the party that brought a huge smile to my face was the great challenge. Now remember, I mentioned that we wanted to stay away from the death aspects of the game, but that didn’t mean that the adults weren’t up for a little mayhem!
While the kids were testing their bows and arrows and playing other games, my assistant Jen ran down to the wooded area with a marked backpack for each district. Jen hung them from tree branches throughout the woods.
Now here’s where it gets really fun. The adults armed themselves with Nerf bows and arrows and hid themselves throughout the woods. When the players entered the woods, they were bombarded by flying missiles from all directions! Immediately the players scattered, trying to avoid becoming targets. The adults were ruthless, which added to the challenge and the fun. It was so much fun watching the kids work together to try and outsmart the adults and claim their bags. Truth be told, the adults did an awesome job, and probably would have been able to take the kids down had it not been for one thing: stamina. Kids just have a lot of energy; they run and leap like gazelles!
Once all the backpacks were secured and the end of the Hunger Games declared, the girls headed back to the patio for s’mores. Two of the guests expertly started a fire in the firepit -- much to my relief, since I’m no camper! I had expected to send them a silver parachute with a lighter, but they didn’t need it! They were pros.
As Jen and I cleaned up, the girls continued on with the fun, using their bows and arrows for target practice until they were called in for dinner.
This was one of the most thrilling parties I’ve done in a while. It was so fun to be out in nature and playing in the woods -- it was a blast! I can’t wait for Sammy’s next birthday... maybe we can do the second book, Catching Fire...
Please note that as with any weapons, real or fake, construction and play should always be under the supervision of a responsible adult, and all necessary safety precautions should be taken.