I’ve been so excited to write this article since my son’s recent birthday party because we successfully hosted a very fun and low-cost Harry Potter themed birthday party. And the best part? We setup a Quidditch match for the party guests and it was amazing!! The game of Quidditch was probably the highlight for everyone that attended the party so I’m writing this article in two parts: How To Play Muggle Quidditch and How To Host A Harry Potter Wizard Party. The sport of Muggle Quidditch is not only reserved for Harry Potter themed birthday parties, I discovered that two Canadian Universities actually have Quidditch teams and have organized it as sport. I contacted the administrator of the UBC Quidditch Team via their Facebook Group and Verena was super helpful with answering questions (thank you Verena!!). It learned from Verena that improvising is the way to go with a budget and setting up Quidditch at low cost. The UBC team hangs hoops in trees to act as goals and both universities (UBC and McGill) use a person as the golden snitch, rather than a ball. This was the key with our Quidditch success, but let me backup and list the items I needed to purchase and collect to get the party setup.
~ Via Evite to party guests I created two teams and asked kids to wear red shirts or blue shirts to the party (one team was Gryffindor and the other was Ravenclaw).
~ Started off thinking I’d build 6 Quidditch goals that looked like this…
…and I was seriously on my way to building them. But I’m SO glad my brother-in-law offered his advice saving me a lot of expense and work. He pointed out that the kids will not actually be flying so there wasn’t a point to building the goals like they appear in the Harry Potter movies. I would have hung hula hoops from trees, but the park field I used for the party didn’t have overhanging trees. So I came up with an inexpensive alternative from my local hardware store. I purchased thick metal wires that could bend. I was originally thinking of cutting hula hoops in half and sticking them into the grass, but since you need 6 goals in Quidditch I didn’t see the point in buying plastic, in order to cut it up. The steel rods worked perfectly and they stuck firmly into the ground (bonus) so I didn’t have to worry about them being knocked over when a rambunctious 9 year old took aim at the goal. The bendable wires looked like this:
You need six of these goals – 3 per side for each ‘Keeper’ to guard. Each steel rod cost approx. $3 each. I contemplated painting the rods with gold paint so that they were easy to see against the grass on the field, but as you can tell from the picture, the kids didn’t have a problem finding them as targets.
I might as well talk about the Quaffle we used (one of the balls in wizard Quidditch and the only one used in our match of Muggle Quidditch) because you can see the scruffy ball we found in the above picture. You want a ball size that the kids can easily hold in one hand. We also wanted the ball to be soft so that nobody would get hurt – you know how 9 year old boys get. Unlike wizard Quidditch, we opted to only have 4 different types of players on the field: 1) Keeper – one person per team and it’s their responsibility to guard the 3 goals and attempt to stop the Chasers from scoring. 2) Snitch – this involves only 1 person for both teams 3) Seeker – each team has a seeker. This is the position Harry Potter plays on Gryffindor’s Quidditch team in the Harry Potter books. The job of the seekers is to pay attention to when the Snitch runs onto the field and try to ‘capture’ the snitch. It’s a very exciting position because the game cannot end until the snitch has been captured. Once the snitch is captured, the team receives 150 points, usually ending the game. 4) Chaser – we had more than 3 per side in our Quidditch match, and these players control the Quaffle and try to put it through the hoops. Each goal from the chasers are 10 points. We didn’t have beaters or bludgers because this would involve hitting balls with bats and that’s not a great idea for high spirited 9 year old boys.
When I first started planning the Quidditch match I assumed I’d be hiding the snitch in the grass for the Seeker to find. (I was going to paint a golf ball with gold paint)….BUT there is a way easier and fun way to incorporate a snitch into Muggle Quidditch. You dress a person in gold clothes and have them intermittently run into the match as the snitch. My niece volunteered to be the snitch during our Quidditch match and she was brilliant. It’s better to have a fast, older child be the snitch because you don’t want the game to end quickly. I went to a thrift store and paid $5 for a bright golden shirt and pair of pants for my niece to wear. Then we hung a long sock out of her pant’s back waistband and put a tennis ball inside the sock. We rotated the Seekers every 10 minutes so that everyone had a turn being a Seeker and every few minutes during the match we would send my niece (the golden snitch) into the match to run around. The child playing the Seeker tried to grab the sock and this was how the snitch would be captured. It was so exciting when we’d yell “snitch in!” and everyone would stop to watch the seekers chase the snitch..just like in the movie. Our snitch was able to run out of bounds to be ‘safe’ and rest up. My son, the birthday boy was the Seeker that ended the game after an hour by capturing the snitch and I’ll never forget the look of pure joy on his face…it was just awesome!
Another important aspect of our Muggle Quidditch match is we incorporated freeze tag so the boys wouldn’t be tackling each other for the Quaffle (ball). The game got really competitive and having the kids have to freeze and pass the ball as soon as they were tagged was great. I had two adults that refereed the game and that was very helpful too. When a Chaser was tagged holding the Quaffle, they had to freeze, then pass the ball instantly to someone on their team. This kept the game moving quickly and prevented any of the kids getting hurt. We also decided not to have the children run around with brooms (while we’re on the topic of injuries). You know your audience and I think the brooms would have interfered with the boys running around and would have ended up possibly spearing each other by accident. I’m glad we decided no brooms because it kept the game moving quickly.
As a huge fan of Harry Potter myself, it was complete joy and magic for me to sit and keep score while watching my kids & their guests play Muggle Quidditch. Every time the Quaffle went through a hoop I recorded 10 points for the team. At the end of the game when the snitch was caught, the winning team was awarded 150 points and the match ended. It was by-far the highlight of the Harry Potter party and even children that weren’t familiar with Quidditch, Harry Potter, etc. had fun and didn’t feel left out of the game. That is one of the secrets to hosting a themed party – making the games fun enough that even guests without the knowledge still enjoy themselves.
We had parents drop party guests off at a park with a grass field down the street from our house. This is where the Quidditch match took place and we pretty much used the entire grass field to play. I was meaning to make a goal crease in front of each of the 3 hoops for the Keeper, but didn’t have time. I would say this step isn’t required. Have party guests wear different colored shirts to the party so it’s clear who is on each team or borrow pinnies for the kids to wear. I also told parents on the Evite to dress the kids in clothes that were weather appropriate. The kids got muddy, but nobody cared when it started to sprinkle with rain – we were having too much fun!
The party fun didn’t end with Muggle Quidditch, but the other party activities will be described in my next article ‘How To Host A Harry Potter Wizard Party’. Ideas for wizard themed loot bags and decorations located below. Also to watch a video of Muggle Quidditch in action, here are some reference links:
Quidditch Soaring On Campus – Members of the McGill Quidditch Team talk about ‘Quidditch fever’ on campus
Green Planet Parties – Wizard Themed Party Supplies