How to Train Your Dragon really captured my son's imagination. We went to see the film back in February 2019 and since then we have been reading Cressida Cowell's books, which are quite different from the film. The party needed to reflect that rather than simply focus on the film version of Toothless.
I have to say I have been really impressed with the books, the way they handle bullying and being different. There was a great moment when Hiccup suddenly discovers that rather than being rather useless at sword fighting, he's actually rather good - he was just using the wrong hand. Our son is left-handed and he was just going through a phase of wanting to be right handed like everyone else, this helped him to embrace his difference and feel more positive about it. There's also plenty of humour so the books are enjoyable for adults to read aloud, which is just as well as there are 12 of them and they have been our bedtime reading for rather a long time now.
The books also feature the Pirate training programme as well as the vikings and dragons, so we included that on the invitations, widening the scope for fancy dress as well as enabling us to reuse some decorations from a pirate party we'd held for our son's third birthday. For the invitations I drew a Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus from the books which we photocopied and stuck to folded card and we invited vikings, dragons and pirates to join us. Rather scarily our son had a huge list of invitees, which we limited rather meanly perhaps, but in the interests of our sanity, to 20.
When holding a party in the house I think it is important to have a few key activities. I admit I tend to go overboard with these sometimes, but I do love a bit of craft and something to get the kids running around - preferably outside, which as luck would have it was possible this year.
1. The cakeWhy I ever got into the habit of making my son's cakes I'll never know as it's always a heap of work, but there is a great satisfaction in producing the finished product, plus I have much more control over the ingredients. A friend pointed me to a simple outline for a dinosaur/dragon cake made out of a standard round sponge cake cut up. Once I had the basic shape it was easier than you might think to turn it into a dragon, the fact that his skin could have textures a bonus as that hid lots of imperfections. This was loosely based on the Toothless character from he book (in which he is green and small rather than black as he is in the film).
I was able to use pretty much all organic ingredients, the flour and baking powder were both from the local refillery shop. Used local organic eggs and milk (in glass refillable bottles from a local farm) and pick and mix sweets in a paper bag to decorate.
We had two activities; sword decorating and also little viking longship packs which they decorated and assembled. The swords we made out of cardboard boxes and painted white. The longships were more of an extravagance; kits from Baker Ross, but they pretty much made the party. I decided against paints as we simply had too many kids coming, so we used pens and some sequins we already had for jewel decoration. Paints would have been better, but would have needed a bit more space and definitely would have caused more mess.
I didn't want to buy new, so I hit the charity shops, Banardos proved to be particularly good. It's amazing how many almost new soft toys you can easily pick up, and the different animals fitted in well with the books where you have dragons like the Gatordragons (basically alligator dragons) and the Hogfly (described as a pig in dragon form). I simply used some felt to make wings for various animals and hey presto we had a multitude of species from Ping dragons to Ugly Pug dragons - where they looked vaguely like a dragon breed from the book we gave them that name, otherwise we simply made the names up.
I drew a map of the house and garden with red Xs where the dragons were hiding, and an identification chart with tick boxes for them fill in. We hid the dragons around the garden, encouraging the children to team up to find them all. After the hunt, while the kids were eating, we gathered them in ready for the party bags.
4. Party bagsI got some lovely personalised seed packs from Ways to Say Thankyou, so no plastic and hopefully more flowers for the bees. Found some twig pencils that were used for the dragon hunt, little cutout wooden dragons and Divine paper-wrapped chocolates. I stamped dragons on plain paper bags and popped a dragon from the hunt inside each bag as well - these went down a storm, although people did have their favourites.
What I'd have liked to have done better
- Made my son's Hiccup costume rather than bought one.
- Made the sausage rolls rather than bought.
- Set out more space for the craft.
- Used old fabric and corks for the boats instead of buying kits.
- We had planned to do a couple of games like pass the parcel but ran out of time to prepare for them.