Wednesday, May 28, 2014

“Survivor”-themed 10th birthday party

Twelve kids.

Nine challenges.

Four hours.

One Survivor!

Yes, the girls had to vote each other out. And were great sports about it, as the photos and three short videos below illustrate.

The background:

My love of the TV show Survivor led to my daughter’s love of
Survivor which led to a Survivor-themed 10th birthday party. Knowing this would be rather involved, I started planning it soon after her 9th birthday.

I wondered if it would be upsetting (to the girls, the parents, or both) if we retained the elimination aspect. But I believe in honest competition and facing fear and teaching young people how to lose gracefully. So we kept in voting out (though we did not allow forming alliances, not that there would have been time anyway).

I told the girls that they are friends first, Survivors second. I said that being voted out is a compliment—it means others think you are good enough to beat them. And believe me, every girl wanted to win.

I asked them to think of other games they love to play with friends (chess, Uno, Monopoly)—and asked them to think of how they feel when a friend wins. Then I asked them to imagine if those other games allowed you to get rid of your competition. They understood...and seemed to like the prospect.

It was game on.

How it worked:

  • The Survivors were asked to come in white T-shirts, shorts with pockets (in case they found the hidden immunity idol), and sneakers.
  • Soon as they arrived at 5 p.m., they ate hot dogs and hamburgers (we spared them rice) while I showed them relevant clips from several episodes of Survivor:
  • an introduction (how the competitors meet and start the game)
  • a merge
  • a food challenge
  • an endurance challenge
  • a tribal council
  • To form two teams of six, they randomly drew buffs (either blue or orange bandanas). They each got a matching Survivor sticker (blue = water, orange = fire) and a nametag. (As in real Survivor, not all the players knew each other beforehand; it was a mix of friends from school, the neighborhood, ballet, etc.).
  • They had five minutes to come up with a tribe name (my only parameter: the name could not be an English word) and draw a tribe banner using only different shades of their respective tribe colors.
  • With Survivor music playing, they entered the arena with titters and a few jitters.
  • Some challenges were for immunity and reward, and some just immunity.
  • It went challenge, tribal council, challenge, tribal council…no down time.
  • Players voted out could participate in most subsequent challenges (it was a party), but they could not win rewards or vote at tribal council.
  • They merged at eight players, at which time they dropped their buffs and had five minutes to apply tribal face paint.
  • The party was scheduled to start early enough so most of the challenges were in daylight but late enough so that the last couple—and, most importantly, the last tribal council—were in the dark.

We experienced two setbacks while setting up and two mishaps during the game.

The setbacks:

  • Two hours before the Survivors arrived, we discovered that a squirrel had gnawed a hole in the hose connecting the grill to the propane tank; my wife shrewdly duct-taped it so the young Survivors would not starve as their adult counterparts often do.
  • An hour and a half before the Survivors arrived, as I tested the two eight-foot planks that the players would have to cross, one snapped under my weight; I rushed to the nearest hardware store for a replacement.

The mishaps:

  • One player fell when the plank slid out from under her; luckily the grass underfoot was soft and after I repositioned the plank, she got right back on.
  • One player cut her lip while trying to catch an ice cube in her mouth (for a challenge).

At least no one was medically evacuated. And no tears, only cheers
of support, for their teammates when voted out as much as when giving their all.
The photos/videos: 

Competition site. Note bricks along fence. 
They will come into play soon.

Tiki torches and team mats.

Tribal immunity and individual immunity. Both from Guam.

Tribal council. Bonus: a window.

The voting slips and box.

Rewards included Survivor bandanas, a Survivor board game, 
Survivor-inspired adventure novels for kids thanks to 
my generous author friend Chris Tebbetts
a book I wrote called Vanished, an LED light stick (three colors!), 
shampoos/lotions (thanks Holiday Inn or Homewood Suites), 
and for the Sole Survivor, the DVD of the complete season of Survivor Palau.

Gift/reward bags and Survivor music.

The hidden immunity idol (AKA Field Day medal).

Can you find it? (One of the girls did even though I 
forgot to announce it!)

Survivors watching Survivor.

The orange (fire) team.

 The blue (water) team.

Me as Jeff Probst explaining Challenge #1: strategy. Each team stands
on an island (i.e. bedsheet); first team to flip its island 
without any player stepping off wins.

The second tribal council.


Challenge #2: giving/following direction. Callers guide 
blindfolded teammates in picking up five team-colored flags 
scattered across yard; first team to return all five of their flags 
to its mat wins.

Challenge #3: balance/aim. Survivors must walk a plank holding a cup of water 
and toss as much of that water as they can into a container; 
once all team members have crossed, 
team whose container holds more water wins.

Challenge #4: puzzle. First team to complete a 100-piece rainforest puzzle wins.
Twist: teams did not know till piece #99 that piece #100 was
hidden somewhere in the yard.

Blue team finished first (it took 18 minutes); look hard and you 
might notice the gap for the missing final piece they are off searching for.

Can you spot it?

Testing the hidden piece they found.

After four group challenges, the tribes merged and 
took a break from the game to apply face paint.

Merged and merry.

Merged and menacing.

Merged, menacing, and approaching.

Challenge #5: courage/mind over matter. The dreaded food challenge.
Dish #1: a dill mustard/relish combo. Most ate it.
Dish #2: vegetarian caviar (seaweed). Some ate it. Some gagged.
Dish #3: crickets.

 Technically crick-ettes. (But still crickets. And three ate one!)

Eating caviar.

Revealing the crickets.

Challenge #6: strength/endurance. Hold out two bricks (five pounds each) as long 
as you can. I now know five pounds is a bit too heavy for 10-year-olds.

Challenge #7: dexterity. Toss snowballs (saved in freezer from winter) 
without dropping or crushing.

Challenge #8: memory. Survivors must arrange up to seven island-themed pictures 
(anchor, canoe, castle, palm tree, shell, turtle, volcano) 
in the order I just showed them. I started with three images; all four Survivors 
aced that and the next round. Winner remembered six.

The final three.

In the excitement, I did not photograph the winner (above on left).

6/17/16 addendum: Survivor-themed 12th birthday party.


Unknown said...

Awesome! Congrats!! My son's survivors party is on february... Can't wait!

Unknown said...

My son LOVES this idea. We are definitely inspired. Gonna do this for his 9th B day!


Unknown said...

We are planning my daughter's Survivor 9th Birthday party. This is very helpful. If you have anything leftover from the party, please contact me. I might pay you for anything helpful. Thanks for this post!

Kbrinkerhoff said...

Could you tell me how to complete the first strategy? It looks awesome and we want to use it for girls camp. I just want to make sure this is possible. ��

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Kbrinkerhoff - the Survivors stand on the sheet. They must work together to gradually turn it over (i.e. not flip it dramatically but rather systematically because they're all standing on it). The catch is that no one can step off. So it requires teamwork and nimbleness.