A true nerd never grows up, not really. You may get more responsible and you may have less spare time, but the imagination stays strong. One of the greatest blessings in life is to be able to coerce the next generation into sharing in that imagination. And my favorite method of doing that is to host a costume party for the wee ones. A themed party with food, costumes, and entertainment is a fun way to impart love of geekdom to posterity.
It’s all too easy to bowl over kids with our own childhood fandoms. I know from experience that even toddlers can get overloaded on Boba Fett. Instead of presenting a theme to the kids flat out, sit down and see what they’d like to do. Depending on the age of the kids in question, you could set out a couple of options for them to choose from so you don’t have a gummy-snack themed party (though that could work out, I bet).
Invite your kids’ friends and your own, too. Being playful as an adult helps you stay young at heart and your involvement will mean a lot to your kids. Nothing kills the ambience of pretending to be on the USS Enterprise like a back wall of bored adults checking their smartphones. Especially when dealing with shy children, one dismissive word can really take the fun out of it. So get excited!
Once the family has peaceably decided on a theme everyone’s happy with, you can start the planning.
Some of the best costumes I’ve ever seen are those that a family plans and wears together. If you’re a Dr. Who fan, the parents can dress up as Rory and Amy and the wee one can dress up as The Doctor (tiny fez!) A miniature Batman with a trusty Dad-turned-Robin is a real crowd-pleaser.
Keep in mind what activities you have in store for the day. If you plan on running around the yard, pouring time and money into a perfect Merida costume might not be the best plan. Altering the costumes to suit the activities is perfectly fine! And don’t forget to encourage the kids to spend some time in-character for added entertainment.
If you want to get fancy, dress up the area as well as the kids. Making a room or yard feel like Hogwarts, the TARDIS, or Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters doesn’t need to be a Herculean labor. A few small touches here and there should be enough. For example, if you’ve got a Lord of the Rings kind of family, turn the yard into the Shire with a round door made of cardboard onto the veranda, the kitchen into Rivendell with a small fountain or two, and the basement into Mordor with a foam Eye of Sauron. These little things can really help set the tone. Inspired minds will take it from there.
There are some obvious choices when planning a themed party. For beverages, Star Wars necessitates Aunt Beru’s blue milk while a Roald Dahl party needs frobscottle (note: little boys love fart jokes). One of my favorite parties ever was Harry Potter themed, where we mixed fruit juices and Mio drops in vials as potions.
Food can be as healthy or unhealthy as you like. The Tenth Doctor loved bananas and the Eleventh loved fish sticks. Willy Wonka is obviously a candy bonanza and Avengers can have a wink and a nod to shawarma. When I was young, I attended a Lion King party where there were gummy worms and candy necklace caterpillars like Simba ate with Timon and Pumba. Even serving pizza in a Pizza Planet box for a Pixar party can really make the food special. It can be a lot of fun to brainstorm as a family, so make sure to listen to each other’s ideas.
Often times, any old party game will do- all you have to do is put a geeky twist in. Harry Potter freeze tag is ridiculously fun: tap your target on the shoulder with a foam wand and shout “Immobulus!” Princess and the Frog leapfrog, Doctor Who Weeping Angels’ red-light-green-light, and Monsters Inc. hide and scare are all fun ways to spin a regular party into a themed delight. Also, Finding Nemo pool parties are absolutely awesome for summertime.
For younger kids, once they’re worn out, put on a related movie or show for them to nod off to. If you’re dealing with older kids, of course, introducing them to things like Dungeons and Dragons or trivia games can hone their creativity and geek knowledge.
Your themed party can really stand out as a childhood memory. If you’re lucky, your kids will catch the bug and become fans, too, so you can form a lifelong bond over your favorite daydreams. Don’t forget to take pictures! They’ll serve as a treasured reminder about your adventure and also as a great tool later in your kids’ lives. When they get older, showing their friends pictures of them dressed as Batman will either embarrass them horribly or, more likely, make them the coolest kid in town. Either way, you win.