DIY Harry Potter Party

diy harry potter partyWhat do you do when your best friend – who happens to be a huge Harry Potter fan – is celebrating her quinceañera? You throw her a surprise party of course, with all the trimmings! Our kid tester, Hope (who you last saw here) researched, designed, prepped, and coordinated this party for her friend Liv, and I was invited for a sneak peek.

The party was announced when a mysterious letter arrived for the birthday girl, informing her of her acceptance to Hogwart’s. She was given no more information than a time and date (Liv’s mom, however, was filled in on all the details). Other attendees received similar invitations. Hope “aged” the paper by soaking regular old printer paper and an envelope in black tea. She used a cookie sheet for both soaking and flat drying the paper. Depending on your paper, you’ll need to soak for 30 minutes to an hour. If you’re doing a number of invites, have fresh tea water handy (the solution gets weaker with every soaking).

letter close upWhen the paper was dry, Hope ran it through her computer’s printer. I was curious to know how the printer handled the crackly papers? “For the most part they went through okay.” reports Hope. “Once or twice an envelope got stuck, and I had to get down on my hands and knees and yank it out of the printer.”

When guests arrived at the party, they encountered a “brick wall” at King’s Cross Station. Hope made a brick template out of card stock, and then repeatedly traced the template onto a red plastic tablecloth using a black permanent marker. Finally, she added gold mortar highlights with gold paint (it gives it a nice shimmer, doesn’t it?). The tablecloth was slit 3/4 of the way up so guests could walk through the wall…

brick wall…and arrive at Platform 9 3/4! Hope hand-painted the sign on cardboard and hung it from the ceiling using tea cup hooks and twine (original instructions for the sign here).

platform signTo the right on the sign was a train compartment (and later photo booth) for the Hogwarts Express. Hope’s mom gets the credit for this one. She covered a bench with cardboard and secured it with packing tape. Then she added all the details. I love the armrests on the seat. And the window with the curtain!

train compartmentHere’s a close up of the luggage on the train. That super thick A History of Magic book? Originally, it was the collected works of Jane Austin.

train luggageDisembarking from the train, party goers encountered two party tables (10 knuts if you spot Hope’s unintentional photobomb).

first party tableThe first party table held a slew of potions (labels found online and adhered to funky bottles filled with colored water), Chocolate Frogs (template here), and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Bean (template here). Depending on the number of beans and size of your frogs, you might need to adjust the templates a little.

candy boxesSnowy white owl balloons hovered over the table. Hope recreated these from a picture she saw online. They are so cute and simple it’s just genius. Wouldn’t it be fun to do a whole shelf like an Owlery, with each balloon holding a special message?

owl balloonsDid you happen to notice the wands on the party table? These were my absolute favorite party item. Here’s a close-up of them on a white background:

wandsHope modified these instructions and made the wands out of chopsticks and meat skewers (with the sharp ends sawed off of course). First, she used hot glue to create patterns on the sticks, then she painted them with with brown paint. When the paint started flaking, she added a coat of glossy mod podge. Each wand had a handwritten tag attached, informing the owner of the wand’s specs. Honestly, I couldn’t stop playing with them.

second party tableThe second party table was designed to hold some classic wizard delicacies. More on those in a moment. For now, let’s admire those house banners. They’re plastic table clothes cut into banner shapes and adorned with the house coat of arms (which Hope found online using a Google image search). Notice the floating candles overhead?

floating candlesThose are painted toilet paper and paper towel tubes with hot glue drips. An LED is mounted in a little paper towel sling at the top. They’re hanging from clear cord. And speaking of candles…

candelabraHope spotted this at her church and asked if she could borrow it for the party! Perfect, isn’t it? The cobwebs are a super nice touch too. Now, who’s hungry?

chocolate frogFirst, chocolate frogs. Hope found these molds on Amazon ($2.29 plus $3.27 shipping). She used Wilton’s dark melting chocolate and a borrowed chocolate melting pot (very similar to a fondue pot) to construct the treat. I tried one. It was very tasty, but I have to admit, it was a trifle unnerving to bite off its head. Next up? Pumpkin Pasties.

pumpkin pastiesHope used pre-made pie crust dough (Wegman’s brand) and the pumpkin pie recipe from the back of Libby’s canned pumpkin. The mini-pies were baked in a muffin tin. I tried one. Nom nom (if you’re in the mood for a different kind of pumpkin pastie, check out the one we posted about last summer). Finally, butterbeer. Served in a chilled wine glass of course.

butterbeerHere’s the recipe she used (and here’s the original source for it). Very rich and tasty!


  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup butterscotch syrup
  • 32 oz cream soda


  1. Place 4 (16-ounce) glasses in freezer and chill for at least 20 minutes
  2. Mix ice cream and cream soda in a blender until combined
  3. Divide between the frosted glasses
  4. Top each glass with whipped cream, if desired

Shaking only slightly from all the sugar I had just consumed, I moved to the living room, where a Harry Potter movie marathon was being cued up. A CD of movie music was playing on the stereo as Hope’s little sister cavorted in her Hedwig costume (instructions for the no-sew costume here).

hedwigBy now, the guests were starting to arrive before the birthday girl’s big entrance. Hope had asked them to bring the gifts unwrapped so she could wrap them herself, using brown paper and twine reminiscent of  the owl post.

owl postRevelers could also opt to put on some wizard robes (i.e. old graduation gowns). Hope borrowed them from yours truly (because I – ahem! – have 5 sets of wizard robes in my attic. And 3 wizard hats. But who’s counting?). Since the birthday girl was due to arrive shortly, it was time to depart. A quick pit stop revealed that Hope had left no stone unturned:

ministry of magic entranceSo, how did the birthday girl react? According to Hope, she walked through the door and was overwhelmed. Stunned. Totally caught by surprise. And then she toured the party floor several times, pouncing on various items like a little kid in a candy shop.” The other guests were equally delighted and enchanted. Wouldn’t you be? I tip my hat to you Hope, and look forward to you coordinating all my children’s birthday parties until they go to college. I’m kidding of course. But only slightly.

While we’re on the subject of Harry Potter DIY, here’s one of my favorites. I designed it for a large-scale Harry Potter event at our library. May I present…a suitcase boggart.

Incredible Illusions

incredible illusionsBehold the mystery…the wonder…the spectacle…of your very own mini magic show!

magic tricksThis project was the culminating event at To Be Continued, our weekly story time for 6 to 8-year-olds. Every week, we read from a chapter book and celebrate the the end of the entire book with a project and/or activity.

We read Horten’s Incredible Illusions by Lissa Evans (the sequel to Horten’s Mechanical Mechanisms (Sterling Children’s Books, 2012)). Young Stuart Horten moves to the town of Beeton and expects to be thoroughly bored. However, he soon discovers that he is part of a magical legacy left by his Great Uncle Tony, who was a stage magician and illusionist. In the first book, Stuart and his friend April solve a series of complicated clues and find Uncle Tony’s secret workshop. In the sequel, the friends again embark on a journey. This time, they’re searching for Great Uncle Tony’s will, which bequeths the contents of his workshop to whoever finds the document first. Clues are hidden in each of his magical stage illusions, but…the magical worlds inside the illusions are real and in some cases, dangerous. And Stuart and April aren’t the only one interested in getting their hands on those tricks.

We definitely needed some incredible illusions to celebrate the conclusion of these awesome books. I designed these individual mini magic shows to be easy enough for 6-year-olds to do, but intriguing enough for 8-year-olds. After consulting a number of children’s magic books, I found Amazing Magic Tricks: Beginner Level by Norm Barnhart (Edge Books, 2008) to be the most useful. The 4 tricks described in this post are from this book.

You’ll need:

  • 1 memory box (more about this below)
  • A 10.5″ piece of PVC pipe (05.” in diameter)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 1 paper cup
  • 1 paper (or fabric) flower
  • 1 empty seed packet (or small envelope simply marked “Magic Seeds”)
  • A 9″ x 12″ piece of felt (I used the glitter variety)
  • hat rabbit carrot template printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 Styrofoam coffee cup
  • A selection of foil star stickers
  • 2 playing cards
  • A 1″ foam paintbrush (or regular paintbrush)
  • Scissors and tape for construction

You’ll need a box with a lid to store your tricks and shield your hands from the audience as you prepare your tricks. A memory box is perfect for this. I purchased mine at Michaels Craft store. I went with black, but they come in all sorts of colors and patterns.

memory boxDecorate the lid of your box however you like (I found some self-adhesive glitter foam stars in the clearance section at the craft store) then slide the lid onto the box like so. This creates a “screen” and a “backstage” area to prep your tricks.

magic boxNext, wrap colored masking tape around the PVC pipe. Your magic wand is ready!


The most important thing about this trick is making sure the flower is small enough to hide in your fist. I purchased 1.25″ paper flowers for the kids (scored on discount from the scrap booking section of the craft store).

flowerBehind your box’s screen, grab the flower in your fist. Then use the same hand to hold the paper cup with your fingers.

flower trick 1To perform the trick, show the audience that your cup is empty. Then say “Oh no! It’s empty. Well, good thing I have some stupendous magic seeds!” Pick up the empty seed packet and pretend to pour seeds into the cup.

flower trick 2Wave the wand around muttering magical incantations. While the audience is distracted by the wand, open your fingers and drop the flower into the cup. Shout “Ta da!” and show them that a flower has magically appeared!

flower trick 3TRICK #2: FIND THE RABBIT

Print the hat, rabbit, carrot template. Fold and tear the strip in 2 places, like your see below. It’s really important that your TEAR the strip. Don’t cut it with scissors!

rabbit trickTo perform the trick, hold up the 3 image cards and say “You see a hat, a rabbit, and some carrots, but with my amazing magical skills, I will pull the rabbit from under this cloth every time!” Turn your back and have an audience member arrange the 3 image cards on the table and cover them with felt.

rabbit trick 2Reach underneath the felt and feel the edges of the image cards with your fingers.

rabbit trick 3The rabbit will be the only image card with two torn edges. Remove it from under the cloth with a flourish! Repeat with a difference audience member. Astounding!

rabbit trick 4TRICK #3: BALANCING CUP

First, decorate a Styrofoam cup with foil star stickers. Next, cut a playing card in half, lengthwise. Tape one half of the cut playing card to the back of another card. The half of the playing card should “hinge” outward like so

cup trick 1To perform the trick, flatten the hinge to the card and hold it up to your audience, keeping the taped side facing your body. Invite an audience member to come forward and try to balance the Styrofoam cup on top of the card. Then say “You see it is impossible. But I will now use magic to make the impossible, possible!”

While you’re talking, sneak a finger up the card and open the hinge on the back, forming an area for the cup to balance. From the side, it looks like this:

cup trick 2But from the front, it looks like the cup is now balancing on the card!

cup trick 3TRICK #4: MAGIC GLUE

To perform this trick, tell the audience that you have magic glue. Hold up a paintbrush and Invite an audience member to come up and “paint” your hand with the magical glue. For my version of the trick, we used 1″ foam paintbrushes I had left over from another program.

wand trick 1Now hold the wand in your “glued” hand. Say “Observe my stupendous magical glue!” Extend your arm across your body and out to your side, still grasping the wand. Next, wrap your free hand around the wrist of your wand hand. Slowly and dramatically, lift each finger from the wand until you no longer appear to be holding it.

wand trick 2But you are holding it of course. Because when you grasp your wrist, you sneak a finger behind your wand hand and hold the wand like this:

wand trick 3Now have the audience clap once to have the wand “detach” from the magic glue. Carefully lift your finger to release the wand, and let it fall dramatically to the floor. Take a big bow.

The kids absolutely loved this project. I performed the whole show first, and then I deconstructed all the tricks and each kid made his/her own set. If, by the way, you’d like to see the awesome mechanisms we made after reading Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms (the first book in this set), click here.

In May 2015, I interviewed Lissa Evans about her fantastic books. If you’d like to hear it, click here!


pvc cutterSay hello to my little friend! This PVC cutter is one of the most-loved items in my strange and bizarre box of outreach tools (also included – thunder tubes, egg timers, a train whistle, an overhead projector, and black eyeliner). Why?

Because PVC pipe is such a fantastic arts & crafts item. It’s cheap, it’s clean, it’s sturdy, it’s hollow so you can stick things in it. The only problem is that the 1/2″ PVC pipe I use only comes in 10-foot tubes. Enter the PVC cutter. It nips the PVC pipe down to just the right size.

pvc-pipe1I made my fantastic PVC discovery when I was racking my brain trying to find a cheap way to make 500 Harry Potter wands. The wands needed hollow centers for phoenix feathers, dragon heartstrings, and unicorn hair. I was thinking about bubble tea straws but they were just too fragile and short. Then one day, wandering through the hardware store, I landed in the plumbing section and my problems were solved! I was able to cut 12, 10″ PVC wands from each tube for a grand total of 15 cents a wand.

After stuffing the core of their wands, kids wrapped them with colored masking tape or brown masking tape. But wood patterned masking tape (or duct tape) would look fantastic as well.

If you’re looking for a few more Harry Potter ideas, check out this boggart and these wrist owls (scroll all the way to the bottom of the post to see an image of the wrist owls).

Since my amazing PVC discovery, I’ve used it in projects involving marionettes, a boom mic for a camera set, sturdy flower stems, stick horses, robotic arms, butterfly nets, and more traditional magic wands (like the one that accompanies this fabulous little magic set).