Last year my video game geek had an elaborate Minecraft party for his 10th birthday. This year, for his 11th, I didn’t have the time or inclination to put that much effort into planning. But with just a few simple tweaks to a standard birthday party lineup, we gave the party an unmistakable Super Mario theme that went over memorably. Feel free to incorporate these ideas, age-appropriately adapted where necessary, in your own Mario-lover’s party (or hang onto them another 11 months to celebrate next Mario Day).
When I held a Hobbit Day party at my library, I tried to sidestep the fact that hobbits love mushrooms by serving cupcakes decorated like mushrooms instead. At the time I noted that my results looked more like Super Mario power-shrooms than anything, so now that I actually had a Super Mario party in my hands, the choice of cake was obvious. It was so obvious, in fact, that before I could even mention it, my son came up with almost the same idea independently.
But last time I’d made the polka dots on the top with sprinkles and stencils—more accurately, I stuck marker lids (ink side up, of course) in the white icing and shook red sprinkles over the areas left exposed. This was complicated. But, having learned of the miracle of fondant for last year’s party, I took an easier tack now. I used food coloring to ice the cupcakes in red (for power-ups) and green (for 1-ups), then rolled a thin sheet of white fondant, and cut out circles. I used the two ends of a metal icing tip as my cutters, neither of which were exactly the size I wanted, but they worked.
Course Running and Coin Collecting:
Being that the massive and spontaneous Capture the Creeper game that broke out at last year’s festivities with these guests had been so popular, I decided that if I gave them a moderately open-ended outdoor challenge, that could keep them occupied for quite some time. LIVE ACTION MARIO MAKER, I decided, and pulled out some old tires, boards, buckets, hula hoops, and jump ropes. They could create and run their own obstacle courses! Keep in mind that I was dealing with tweens: you might not want your Mario-loving preschoolers building obstacle courses out of the same materials. Younger kids might enjoy a more two-dimensional course, having to maneuver between different colored squares.
But the weather did not intend to cooperate, so I tried to find another way to make live action Mario happen indoors. Mario collects coins throughout the course of his adventures—a penny hunt of some sort would be perfect.
For years my dad’s cousins brought a huge bag of clean wood chips/sawdust/shavings and a tarp to our family reunions, dumped the shavings on the tarp and scattered coins from rolls in the pile. I did not have access to clean wood shavings, and besides, that method was intended for outdoor use, too. What did I have indoors that was small and plentiful enough to hide pennies in? Of course. A Lego bin. With the added tie-in that Mario usually finds coins inside blocks, anyway.
The side-effect of digging through a Lego bin, of course, is that it’s easy to get distracted by cool Lego pieces. A side contest soon developed over who could find the most interesting piece of Lego along the way. We all had a laugh when one guest found a Lego trophy cup, hoisted it above his head, and shouted, “I won!” And after the pennies had been found, the building started.
And then a break in the rain inspired everyone to run outside for a quick game of Capture the Amiibo, anyway.
The Question-Block Piñata:
There’s really only one choice for a Super Mario party piñata:
But I thought, for true authenticity, this piñata shouldn’t be beaten with a stick. Instead, guests would have to jump up and punch the bottom in order to release the treasure inside.
I found a cubical box, about a foot on each side, that was a perfect base. I put the treats in, left the flaps of the open end unfastened, then wrapped the whole thing in paper. I left all four cardboard flaps of the open end on the box for this crowd, to make it more of a challenge to break, but I’d considered leaving just two flaps. For a much younger group I might have cut all the flaps out entirely, so that the guests would only have to punch through the paper.
You paint the box so that the weakest part—however weak you need it to be—is at the bottom. Then you have to figure out how to hang it. It needs to be high enough to be a challenge to jump for, but not out of reach, and it really shouldn’t swing wildly like a traditional piñata, either. Luckily we had this exercise bar above a doorway at just the right height. I stuck a long wooden slat through the box and laid it across the exercise bar, tying the slat down somewhat tightly—though as you can see, that didn’t make the box immobile:
This was, literally, a big hit. “I want next year’s piñata to work the same way!” my son said several times afterward. One guest said, “I guess as long as you can make it fit your theme!”
*The decorative hangers, if you’re interested, came from Oriental Trading. The wall decals came from the kid’s room. I’m not sure where they came from originally.