How to Host a Pirate Week for Kids
How do you pass time with kids? Grab your (plastic) sword, don an eye patch and host a pirate week!
We’ve spent many summer & school breaks home-bound. Whether it was due to work commitments, lack of finances or bad weather, spending extended periods of time at home with the kids is not foreign territory. One way I got through the time when the kids were younger was to host themed weeks. They usually centered around an outing at the end. Summer camps and science camps do the same thing, but hosting one on our own means you don’t have to follow the strict guidelines imposed by others. We’ve done Dinosaur Week with a trip to Dinosaur World as the grand finale; Royal Week with a daily reading of the Tale of Despereaux and the kids’ most favorite: Pirate Week.
Pirate Week is five days worth of activities centered around the theme of pirates.
Goals of Pirate Week
Believe it or not, you can teach your kids while they are having fun, and who doesn’t love some swashbuckling adventure? In addition to adventure, you will be adding history, art, map-making skills, language, math and reading- the key is to not them know you are doing this, otherwise it’s mutiny on the high seas!
For Each Day:
- a daily activity
- a daily book
- a movie-time
Read a Book A Day
Read a pirate-themed story a day. This is not the usual bedtime story time, instead you are breaking up your day with a story session. If you can visit your library for the selections, order them ahead or have them ready for a true hunker-down. You can also check out books online (hello, Kindle!)
Tip: If you want to stretch the pirate theme out further- read a picture book in the daytime and a couple of chapters from one of the longer chapter books at bedtime
Here are a selection of kid’s pirate books to choose from:
- How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long
- Pirates Don’t Change Diapers by Melinda Long
- There Was an Old Pirate Who Swallowed a Fish by Jennifer Ward
- Pirate Pete’s Talk Like a Pirate by Kim Kennedy
- Pirate Girl by Cornelia Funke
- Roger, the Jolly Pirate by Brett Helquist
These longer chapter books can be tackled a few chapters a day:
- Magic Tree House Series: Pirates Past Noon by Mary Pope Osborne
- Peter and the Star Catchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
- Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Additional Books for Reference & Exploration:
If you can make a trip to the library- these are great materials to supplement with your daily activity. Explore them with your kids. Discuss daily life on a ship. Talk about the difference between real pirates (they were actually bad guys) and the Hollywood version of pirates.
- John Matthews has a creative and interactive book Pirates. It has pull out maps, cards, and pages stuffed with random and neat facts. He also created Pirates: Most Wanted with bios on infamous rouges of the sea.
- Lives of Pirates by Kathleen Krull & Kathryn Hewitt includes the biographies of real pirates.
Watch a Pirate Themed Movie A Day
Everyone needs some downtime, and chilling with a good movie is great (especially when the weather is bad outside). Make some popcorn. Mix up some kid-friendly pirate grog*. And watch one movie. Treat it like a movie-theater experience (minus the kid behind you kicking the seat 😉
Tip: Pirate Grog. Pirates loved their grog! Grog was a combination of rum and lime juice (the lime was to prevent scurvy among seafarers)- Make some homemade lemonade (without the rum!) and serve by the pint for kid-friendly grog.
Kid-Friendly Pirate Movies (*The Pirates of the Caribbean movies may be too scary for young children- you know your kids best- choose wisely)
- Peter Pan (animated) Disney classic based on the original JM Barrie story. There are many more modern versions of this, including live action like Peter Pan (2003) and Pan (2015), but our house loves this 1953 feel-good classic 😊
- The Goonies – who doesn’t love a good kid-treasure hunting adventure? Group of kids about to lose their neighborhood to big bad developers go out to seek treasure of a local legend to save their homes. Live action film made in 1985. Great movie.
- The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything (2008 Veggie Tales-Animated)- Time traveling vegetable pirate adventure. Good for young kids. For older kids swap for The Adventures of Tin Tin (2011 animated) or Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
- Hook (1991) Peter Pan (Robin Williams) has grown up to be a grumpy serious dad- a return to his London roots brings Captain Hook and his Neverland past back into his life.
- Treasure Planet (2002) Disney’s animated futuristic retelling of the classic Treasure Island tale.
Talk Like A Pirate– Week-Long Activity
September 19th is International Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day, but you can pepper your own Pirate Week by adding some pirate-talk. Start the morning by greeting your kids with ‘Ahoy, matey’, and dishing them up some ‘cackle fruit’ (eggs) for breakfast.
Here’s some Pirate Lingo to get you on your way:
- Ahoy – hi (greeting)
- Avast ye – Stop and pay attention to me (Avast ye lads and lassies- listen to this story or ye be swabbing the decks!)
- Blimey – An exclamation of surprise (Blimey! I didn’t expect to see ye clean ye room so fast!)
- Booty – treasure (Yes, this will get giggles when you tell them you’re going to search for booty on day 5 of pirate week)
- Cackle fruit – eggs (It’s cackle fruit for ye breakfast!)
- Head – toilet on a ship. (I’ve got to use the head.)
- Lad/lads– boy/boys
- Lass/lassies – girl/girls
- Landlubber– someone who’s not a pirate/sailor
- Mate/Matey – friend/shipmate
- Me – my (I’ve got me trusty cutlass (sword) and me booty)- yeah, you may not be able to use that booty word with your kids lol.
- Sea dog – an old pirate (also salty sea dog) (Blackbeard was a Salty Sea dog who spent a lifetime at sea.
- Swab/swabbing – mop/cleaning (Ye be swabbing the kitchen floor if ye don’t eat ye veggies)
- Ye – you (What ails ye, lad = are feeling sick, boy?)
Make a Pirate Flag– Day 1 Activity
Not all pirates flew the skull and cross bones flag (aka the Jolly Roger). Calico Jack’s flag had crossed swords beneath a skull. Some pirate flags were even red.
You will need:
- A-4 paper (plain white copy paper will do)
- your choice of colored markers, crayons, gel pens, colored paper or paints to decorate the flag.
Create a pirate flag. Have your child draw their flag on the paper. Do a google search for pirate flag images for ideas or use the books you have on hand for reference. Color it in and decorate.
Host a Scavenger Hunt– Day 2 Activity
All pirates need to learn to hunt for treasure (er, booty?) and a scavenger hunt gets your kids up and active. Make a list of items to find- provide them with a bag/basket to put the items in as they go, and a pencil/crayon to check the items off from their list. 10 things for young kids; 15-20 for older kids. Provide them with a treat for a completed hunt – like an ice pop. If you have more than one child, make it a competition with a prize, like winner gets a free pass from doing dishes.
Scavenger List Ideas (write them down on a piece of paper for each child.)
Inside Hunt- use variations of this with color and numbers:
- 2 white socks
- 4 red Legos
- 3 pennies
- Something that starts with the letter s
- 1 magazine
- 2 music CD’s
- 2 pens
- A pack of crayons
- A stuffed animal
- 1 green item of clothing
For older kids you may want to add:
- A dictionary/thesaurus
- Something written in a foreign language
- A book you’ve never read
- A family picture
- Something that can be recycled
Outdoor Scavenger Hunts– remember your child’s abilities when making your scavenger hunt list!
- 5 sticks
- 4 brown leaves
- 2 flowers
- 3 green leaves
- 2 rocks
- 1 bug (dead or alive- your choice)
- 6 blades of grass
- 3 seeds
- A pine-cone
- 2 acorns
Tip: For kids with phones- try a picture scavenger hunt, where they must get photos of items. You can include things like: something blue, a butterfly, yellow flowers, a caterpillar, a winged insect, a lizard. Get creative.
Pirate Puzzle Time!
Print out these word searches for activity time:
For younger kids, find the items a pirate might need in daily life in this word search
- A Pirate’s Life word search https://thewordsearch.com/puzzle/1089126/
For older kids, locate the pirates from history in this word search
- Pirate word search: https://thewordsearch.com/puzzle/1089054/
Create a Map- Day 3 Activity
It’s art time! Every pirate needs a treasure map and it’s time to create yours.
You will need:
- plain white paper (A-4 copy paper is fine- if you have a larger paper, little kids love to draw big 😉
- markers or crayons
Have your child draw your yard. If you live in an apartment, have them draw that area. Start with the perimeter fence/property line/building walls around the edge of the paper and work in from there. Kids don’t see things the way adults do, so don’t be surprised if the dog kennel outside is bigger than your house. Mark each area- like house, rose bush, oak tree, swing set, and let them color it in as they like. While your child is making their map- make one as well yourself- you will be using it for the treasure hunt on day 5.
Example of a Compass RoseMake a Compass Rose – Day 4 Activity
A compass rose is the direction sign on a map- sometimes they are simple, other times they are elaborate works of art.
You will need:
- plain white paper
- crayons, colored pencils, markers or gel pens for decorating
- ruler if necessary
- tape or stick glue
- Cut the A-4 paper in half and on one-half have your child draw a plus sign + , big enough to fill the paper. They can use a ruler or edge of a book if needed.
- On top of the + sign, have your child draw an x- half the size of the plus sign. Again, use a ruler or straight edge of a book if needed.
- Both the plus sign and x should be intersecting at one point in the middle. Now from each spoke of the plus sign, draw a line down to the – making triangles. Then do the same with the x spokes. (see the picture above)
- Your child can draw a circle around the whole design or not.
- On the top spoke on the page, have them make a big ‘N’ for North.
- Directly opposite the N, on the bottom spoke, make an ‘S’ for South.
- On the right spoke, make a ‘E’ for East
- On the opposite spoke on the left, make a ‘W’ for west.
- They can fill in the small spokes with SW, SE, NW, & NE if they like or just color the area around the compass with crayons, gel pens, etc.
- Have them cut out their compass rose and glue/tape to the corner of the map they created in yesterday’s activity. Make sure the N pointing in the north direction on the map. You can use a compass or the compass on your smart phone (it’s in utilities iPhone & Android). Play around with the compass while you’re there. It’s always neat to find which way your bed is directed, or where the north wall of the house is located.
Hold a treasure hunt in your backyard to wrap up Pirate Week.Hold a Treasure Hunt– Day 5 Activity
This is the final day of your Pirate-themed week, and you need to plan ahead to make it a good one. Today you will be holding a treasure hunt. Make sure you set up this hunt before letting the kids on it- (you may even have to prep it the night before). Also, be sure to have a prize per child for the end of the hunt. This could be as simple as a hand-made coupon good for an ice-pop/ice cream treat; a toy compass/spyglass from the Dollar Store (look in the party section); candy, a Steam card- you know your kids best 😉
There are 2 ways you can do your treasure hunt:
Photo copy your map from day 3 (you will need 4 maps in all)
- For map #1 make a dotted line from a start point of your choosing (i.e. front door) to a location on the map and mark with an x. At that location, leave or hide map #2 and make a dotted line from that location to another and mark an x. Leave map #3 there. For map #3- you will do the same to get to map #4. For map #4, you will mark a dotted line to a final x. There you will leave a “treasure”.
- Create 5 different clues to lead your child from one location to the next.
Hand your child the map from day 3 with an x-marks the spot over the location where you left your first clue. In that location, have a piece of paper with your clue written -it can be a riddle, a poem or even a puzzle. It should lead them to the next spot where the next clue is hidden, and so on, until you have left a total of 3 clues. The 4th clue should lead them to the spot where the ‘treasure’ is waiting. Do you geocache? You can use GPS coordinates to hide the clues, with another set of coordinates to the next spot and let your kids use a GPS to find them.
Extending Pirate Week with a Field Trip*
So, you’ve made it through a whole pirate themed week and your kids still love the subject. Consider extending the week with a field trip to learn more about the buccaneers and privateers that roamed the seas. (*When travel restrictions have been lifted).
St. Augustine, Florida
The Pirate & Treasure Museum in historic St. Augustine is stuffed to the gunnels with pirate facts and lore. Learn about the St. Augustine pirate raids by Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searle, how life was on a pirate ship and what it was like in battle. There are also displays of real pirate treasures and a nod to Hollywood fiction.
Charleston, South Carolina
A wander through the old cobblestone streets of Charleston is like stepping back in time. Visit Provost Dungeon beneath the Old Exchange where pirate, Stede Bonnet was imprisoned for his crimes. He escaped but was recaptured and ultimately hanged at White Point Gardens, along with 48 other pirates during the 1718 mass pirate executions in Charleston.
Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, used to take his R&R in Savannah, Georgia. The Pirate’s House Restaurant is said to have a tunnel that leads to the sea- where drunk men were kidnapped to serve on ships. It’s this house, dating back to 1753, that inspired scenes in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
The 5.6k acre Blackbeard’s Island, a barrier island on the Atlantic was once an R&R spot for the swarthy Blackbeard and the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Now this national wildlife refuge is a haven for birds and other critters and only accessible by boat.
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