Explorer Party

Imagine the excitement of exploring new frontiers! Beginning an epic adventure is as easy as hosting an explorer party!

First, do a bit of brainstorming. Thinking of the word EXPLORE, I came up with this list: discovery, telescope/binoculars, compass, maps, lanterns, backpack.

Try to keep these words in mind as you look for ways to decorate, present food and play games.


You can be really creative with themed invitations.

  • Use a clip art image of a compass rose and include the party details (date, time, location) and a comment for everyone to be prepared to explore in running shoes!
  • Instead of listing a location, you could draw a map (or download one). Add a legend with written details and it's ready to go!
  • Print out on regular paper, then age the paper by carefully charring the edges with a candle flame - Adult supervision is ESSENTIAL!


Keep decorating minimal and on theme. Don't focus on more than the room where the food is - that's where all your guests will be when they aren't playing fun games!

I had a set of bed sheets with a map background that worked perfectly as table cloths.

Some oil lanterns, a few maps posted on the wall, and a pair of binoculars helped to set the mood.

The best part - FOOD

I like to have food that's been prepared the day ahead so all I have to do is unload the fridge on party day. A variety of salads, fresh veggies and dips, a slow cooker dish and a great desert makes for a great menu!

Because this was an explorer party (and I have some picky eater guests) I printed out some cool names with a short description of each dish. Courier du Bois canoes, Locator Lagoon Limes, New Found Island, Magellan's Secret Maple Dip...be creative to come up with your own names or use mine!

I like to make a loaded potato salad. I cooked up some sliced cured back bacon (regular bacon works too!) then allowed them to cool and diced them up. I added 1 sweet potato, 6 medium potatoes, 1/2 sweet onion, 4 chopped hard boiled eggs and about 3/4c mayonnaise. I stirred everything up in my pasta pot, then scooped it into a pretty glass serving bowl, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. When I set out the salad, I sprinkle paprika over the top for colour and some extra flavour!

My son loves grapes, and the forecast was hot so I thought why not try this easy grape salad recipe? What a fantastic idea!!!! I loved the hard nuttiness of the walnuts mixed with the sweet juicy of the grapes. It took a bit of time to wash and slice 6 cups of grapes - but it's Well Worth The Effort!

cucmber canoescucumber canoes and onion dip

I found a link here of scooping out a cucumber much like an aboriginal dugout canoe. I picked up some mini cucumbers, and used a paring knife to hollow out the centres. I didn't make the dip suggested there cause I know most of my guests aren't keen on yogurt dips, so I filled each one with onion dip - (super easy: 1c sour cream and 1 pkg dry onion soup mix - mix together and done!)

The first canoe I filled using a spoon, and didn't like how it looked...then I remembered the cake decorating tools in the drawer and used the widest ripple tip to fill the remainder of the cukes.

That same site had a lemon dip that I couldn't resist making. The nearest grocery store didn't have enough lemons for me to use as bowls, so I used limes instead. That worked out kinda better because they took up less room on the plate so nearly every guest tried the dip - yay!!

I made a second fruit dip, a maple dip mix that I love from Epicure Selections - that was the last of the bottle and I hope I can buy some more!! to present this dip, I cored and halved apples and scooped the dip into the hollow. The dip was awesome with the tart granny smith apples!!

The idea for New Found Island came from several sources - a book by Alison Boteler called The Children's Party Handbook (published by Barron's 1986), some crafty cutting my aunt has done to display food for wedding dinners, and a desire for something cute and colourful to lighten up the table. The carrot/green pepper trees took a lot of time (and a new bandage for my thumb!) and I'm not entirely pleased with the carrot trunks - I had hoped all the little cuts would stand out more. I love the little parrots! Lots of character from a mini carrot, pea and sliver of almond nose!

compass cake

A bowl of cut up fruit for the dips, a plate of cheese, some pickles and my personal favourite - deviled eggs rounded out the main course.

Since my oven's out of order just now, I bought a round layer cake from the grocery store. Kid picked it out - Double Chocolate Fudge - and I decorated the top with a compass rose and the party boy's name. Simple, delicious and worth every penny I spent!!

Let the FUN begin!

Once everyone has arrived, divide into teams and get the games rolling!

This party was attended by teens/adults and our little guy, so I made up 2-member teams. All these games would be just as fun with smaller kids split into 2 teams of 4-5 members.

1. Making Camp

The goal of this activity is for each team to gather supplies, light a fire and roast one hot dog for each team member. Each team was provided with a few sheets of newspaper, 3 matches, a large foil roasting pan and a roasting stick.

The first team to finish eating their hot dogs gets 5 points, each team after gets 4,3..etc

  • Keep any local fire regulations in mind - we have to purchase an annual fire permit here.
  • Have a hose handy to extinguish all the fires!! Safety first!

2. Map Making

If there is a short trail nearby, use it! If not, "hide" some objects around the property. You could hide lots of things - empty jars, piles of rocks, Lego creations, cardboard signs...I had a package of light sticks with connectors (rather like a wooden connector set), so we spelled out the letters of the party boy's name and placed them (out of order) along the trail.

I found tiny clipboards at Walmart in the party favour aisle that came with a notebook and pencil too. But you could use those small coil bound books just as easily. I had originally planned to hide the letters a bit off the trail, but they blended so well with the grasses that I just lay them down.

The goal is for each team to locate all of the markers and draw a map showing their location. When they arrived back at the house, they turned in their map and answered the question: What did the clues on the trail spell?

The first team with all locations marked on the map gets 5 points. One of the teams didn't find all of the letters, but could guess the answer, so we gave them 1 point.

  • You can change this by giving copies of the map with points marked and the team has to find each point and bring back an object (like a marble, rock or small toy)
  • If you wanted to make it more difficult for older guests, have them identify the tree/plant/animal house you've tied a ribbon to at each point on the map.
  • You could turn this into a GPS locator game or even a scavenger hunt!

While the guests were out map making, I took the time to unload the food from the fridge so everything was ready when they got back to the house.

3. Defend the Fort

marshmellow catapultMarshmellow catapult

I was inspired by some links on Pinterest to develop my own marshmellow catapult. This is the first design: Tie a knot in the end of a balloon, then snip off the other end. I taped 3 toilet paper tubes together, then taped the balloon over one end of the tubes. To operate, place 1-3 mini marshmellows into the tube, pull the balloon by the knot, and release. My son decorated the launcher with washi tape, then we tested it. Thought this would be great - but the mini marshmellows would get jammed in between the tubes. So then we made single barrel catapults the same way - they worked Much Better!!

I marked a line on the ground, then placed a hula hoop about 5 paces away. One team stood in front of the hoop to defend, the other behind the line to shoot. Points were earned by either hitting the target (hula hoop) or by catching the marshmellows.

This was a LOT of fun!!! We had prepared bags of ammo (15 marshmellows per sandwich bag), enough for each team to shoot 3 times. Everyone loved it so much, we played extra rounds and kept collecting marshmellows from the ground to shoot some more.

4. Sink the Ship!

bean bagsSewing bean bags

You'll need bean bags for this game. We made 15 for each team for a total of 30 bags. I cut rectangles of about 4x9 inches, folded them in half and sewed 2 sides leaving one side open to fill. We then used rice to fill the bags and I carefully sewed them closed.

You'll need a ship for each team - I used laundry baskets, but you could decorate some boxes for your ships too. Place the two ships 6 paces apart and make a line in the middle no one can cross.

Two teams face off against each other, each trying to toss their bean bag into the other team's ship, while trying to defend their ship from being hit.

Points are awarded for getting the bean bag into the opponent's ship AND catching the opponents cannonballs (bean bags).

This is a very active game - kind of like dodgeball - and having lots of bean bags made it more exciting!

Take Aways

cookie mix

This party was a bon voyage for a family member who's moving for a new job. I decided the thing that makes me feel most at home is cookies baking in the oven, so we made cookie mix in mason jars for everyone!

I found lots of recipes online, but chose this simple one. Measure each ingredient into a 250mL jar and pack down in order:

  • 1/4c flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp quick oats

I put 1/4 c of chocolate chips and chocolate covered candies into small plastic bags and tied onto the jars with the printed baking instructions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine 2 tbsp butter, 1/4 tsp vanilla and 1 egg yolk. Stir all ingredients until evenly mixed. Form balls of dough and place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake 4-5 minutes until golden brown.

I wanted to have a gift to commemorate the occasion. My son suggested a bag - but I didn't think it was the right fit. Then he said we could make a pillowcase so when the party boy got sad and missed us, he could hug his pillow and get love from all of us. Yeah, he's that ADORABLE!!

Perfect. I made a standard pillowcase using french seams. The solid orange for the cuff worked well for us to sign with a permanent fabric marker (I used a micron pigma pen) and had each guest sign with a short sentiment.

What a great party! Hope you're inspired to host an Explorer party of your own!!

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