Survivor Party

Since I asked my online friends for help with part of Emma’s 13th birthday party, I figured I should probably fill everyone in on the rest of the details in case you’re curious (and also to spark some ideas for anyone doing random Google searches to prepare for a similar event). More photos and videos are available in the Flickr set that each of the images below links to.



Emma has been a big fan of the show Survivor for a long time (as have Martha and I), and this year she said she wanted to go with that as the theme of the party. In the following rundown of how everything was put together, fellow fans of the show will probably recognize some familiar elements, but they were fun enough to enjoy whether or not you’ve seen the show before. I think all the kids had a good time, and I had fun playing “Jeff” (the show host). Since all week it was predicted to rain that afternoon, I had planned most of the games to be indoor friendly (with some variations, and we did end up being able to take advantage of outdoor play), Emma’s fervent prayers to hold off the rain were answered!

As is the Survivor tradition, the game starts with everyone being divided into two teams. I got two different colors of scarves from the 99 cent store and hid them in brown paper bags. Everyone took turns choosing a bag and then opened them together to reveal what team they were on. Throughout all of the rounds there was no “tribal council” component where anyone gets voted off (figured that wouldn’t be a great experience for this type of party); rather, the winners of each challenge would score a reward as well as possession of a fake “immunity idol”, which would give them some benefit or advantage in the next challenge.

Team Challenge 1 – Flag Building


Each team was given a blank posterboard and some art supplies (markers, crayons, etc.) and a time limit for choosing a team name and creating a corresponding poster / “flag”. I took pictures of the two finished products and posted them on Facebook for our friends to vote on (one hour time limit). In retrospect, I just wish I would have thought of the online social-network voting component earlier than the day before, so I could have done a warning post farther in advance to get more people involved. I did do one (the night before) and asked people to check back at that particular time of the day, and plenty of friends came through. With a combination of online and in-person unbiased votes, the “Ice Breakers” won this one by a slim margin (only one vote difference!). While we waited for the online votes to occur, we proceeded with the next few games.


Team Challenge 2 – Blind Search & Puzzle

All but one person per team were blindfolded, and the remaining team member was the “caller” who had to direct their blind team members to find bags on the ground and bring them back. Once a team obtains all six bags, they can remove the blindfolds and open the bags to reveal puzzle pieces – first team to finish the puzzle wins. It was a pretty close match.


Team Challenge 3 – Coconut Bowling

The coconut aspect was due to the whole “island” thing, although it quickly turned into soccer ball bowling after the first bowler easily cracked their team’s coconut – guess that’s what happens when you’re playing on asphalt with concrete curbs… It was still fine, though. Each team member got two rolls, and the team with the highest total score won. The previous winners had the advantage of choosing which coconut (of two) to use (which obviously didn’t end up being very important), but also could have one “redo”, where a single team member, only once during the game, can disregard one roll and have a do-over. I also added a twist that the single person with the highest individual score would receive a special bonus, the nature of which would be revealed after the game was over. That person received an object (toy gun) that would allow them (one time use) to remove one player (on either team) from any future team challenge.


Team Challenge 4 – Turn-based Capture the Flag

A pure numbers / working backwards reasoning game: a version of flag capturing played with coins. 21 coins were laid out on the floor, and each team takes turns taking either 1, 2, or 3 coins per turn – the team to take the last coin on their turn wins. (previous winning team advantage was to choose which team goes first). They did this on only one season of the Survivor show that I can remember, and just like on TV, the team to win was the first one to figure out the trick / winning strategy and employ it.



We announced the banner winners and awarded the team prizes for that challenge. This was quickly followed by the classic Survivor mid-game team reshuffle; we went through everyone and did coin flips, heads on one team, tails on the other, until one team had half the players, remainder goes to the other team.

Team Challenge 5 – Tallest Tower

This was my best indoor-friendly simulation of a “digging” based game that often shows up on the show; I scattered the various pieces of a Jenga set around the living room and then buried them under several layers of sheets and blankets. Starting from tables in two other rooms, each team could send one person at a time into the living room to dig up and bring back only one piece per turn, relay style. As the pieces were returned the rest of the team worked to build the tallest structure they could within the 5 minute time limit. I was going to give the previous winning team a 30 second head start, but I think I may have forgotten to do that this time though – oops!


Team Challenge 6 – Balanced Water Passing

I used a few very long 2×4 boards that had been sitting in my garage for a while to construct two “balance beams”. Teams had to stand on the beam while passing a bowl of water down the line and fill up a cup at the end of the line with whatever remaining water was left in the bowl by that point. This one ended up being pretty tough to do, so I made a couple adjustments to the rules as the game progressed (you only had to be standing on the beam and off the ground while you personally were touching the bowl, rather than the whole time the bowl was being passed, and also the person on the end could step off the beam before pouring into the cup). Another very close race.



Back inside, and time for a merge – no more team challenges, it’s every person for themselves from here on out, along with better prizes.

Individual Challenge 1 – Gross Food

Each round a different objectionable edible would be brought to the table and each person would have to eat a portion within a time limit to proceed to the next round. No bugs like on the show, but it’s pretty easy to find a decent selection of foods that most kids have a big problem getting down :-) On the last tie-breaker round, instead of a time limit the remaining players had to eat the item as quickly as possible – first one done wins the prize, which was a Starbucks gift card. [Note to self: go back and find a list of what all the items were - don't remember right now]


Individual Challenge 2 – Endurance

Everyone stood around a table covered with quarters scattered about the surface. Players had to hold one hand out (palm-down) and use the other to add a quarter to a single stack positioned on that hand (between 1st and 2nd knuckle) every 30 seconds. If a stack falls over, the player is out, and the winner keeps all the quarters. Most actually did a pretty good job at balancing, but there’s only so long anyone can hold their hand out in front of them without faltering enough to tip the stack.

Individual Challenge 3 – Food Auction

A Survivor classic – this and the other food one were the only specific challenges from the show Emma mentioned that she wanted to be sure to do. Of course, in this setting, the “stakes” weren’t nearly as high (normally they do this on the show with a group of people who’ve had next to nothing to eat for weeks), but it still worked out OK. They were given a set amount of money to bid with, and items were brought out one at a time for them to bid on. Some were visible and desirable, others were covered up and required blind bidding – might turn out to be good, might not!


Individual Challenge 4 – Memory / Elimination

I showed a sequence of cards (one visible at a time) and then everyone would have a chance (after the sequence complete) to write down the order as they remembered it. Get it right and you get the opportunity to remove one of three coins from any one player (similar to the Survivor “rope chopping” challenges). Lose all three coins and you’re out; last person remaining wins. The interesting spin on this is that you can get every one correct and still be eliminated, because it’s other people taking you out. Winner got an Amazon gift card.


Wrap up

Towards the end of the last game the parents were showing up and it was time to go, so that one was a bit rushed, but all in all I think it turned out pretty well. I think we captured a lot of the fun parts of the challenges they do on the show, and left out some of the strategic components involving voting people out (or voting to win at the end), etc., since I didn’t think that would be a great thing to do for a kids party.

Special thanks to Randy Jr. for taking the photos and video as we went!

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