Storming the Castle!
Download the PDF version of this activity plan.
Taking its name from Miracle Max's line in The Princess Bride, this activity can expand or contract to fit your Local Group's needs. Read through the plan and select those elements that fit your time and resources. At its least intricate, it is a building activity; at its most elaborate, it is a medieval extravaganza! Not only can these activities be for kids, they can be by kids as well. Use Young Mensans to develop and prepare for the event.
Supplies (see Preparation and Showtime! sections for details)
- Decorating/building elements such as cardboard, markers, construction paper, empty boxes, crepe paper, etc.
- Cutting implements
- Glue or tape
- Materials for craft projects
- Items to juggle
- "Tournament" materials such as pool noodles and pool rings
- Items for younger children such as coloring pages, crayons, etc.
- Reference books (optional)
Select a location that is appropriate for this set of activities. Select your activities from the Showtime! section and gather the necessary items. Choose two colors (such as red/blue, green/yellow, red/silver) to be the theme colors. Gather building/decorating supplies in those colors.
- Make a drawbridge at the door. Use cardboard for the bridge, drawing wood grain lines with marker. Add the look of planks by drawing lines and large dots to look like nails. Cut the bridge into a rounded shape at the far end. For the chains, use either rope; brown, gray or black construction paper chains; or lightweight metal chain. Attach the "chains" at the top of the door frame and to the bridge. Use blue paper to create a moat under the bridge. Use brown bulletin board paper with black lines to look like castle stones on either side of the door.
- Make a castle out of large boxes. Use a marker to draw "stone" lines. Use crepe paper streamers in the theme colors to fly from the towers (make towers out of cylindrical boxes or cartons such as oatmeal containers). Cut out windows.
- You can add some of the following to make your castle even cooler:
- Courtyard with pillows to sit on.
- Secret passageway.
- Fake ivy on the walls.
- Royal coat of arms.
- Grilled chicken or chicken drumsticks.
- Round bread loaves.
- Fresh fruit.
- Apple juice or ginger ale.
- Make trenchers (plates) out of pita bread, and use fingers to eat all foods.
Popsicle stick catapult
Construct the catapult that will throw an object the farthest. Get instructions at Storm the Castle. Make sure all participants are on the launch side of the catapult and are wearing safety goggles.
You can also find great ideas on catapult building (and similar projects) in these books by William Gurstelle, any one of which could be an entire activity by itself:
- Backyard Ballistics: Build Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars, and More
- The Art of the Catapult: Build Greek Ballistae, Roman Onagers, English Trebuchets, and More Ancient Artillery
- Whoosh Boom, Splat: The Garage Warrior's Guide to Building Projectile Shooters
- Adventures from the Technology Underground: Catapults, Pulsejets, Rail Guns, Flamethrowers, Tesla Coils, Air Cannons, and…
Make a cardboard castle
Expand upon your drawbridge and castle using common household items. Get instructions over here.
Make your own grail
Participants can decorate their own cups using clear acrylic goblets, plastic adhesive gems (or glue dots and acrylic gems), etc. Alternately, you could decorate one "grail" and hide it, creating a scavenger hunt for participants.
Court Jester School: Learn to juggle
Get good instructions at learnhowtojuggle.info. You can also find books at the library on juggling; the Dewey Decimal number is 793.87.
Paper maché dragon eggs
You will need:
- Water balloons
- Newspaper or tissue paper
- Maché mix:
- Cornstarch (1-2 tablespoons for each cup of water)
- Cold water
- Dash of salt (optional)
In a saucepan, mix cornstarch and water. Heat on medium, stirring constantly, until it thickens and becomes translucent. Cool.
Tear narrow strips of newspaper or colored tissue paper. Blow up balloons. Thoroughly immerse strips in maché mix until quite wet. Lay the strips on the balloons and let dry. When dry, you can paint the "eggs" if desired.
Use broomsticks or pool noodles to try to catch pool rings. If you use pool noodles, wind electrical tape up the length like a barber pole.
You may wish to have a selection of books on King Arthur or the Middle Ages available for attendees to peruse. There are a number of books for all ages that would be appropriate. Try any by Hudson Talbott, Merlin and the Dragons by Jane Yolen, and The Making of a Knight: How Sir James Earned His Armor by Patrick O'Brien. For older kids, check out the series by Robert San Souci. You may wish to have some of the adult versions, too, such as The Once and Future King or Steinbeck's version of the Arthurian legend.
If you are expecting very young children to attend, have some coloring pages available as well. Try the ones at these sites: