How to DIY and play a life size game of HUMAN glow in the dark PacMan!

Ever wished you could play a classic arcade game like PacMan, only life-size, with actual people? At Simply Sparkles, we love to make parties extra fun, and we’re always up for a creative challenge, like a real-life version of a game like PacMan which people can actually play. Then we like to level it up, with our super cool UV blacklight so it really has an arcade game vibe. Bonus points if we can do most of it with normal household supplies, something recycled, and on a budget!

So, when my son asked for a ‘computer games party without computers’ we rose to the challenge and as PacMan was back in thanks to the movie Game On … the rest was history! We also made a string laser maze in the garden, and had Plants vs Zombies attached to balloons that they could shoot with nerf guns. It was awesome.

Suitable for ages 5 and up, you can play this as a cool party game or even in your own household if you have a minimum of 3 people: one PacMan, at least one ghost and a person to referee and change the music (or do human sound effects, if you are my husband!). The maximum number of people depends a lot on the size space you are dealing with and the number of kids you can handle, as it gets fairly exciting and chaotic at times. We found for younger kids in a living room situation, 3 ghosts and 1 PacMan was the upper limit, so we made sure to allocate turns and had the spectators on the sofa really giggling as they waited for their turn. This can be almost as fun to watch as it is to play!

Supplies for making a life-size, human glow in the dark PacMan game:

  • A4 neon / fluorescent coloured card: 2 x yellow, 2 x pink, 2 x orange, 2 x blue/green
  • A4 white paper
  • A5 black paper or round black stickers (about 1cm or 1/2 inch wide) – or a black marker but I think cutouts looked nice
  • string or wool
  • hole punch
  • a side plate (to mark the top of the ghost shape and the PacMan)
  • an egg cup or small glass, like a sherry/highball glass (to mark the eye shapes)
  • a small circle stencil or other round object (approx 1cm or 1inch wide) to mark the eye pupils
  • scissors
  • a pencil
  • masking tape (the kind used to mask things while painting- not duct tape) approximately 2cm / 1 inch wide (white or ordinary cream-coloured painters tape – it needs to glow in the dark and thankfully the standard-coloured one does). You’ll probably need the whole roll or even more, so keep it inexpensive, and it mustn’t mess up your floors. We have hardwood floors and masking tape was fine. I have no idea what works on carpets, sorry.
  • plastic bottle tops like milk bottle tops – as many as you can get. We save ours for up-cycling and recycling projects so we had a big jar full. If you don’t have time to save them up, ask your friends, or you can use paper dots. Bright coloured lids that will glow are helpful, or you can paint them or stick on inexpensive office supply dot stickers in neon – those guys glow! People also use coloured ball-pool balls, but the less they can fly around the room if knocked, the better! You need lots in one colour and then a handful in another colour to be the ones to tell PacMan he can hunt the ghosts.
  • PacMan sound-effect music and a device to play it on, or a willing beep-beeper person who understands the game and has a good sense of fun.
  • Some pieces of fluro paper or painted jar lids for the ‘turn around’ dots – about 4-5, depending on the size of your space.
  • A clean floor you can put tape on – tiles, wood, cement all work well.
  • a bag or other container (a small bucket works well) for PacMan to collect his/her dots with

OPTIONAL EXTRAS to LEVEL UP

  • UV blacklight to make it all glow in the dark – we recommend the package Simply Sparkles hires out, which has two good par can flood lights and one bar light. This way you can have the light coming from different angles in the room and it makes everything really pop.
  • larger dots (paper ones or jam jar lids) with printed out pictures of cherries and other bonus points items from the PacMan game. Very big dots (paper plates work well) for PacMan to be able to chase the ghosts back.
  • Score board: For older kids and adults, you can up the challenge and keep a score of how many of the dots and the bonus items each PacMan gets on their turn, and keep score on a chalk board. This works best if there aren’t so many players that it will take ALL day to each have a turn, but you could do it on a team basis. Really don’t do this with children under 10 as they truly have enough fun just playing it and randomly collecting the dots, and they tend to be unhappy with competitions at parties and start arguing.

Making the PacMan characters

If look at the first photo on this blog, you’ll get an idea of what you’re after. Use your plate to make a circle in the yellow card for PacMan, cut it out, then measure out a cake slice piece to cut out for the mouth. There are loads of free PacMan colouring in pages on the net you can use as a template if you aren’t keen on drawing your own. Try this French blog for making PacMan and ghost cushions – she has a really great template for both. Stick a small black dot on for the eye and you have PacMan’s dear familiar face.

Use the same plate to draw the top half of a circle for the top of the ghosts, then use a ruler to draw side lines, and make a wavy line at the bottom (You could free-hand. I happened to have a wavy line stencil ruler, but you could make a quick template from card to keep it uniform and neat – use your sherry or highball glass rim to mark the curves of your wavy line). The ghost eyes are a different size and type from Pacman’s. Use your highball/ sherry glass to measure the white circles, then cut them out, and check the position before sticking them on. Cut the black pupils (or draw them on with a black marker or use black stickers). Try varying their direction so they look expressive and interesting like the ones in the photo.

Once you have two ghosts in each colour, and two PacMan characters, you need to put them back to back and punch holes on the sides, nearish to the top. You then thread string/ wool through the holes, to make a little harness to hold the faces on the chest and back of each player. You can adjust the length by trying it out on your child/ person of a suitable size who will be playing, then tie and cut off loose ends. You can get the idea here – the arrow shows you where the string holes are, as the glow light makes it a bit hard to see:

where to place the strings on your ghost/pacman

TIP: if you plan to play this on more than one occasion or with lots of kids and you want it to really last, you can laminate each piece and use a hold punch and metal hole-liners if you have the tool to put them in with. The plain card with holes last very well for one party’s set of games, but help/ remind children to put them on and take them off gently as they won’t survive overly rough treatment.

How to set up a human PacMan game floor layout

If you are more comfortable with knowing exactly how this will turn out, then you can measure your floor, get some pictures of a PacMan game screen off the internet, and plan the whole thing with exact measurements, factoring in the width of your masking tape. If this makes you happy and you have a lot of time, have fun! If you are shorter on patience and time, like me, read on…

What I did: Got a pic of a PacMan game on my laptop to refer to. Started in the middle of the room with the rectangle big enough for one person to stand and turn in, with an opening big enough for two feet right next to each other, plus a bit extra. I then taped out pathways fairy intuitively in concentric rectangles around the original one, occasionally referring to my laptop screen for inspiration to keep things varied – a couple of awkward twists and turns and dead ends add to the fun.

It is super important for game play that there is not an easy, direct path straight from the middle rectangle to the outside opening. Hopefully referring to your chosen image of a typical PacMan screen will help you see this.

You can see the result in the picture above. Notice the ordinary-coloured masking tape is glowing a nice purple under the black light UV.

To finish off, enclose the whole lot in a big rectangle with an opening that connects to one of the paths. The best part is, apart from wasting a bit of tape, if something goes wrong with your design, it’s easy enough to pull up the tape and reapply it or else start that bit over – just keep stepping back to look at the big picture and checking your paceman screen/ image for reference.

You can do this the day before your party – if your tape works, it can stay down for a day or even two. Just remember to use masking tape and not duct tape and your floor should be fine. If you’re not sure with your specific type of flooring, please check in a hidden spot.

TIP: for teenagers or adults, check the pathways are wide enough for bigger sized feet to move through, though making fairly tight turns is part of the fun!

Getting ready to play human PacMan!

Once you’ve done your pathway, and you’re close to the start time, place your dots (bottle tops or whatever you are using) around your maze. It’s great if you can put them fairly evenly spaced around the whole thing, as it looks like the real game and makes it challenging, but for younger kids, or if you are just short of dots, you can spread them out a bit more.

Decide ahead of time how teams will work, especially if you have lots of kids or a tricky number. You can adapt. Best case scenario, we found, was 3 ghosts to one PacMan, but you could mess about with the ratio depending on your space and the age of the players, etc.

  1. Give each ghost their ghost ‘harness’ to put on, so they have one ghost picture on their chest/tummy and one on their back. Do the same for the first PacMan.
  2. Give PacMan the container or bag which he or she is going to put their dots in.
  3. Get your sound or sound-effects person ready to go.
  4. Switch on your UV blacklights.
  5. Close your curtains and switch off extra lights.
  6. Explain the rules to your players and demonstrate the walking technique.

How to move in a game of human, life- sized PacMan

You can’t walk in a normal way like the kid in the front of this game (see picture below). An important rule is that you have to keep your knees together at all times and shuffle, one foot in front of the other, as if your legs started at your knees. This slows everyone down a bit, keeping up the challenge level, and makes you move a bit like you are in a pixelated old school arcade game. It also makes it more silly and fun.

From a safety perspective, you also don’t want people attempting to run in a small space with lots of tight turns.

Alternatives are tying older people’s knees together (not recommended for kids – they just need lots of reminding when things heat up). Use duct tape or soft, wide ribbon or scarves that won’t cut. Tie gently, not too tight. If your floor is not too hard and people are wearing long trousers, they can crawl, but then you need a bigger maze and lots of room for wider paths. You can get some people to hop with both feet, or make ghosts hop with one foot and PacMan with two. The hopping and shuffling and crawling have to happen without shooting the dots everywhere – though some of this is inevitable – a demonstration can be helpful.

How to play a game of human, life-size PacMan

  1. PacMan stands outside the maze, next to the opening, holding his/her bag or container.
  2. The ghosts are placed in the middle rectangle, all together in a row.
  3. Press play or start making slow beep-bop PacMan noises while everyone starts to move. PacMan has to pick up as many of the dots as he/she can while avoiding capture by the ghosts.
  4. The ghosts can move in a random way, as in the game, or try to head straight for PacMan to catch him. It helps to explain to the players that all the ghosts going after PacMan at once isn’t the most fun strategy as they all just end up in a row. Spreading out makes it more fun AND narrows down PacMan’s options for escape.
  5. If PacMan reaches one of the BIG/ WHITE dots (e.g. paper plates)Call out ‘GHOST HUNT!” and the chase reverses (use a different soundtrack here – faster bee-bops or a wazoo or something) and PacMan has a chance to capture the ghosts. This tends to be really fun and chaotic as the ghosts are suddenly the ones being hunted and have to hobble for their lives! The person doing the sound effects can use their judgement as to how long to let this go on before the tide turns against PacMan again, though the older the teens/adults, the more important it is for this to be on a proper timer of some kind for fairness. The little kids are usually so into it they don’t notice the time exactly and the adult running the game can tweak it a bit to keep things happy and running well.
  6. PacMan can not pick up any dots while chasing the ghosts.
  7. Captured ghosts have to return to their home base rectangle in the middle and wait to start over.
  8. As soon as time is up, call out ‘PACMAN HUNT!’ and go back to your original, slower beep-bop soundtrack. PacMan can return to picking up dots and bonus points. The ghosts return to chasing PacMan.
  9. If PacMan gets captured by a ghost, he or she loses a life and the game resets, with the ghosts returning to the middle while PacMan returns to the outer opening of the maze. 3 lives works well.
  10. At the end of PacMan’s third life, if you are keeping score, you count the number of tokens he/she has managed to collect and write it down next to that player or team’s name. Then while everyone is changing places, selecting a new PacMan and ghosts to have a go, replace all the tokens quickly. Players can help to make this quick. It’s not as painful as it sounds, as very few players pick up most of the dots because they are also trying to escape the ghosts. With very young kids, having something to do in between rounds, like a quick snack or drinks break, can buy you time.
  11. SCORING: If you are keeping score, and not just playing for fun with little kids, then you have to count the number of dots collected by PacMan at the end of his/her 3 lives, and keep track of the number of ghosts captured in their turn. Suggested simple scoring: 1 point: common colour dots, 2 points for bonus colour dots (e.g. cherries in the original game) and 5 points for ghosts. Write scores on a piece of paper or score board. Simply Sparkles have a great chalk board and chalk markers you can use (bonus that chalk markers glow under UV too!)

If you enjoyed this post, you might want to look at our other posts on glow in the dark parties and lawn games:

Glow in the dark party ideas

Grown up glow party ideas

How to play Kubb or viking chess

Grown up glow party ideas

Glow on, you know you’ve seen enough kids’ and teen’s glow in the dark parties to know you’re desperate to have a grown up version! Whether you’re old enough to be nostalgic for the neon UV parties of the 1980s or 1990s disco, with the strobe and the crazy socks, or you’re up for something more nuanced and sophisticated, glow parties are now all glown up.

great themes and decorating ideas for an adult glow party

Let’s talk themes. Some adults like to dress up, others really hate it. There are a few neutral peeps. So if you go with a theme, make dressing up optional. Or… go ahead and nag everyone because seriously people, it is SO fun!

A theme can be a great way to tie in decor, invites and other items to get everyone a little excited that this party is a bit more than the usual small talk, drinks and chip ‘n’ dip. Cool themes for a grown up glow party are only limited to your imagination, but here are a couple of fabulous ones that Simply Sparkles party hire have helped style or have hired lights out for over the years:

  • Avatar: just watch the movie again and you’ll get why this is a fantastic glow party theme – go with stunning canopies of plants with giant flowers or paint a tree (all using glow paint or neon paint) and get a face paint artist in. Any tribal / boho / festival kind of party decor and outfits also work really well because… glow body paint is awesome! (more on that later on).
  • Naughty Nautical/ Under the sea: you can make this really sophisticated for a glamorous pool party or dance theme. Think mostly blue, violet and white colour schemes, though you can add tropical colours too, of course, make giant jelly fish out of paper lanterns and fabric, make bubbles out of white lanterns and balloons with glow sticks in them, and float glowing balloons in your pool, if you have one. The white and blue of sailor outfits works brilliantly too. If you can hire a wave light in blue or white to add to the sea atmosphere, so much the better (hey there! Simply Sparkles can help with that!)
  • Murder mystery/ Escape room/ Scavenger hunt role play: One of the coolest things you can do is have invisible clues/ writing/ symbols that only show up with a UV spectrum light.
  • 80s or 90s disco: Man you can ham this up and get funky like a cold Medina. So many dodgy fashion choices to make, so little big hair… In the 80s, Neon was just everywhere, even in the day time. Fingerless gloves, braces (for trousers), bowties, ties, hair scrunchies, socks…. Make a glowing punch bowl with tonic water in the mix (tonic water glows because of the quinine) get hula hoops in neon colours and spray paint weird 80s graffiti on some newspaper for the walls. Spotify and iTunes will do the work for you and offer you playlists and suggestions for days if you’re getting so old you can’t remember how to Walk like an Egyptian with the Bangles, do the Final Countdown with Europe, or the Locomotion with Kylie. If you’re too young to even know what the hell all that meant, then just get a whole playlist downloaded and if you’re VERY brave try YouTube videos of those guys to learn the weirdest dance moves of all time. Just wow.

Whatever theme you choose, remember you may need other lighting besides the black light uv for a great party – dance parties will need some dance lights, lasers and smoke to add the best vibe for certain parties or amp up the colour options a little. Some disco lights come with colour patterns that throw in a bit of extra UV as they move to the beat. If your theme is sea or water related then you can hire a wave-light to give a magical water-world effect, adding to your glow party atmosphere.

If you’re on a budget or care about the environmental impact of disposable items used at parties, you don’t need to spend a fortune on neon supplies. Get creative with a cheap pack of neon paper and scratch around thrift stores for white or neon fabric you can cut up and tie around things. Weed whacker wire and white items as well as quite a few items around your house may also glow in the dark, so you just need to experiment a little. Best of all, hire some reusable party supplies with your UV lights – you get so much more out of your budget like this, and it all goes back into their shop afterwards – no storing or throwing away for you!

occasions that glow best with uv black light

Whether you’re thinking adult as in, 21st birthday, 30s night club/ trance vibe, or adult as in 50th birthday bash, Old School 80s high school relive-the-glory-days… it really can work for just about any occasion. Graduations, hen or stag parties – it’s all good to glow!

The great thing about neon glow parties is that the blacklight UV kind of guides your other decor supplies and outfit choices. Basic black, dark blue or white backgrounds work well with with items that will pop in the glow light. Keep it simple and sophisticated or madly fun – it’s up to your mood and style.

Pssst! if you love this whole neon lights look, you can also incorporate it into your home decor as in this great post.

glown up party games

Adults also love to play rather than just stand around and talk, or hover around the edge of the dance floor. ANY party or lawn game you have ever pinned on Pinterest can be adapted to glow in the dark parties with a pop of neon paint, some neon stickers, or a glow stick.

Some glow party game ideas to try:

  • glow beer pong (just adapt with black light/ neon supplies like neon cups, ping pong balls and glowing tape and stickers to mark the table.
  • glow ring toss or bowling: put glow sticks in glass bottles (for ring toss) or plastic bottles with water in (for bowling), or else paint with neon paint/ decorate with glow stickers and tape. Spray paint an inexpensive soccer ball with neon paint for bowling (f you can’t find a neon one in the shops), or use neon plastic or painted wood for ring toss. Voilà!
  • glow sport, go! Volleyball, soccer, pingpong, swing ball – any summer beach or yard party game can be made to work with black light UV lighting – just get the UV flood lights (as opposed to bar lights) and make sure it will be dark enough at party time (not too much street or other ambient lighting to get in the way). Put glow tape around your nets/ goal posts etc. (or spray paint them neon) and buy or paint a neon sports ball and away you go!
  • glow twister: repaint or DIY your own glow in the dark twister game and spinner. SO much fun. We’ve just adapted an old one using simple neon highlighter markers drawn over the dots. Test colours to make sure they contrast enough with each other- so the green must not be too close to yellow when it glows in the dark, or you will have to use patterns or symbols to make the game work (instead of circles, some could have a triangle inside the circle outline, for instance).
  • Glow 3 legged races – people race in twos and you tie their middle legs together at the ankles with neon ribbon. Mark the finish line with neon fabric or paper flags on string and make sure there are no obstacles for anyone to trip over in the dark (best played on a beach or nice lawn).

Top tip: If you’ve hired lawn game equipment like our giant jenga (toppling tower) set and can’t paint it, you can try using glow stickers or placing the game on a glowing paper backdrop, or even putting scores on a glowing board. Cool fact: white chalk glows on a black chalkboard sign in the dark – true story. You can also buy awesome neon liquid chalk markers which wipe off with a damp cloth when you are done, like these ones.

Photo booths for glowing memories

Having a Photo Booth and some props is super awesome. Party peeps often put trouble into their glow outfits, and perhaps you’ve got some body and face paint magic going on, so capture those memories! While they’re having fun, why not throw in some silly props to really get them playing the model? The memories of your party will live on in the legends of social media.

backdrops that work: A black or white, simple background works best because anything too busy and it all gets to be a blur in the photos. You can do some pretty cool backdrops with dots, stars, streamers etc. but consider how a busier backdrop might be better for your drinks and eats tables or as a dance floor backdrop or room divider. Something simple for your guests to shine in front of is better for your photo booth. You can hire a Photo Booth stand and matt black backdrop cloth from Simply Sparkles when you hire your black lighting UV lights. Simply Sparkles also has a range of custom reusable wooden photo booth props specially painted in neon paint for hire.

Frames: You can use a fun frame – neon paper or card stock and foam board glow fantastically, as do cheap office supply stickers. Make a frame from stiff card stock and decorate it to suit your theme. People can either hold this up themselves for the photos or you can hang it from a ceiling beam or tree branch – check the height will work for various heights of guests, or hang more than one frame if they are smaller.

You can make fantastic optical illusions really easily and inexpensively with frames and neon/ glow tape or stickers – squares within squares works really well.

Important props tip: ordinary photo booth props on the market generally don’t glow under UV light. They can’t just be bright colours, they must be neon or fluorescent. So… if you are using real dress up items, like flower crowns, hats, gloves etc. make sure they are a good neon colour. Lots of dollar stores (Crazy Stores in South Africa) sell these items. If they are photo props on sticks, consider hiring or buying wood or cardboard that is painted with proper neon paint (also called fluo or fluorescent colours), which is available at most arts and craft shops and online stationary retailers.

As a last resort, buy a tasteful black and white set of props, and stick neon office supply dot stickers all over them. Those office supplies sure do glow like crazy under UV light! You can also use those glow in the dark stars and other kids’ bedroom decor – they look amazing. Any of those glow stick glasses, headbands, bracelets, etc. also look doubly fantastic in neon black light party outfits and photo booths.

A word on photo lighting: If you want to see everyone clearly, but still see the popping black light neon UV glow accessories etc. you need a balance of a little bit of ambient light, or early evening light, with a strong UV flood light that gives good coverage.

If you want the super dramatic black light UV effect for spooky Halloween photos or all-over outfits and body art (for that cool, floating in the dark look), you need a very dark environment (as little ambient light as possible) and the strong UV blacklight floodlight.

You also need a phone or camera that can handle strong light-dark contrast, with the flash turned off. Quite a few phone cameras do a fantastic job of black light photography, others don’t. If your photos are important to you, hire or purchase your light ahead of time and do some experimenting, or ask your friends.

glow/ neon party outfits

You can go so crazy with blacklight UV party outfits it’s difficult to know where to start. White and dark black or navy can make a good base, but you can also go with rainbow florescent tulle or gauze skirts, cool dollar-store neon jewellery (or make your own by painting some cheap vintage finds to keep your party outfits eco-friendly).

You can buy tons of 80s classics in neon, like fishnet fingerless gloves (hello Madonna), socks, scrunchies, fedoras, braces, neck ties, bowties, etc. There are lots of glow stick jewellery and headband options out there, and you can buy battery operated neon rope lights in all kinds of colours (my favourite is the light blue in our photo below) to wrap around a black outfit for a super-cool futuristic look. You can also wear a sexy barely-there outfit in black or white and just go for an amazing big glow temporary tattoo or body art, like the models in the photos in this blog did.

Don’t forget to raid the kids’ section of any clothing or thrift store – I’ve seen some big badass guys rocking neon rainbow tutus at glow parties. Who says unicorns don’t exist?

Don’t forget hair… if you wear it long you can braid in neon wire, painted (or just white) feathers and beads for an amazing tribal boho vibe. You can also get neon hairspray temporary colours and neon wigs.

Glow in the dark blacklight body and face paint

The photographs for this blog post were of local models painted by a professional mehndi henna artist in Cape Town, Zubaidah Amod. If you live in the Cape and you love temporary body art, give her a call to book her for a party. She does beautiful henna art for brides and for Eid as well and can paint up an amazing number of people in incredible detail at great speed. You can find her on Instagram @zubaidah.amod. If you aren’t lucky enough to live here, you can have a go yourself and get great effects, but a professional face painter will make everyone look awesome very quickly, so it’s a great touch for a fabulous party.

You can also buy glow in the dark temporary tattoos quite cheaply online – try Etsy or Amazon or you might find some at a dollar store/ crazy store.

There is awesome clear paint that is invisible in the day but surprises everyone by appearing like magic once it gets dark and the glow party fun begins. You need to apply it under UV though or it’s just really hard to see what you’re drawing!

Pro tip on buying neon glow body paint: neon body paint needs to be decent quality and applied quite thickly. You can then paint nicely with it and even blend the edges between colours for super pretty effects. There are lots of very cheap neon body paints available at dollar stores but I don’t recommend them unless you know someone who swears by the particular brand. They are often watery or very waxy and don’t give a decent pop of colour – you want oooh! not meh!

It’s best to get a better quality pot or two from a craft supplies shop (like PNA in South Africa). A little goes a long way, and if you’re going with friends to a party you can each chip in for a colour to get more variety. Nice brushes also help, though you can go a long way with finger painting if its for larger areas and a looser tribal vibe.

glow/ neon party food and drinks

Glow food and drink can be made in a few ways. Mainly, you have:

Food colouring: a bit like with decor, you need colourings specifically marked ‘fluorescent’ or ‘neon’ or ‘glow-in-the-dark’ for them to really work. You need quite a bit of colouring in your buttercream or fondant icing to get a nice intense glow. It doesn’t taste fantastic if you use a lot of colouring, so consider just doing a few show-stopper items and opting instead for:

Decor and accessories to serve food with/on and to decorate your bar area with: Consider neon plates, glasses and cups, little flags on sticks used to make little skewers for cocktail snacks, drink garnishes and wooden laser cut words and pics on sticks (e.g. cake toppers) which you paint with neon paint (make sure it is food safe if painted areas will actually go into the food). You can put glow stickers on cocktail glasses and there are lots of neon tot glasses out there for shooters, as well as neon cocktail mixer sticks. Paint fake flowers (or real ones) with touches of neon glow paint and tie them to wine glass stems, drink bottles or scatter around tables.

Edible garnishes which happen to glow under black light: Some edible flowers like hibiscus glow in the dark under black light! So will any bright white edible flowers like white rose petals, white alyssum, white basil flowers, etc. Experiment with what you have – black light UV spectrum does some pretty cool things with all kinds of natural pigments.

Tonic water cocktails: you can play a lot with glow drinks using tonic water as a mixer. Tonic water that contains quinine happens to glow under UV light. You can make ice cubes and cool stuff like vodka jello with it too. Only mix with clear alcohols, fruit juices and other mixers – if you cloud it up it will glow less. For instance, we found milk or lychee jello (jelly in South Africa) worked really well because they are white / clear. You need a good strong UV light for this to show up, so don’t place your pretty drinks miles from your dance floor lighting and expect them to pop – you have to light the bar area too.

Glow sticks can be put under the ice cubes in your champagne cooler or big ice bucket for storing your drinks. For a super cool effect, you can make giant ice cubes with water balloons and put the glow sticks under these – magic! You don’t need UV light for this bit – the glow effect just comes from the glow sticks.

We hope you have a great time getting your glow on and have a party that simply sparkles with neon fun! Let us know any tups you have in the comments or feel free to ask a question.

PHOTO CREDITS: Most of the photos in this blog post were shared with me, and are used with the permission of, various clients of Simply Sparkles party hire over the years. The photos of models with body paint were from a photoshoot by Steyn Marais Photography (follow @steynmaraisphotography on Instagram) with body paint by mendhi artist Zubaidah Amod (follow @zubaidah.amod on Instagram). The models are Morenike (@mo-aint_yours) and Tanya (her account on Instagram is private).

Read more on this topic:

Glow in the dark party ideas

How to DIY and play real-life, human PacMan (with blacklight UV neon for that arcade game look!)

Brilliant ideas for incorporating neon into your home decor. (Simply Sparkles got a guest feature on this great blog at Redfin. Spot us talking texture and neon/ UV fabric at no. 14!)

How to play Swedish Kubb or Viking Chess

Kubb is a great lawn game that hails from Sweden. It’s easy to set up and start playing in your yard or garden, and you can play with just two players or plenty more, in teams. It’s perfect for picnics, wedding lawn games, team building games and birthday parties and can be played by most ages. In this post we’ll talk you through deciding who can play, the equipment you need, and do an illustrated run through an example game.

What ages can play Kubb?

Kubb is pretty much all ages and we’ve played some great 3 generation family games. I’d probably put a lower age limit on Kubb at around 6 or 7 – younger than that and you might have some heavy wooden blocks flying at someone’s head (and heads that are closer to the ground), but you know your own kids!

When it comes to older players who might enjoy a game of Kubb at their birthday party, there is no running around or leaping about, but there is a little bending down to pick up clubs at the start of each turn. It’s less strenuous than a game of bowls, boules or botch, which is so popular with the elderly folk around the world. So I’d say: encourage Grandma and Gramps to have a go, and possibly provide a chair on the sidelines for when it is the other team’s turn, so they don’t have to stand about too long if they don’t want to. Then treat them like the grown ups they are and leave them to it.

How easy is it to play Kubb?

While Kubb looks as easy as bowling or skittles, there is a surprising amount of both skill and luck involved, which is what makes any game super fun to play. I first learnt to play it on a visit to my cousins in Sweden (hej där Sverige!) and I’m pleased to say the South African contingent were able to hold their own! It’s no fun to play a game that only involves skill, or that sports jock guy or tennis champ girl is just going to wipe the floor with you. A bit of luck makes things more entertaining.

What equipment do you need to play Kubb?

Like croquet, this game does involve some layout if you want to get started. You need a nice wooden Kubb set, and then you are all set to go. Once you have got your hands on a set, it is one of those games you can play pretty much anywhere where there is a nice stretch of relatively flat lawn or even sand.

Kubb sets are made of wood and are not too difficult to make for yourself if you have the skill and tools. You can find various how-tos on the interwebs, or if you are in a country lucky enough to have direct access to good old Ikea… head online and you’ll probably be able to find a set. Various peeps make Kubb sets for sale like this one on Etsy as well as people get to know what it is. If you just want to use one to try it out or for a wedding, birthday party or team building event, then you can also hire one.

A set consists of:

  • 10 knights (rectangular blocks)
  • 6 clubs (cylindrical batons)
  • 1 king (like a knight, but with a crown on top)
  • Wooden stakes, or other markers, to peg out the corners of the field and measuring string (optional)

Setting up a Kubb game

Once you have a nice Kubb set, you can head outside and set up a game. The field needs to be roughly 5m wide and 10m long. You can measure this out with special stakes and string provided in the Kubb set, or if there aren’t any, pace it out and put a pebble or something to mark the four corners.

Each team lines it’s 6 knights up along their baseline (the short edges of the 5 x 10 rectangle you have just marked out). They should be more or less evenly spaced.

How to play a game of Kubb

The aim of the game is to knock over ALL of the knights in the other team’s half of the playing field, and the king, in one turn.

IMPORTANT: Avoid hitting the king until the right time. He’s like the king in chess or the black ball in snooker. Hitting the king ends the game immediately, so if you hit him by mistake in the middle of your turn, the game ends, no one wins, and you have to start over.

TEAM ONE, first turn:

Team one attack!

Team 1 stand on the baseline behind their knights, and throw all 6 of their clubs at the knights on the other team’s baseline. The team can decide how many clubs each team member is going to throw, but they must throw all six.

You have to throw underarm and straight. No sweeping the club around your body like a frisbee or baseball bat, and no overhand or overhead throws allowed. Think of your classic bowling alley roll movement and it’s something like that. This ups the challenge level, because… well, you’ll see… and scream… the club will turn over and over and sometimes cartwheel right over that knight you were just inches away from hitting! It also stops any overly exciting clubbing of the opposite team, which is important, even if the word ‘viking’ sounds like an invitation to do battle.

Important safety note: the other team should stand away from their baseline to avoid being in the line of fire!

So in the illustration example, team one threw all 6 clubs, and hit knights 2, 4 and 5. Only 2 and 5 fell over, so 4 sadly does not count.

At the end of their turn, team one can take the fallen knights (2 and 5) over to their side of the field. They can place them wherever they like. They can be nasty and put it just behind the king, but it must be at least one club length away.

TEAM 2, turn 1

The start of team 2’s turn.

Team 2 in this example now have 7 targets and only 6 clubs, so you can see the game is getting more complex. They can stand and throw from the baseline, OR from wherever a club has fallen on the field.

If a club has fallen outside of the field, then they have to go back to the baseline with it (so if someone in team one had a really bad bounce and the club landed on their own side, team 2 could not throw from the other side of the king).

Team members take turns to hit as many of the knights on the other side as they can, until they have thrown all 6 clubs.

In the example below, team 2 are annoyingly good and knock over one knight for each of their 6 club throws. Sadly, they are still not allowed a go at the king to win the game, because knight 2 is still standing when they run out of clubs.

Strategically, putting a knight right behind the king should make life hard for the other team, but in this example the one club fell just the other side of the king. This means team 2 can stand right there and just pick off knight 5 behind the king, without much danger of accidentally knocking him over.

Team 2 are annoyingly good, but can’t win in one turn. Ha!.

Team 2 then take any fallen knights over to their side of the field, and position them in a way to make the other team’s life as difficult as possible for their turn.

TEAM 1, second turn:

Team one now have another go. There are more targets to hit, but two clubs can be thrown from a bit closer, and the knights might be close enough together for a lucky double hit.

Team 2 have moved all the fallen knights from their turn over to their side of the field. Team one have their work out for them!

THE GAME CONTINUES UNTIL…

The game continues until one team have only 5 or fewer knights to knock down on the other side, and one club left to get the king. If they hit all the knights in the other team’s half of the field, and the king at the end of their turn, they win!

If they miss the king, or have hit all the knights on the other side, but don’t have a club left to hit the king with, the other team still have a chance to turn things around. It can get pretty tense, I tell you!

final rule: The king has to be hit and knocked over with a club thrown from the baseline. This is the one time you can’t throw a club from wherever it landed on the last team’s turn.

How long does a Kubb game last?

How long is a piece of string? So much depends on the skill of the players, and factors like invisible unevenness in the grass that can make the clubs bounce sideways. It is impossible to say for sure. Games can last for 5- 10 minutes, with super skilled players on one team only, but that’s rare. On the other hand, games don’t tend to go on so long that you miss your dinner.

Kubb is a great game to play at a wedding while the bridal couple are off having their photo session, or at a picnic or birthday party, because you can play several quick rounds and keep mixing up the teams, or play a championship league of teams, tallying up scores on a chalk board, and go for the best of 3 or best of 5 games. Sometimes you have one epic, longer game.

As with any great game, no two games are alike, and you never know when grandma will get her eye in and her elbows warmed up and give you a surprise run for your money (I speak from hard experience here)! Best of all, people with experience are not necessarily at such an advantage that it makes much difference. The average Jo with no special sporting ability stands a good chance of winning too if they get their game on, while the sporty types will find it just challenging enough to be fun for them too! Win win!

We hope you find this useful and clear. If you have any questions, or more information about Kubb, please let us know in the comments! If you’re keen to have a go before making or buying yourself a set, give Simply Sparkles a call and hire one!

Ideas for a Romantic Valentine’s Day Dinner in Your Back Yard

The cost of a romantic restaurant dinner for two can be a bit daunting, especially if you’ve only just caught your breath after holding it for all 65 days of January! Wearing masks in public places in 2021 can be a passion-killer. So why not create a special atmosphere at home? In the Southern Hemisphere, we’re lucky enough to have summer Februaries, so we can organise our very own romantic dinner under the stars! Read on for Simply Sparkles‘ great ideas for the month of love!

What if it’s cloudy, or the wind is up? No candles then, my friend! This was a difficult lesson for me to learn when we moved to the Cape. I LOVE candles for creating romantic atmosphere. My husband proposed to me in a gorgeous outdoor restaurant where they had over 300 candles in the garden (you read that right – it helped that they made candles too).

In the Cape, it would be inconceivable. 300 candles is more likely to make you the epicentre of this year’s out-of-control bush fire than a great romantic.

I own obscene numbers of pretty lanterns now, in an attempt to beat the Cape Doctor winds, but there are times when even lighting candles is just too much work. Enter my new obsession (drum roll please) … fairy lights!

You see, you just can’t do a romantic dinner without the right atmosphere, and the right atmosphere, dear reader, involves lights. Starlight, moonlight, fairy lights, candle light – it’s ALL about the lights. Flowers next, and pretty crockery, etc, but lights are critical. There are songs about this. For a reason.

Lights make a small space look inviting, and a plain wooden table or roof beam look like something truly special. Lights improve the look of everything else: the food, the flowers, the silverware. Everything glows and sparkles happily when you have the right lighting.

A word to the wise: YOU look more inviting too, when the lighting is right. A movement sensor spotlight or a fluorescent bulb over the garden might be practical, but it is horrible for your smouldering romantic gaze, and will make fresh flowers look like cheap plastic. Romance is never particularly practical. Valentine’s day requires some finesse. And fairy lights.

a romantic night at the movies (outdoors)

Why not hire or borrow a projector and hang up a white sheet tightly across a piece of string to create your very own outdoor movie theatre? Drag your mattress outside, or use a picnic blanket or inflatable camping mattress, throw pretty cushions all over it, and you can drape yourself fetchingly next to the champagne bucket and get cozy with a great film or series.

Make easy finger food like sliders or wraps or nice things in little bowls on a tray or wooden board, to dip and feed your beloved, so that you don’t have to keep pausing the film and dashing inside to check the oven or get fresh supplies. An ice bucket similarly keeps the drinks cold and close by. If you don’t have one, take a pretty salad bowl and use that. The only real requirements for an ice bucket is that is is clean and attractive – no, the plastic mop bucket will NOT do!

romantic silver service at home

Get out the lovely table linen, the special wine glasses, the candlesticks (or fairy lights), the lovely roses in glass vases, and serve up that gorgeous 3, 4, 6, 12! course dinner that would make your grandmama’s fictional butler proud!

It’s not too difficult to achieve if you’re a reasonable cook and do some forward planning. If you are not a reasonable cook, cheat. Ask a nice restaurant for a takeaways or head to Woolies for ready-made. If it’s good quality, served attractively (NOT in the box!) then you can have your fabulous cake and eat it without breaking a sweat.

I strongly suggest something you have made before and feel pretty confident about. Unless you like being sweaty when you romance someone, this might not be the time to experiment too wildly. Of course, if you have been married for millions of years like me, then go ahead and experiment because you’ll both enjoy the change and have a good laugh at the disasters (it’s a relief to get past the frantically impressing each other phase).

If you don’t know each other very well, your beloved will hopefully be impressed by all the trouble you’ve gone to and what a marvellous cook you are, or will be too full, or too polite, to protest much if you aren’t. When all else fails, you can’t go too far wrong with some advice I got from a cookbook once: if your dinner burns: dim the lights, pour lots of wine, and give the dish an impossible French name. But you see, first the lights!

Chat to Simply Sparkles if you’d like to hire lighting, stands, or one of our pretty champagne buckets or a drinks trolley to complete the atmosphere.

romantic exotic moroccan picnic for two

Another fun take on the outdoor dinner, is a more casual and colourful moroccan picnic. Take a carpet or pretty blanket and your coffee table outside, or put a suitable piece of wood on bricks – you basically want a low table. Put cushions down instead of chairs, get lots of pretty tea lights, lanterns, fairy lights etc. strung overhead on string with pretty stands or from trees, or hang a pretty patterned cloth from some simply wooden poles to create a canopy, and voila! You have transported your love on a magic carpet ride, for MUCH less than the price of a genie’s lamp.

You’ll need strong colours – pinks, reds, turquoises, etc. and colourful flowers like bougainvillea in oranges, pinks and yellows, to get the mood going. Coloured glass is a great way to go: for drinks and vases. If you don’t have any, then you can cheat with old glass jam jars painted with gold craft paint in pretty patterns.

Freeze edible flowers like hibiscus or rose petals in ice cubes to put in your drinks, and use rose geranium or rose water infusions in your food for a delightful mood. A moroccan tagine or other lovely spiced dishes you can eat with your fingers would also set the tone nicely. You can go the whole hog and feed each other by hand, just have a finger bowl and napkins close!

a romantic dinner dance under the stars

Nothing says ‘romance’ quite like a dancing (under pretty lights). I read somewhere that all a woman wants is a man who can dance and make her laugh, and I was lucky enough to get that, as it was certainly what I wanted.

You don’t need much to get your date swooning in your arms, not even all that much dancing skill. All you need is a relatively flat surface: grass, your deck, your kitchen tiles, and some nice music and atmospheric lighting.

Now is not the time to confess your love for death metal, but you don’t have to go all Celine Dion either if it will make you ill. Just something that keeps it light and lovely. There are Spotify playlist suggestions if you get lost, or phone a friend. You don’t have a good sound system and your phone sounds all tinny? No problem – you can hire a sound system too!

It’s all quite simple, really. Mark off an area with a canopy of pretty lights, or surround it with lanterns and candles. Eat, drink something fabulous, and then offer your date your hand and ask him/her to dance. Hold them lightly (sweaty bumping and grinding is NOT romantic, and neither is heading straight for a bum grab) and if you can sway more or less to the beat, you’re well on your way. Stepping out and doing a twirl, and you’re up to Next Level. Only do the tip and dip if you are 100% sure you can hold your partner and get them back up again, or you are 100% sure they can do advanced yoga or gymnastics and gracefully end in a backflip. Test your abilities with a willing (and forgiving) sibling or friend if necessary.

Chat to us if you’d like more advice and ideas on creating an atmosphere that simply sparkles. We have a wide range of romantic lights for hire, and pretty stands to help you create that magical canopy or dance area. Ask about our new drinks trolley and our pretty ice/ champagne buckets, or show us your Pinterest dream board and we’ll see what we can do help you create a truly romantic Valentine’s Day within your budget.

How to keep the joy lights on during lockdown

So shoe! … it’s a pretty rough time to own a party light and sound hiring business right now, and my GP husband is at home in quarantine after his first coronavirus exposure. And yet, while group parties are illegal, wedding bookings have been cancelled, and disco lights are not classified as an essential service (shocking!), we still like to keep the home fires burning, or at least the fairy lights sparkling. Here are some ways we are enjoying ourselves as a family at home.

Celebrating has not been banned

We’re fans of celebrating anything and everything. Sometimes that just means getting out the pretty table cloths and draping fairy lights across the table, and giving everyone something sparkly to drink. With an umbrella in it, if you have those in the cupboard.

We need variety in our daily lives and routines and celebratory mealtimes can be a great time to change things up and prevent time from becoming a drab blur. If you don’t have any birthdays or other celebrations at this time, you can always celebrate every Thursday midnight week-o-versary of the coronoavirus lockdown (in South Africa)…

If you can’t be with your loved ones, make a date for a celebratory dinner video call. Set a pretty table, light some candles, pour your self a glass of wine, and video call! You can toast each other and all.

Love in a time of coronavirus

Our 17th wedding anniversary is coming up this week, so we will light our wedding altar candles and sacrifice some of our not-so-panic-bought egg stockpile and some frozen berries to make a fabulous pavlova, as we do every year in honour of the two-tier berry pavlova that was our wedding cake (made by my late mother-in-law). We will get out loads of the stockpile of fairy lights and pump up the music and make a dance floor out in the garden (or shove the furniture out of the living room if it rains).

We can’t even go to the shops for two weeks, but we will pick whatever greenery and flowers are in the garden, and make pretty flower arrangements. I grow a pyracanthas berry bush in the garden for the red berries it produces in autumn, just because they were in my wedding flower arrangements. OK and because the chickens think they are yummy, but that doesn’t sound as romantic.

If you go into quarantine closer to the end of the 21 day lockdown and find yourself with only two minute noodles and dried peas left in the cupboard, well, that’s a bit tougher, but as one cookbook recommended, you can always add curry, give it a French name and serve it by candlelight…

As a friend who, along with her husband, was one of the first to contract coronavirus and got pretty sick around their wedding anniversary said, if nothing else, you will be reminded of your ‘in sickness and in health’ vows like never before!

Dance like nobody’s watching (except your weird neighbour)

If you’re starting to go a little nuts trying to work from home with your young kids and your sick spouse, or just your needy cats, it is a good idea to shake off some of that stale energy and release some happy hormones (endorphins).

Crank up the volume on some great dance hits (through-the-ages if you have children) and even if you have to use a disco light app on your phone, or a music video, get yourselves dancing.

Try learning crazy new dance moves with a youtube tutorial for extra giggles. It’s rare you get to dance with so little social inhibition, so go wild!

Social distancing silent disco

I have a friend who is keeping herself happy by having the occasional silent disco, which is awesome, especially if other people in the house have out-of-sync moods or music tastes right now. All you need is some space, a playlist, a phone with headphones and you are all set. Fill your head with your tunes and dance like crazy. You can dodge the judgemental teenager’s looks by simply closing your eyes.

I am going to apply this to my blogging work too. As I type right now, I have gone into silent disco mode to mentally escape the dining room ‘home office’. My daughter is in the living room listening to Trevor Noah on full blast so she can hear him over her dad grinding barley in the kitchen because he is making his own beer out of desperation at this point. We’re only on day 5 of lockdown , so thank all that is holy for headphones!

Glow in the dark Easter egg/scavenger hunt

Easter falls smack-bang in the middle of our coronavirus lockdown, so we want to keep it special for the kids. This one requires a little equipment, but I’m always surprised by how many people have at least one UV torch… We happen to have saved those glow in the dark Easter eggs that Woolworths sold years ago (perhaps they still have them and they are even still for sale??) and we use them every year when we usually go camping around this time. Well THIS year, we’ll be doing that in the garden at home, of course.

If you don’t have the glow in the dark eggs, you can cut up neon paper into Easter egg shapes (your supermarket might still have some in the stationary aisle, if not taped off and guarded by a burly policeman).

For little kids, it’s enough to put a treat or a silly activity inside the eggs, scatter them about, give them your UV torch and let them have fun. For older kids, you can do something more challenging, like putting a clue inside each egg giving the clue for finding the next one, with a reward only at the end. At this stage, even the 13 year old will be grateful for silly activities too, like having to do a moonwalk accross the lawn, or piggy backing a younger sibling to find a clue hidden higher up. Basically, make it last… we’ve all got the time!

Break the monotony of mealtimes

We always love to eat together as a family every day, and the internet is abuzz with advice on maintaining your routines during the lockdown. I understand the drive to avoid everyone turning into zombie-apocalyptic types who drift aimlessly around the living room in increasingly unhygienic pyjamas while eating raw cookie dough. BUT, I think we also crave some novelty and a break in the routine when all we see for weeks is our homes and the same (oh how lovely, but still the same) people.

What we like to do is use mealtimes as especially good times to add some variety. Check out your options. We have cosy movie night dinners with mattresses on the lounge floor as if it’s a sleepover . We’ve done eating and singing around the fire pit, eating on the veranda by candle and fairy-light, and eating in the dining room instead of the kitchen. I’m planning a picnic on the lawn for our next lunch.

We are super fortunate to have a garden, but even in an apartment, you can do things a little differently. Try out an interesting recipe, use the good table linen, learn to fold paper napkins and try learning toasts in other languages. Mix up a fancy cocktail with twirls of orange peel on the glass rim. Whatever. It will cheer you up and remind you of what is important in the world.

Parents, make a picnic on the floor, make the kids a camp out by putting your tent up in the garden, or if you don’t have a garden, make a camping spot by putting blankets over a table and giving them their dinner there around a nice lantern as a pretend fire. Let their imaginations do the rest, while you and your partner have a nice candlelit dinner for two in another room for a change.

Keep the joy lights on

No one needs reminding that these are hard times. Much harder for some than others. As a family with a doctor in it, we are particularly aware of this right now. We all need to do what we can to help, firstly by staying home at this time if we are not essential workers, and then by reaching out to help the community in any safe way we can. In the meantime, it’s not just frivolous to keep yourself and your loved ones cheerful and having fun. It’s essential at a time when otherwise fear and anxiety can lower your immune response, and make you less likely to be able to come up with creative ways to help where and when help is needed. Stay healthy and stay safe, and try to keep the joy lights on.

http://www.sacoronavirus.co.za