How to host a Survivor party
Jo and I hosted a Survivor party for our friends during our summer beach vacation in Sanibel, and it was so amazingly fun! All our friends really enjoyed playing. We have so many great Survivor party ideas to share with you, but first let’s recap the projects we’ve done in the past that led up to the big event.
First, we showed you how to make your own Survivor tribe flags to give your tribes the ultimate show of team pride.
In the same tutorial, we also showed you how to make your own Survivor buffs for the contestants to wear. Props like this were crucial to getting everyone into the spirit.
Then we showed you how to make your own kid-friendly fake Survivor torches…
…as well as a fake campfire to use for your Tribal Council setting.
Finally, we showed you our elaborate Survivor party table space, filled with Survivor-themed favors, banner, and decor to really drive home the party theme.
Now let’s talk about the rules and structure we set up for the game!
The Survivor Hosts
Because there are two of us, Jo and I were both hosts of the game. We each took leadership of one of the tribes, and one of us also got to take bragging rights when our tribe won! It kind of stinks that we couldn’t play, but it wouldn’t have been fair since we know all the rules. Besides, somebody needed to be there taking pictures!
To properly outfit ourselves for the event, we bought some shirts similar to what Jeff Probst wears and picked up a couple of baseball caps in our tribe colors. We embellished them with a Survivor logo, using some dark shirt iron-on transfer paper.
Setting up the Tribes
The players were divided into two tribes, with an equal number of adults and children on each team. We carefully divided so that the tribes had a good balance of skills among their members. Each tribe got their own tribe flag to carry to each challenge.
At the start of the game, we gave each tribe member the following:
- a torch with their name on it (make your own Survivor torches)
- a simple rope necklace
- a buff in their tribe color (make your own Survivor buffs)
- a T-shirt in their tribe color
Let me introduce you to the Chicaroo and Jokomo tribes! Nobody knew which tribe they would be on until we handed out buffs and T-shirts the night before we started playing, so it was really fun to anticipate!
I led the Chicaroo tribe, so I was rooting for blue all the way.
Jo led the Jokomo tribe, and she was rooting for red!
Winning the challenges
In addition to a small group reward, the tribe that won each challenge got to keep the immunity idol until the next challenge. The idol we got is fantastic — it’s about 2 feet tall and the eyes glow! We found it at a local box store, in the garden/luau department. Shop around your local garden or home improvement stores for inspiration, or choose from the many tiki statues available online.
Every member of the winning tribe receives a special bead (in their tribe color) to indicate that they won the challenge that day. The beads were added to the rope necklaces everyone was given at the start of the game. The tribe with the most red- or blue-colored beads at the end of the whole game was the winning tribe, and got a very special prize.
Voting at Tribal Council is the trickiest aspect of an at-home version of Survivor, because we didn’t actually want to vote anybody “off the island”. We think that the game is much more fun if everyone gets to continue to play for the duration of the game. But voting is important to the experience, so we couldn’t leave it out. So, we decided to vote for winners instead of losers!
At Tribal Council, every member of both tribes cast a vote for the adult player and child player on their own tribe that they thought contributed the most in that day’s challenge. After the votes were tallied, the adult and child with the most votes at that Tribal got a special yellow “individual” bead to add to the necklaces they received at the beginning of the game. The adult player and child player with the most beads at the end of the game were declared the Sole Survivors and also won a special prize.
Coming up with rugged-looking voting slips was super easy, thanks to a Survivor party printables set we found on Etsy, that included slips we could print and then cut out.
For the container to hold the votes, we got a big #10 can and wrapped it with a Tiki label that was also in the printable set. Instant voting urn!
The torches were a huge hit at Tribal Council, and those kids went crazy! They were hooting and hollering around until the wee hours and we were all amazed at their energy. I have to say that giving them FAKE fire was a very good call, since it let them safely play with their fullest imaginations.
We think Tree-Mail is one of the more fun aspects of Survivor, so we wanted to have it in our game. And once again, the Survivor printables came to the rescue with a simple wrapper that we applied to am empty Pringles can. Perfect!
As soon as we arrived at the property, Jo and I scoped out a good location for our Tree-Mail container that would hold all of the clues during the week. We found a perfect spot in a palm tree and nestled the little guy inside. Can you see him?
What did we put in our Tree-Mail? Well, we had a clue every morning that gave the tribes a hint about the challenge to come that day. We also used Tree-Mail to give hints to the players about Hidden Immunity Idols!
Hidden Immunity Idols
Resembling the Hidden Immunity Idols from the TV show, our idols were hidden around the property. The players who found them could present them at Tribal Council for an extra yellow bead for their necklace. This can really help towards that Sole Survivor win.
For the idols themselves, we found some pre-painted wooden pieces at our local Michaels craft store that were suitable to the beach/island theme of the game. We wrapped them with scraps of burlap and tied them up with twine, making authentic-looking bundles that are ready to hide.
The adults let the kids hunt for the hidden idols, and they had a great time searching. And the ones who found them really enjoyed exchanging the hidden idols for extra beads at Tribal Council. I think finding and turning in the hidden idols was the kids’ favorite part!
The actual clues we used for finding the five hidden idols were based on our surroundings, and led kids to search in places like near a banana tree, under a pier, or by the path to the beach.
We had five big challenges for this event, and since we were hanging out at the beach all week, we had one challenge each day. Coming up with challenges was a lot of fun, and with the more than 20 seasons of Survivor that have aired so far, there’s plenty of material for inspiration. When planning your challenges, keep in mind the age and skill level of your players, and be sure to create tasks that everyone can participate in and have fun.
We tried to make all of our challenges representative of typical challenges that you see on the Survivor TV show, and incorporated as many elements as we could. Challenge #1 was no exception, and it involved blindfolds, keys, knots, and teamwork. We even brought a traditional reward of chocolate and peanut butter, which is always loved by castaways on the show — a lot more than the rice they usually eat!
|CLUE:||The biggest mouth and best advice can lead to a win that’s better than rice|
|LOCATION:||Tennis courts (alternate location: lawn)|
|PLAYER TIPS:||Players should wear sneakers and bring their buffs|
|REWARD:||Chocolate and peanut butter|
|MATERIALS NEEDED:||8 boxes wrapped in tribe colors (4 of each), fabric to tie wrists together, buffs to serve as blindfolds, rope to tie around boxes, 8 padlocks and keys, 2 pieces of chain, 2 boxes, 2 machetes, 2 tribe flags, rope to hang flags, tribe mats|
To set up, we wrapped 4 large cardboard boxes in blue wrapping paper and another 4 in red paper, then tied a rope around each one. To the end of the rope, we tied a key. Then we arranged the boxes on both sides of a tennis court. This game could easily be done on a lawn, but we liked the tennis court idea because it had sides which kept the players contained, had a smooth surface so they wouldn’t trip in a hole, and had a nice fence in the middle to make it extra hard to maneuver around.
We rolled the tribe flags up and hung them high on the fence, secured with a piece of rope that was tied to a wooden block below (which would provide a good chopping surface later).
Then we put a machete inside each of two boxes that we painted with the tribe colors. We wrapped a chain around (and through) the box, so it couldn’t be slipped off, and secured each one with 4 locks.
A NOTE ABOUT MACHETES: Yes, we used real machetes. We realize that they are not very kid-safe to have around, and we certainly didn’t treat them as toys. We cautioned all the kids that they were not to touch them during the challenge or at any other time, and only an adult was allowed to use them. We also kept them in their protective sleeve when not in use. Machetes are such an iconic part of the real Survivor show that we just had to include them somehow!
In the words of Jeff Probst, we first gave the tribes “a minute to strategize”, and then they were off!
I have to admit that Jo and I had a great time watching the players run around blindfolded, trying to pick up their boxes! Nobody fell or got hurt, but there were plenty of bumps into each other and into the net!
That’s McGeeky there on the red tribe, using his big mouth to shout commands to his team during the challenge. He did a great job for that part of the challenge, and red was leading at that point.
When the boxes were all back, it was a mad rush to get the ropes untied and the boxes unlocked.
This is where the blue tribe took the lead, as they flew through those knots and locks!
It was the blue tribe that got to their flag first, winning the challenge. Yay, tribe Chicaroo!
The winners happily took temporary custody of the idol, which they would bring to Tribal Council that night. They also were very happy to partake in the chocolate and peanut butter reward, which they also generously shared with the other tribe. It got eaten so fast I didn’t even get a picture!
For this challenge, we wanted to bring in the popular elements of swimming and balance, which we see so often on the show. We also loved the idea of throwing water, which has turned up in quite a few of the TV show challenges lately. They combined together to make a really fast-paced and fun challenge!
|CLUE:||Water and air are elements you’ll master. A steady hand will win this one faster.|
|LOCATION:||Beach (alternate location: pool)|
|PLAYER TIPS:||Players should wear swimming suits and bring towels|
|REWARD:||A cooler full of refreshing drinks|
|MATERIALS NEEDED:||2 inflatable surfboards, Styrofoam buoy with anchor, 4 buckets (2 red, 2 blue), 2 pieces of PVC pipe with ends sealed, 6 ping pong balls, 2 cardboard disks|
Before we even got to the beach, I got a 6′ piece of PVC pipe that was big enough to put a ping pong ball in and cut into two 3′ pieces. I cut it at a sharp angle so that it would be easy to stick in the sand.
Then I wrapped the ends of each one with lots of plastic and packing tape, to make them water-tight.
To set up for this challenge, we started by creating a buoy out of a giant chunk of Styrofoam from an old cooler. We tied a rope to it and then tied a rock to the end of it, and put it as far out into the ocean as Jo could manage to swim without getting tired from carrying that rock! Then we put four buckets on top (2 red and 2 blue).
Back on shore, we set up two play areas, one for each tribe. We put a brand new inflatable surfboard by the water, and then put the tribe mat a few feet away. About 8 feet from that, we put the PVC pipe into the sand, filled it halfway with water, and stuck 3 ping pong balls into each one. Next to that, we put a round piece of cardboard for the last phase of the challenge, and drew a finish line in the sand about 20 feet from that. Whew, that’s a lot of set-up!
To get started, we put the kids in their positions on the mats and by the pipes. They were really excited about getting to throw water in a few minutes.
Then we let both tribes start, and inflating the surfboard was the first task.
They started off legit enough, but then somebody asked if the surfboard had to be blown up all the way. We said “no”, and then then the blue tribe got creative, and tied the surfboard around their swimmer’s waist! In less than a minute, she was already swimming for the buoy.
This gave the blue tribe a huge lead, and then the red tribe saw what was going on and used the same trick. Both players ended up at the buoy at about the same time, tying it up.
Then the red tribe’s swimmer, who happens to be My Honey, held the buckets in his mouth and swam like crazy for shore. What a fast change in lead that was. I know you’re not on my tribe, Honey, but great job!
Then it was time for the kids to take their turn. Oh my goodness, this was a riot!
It took them a few times to figure out a good strategy, which involved a lot of stretching and actually aiming for the buckets (instead of faces).
Each time they poured water from the buckets into the pipes, they got a little more full. Once they were completely full, the ping pong balls popped right out. The girls on the blue tribe made up some ground here, so at this point, it was still a very close race.
For the final part, the player on the blue tribe showed she had better balance and just barely won the challenge. Wow, that’s two in a row, Chicaroo!
This challenge was simpler and had a lot fewer steps than the others, but was still very representative of what you see often on the show. Probst is always making those castaways throw things and fight for them, so we did the same. Everybody loves a slingshot, right?
|CLUE:||Keep your eye on the ball and your enemy in sight. To score in this challenge, you may need to fight|
|PLAYER TIPS:||Players should wear well-fitting shoes (no flip-flops)|
|REWARD:||Keep the equipment from this challenge|
|MATERIALS NEEDED:||2 giant mover’s rubber bands, duct tape, 2 scoop ball sets|
The set-up for this one involved turning the giant rubber bands into slingshots. All we did was create a square of duct tape and attach it to the middle of the band with more duct tape. We also created some straps from duct tape and added them to the back, so they could be pulled to launch the balls.
Everybody had so much fun with this challenge. It took a few times with the slingshot to figure out just how to use it, but folks caught on fast and balls were flying.
There were some really amazing reaches and blocks for the ball!
The red team pulled out the win and got to three balls first. Yay, Jokomo!
This was my favorite challenge of them all, because it incorporated three huge challenge elements that always prove interesting — digging, puzzles, and an obstacle course. You might be wondering how we managed to get all those things into one challenge, but we did! I also really like how we made the reward for this challenge be a secret advantage in the next challenge — Jeff Probst is always doing that to the castaways, and it’s so frustrating for them.
|CLUE:||The only obstacles to an immunity win are agility, determination, and brains within.|
|LOCATION:||Beach (alternate location: sandbox)|
|PLAYER TIPS:||Players should wear well-fitting shoes (no flip-flops)|
|REWARD:||A significant advantage in the next challenge|
|MATERIALS NEEDED:||2 large balls, four 10-foot 2x4s, rope, cinder blocks, bamboo poles, 5 red cloth bags, 5 blue cloth bags, 2 puzzles|
The at-home prep for this challenge included making the cloth bags for the puzzle pieces. I just sewed simple bags made of two rectangles sewn together on three sides. (Nothing as complicated as our drawstring bag tutorial although that would have worked too.) We also had to make two wooden puzzles for the end of the challenge. For those, we just painted a simple design onto two large pieces of wood and then used a table saw to cut them into random pieces. There was no need to get intricate here, as you’ll see below when I show you the finished puzzles. I split the puzzle pieces up among the bags and tied them with fat white cord that I tied in 5 knots.
The set-up at the beach started with tying the 2x4s together in pairs (for strength) with some rope. Then we propped them up on cinder blocks that we found on the property. We stayed pretty low to the ground, but you could go as high as you want here if you really want to challenge the players.
About 20 feet away, we put two lines of bamboo poles in the sand, and tied a bunch of rope back and forth between them, creating a low tangle of rope that was just high enough to crawl under on your belly.
A bit further down the beach, we set the tribe mats and marked off two square areas in the sand. In those areas, we buried the five cloth bags, spacing them evenly and not burying them too far down.
Finally, we put the wooden frames for our puzzles down on a smooth area of the sand, which would serve as a makeshift table for puzzle assembly.
With that, the obstacle course was all set.
The tribes started out on the balance beam, which turned out to be a lot easier than we thought it would. Nobody even fell off! We should have made it longer, I think, but they were probably happy to have an easy task.
The crawling obstacle was pretty entertaining to watch, especially with some of the guys, who scurried under there like pros. I couldn’t believe how fast they crawled so low!
Then it was the kids’ turn, and they eagerly started digging for bags in the sand.
Even though we barely buried the bags, it took the kids quite a while to find them. This was mostly due to the fact that every time they dug in an area, they put the sand over one of the other areas inside the square, rather than tossing it out!
They got them all, though, and then the last two players took them and started untying the knots.
It was so exciting as they hurried to figure out the puzzles. It was so close!
But the blue tribe got their puzzle together first and won. Wow, Chicaroo, you are amazing! You’re up three to one!
For this challenge, we went all-out on muscle. Many challenges on the show are based purely on brawn, so we figured we should have one, too. We adapted a challenge we’ve seen a few times, where players add weight to certain players, to see who can last the longest. Boy, we had some tired shoulders by the time this one was over!
|CLUE:||You don’t have to be biggest to get in the “weigh”, but brains and brawn will win the day|
|LOCATION:||Beach (alternate location: lawn or sandbox)|
|REWARD:||15-minute shoulder massages from the losing team|
|MATERIALS NEEDED:||8 wooden poles, several hundred plastic grocery bags, lots of sand, colored duct tape (optional)|
The set-up for this challenge was pretty easy. We got 8 wooden poles and wrapped them with red and blue duct tape to make them match our tribe colors. We also added a little bit of polyester batting to the middle, to soften the edges a little and make them more comfortable. Finally, we made marks on each pole, about a foot from the end, to give a guideline for placing the bags. We didn’t want the bags too close to the ends, or they might fall off. Then we took the several hundred plastic grocery bags we had been collecting for weeks from friends and family and filled each one with approximately 5 pounds of sand.
Since the blue tribe won the last challenge and had a “significant advantage” to this one, we started the red tribe out with two bags on each player’s pole.
The blue tribe started out with nothing on their poles. Nice advantage!
Then the kids got busy putting bags on the players, and it started to build up.
Everyone seemed to be handling the weight quite well. All players were given the option to put a towel on their shoulders under the pole, but only the blue team chose to do so. Would that make the difference in the end?
McGeeky and My Honey ended up with the most weight at one point, and they insisted they could have taken much more, but their poles broke before they got a chance!
In true Probst style, we tried tempting some players to give up by offering a cold beer to anyone who wanted to quit, but nobody took us up on the offer. They were going to tough it out!
But then they started getting tired, and more poles started breaking. Players started giving up, and eventually the blue tribe won!
Little Jo thought she could lift one of the dropped poles, but changed her mind really fast.
In the end, the blue tribe won four out of five challenges, easily becoming the winning tribe. Jo and I took the Chicaroo tribe out to lunch at our favorite burger spot on the island, Cheeburger Cheeburger. We had a fabulous lunch with lots of fries and milkshakes.
We had so much fun putting this event on for our friends, and we know they enjoyed playing along. Thanks to everyone for being such good sports, and if you are planning your own Survivor party, we hope you find lots of ideas here to help you out.