archery birthday party with 3rd grade boys

My Son’s Archery Birthday Party

My three kids had learned archery at summer camp and each of them mentioned separately how much they liked it so I posted a few months back about finding an archery class near us to try out. My son decided to do an archery party for his 9th  birthday and that was the perfect opportunity to check it out.

The archery place has 13 shooting stations, very tightly spaced together, with the targets set much further  back than the targets at camp.

archery party, archery birthday party

Putting 13 boys with bows and arrows practically shoulder to shoulder did make me a little nervous!


But our archery place is all about safety. We started off with a detailed lesson on the safety rules. There were particular commands our instructor would give to let us know that it was safe to shoot, and a different one to allow anyone on the shooting range to retrieve the  arrows. The boys had to repeat the commands before they were handed equipment: bow, three matching arrows, a wrist guard and a quiver.


To figure out which bow and quiver to get — right handed or left handed — our instructor did an eye test to check for eye dominance.

archery party

We made a tiny circle using both hands that we looked through. When he looked through the other side, he told us if we were left eye or right eye dominant. It turns out that eye dominance has nothing to do with if you are right handed or left handed. Some kids in our party who were right handed but left eye dominant did NOT like holding the bow from their weak arm.

Eye Dominance Test:

  1. Extend your arms in front of you with your palms facing away.
  2. Bring your hands together, forming a small hole by crossing the thumbs and fore fingers.
  3. Choose a small object about 15-20 feet away from you. With both eyes open, focus on the object as you look through the small hole.
  4. Close one eye and then the other. When you close one eye, the object will be stationary. When you close the other eye, the object should disappear from the hole or jump to one side.
  5. If the object does not move when you cover one eye, then that eye is dominant. The eye that sees the object and does not move is the dominant eye.

I am right handed but left eye dominant. This makes sense because my eyes both have poor vision but my right eye is much worse than my left. It did feel a little weird to shoot holding the bow with my right arm, and pulling back with my left arm. The bow felt a little wobbly.


We learned how to place the arrow onto the bow, using your free hand (the one not holding the bow) to remove the arrow from the quiver at the base of the arrow, pointy side up. You don’t want to accidentally stab anyone, including yourself.


Next, you place the arrow onto the bow. It sounds easier than it is. The arrow needs to snap into place on the bow string, with the odd feather facing out. You kind of need to tilt the bow slightly so the arrow doesn’t fall off. You place one finger above, and two fingers below the arrow. Then you hold the bow straight out and pull back with your opposite hand, with your thumb just under your chin, aim carefully, and release.


The hardest part is pulling the string all the way back so that your thumb is resting on your chin. I felt like if I let go, the string would twang my face. It’s not true but it made me tweak my release so my aim was off by one target to the left. I did the cheaty thing that I do when I am not swinging well in golf. I just aim off target to the right to compensate.

archery party, archery birthday party

The boys were learned quickly. It was amazing how much they improved from the beginning of the party to the final rounds. The finale was trying to pop a balloon placed on each target. Small cash prizes and candy were offered to anyone who could pop their balloon but no one was able to do it. It’s HARD to hit the target! My husband came close with arrows nestled above and below his balloon.

archery party, archery birthday party

On one side of the shooting range was a display of Robin Hood arrows. A Robin Hood is an arrow that is shot into another arrow in the Bull’s Eye. This is a good example because you can see the first arrow splintering by the peircing of the second arrow.


A Little John is the same arrow hitting an arrow on the target but not in the bull’s eye. It’s like hitting a hole in one in golf!


All in all, the archery party was a big success. Although about half of the kids had done archery before, it didn’t seem to matter and all the boys liked working on a new skill. Or maybe it was just that this was a novel birthday party experience.

Have you or your kids tried archery? What did you think of it?

p.s. I found some interesting links on archery and kids that I wanted to share:

Texas school uses archery to teach math concepts like perimenter and area

Why Archery Makes Kids Better Students

Archery Teaches Students to Be Fit for Life

Archery, it’s not just for outlaws anymore! (Or Elves in The Hobbit!)

archery birthday party with 3rd grade boys

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. This article is really fascinating…never knew that archery is so complicated. I went through quite an assortment of birthday parties with my children. They both would have loved the archery party idea!

  2. What a fun party! Thanks for sharing all the details.
    Cathy Ballou Mealey recently posted…Celebrating at Good Reads with Ronna – Win books!My Profile

  3. Dee

    Wow! I wish we had a place like this near us. Dylan has done archery at Boy Scout camp and he has a set at home (that of course he only uses sporadically). But this would make a great birthday party! Dylan can be so competitive, however, I’d worry if he didn’t do well that he’d get upset. He actually is pretty good, but inconsistent.
    Dee recently posted…We can rebuild him. He is the Six Billion Star Man.My Profile

    • Hi Dee,
      It was surprisingly hard to hit the target in archery! I had hit the bulls eye once at my daughter’s sleepaway camp at her Mother Daughter Weekend but the targets were much closer. I think that is the challenge … consistency! And I suspect that comes from practice. I think there is a resurgence in archery from The Hunger Games and Brave. Our archery place is new but I wonder if more aren’t springing up since most kids do really seem to like it. I noticed that our community education program also has an archery class after school that is run by the same place that we had our birthday party. They come to the schools and bring everything.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Multicultural Winners from ALA and Kid Lit Blog HopMy Profile

  4. Wow, when I did the test for eye dominance, I found one eye was WAY off! Yikes.

    I’ve heard that The Hunger Games really has contributed to an upsurge in kids learning archery–but in your son’s case it was more just the exposure in camp that made him interested, I guess? I always wanted to do it because of Robin Hood, and I was lucky enough to be able to do it in high school–but my kids have never tried (though there is a place near us where they could, and my neighbor’s children have learned there).

    My next-door neighbor is a bow hunter, and we sometimes see him doing target practice. I’ve asked him about Robin Hood arrows, and he told me he tried to avoid doing that as the arrows are expensive!

    One thing we’ve done with a couple of the kids is a lesson in falconry. If you come out to western Massachusetts with your children at some point, you can schedule a one-off lesson (or more) at the New England Falconry center. It would be a good complement for the archery!
    Asakiyume recently posted…there are worse places to be strandedMy Profile

    • Hi Asakiyume,
      Wow, falconry sounds amazing. I have always wanted to try that ever since reading My Side of the Mountain!!! I will definitely look into that for a summer activity for my kids! We do get out to Western Massachusetts a few times a year. I think they have it somewhere in New Hampshire as well. Thanks for the great idea!

      And you are right; it was summer day camp that got my kids interested in archery but The Hunger Games made it suddenly very cool!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Multicultural Winners from ALA and Kid Lit Blog HopMy Profile

  5. This is such a good idea for a party. I wonder if my son would like archery. He gets so frustrated when he can’t do something right the very first time. Right now he’s doing karate and at least that seems to be a good fit. Fascinating post!!
    Erica recently posted…9 Books for 9 Year OldsMy Profile

    • Hi Erica,
      My kids drive me crazy with their birthday parties because they don’t tend to want to do the same parties as their friends and there are not that many options!!

      My kids experienced archery first at summer day camp. That seems to be a standard activity out here in the Boston area though my kids complained about how their summer day camp only let them shoot 3 to 5 arrows at one time (which turns out to be a generous amount!).

      What’s interesting to me is how trying different sports plays off of skills acquired from something that seems unrelated. For example, archery is all core muscles and not really arm muscles at all. I would have thought it was all in the arms. So activities like yoga or boxing helps with archery because it’s also about focus and core strength.

      Dee also mentioned that her son gets easily frustrated when he can’t do something right away but the beauty of a birthday party is that all the boys were pretty much at the same level. Also, when you are shooting, you don’t really notice how anyone else is doing and since we ALL were missing the targets, it felt fun to be struggling together. There weren’t any kids who were more advanced than another. And, at the end of the party, everyone got candy and that is all the boys cared about anyway!

      I like to get my kids to try new things so that they learn that failure is a acceptable option and if they want to get better, they have to work at it (but they get to make that choice). Even if a child has some natural ability, it doesn’t matter at the end of the day if he or she doesn’t learn to work at it whether it’s a foreign language, sport or artistic endeavor. I wonder if frustration is a sign that a child is motivated to get better and that this activity means something to them? Or is it more of an expectation thing where the kid who is frustrated has set unrealistic expectations?

      One fascinating story I’ve been reading about is Manny Pacquaio, considered by many to be the best pound for pound boxer. He came from extreme poverty and started boxing as a young boy as a way to make money to help feed his mother and siblings. He said that he had no natural ability in boxing and now he is the only person to win eight divisions — a record that some pundits say will never be broken. His trainer says he’s the hardest working boxer in the gym. All the boxers train hard, but he really does train exceptionally hard!

      My kids hate it when they complain that they can’t execute something whether it’s a certain soccer skill or whatever and I say to practice more, but that does work. I wonder if we couch it in terms of number of hours required if that would help. Like, I’ll bet you can juggle the soccer ball 10 times in a row if you practice it for 20 hours? Or, I bet you can hit the archery target, if you shoot 500 arrows.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Multicultural Winners from ALA and Kid Lit Blog HopMy Profile

  6. Katie Habgood

    My four-year-old daughter loves her toy arrow that shoots suction cup topped arrows. It’s Merida-themed of course. Between Merida and Katniss inspiration, I think we’ll see a lot more female archers!

    Thanks for sharing all of these details, and happy birthday to your son!

  7. Katie Habgood

    Toy *bow* that is.

    She slings the quiver around her neck and can actually make the arrows fly!
    Katie Habgood recently posted…It’s here! Multicultural Children’s Book Day!My Profile

  8. I am a righty – eye and hand. I read that you can also check the dominance of your eyes by making a triangle with your hand, focus on something in the distance, looking through your hands. Then, you bring it slowly to your face. It works.

  9. That eye dominance test is fun! Love this idea for a birthday party!
    maryanne recently posted…Levana Ovia Baby Monitor Review and Giveaway: Do More Knowing Your Child is SafeMy Profile

  10. This party looks amazingly fun! I always enjoy reading about favor and treat ideas. Definitely a party they will remember and talk about fondly when they are older. Very excited to try this !! I can’t wait until my son is old enough to handle a bow. If only 2-year-olds were a little more coordinated.

  11. My 3 yrs old son loves his plastic toy arrow. And he want to become a hunter. I really enjoyed his playing with his toy.

    Thanks for your post.

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