When my eldest daughter turned one while our family was stationed in Hawaii, we embraced the local tradition of elaborately celebrating the milestone with a big birthday party. An Under the Sea Birthday Party theme may not have been the most original idea, considering the island culture, but the planning and execution of the party details, food and beverages, decor, games and prizes was fun and simplified since all the necessary resources were at hand. You can go as over-the top or basic as you want when planning an Under the Sea birthday party for a boy or girl, and you can customize your party to your child’s age, favorite color, ocean animal, and food. For my daughter’s party, I chose coral and sea mist for colors, and a range of animals depicted in the decor, games and food.
Under the Sea Theme and Decor
For the Under the Sea theme, I selected the colors coral and sea mist. These colors appeared in the invitations, plates, cups, and napkins, tablecloth and streamers, dessert icing, and drinks. I designed the decor to show the theme by hanging DIY jellyfish lanterns, constructing an ocean seafloor backdrop for the tent cover, decorating a sand castle tiered birthday cake with white chocolate seashells, and presenting themed food options as well. I opted not to go too obvious with my decor by avoiding themed items (think Nemo plates, coral images on paper ware, etc.), and this actually saved money because un-themed paper ware is less expensive in bulk and comes in a range of colors.
I hosted the party in front of our home on base at Schofield Barracks (Oahu, HI); we were lucky to have a large field with a children’s playground right out front. I laid out the party area in a square with the park, the refreshment and gifts tent, the tables and chairs, and the bounce house on each side of the square with a large space in the center for access to all the areas. I used the rest of the field for dancing and games. When laying out your venue, be sure to account for access to electrical outlets, seating, high traffic areas, and parking. Also, do not forget seating for adults! Kids will stay longer at the party if the parents in attendance are comfortable (think about seating, shade and refreshments!). Since all the party guests were neighbors, I did not have to arrange for restroom access (although our home’s restroom was CLEAN and available for emergencies).
Games & Entertainment
Since the party was for our one year old and all of our neighbors’ kids were older, we planned the party in general around activities for older kids. Following in the Under the Sea theme, the games and entertainment included Hawaiian music and Disney movie soundtracks from Lilo & Stitch, Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid on an outdoor speaker with strobe lights (for continuing the party into evening hours), a bounce house with ocean scenes and whales depicted on its sides, a special-ordered turtle piñata, a giant beach ball for running games, and a limbo pole decorated with dangling green streamers to depict seaweed. Prizes were colorful, plywood, wall-mount hooks in the shape of ocean creatures.
Our birthday girl had a great time toddling after the older kids, eating snacks (and cake!) and observing the controlled chaos, and bouncing in the bounce house after the big kids had all gone home.
I saved a lot of money by cooking and assembling all the food and beverage items myself. It was a little stressful, coordinating the different menu items and scheduling when to prepare each one ahead of time. But, in the end, it was worth it. I was proud of my work, I knew the ingredients were fresh, organic, and tasty, and it expanded my budget for other things. My menu included: a sand castle cake with white chocolate shells, star-cut PB&J sandwiches, oyster cookie sandwiches, ‘sand dollar’ Oreo cookies, a bowl of Goldfish crackers, unthemed-but-good-for-you fresh vegetables (carrot, green pepper and celery sticks, and tomatoes), and blue tropical-flavored Kool-Aid. Do not forget the adults! I opted for foot-long sandwiches (with meat…), chips, and alcoholic beverages. I did not offer pizza for the adults because I did not want an issue with some kids preferring pizza to PB&J. Since this was an outdoor party during the daytime, I had coolers full of iced water bottles (stay hydrated!), and I covered the refreshment table with a tent and the food platters each with either a bug screen or plastic wrap. I did not include any recipes for the kids with meat, eggs, mayo, etc. to avoid spoiling.