Idea No.


Hawaiian Hula Luau 6yr - Tiki Hut & Sandy Beach



June 2010


Holly in Albany, CA, USA

June 2010 Winner

Tropical Hawaiian Luau

When we began planning my daughter's 6th birthday party, we were also in the midst of planning our first trip to Hawaii. She loves art and dance and was fascinated by the hula, so we decided to have a birthday luau with lots of hula dancing and tropical color!

INVITATION: As another contributor noted, it can be hard to find pre-printed luau invitations appropriate for young girls - many of them feature overly sexy hula dancers or tiki bar drinks. I did find some very cute clip art of a little girl in a grass skirt and lei, with some palm trees in the background, so I printed that and my daughter colored it, and I scanned it to use on our invitations. I bought paper that had a border of colorful hibiscus flowers, and matching envelopes, and downloaded a font that has tropical flowers decorating the capital letters. The invitations read: Let's Hula! Though Hawaii is far away / we'll make palm trees and grass skirts sway / at a luau for L-'s 6th birthday!" followed by the address of the [our last name] Halau (hula school) date & time and "Reserve your lei today!" with RSVP information. The picture my daughter colored was in the bottom corner. For the envelopes I printed a return address label with a little graphic of a hula dancer and we used stamps with sea creatures (not tropical ones but that was as close as we could come!)

DECORATIONS: Luau party supplies are not hard to find - the challenge was not to get too much! - so a lot of the decorating was pretty easy. At the dollar store I got some great wall murals some tall ones with palm trees and some "window" pictures that made it seem as if you were inside a tiki hut looking out onto the beach and also a giant tiki head that we used to cover the front door. That made for a great effect as the guests came up the front steps! We also bought some banners and "grass skirt" fringe for around the kitchen table and over the kitchen doorway; and a couple of large tropical-print scarves and a hibiscus-print party table cover which were used on various tables; and some balloons a couple with a cute hula girl on them (from Birthday Express) and others in coordinating tropical colors.

The outdoor decorations were a bit more elaborate. We turned our back yard into Hawaii! Across the deck and part of the lawn we used a "sandy beach" mural on the ground and had a few beach toys scattered around. Most of the lawn was the "ocean." We used sturdy sawhorses along each side of the lawn and attached rows of plastic tablecovering (the kind that comes on 100 foot rolls) in two different shades of blue to the tops of the sawhorses. The plastic billowed in the wind and really did give the effect of waves and when you ducked down underneath the sunlight was filtered and bluish much like it would be underwater! We had paper and plastic-toy fish and other sea creatures scattered around "underwater" including some that were hanging from the blue plastic on fishing line so it looked as if they were swimming and an inflatable dolphin (ring-toss toy from Oriental Trading) set up on a stool between two strips of the blue plastic so that it looked as if it were leaping out of the water.

At the back of the lawn we have a playhouse; my daughter rejected the idea of making it look like a sunken ship preferring to turn it into a mermaid garden. So we covered the front of the playhouse with draped crepe paper and some branching "coral" that I cut out of cardboard and inside the playhouse we put a mermaid - one that was about the same size as my daughter! I drew the mermaid on a big piece of cardboard and cut her out and my daughter painted her. We hung her from fishing line too so she was "floating".

Back on shore we had palm trees of course and a volcano! The volcano was created by placing a bucket on top of a small climbing gym and covering the whole thing with brown tarps and some black plastic with edges spray-painted red to look like lava. My husband and son were in charge of volcano construction and they did a wonderful job. We put dry ice in the bucket and the volcano smoked away throughout the party.

The palm trees were constructed from some scraps of lumber and styrofoam packing material the cardboard tubes that carpet comes rolled around (picked up for free from the loading area of a local flooring store) brown paper lunchbags (dollar store) wire hangers (free from the recycling bin at the local dry cleaner) and green tissue paper. To make the leaves cut and straighten the wire hangers; glue together four sheets of tissue paper with the wire running down the middle lengthwise (use a line of glue for each layer) then fold the tissue in half along the wire; cut the leaf shape and then fringe. (I found a website with step-by-step photos showing how to do this.) To make the trunks cut the cardboard tubes to the lengths you want; cut the bottoms off of the brown lunchbags using a pointed scallop shape so that each bag becomes a sleeve; slide these paper sleeves over the cardboard tube taping down the flat bottom edge of each one and overlapping them so that the top scalloped edges are offset in a natural-looking random way. (This part was my idea and it came out really well!) Screw the end of a piece of 2x4 or similar scrap of lumber to a piece of plywood to make a stand for the tree and slide the bottom of the cardboard tube over the 2x4. Stuff a chunk of styrofoam into the top of the tube and attach the tissue paper leaves to the top of the trunk by sticking the wire "stems" into the styrofoam - 7 to 10 or so leaves per tree. These trees took longer than I expected to make but they looked great. We had a group of three near the volcano and another tree in the opposite corner of the "beach" near the limbo set.

The limbo set was also homemade and it worked well and cost much less than the party-store versions! I bought a package of several 6' pieces of bamboo in Home Depot's garden department for about $2. Two of the long pieces were the uprights; I drilled a hole in the top of a couple of short 4x4s and stuck the bamboo in the hole. A third piece was the horizontal limbo stick. One additional piece was cut into short sticks which formed the supports that the limbo stick rested on; I fastened them at about 3" intervals to the uprights with rough twine and glue.

SNACKS: Just for fun I decided to make poi for this party - I am not sure whether any of the kids ate more than a tiny bit of it but several of the parents who'd been to Hawaii before recognized it and were pretty impressed! I found peeled taro root at the local Asian supermarket so it was really not hard to make and I put it in a bowl next to a paper "luau pig" decoration from the party store and some pork meat sticks for dipping. I also made some cute "palm trees" out of pretzel rods cream cheese and fresh dill. The pretzels were the trunks with a blob of cream cheese at each end and strands of dill stuck into the cream cheese for the palm fronds. The cream cheese at the other end served to make the pretzel stand up on the plate. My son made a pretzel tiki hut to go with this arranging pretzel sticks around a paper cup and sticking them on with frosting (leftover from making the cake). We also served plain pretzel sticks multicolor goldfish crackers (for tropical fish) some taro-coconut cookies from the Asian grocery and a tropical fruit punch. Plus bottled water and plain apple juice. I bought some cute hula girl plates and cups (that said Let's Hula!) from Birthday Express some straws decorated with honeycomb-tissue tropical flowers from Dollar Tree and napkins and forks in coordinating solid colors. A real pineapple and a couple of whole coconuts were displayed next to the punchbowl.

COSTUMES: We all had leis of course! My husband and my son wore aloha shirts I wore a tropical-print pareo and my daughter wore a tropical-themed shirt with the same grass skirt we gave to all the guests.

ACTIVITIES/GAMES: As the girls arrived we outfitted them in fabric-flower leis (Oriental Trading) raffia "grass" skirts (Dollar Tree - I bought the "adult" size and scrunched the grass a bit tighter to fit because the "child" size is more for a toddler; the skirts were ankle-length on the kindergarteners and I shortened a few of them as needed with scissors) and nametags that I'd printed with a colorful hibiscus border and the guests' names as they would be spelled in Hawaiian with the English name in parentheses below (there are many websites with "Hawaiian name translators"). Then they were given a tropical-theme design canvas beach tote bag to color with fabric markers (Oriental Trading) and we also had paper coloring pages and markers out and materials to make tissue paper flowers they could wear in their hair or tucked into their clothes. My daughter and her friends all seem to love coloring so the tote bags were a big hit. We also had a few books about Hawaii out.

After everyone was there we announced it was time to hula dance! We pulled out the TV and showed the DVD "Be A Hula Girl" (recommended here & elsewhere) which features a teacher leading viewers to do a warmup and two different hula dances along with an onscreen group of girls about age 4-7. One of the dances is about seashells and having previewed the video my daughter insisted that we have shells for everyone to use so I bought a bag of them at the craft store and put them in a basket that we passed around at the appropriate time in the video. (Using the DVD gave me a chance to take some photos and chat with other parents which was nice. I hardly ever get to do that because I'm leading the activities myself!) The guests all lined up and danced and they were adorable! When the video was finished it was time to head outside for a different kind of hula activity.

Everyone trooped out to the back yard where I divided them into groups and had each group stand in a circle holding hands. Then I gave each group a hula hoop! The hoop went over one person's wrist and the game was to pass the hula hoop around the circle without anyone letting go of hands at any point. They all had a lot of fun with this - even though at that point I realized that my boombox wasn't working so I couldn't play the luau dance music I had ready! While I was trying to fix the technical difficulties the girls played with the hoops and eventually we got a speaker hooked up in a window so we could move on to the limbo dance. I pulled the bamboo limbo set into place everyone lined up and did the limbo! Most of the kids did really well though I wasn't a stickler about things like leaning forward too soon or knees touching the ground. After we'd done the lowest setting we had a general round of applause and then I gathered everyone around to explain the next activity.

Besides hula dancing one of the main activities we plan to do in Hawaii is snorkeling. So we were going to pretend to snorkel and see lots of interesting sea creatures - fish turtles dolphins maybe even a mermaid! I also explained that of course one should never disturb the fish or other animals in the ocean or take anything out of its habitat so what snorkelers do instead is take pictures with underwater cameras. Hidden around our "ocean" were paper bags with a printed image of an underwater camera pasted on the front and stickers with pictures of fish and other sea creatures inside the bag. The guests were told to look for these "cameras" and they could take a picture (sticker) from each one. And they dove in! Everyone enjoyed playing in this "ocean" so much that we skipped other games I had ready like tossing coconuts at a pineapple in a game similar to horseshoes (the Hawaiians traditionally toss stones at a stick). We had a strap-on fabric shark fin that my daughter asked me to buy (OTC) for her brother to wear and the kids had a lot of fun pretending to be chased by the shark. Eventually I got them all to gather inside again when I announced cake time!

CAKE: My daughter has wanted me to make her a doll cake for the longest time so for this party we decided to do a hula girl doll cake. I used the Wilton kit that comes with the dome pan and doll pick and put the doll cake on top of a 14" round frosted in green buttercream and decorated with piles of fondant hibiscus and frangipani flowers (in the thematic bright tropical colors) and little tiki masks made from Tootsie Rolls with details piped on. This was the first time I'd ever really done flowers for a cake oddly enough and I had a lot of fun with it! I made the fondant and all of the flowers well in advance mostly at night after work so though it took a long time to do it wasn't hard to fit in. The hula girl's skirt was piped on with a leaf tip and she had a little fondant top (I used a Barbie swimsuit top as a pattern) a fondant flower over her ear and a lei made of fondant flowers strung on dental floss. In her hands she held out a second fondant lei. On the front of the cake I piped "hau'oli la hanau" which is "happy birthday" in Hawaiian and we used letter-shaped candles that spelled out my daughter's name (it happens to have 6 letters). The cake sat on a board covered with blue fondant that was arranged to look like rippling waves and there were chocolate-mold seashells scattered around the corners. The overall effect was very pretty.

FAVORS: After the cake was served the birthday girl opened her gifts and handed out mini beach balls and little bottles of bubble solution with hibiscus flowers on the tops (OTC) for the guests to put in their beach tote bags. The guests also had their leis skirt shells and sea creature stickers.

Most of them spent a little more time playing on the "beach" and in the "ocean" in the backyard before finally saying farewell to the front door tiki and departing! For thank you notes we used the same paper as for the invitations. Everyone is still thanking us for the great party!"

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