Friday, July 5, 2013

Adorable Mermaid Birthday Party

My girls absolutely love mermaids, as many little girls do, so it was no surprise when my younger daughter requested a mermaid birthday party a few years ago. Now, although Ariel is practically a friend of the family (we've seen her story at least a couple of hundred times), for this celebration I chose to create an enchanting mermaid paradise almost completely Disney-free. And using thrifted, scavenged, and homemade goods, of course!

Since this was nearly three years ago, I can't remember every last little detail. But since I am a saver and a party recycler, I held onto many of the props and decorations, and lo and behold, the other day I even came across my original party plan! And let me tell you, there is nothing like finding your two and a half page, typed, micro-detailed party plan for a two hour, four-year-old's birthday party to make you confront your own OCD/controlling tendencies.

Anyway, it's your lucky day if you are planning a mermaid party of your own. Don't worry, I am not going to make you read my lengthy original party plan! I'll just hit the highlights.

The party took place in the indoor gymnasium of a church, full of play equipment and toys suitable to preschoolers. The kids, who had been invited to wear their favorite mermaid, princess, pirate or superhero costume, ran around and played in the gym a lot but also enjoyed the three stations I had set up. I love to set up stations at my children's parties, usually three to five different activities running at the same time, from which the children can pick and choose. I find that this approach works very well with preschoolers and young elementary children, whose attention spans are short and who enjoy bobbing about to whatever activity catches their fancy. Some children do all the activities, some just do one or two, but it just works. For this party, I handmade 3D signage to match the mermaid and crab invitations that I sent out (I think I sent mermaids to the girls and crabs to the boys if my memory serves me). I just used materials I had on hand, like cardstock, googly eyes, sand, and small starfish. Everyone has starfish laying around the house, right?

The first station was making shell necklaces. I had a huge stash of ark shells with holes in the tops that my children had collected on a recent trip to Florida. They are so easy to string on either jute string or embroidery floss. I also purchased a jumbo pack of pony beads from the dollar store and the kids loved making patterns with the shells and beads. Not only did they enjoy crafting and wearing their seashell creations, but the finished necklaces served as one of the take-home favors.

The second station was equally simple. I bought a variety pack of large sandpaper sheets at the dollar store, and traced ocean shapes onto the sandpaper before cutting them out. I used shell shapes and a seahorse, but the possibilities are endless. If you don't want to draw the shapes yourself, you can google the shape you want and choose from a great many templates online. Then glue the sandpaper onto a sheet of cardboard or posterboard, add some crayons with the wrappers peeled off and some plain white paper, and the kids can make sand rubbings to their little hearts' content.

The third station was a game of freeze dance, using the Little Mermaid soundtrack. This was requested by my little birthday girl, and might have been more successful if there hadn't been so much other activity in the gym.

A gym is a challenging space to decorate because it is huge, but I broke it down into smaller sections to give the room a more intimate feel. The entryway, cake station/snack table and dining area were all treated as individual spaces with their own decorative flourishes.

Above the entryway, I hung strands of pearls and seashells, inspired by this magazine clipping.

I also had found a rope trimmed oval beach sign on super duper clearance at the Hallmark store, and I painted it to be the official sign that guests were entering my daughter's "Grotto."  

Upon entry to the party, guests could deposit their gifts into a large treasure trunk that I had thrifted. They were given tropical flowers to pin in their hair and on their clothing. Then they were free to explore.

Behind the cake and snack tables, I hung blue glittery curtains to resemble the sea. My daughters had designed and colored adorable paper mermaids in the weeks prior to the party, and I pinned these against the shimmering sea backdrop. The snack table featured shell servingware, which were thrifted silverplate shell-shaped bowls that I had spray painted bronze, along with a few plastic ones that I had found.

For the dining area, I put long tables together to seat the 30 children in attendance. I covered the tables with dark blue table coverings, and then laid fishing nets over the coverings.

On top of that, I created centerpieces using these thrifted 1970s sand castle decorations, faux gold coins, and more seashells.

Then, at each place setting, sat a personalized sand pail filled with a healthy lunch--mini turkey pitas, goldfish crackers, banana, and juice box. The overall effect was quite enchanting.

My final take home was a message in a bottle that guests were given as they left.

Inside each small plastic bottle was sand, miniature blue dolphin beads (taken from a broken necklace that was a party favor from a previous celebration) and a tiny scroll that read: "Thank you for coming to my party! Love, the birthday girl"

This party was a huge success with my little mermaids and mer-man and was a lot of fun to put together. I'd love to recreate it someday! Tell me, have you ever celebrated a birthday under the sea?


  1. We were at that party and my own little Prince Eric had a great time! He enjoyed all of the activities and still takes his bucket to the beach.

    1. I always think of your little prince when I think about this party, Marcia. Great memories!