Awesome Ocean Party

Two- to 10-year-olds will dive right into this underwater theme. Lure them to the surface with our great food ideas!


Inviting Ideas

Here are some ideas for making invitations with an ocean theme:

Enlarge Image Check travel publications for images of sea creatures to mimic or trace.
  • Many stationery stores sell computer stationery and blank cards with pictures of whales, beaches, or ocean waves. Simply write or use your computer's printer to add party info.
  • Cut blue or green contruction paper to fit standard-size envelopes, and write the party details with a gold or silver pen.
  • Cut simple fish, sailboat, or seashell shapes from sturdy paper. Your child can help you add detail to the front, then write the invitation on the back.
Decorations
  • Hang blue and green streamers.
  • Use sand, costume-jewelry pearls, and shells to decorate the table.
  • Nestle sea-life stuffed animals into a large piece of blue felt or tissue paper, or arrange them on a colorful beach towel. Add your child's sand shovels and pails, sand-castle equipment, and so on to enlarge the display.
  • Make a treasure chest. Use gold foil paper or other solid-colored paper to wrap a large shoebox. Tie gold cord around each end to close. Decorate with glitter paint. Fill with shells, plastic necklaces and coins.

From the bhg.com Recipe Center, we've pulled together four kid-friendly menus that can be served at any birthday bash:

All-Munchies Menu

Classics with a Twist Menu

Hearty Bites Menu

Ultimate Favorites Menu

Sea Fare

For delicious food that ties into the party theme, try these suggestions:

  • Sea water: Use blue food coloring to color pitchers of apple juice. Or buy blue-colored drink mix.
  • Goldfish-shaped snack crackers
  • Tide pool: Serve blue gelatin. If desired, put in gummy-fish of a contrasting color after the gelatin is cold and partially set (so the candy doesn't melt).
  • Octopus ice cream balls: Use an ice-cream scoop to form large and small balls. Put one ball on top of the other. Use licorice strings to make legs. You can even make a face with icing or candy.
  • Beginner's sushi: For adventurous older kids, try serving some no-raw-meat sushi from a local Japanese restaurant (order California rolls) or dried seaweed.

Choose two or three relatively calm activities for a two-hour party. Have a few extra ideas ready just in case. Alternate crafts and other sit-down activities with active games to keep the pace of the party moving.

Transitional Activity

Reading is great between activities such as a game and cake time. It could be used to keep children occupied while a parent sets out the tableware and cake. Also, reading can be effective at the end of the party, when children are waiting for their parents to arrive. Some suggestions:

  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister (North South Books, 1996)
  • The Little Mermaid (multiple publications; choose your favorite)
  • Dear Mr. Blueberry by Simon James (Aladdin Paperbacks, 1996)
  • The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, illustrations by Jan Brett (Philomel, 1996; older editions by other illustrators may also be available)
Craft Projects

Set up a craft activity so each guest can start working immediately as they arrive; it's a good way to corral the excitement in a positive way.

Ocean Pictures Scavenger Hunt/Collage

Ages: 4 and up

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Playing time: 20 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Magazines
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Prizes (optional)

Before the party:

1. Collect magazines with pictures of beaches, oceans, and sealife, such as National Geographic or travel publications.

2. Compile a list of items to find in the magazines, such as sand, water, a palm tree, a fish, a shell, a lobster, a beach, a boat, a scuba diver.

At the party:

3. Give children scissors, glue, and paper and divide them into teams of three or four. (In a small group, each child can work alone.)

4. As children cut out the items on their lists, have them paste them onto paper to create a team or individual collage.

5. To make the activity competitive, award prizes to the first team to finish, and for categories like most creative display and most unusual pictures.

Making Seashell Necklaces
Enlarge Image Lots of shells on the beach already have holes in them.

Ages: 3 and up

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Playing time: 10 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

  • Scissors
  • 20- to 24-inch lengths of colored cord
  • Shells with holes (see Before the Party, below)

Before the party:

1. Collect shells with small holes in them, either at a nearby beach or at a bead store or jewelry-supply web site. If you can't find them with holes, use a small drill bit to make holes large enough for cord to pass through.

At the party:

2. Give each child a length of cord and put out the shells. Let children thread the shells onto the cord and then tie at back.

3. Older girls may like to make shell hair wraps. You can thread small shells onto cloth cord and then braid it into small clumps of hair. Leave enough cord at each end to tie around the end of the braid.

Sand Art

Ages: 4 and up

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Playing time: 10 to 15 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

  • Colored sand (available at craft stores)
  • Plastic spoons
  • Plastic bowls (at least some of them should be disposable, for holding glue)
  • White crafts glue
  • Cotton swabs
  • Copies of a black-and-white picture with large open areas in the design, such as from a coloring book

Before the party:

1. Make photocopies of the picture onto sturdy white paper (or let children draw their own designs at the party). The design should be large and open so that the children can easily fill it with glue and sand.

At the party:

2. Pour each color of sand into a separate bowl and place a spoon in each. Pour glue into a few containers and provide cotton swabs to spread the glue.

3. Give each child a paper with the design. And a cotton swab to fill in one area of the design with glue.

4. Working with one color of sand at a time, use a spoon to sprinkle sand over the glue. When the area is covered, carefully pick up the edges of the paper and shake the extra sand back into the sand container. Continue with additional colors until the picture is complete.

Edible Sand Art

Ages: 4 and up

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Playing time: 15 to 20 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

  • Small plastic bottles or necklace bottles used for sand art, with a stopper or screw on top (found at craft stores)
  • 1 package of Pixie Stick candy straws for each guest
  • 1 yard of stretchy colored cord per guest (optional)

Before the party:

1. If you want to make the bottles hang from necklaces, tie the cord to the bottles by wrapping the middle of a length of cord around the neck of a bottle twice. Knot tightly, then tie the two ends together.

At the party:

2. Each child opens a package of candy straws and pours the "sand" from each straw into the bottle to form colored layers, alternating colors as the bottle fills. Warn the children not to shake the bottle as they fill it, or the colors will mix.

3. When the bottle is filled, seal it tightly to preserve the layered effect until ready to eat. If the bottles are strung on cords, set the necklaces aside or save this craft until after all of the party's active games have been played.

Pinatas are available in shapes to match practically any party theme.

Plan two or three lively activities for a two-hour party. Choose extra so you're prepared for the unexpected. Alternate them with quieter activities, such as a crafts project or reading aloud, to keep the party from becoming too wild.

You can fill a pinata yourself with candy, small prizes, coins, or whatever you'd like. At most parties, plan to blindfold kids before letting them take a swing; preschoolers, however, might need to see the target.

Octopus Tag

Ages: 3 and up

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Playing time: 10 to 15 minutes

Players: At least 4

What you need:

  • Chalk, paint or cones to mark the playing area

Before the party:

1. Mark two lines in the grass or play area at least 20 feet apart. These are the boudaries of the "ocean." (You may need to adjust the distance for the age of the children. If you find that the participants are getting too tired, you can move the lines in.)

At the party:

2. Pick one player to be the Octopus. The other players are Fish, and they stand behind one of the goal lines.

3. To start the game, the Octopus yells, "Swim, Fish!" and all of the Fish try to run across the ocean past the other line without being tagged by the Octopus. If the Octopus tags a Fish, the Fish becomes a Tentacle for the next round, meaning the Tentacle(s) and the Octopus must hold hands and run together on the next crossing.

4. Remaining Fish line up along the opposite edge and the Octopus again says, "Swim, Fish!" Play continues until there is a chain of children trying to catch the last Fish.

5. The last Fish caught is the winner, and can be the Octopus for the next game.

Going Fishing

Ages: 2 and up

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Playing time: 15 minutes

Players: Any number

What you need:

  • About 1 yard of string
  • Pole or stick
  • Small magnet
  • Metal paper clips
  • Paper fish
  • Box (optional)
  • Colored paper
  • Pen
  • Small prizes

Before the party:

1. Make a fishing pole by tying one end of the string to a magnet, and the other to the pole.

2. Cut out paper fish and at least one paper octopus. Attach a paper clip to each fish and octopus.

3. Write a funny activity on each fish, but not on the octopus. Examples: Make a fish face. Do five leapfrogs. Sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." Do 6 jumping jacks. Pat your head and rub your tummy 3 times.

4. Decide how you will hide the fish from the fishermen. You might have the children throw their line over the back of a sofa, turn a card table on its side, or decorate a large box with ocean designs or paint it watery blue.

At the party:

5. Place all fish in the "ocean" and give each guest a turn with the fishing pole. Each child should throw the pole into the ocean until the magnet "catches" one of the paper-clipped items. If it is an octopus, the child gets to choose a prize. If it is a fish, the child has to do the activity written on the fish in order to get a prize. Continue play until the novelty wears off.

What Animal Am I?
Enlarge Image I have eight tentacles. What animal am I?

Ages: 5 and up

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Playing time: 10 to 15 minutes

Players: At least 4

What you need:

  • Paper and pencil (if kids are old enough to read)
  • Pictures of a variety of sea creatures, such as a shark, jellyfish, octopus, eel, whale, dolphin, turtle (for pre-readers)
  • Tape or safety pins

Before the party:

1. Collect pictures of unique sea animals or write the name of one sea creature on a piece of paper. You'll need one picture or one piece of paper per guest.

At the party:

2. Pin a name or picture to each guest's back without letting children see what is written on their own back. Explain that each person must try to determine what animal is on their own back by asking yes/no questions of other players (i.e., Do I have tentacles? Do I have fins? Am I a mammal?).

3. Before you play, help preschoolers think of different types of sea animals, so that they have lots of possibilities in mind before they begin.

4. The first child to correctly guess wins the game, but continues to play by helping to answer other peoples' questions. Play until everyone learns their identity.

Crab Walk Races

Ages: 4 and up

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Playing time: 15 minutes

Players: At least 2

What you need:

  • Masking tape or string to mark the finish line

Before the party:

1. Mark two goal lines with string or masking tape. Goal lines should be no more than 20 feet apart.

At the party:

2. Divide children into two teams (i.e., "Blue Crabs" and "King Crabs"). Ask half of each team to line up at the one goal line and half at the other. Demonstrate how to walk on hands and feet with belly up (crab walk).

3. The first child on each team gets into position on the starting line.

4. When you say, "Go," the first child in each line crab walks to the opposite line, and tags the next player on their team, who then crab walks back to the other goal line, tags a teammate, and so on.

5. The first team to get all players across the line wins.


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