Aloha, Birthday!


To celebrate my daughter’s birthday this month, we had a Hawaiian Luau party. By adult standards, these parties are always a failure. Cringe-worthy social behavior, guests acting like demanding little Napoleons, lots of screaming and shrieking, and me telling one guest to “act right” at some point in the evening. But for my daughter and her guests, these parties are a hit. A real hit.

After hosting many, many children’s parties, I have learned to let go of fussy Martha Stewart details and submit to what kids really want: to be with their friends, to run around and to indulge in typically off-limit activities (like screaming and shrieking).

So here’s a run-down of the Hawaiian Luau Party. For a children’s party, it was a success, and worth sharing.

Time: 6-8 PM. I usually choose a time that is not a meal time, so I can get away with just cake and ice cream (thus avoiding Little Caesars by the truckload). On the invitation I specified that we’d be having “Tropical Sweets and Treats.” (That should do it!) The evening time slot was fun, too: we lit tiki torches and the girls felt a little grown-up being out after dark.

Place: our backyard.

Activities: Lots of unstructured running around: I put hula hoops and sidewalk chalk out (to color on the fence – fun fun!) but swinging on the tree swing was also a huge hit. We did the limbo (of course) and when that got old we turned the Limbo Stick into a High Jump Stick. And my brilliant husband also put out a big tarp which, with a running hose all evening, becomes a Slip ‘n’ Slide that’s big enough for everyone to enjoy together. (I told you he was brilliant.)

Crafts: My daughters found a cute project from American Girl magazine where guests would string wadded up crepe paper onto crochet thread to make leis. Very cute and because my daughters organized that one, it was extra cool. We also made Hula Hair Holders, an idea that sprang from my brain like Venus from the head of Zeus. These are cute as ponytail holders, or also as Hawaiian bracelets and anklets – make a whole set!


Hula Hair Holders

Materials: hair elastics, raffia.

Preparation: cut raffia into 6″ long lengths. Each hair holder requires about 30 lengths of raffia.

To make: Show guests how to make a basic lark’s knot. (Fold a length of raffia in half and thread the two ends of the raffia through the loop, then tighten. For this project, the two raffia ends should go around the hair elastic so when tightened, the hair elastic will be trapped in the lark’s knot). Repeat until the hair elastic is full. Taping the hair elastic to the table may make this easier for some.


Food: DIY Tropical Fruit Kabobs (I just set out platters of cubed pineapple, mango, kiwi, grapes and bananas with wooden skewers), pretzels, Hawaiian Punch (1:1 Tropical Punch – just prepared with the packet, sugar and water – and 7-up), cake and ice cream. For the cake we made a coconut cake which is basically a Poke Cake: a white cake spiked with coconut, poked, then drenched in 15 oz. of coconut milk. Frost with Cool Whip. De-lish. We served with this pineapple sherbet for some pina colada swagger.


Details: I like to use my picnic set for tableware instead of disposable paperware. My picnic set includes bright Mexican oilcloth tablecloths, orange and lime green plastic plates and green plastic silverware. I admit that as I’m cleaning up at the end of the night I inevitibly mutter, “Why didn’t I just use paper plates?” But then I remind myself to keep my eye on the prize: with the money I save on using reusable tableware I can justify another Mexican oilcloth someday.

The picnic basket ends up playing a key part in these parties, too. I hold everything I need (I mean everthing: cake knife, matches, napkins, garbage bags, baby wipes, paper, pencil, candles, sharpie, rubber bands) all in that picnic basket. That basket with a lid (to keep those nosy kids OUT! – were they raised right?!)

After the last guest has gone and all the dishes are washed, it feels so good to kick back with a glass of wine and relax . . . until the next family birthday which is . . . September 6. Excellent.