A Tropical Kids’ Luau Birthday Party

Get inspired with details and pictures from one southeast Michigan family's recent Hawaiian-themed celebration complete with luau party food, games, favors and more.

Birthday party planning for kids isn’t what it used to be. Many local families are saying out with the basic pizza and pinata routine and in with immersive themes, unique entertainment and elaborate decor.

And why not? Birthdays are something to celebrate and these years go by in a flash. After all, it won’t be long before you find yourself planning a graduation party instead.

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In this new feature, we’ll highlight some of the coolest parties we’ve found among metro Detroit families. If your child’s birthday bash became the talk of his whole class, we want to hear about it! Drop us a line at jschrader@metroparent.com with your party theme and contact info.

Ready for your first dose of party inspiration? Here’s a look at Cello’s tropical luau-themed birthday.

The Family

Meet Brendan and Melissa, parents to 7-year-old Cello and 4-year-old Evelyn. When Cello was turning 7, she and her mom came across the idea for a luau party. It turned out to be the perfect theme, especially since Melissa could reuse some of the decorations from Evelyn’s recent mermaid party.

2-LThe Beverly Hills family settled on an indoor luau since the April weather couldn’t be trusted.

“It turned out to be a cold, rainy April and so it was extra fun to have a little ‘tropical vacation’ in our family room as an escape from the dreary weather,” Melissa says. “It looks very sunny in the pictures because of the window decorations but outside it was actually very gloomy!”

The end result?

“The luau party was the most fun of any party we had done!” Melissa says. “The kids loved the dancing and the ‘beach’ games. We ended up with a lot more sand getting dragged through the house than I expected, but it was totally worth it!”

Here’s what else Melissa shared about Cello’s luau celebration. Find more photos here.

Food

  • Dole Whip pineapple ice cream: We used our ice cream maker to make Disney-style ‘Dole Whip’ pineapple ice cream from a recipe we found online.246-L
  • Candy sushi: We first had ‘candy sushi’ on a trip to Walt Disney World and really wanted to recreate it for this party! It’s made by rolling Rice Krispies treats in Fruit Roll-Ups! Delicious!
  • Pineapple upside-down cakes: We used cupcake pans to make individual pineapple upside-down cakes, which were delicious!
  • Fruit bowl: We carved the watermelon to look like a shark and filled the mouth with fruit.
  • Sandcastle cake: We made the sandcastle cake ourselves by using a castle-shaped cake pan and covering the cake in crushed Nilla Wafers and cinnamon. For extra decoration we used sugar seashells.
  • Snacks: Sand dollar cookies, ‘seaweed’ grape kabobs, goldfish and chips.

Fun and games

  • Polynesian dancing lesson thanks to Fran Price and Hawaiian Dancers LLC in Ferndale.
  • I like to have ‘carnival’ style games for the kids to do at their own pace, with prizes given out at each game station instead of the traditional goody bag at the end of the party. For the luau we looked for beach-themed games:
    • Limbo pole
    • Sand bucket relay race
    • Hula hoop competition
    • Pineapple bowling
    • Fish-themed ring toss
    • Tiki-themed piñata

Favors

Each girl received:

  • A luau bag with her name on it
  • A grass skirt
  • Lei necklace and lei anklets
  • Prizes from game stations included a luau bear, sand dollar bath fizzie, ukulele ball bouncer, hibiscus-patterned accessories and more

Decor

  • Room wraps: I am a big fan of room wraps because they’re an inexpensive way to really transform a space.14-L
  • Tiki masks: We put these everywhere there was wall space!
  • Inflatable surf boards and palm trees
  • Real sand and seashells
  • Hanging lanterns: We are lucky to have a family room with cathedral ceilings. We were able to string lanterns from flower ropes across our party room!
  • Pineapples for pineapple bowling and decoration
  • Table decorations: Grass table skirts, fish netting, and beige fabric from the thrift store. Tiki mugs filled these with fresh flowers as centerpieces and pillow seats sewn from tropical-looking curtains from thrift store. Tiki-mask themed plates and napkins.
  • Helium balloons from Party City and reused from mermaid party
  • Hibiscus confetti

Outfits

  • Our guests were given grass skirts and leis to take home.
  • Our family dressed in hibiscus-patterned outfits, and my daughter wore a handmade dress “like Lilo’s” and an authentic leaf skirt and anklets, which we purchased from an Etsy craftswoman! I love supporting independent artisans through Etsy!

Other details and tips

  • Upcycling is a way to save a lot of money and have a unique party.
  • Photography: At one of my daughter’s early birthday parties we got very busy with our hosting duties and after the party wrapped up we realized that neither of us had taken any pictures. Afterward, we decided to hire a photographer to take pictures at our parties.
  • If you have multiple children, look for opportunities to overlap themes so that you can reuse decorations and other components.

Vendors and other party resources

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A Tropical Kids' Luau Birthday Party
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