Set the scene with Hawaiian-inspired décor. Greet guests with a tropical entryway made from bamboo, burlap, and brown shipping tubes.
What you'll need: Four 6"x 36" Kraft mailing tubes, brown duct tape, burlap, twine, 13 6' bamboo sticks, moss-covered floral wire, tropical leaves, 2 tent poles, thick colored yarn, large needle, scissors
Make it: Connect the ends of two mailing tubes with brown duct tape; repeat for other two tubes. Cover tubes with strips of burlap and use twine to secure. If desired, place bamboo sticks around the tubes and use moss-covered floral wire to secure in place. Slide a few tropical leaves under the bamboo or moss-covered floral wire. Insert two tent poles into the ground, about 4' apart, then slip each set of tubes over a tent pole to keep in place. Use twine to attach one bamboo stick across the top of the two wrapped tubes. Cut a 4'x 2 1/2' piece of burlap. Use a large needle to stitch desired phrase onto burlap with colored yarn. Thread a length of twine through the top corners of the burlap sign and wrap each end around the horizontal bamboo stick to hang.
Send the party details on invites in the shape of a summer sandal to get kids excited about the luau birthday bash. Ask guests to come dressed in their best Hawaiian outfit.
What you'll need: Orange and green cardstock, scissors, hole punch, chenille stems, hot-glue gun, Hawaiian flower petals (we found ours at orientaltrading.com), small yellow pom-poms
Make it: In a Word document, create a textbox that measures 3"x 1 1/2". Enter the party details and print onto colored cardstock. Place the enlarged template over the printed text, then trace and cut it out. Use a hole punch to make three holes (as shown). Bend a chenille stem in half and push the folded end through hole at front of the flip-flop and the other ends through the holes on each side; secure underneath with glue. Attach 2 or 3 petals with glue to make a flower. Glue a pom-pom to the center of the flower, then glue in place on the chenille stem as shown.
Create a custom lei for each child to wear during the party. Use a large flower punch to make a paper flower from cardstock, write the kid's Hawaiian name on top, and attach to a leafy lei.
Finish off the luau look with a pair of shades for each guest. Set the sunglasses in a basket by the entryway so kids can grab a pair as they walk into the party.
Kids can hide out from the sun under easy-to-make grass huts when it's time to eat at the luau. Place a few around the yard and use grass placemats as seats.
What you'll need: Galvanized bucket, sand or gravel, wrapping-paper tube, 32" parasol (we found ours at pearlriver.com), 2 adult-size grass skirts, duct tape, scissors
Make it: Fill the bucket about halfway with sand or gravel. Push a wrapping paper tube into the sand or gravel until secure, then drop the handle of the parasol into the top of the tube (this will give the hut extra height). Wrap a grass skirt around the knob on top of the parasol; use tape to secure. Repeat with second skirt. Trim the grass skirts so they hang over the parasol 8" to 12".
Brighten up the yard by stringing a garland of tropical tissue-paper flowers on trees or fencing.
What you'll need: Tissue paper, scissors, pencil, chenille stems, yarn
Make it: Cut five 6" squares of tissue paper and stack them, rotating 45 degrees between layers. Use a pencil to poke a hole through the center of the stack and push a chenille stem 3/4 of the way through. Cinch the tissue paper to create a flower and twist the longer end of the chenille stem around the base of the flower to secure. Wrap the shorter end of the chenille stem around the pencil to create a corkscrew effect. Repeat to make additional flowers. Cut a length of yarn and tie to the back of each flower to create a garland.
Serve finger food like ham-and-pineapple kabobs at the luau. Embellish plain wooden skewers by gluing Hawaiian flower petals to one end.
Homemade mango salsa and sweet-potato chips make for healthy party snacks kids will love. Serve with a side of fresh fruit salad.
Top the buffet table with palm trees made from recycled green soda bottles, paper towel tubes, and twine.
What You'll Need: 8-oz. green plastic soda bottle, scissors, 8" square of burlap, paper-towel tube, rubber band, twine, 2 cups dried beans, hot-glue gun, medium brown pom-poms
Make it: Remove the label on the soda bottle and cut off and discard the bottom fourth. Cut four evenly spaced slits down toward the neck of the bottle. Bend back the remaining rectangular strips and cut each strip into a leaf shape. Cinch the burlap square around one end of the paper-towel tube; secure with a rubber band. Pour dried beans into the top of the tube until the burlap base is full. Wrap and knot a piece of twine around the rubber band and repeat every two inches up the tube. Insert the bottleneck (now the leaves) into the top of the paper-towel tube and use hot glue to secure in place. Glue pom-poms to leaves as desired.
Serve Hawaiian punch from a decorated beverage dispenser. Cut tiki-like facial features from different colors of cling vinyl and stick to the front. Pour the punch into colorful kid-friendly melamine cups.
Do the limbo! Play some classic Hawaiian tunes and see how low the kids can go. The last one standing wins.
Arrange unlit mini tiki torches (we found ours at orientaltrading.com) in the ground, and kids can land rings on top to score points.
Have kids sit in a circle on the grass and pass around a real coconut. Turn up the tunes and when the music stops (mom, that's you!) the player that's holding the coconut is out. Keep playing until there's one child left.
Have kids turn boring brown paper cups into take-home tiki puppets. Set up a craft table with foam shapes and bright colored feathers and let the kids glue away.
What you'll need: Brown paper cup, brown electrical tape, X-Acto knife, large Popsicle sticks, craft foam shapes, feathers, hot-glue gun, craft glue
Make it: Before the party, attach two cups together, top to top, by wrapping brown electrical tape around the lips of the cups. Use an X-Acto knife to cut a 1" slit in the bottom of each cup. Put a few dabs of hot glue on one of the slits and insert a Popsicle stick; hold in place until dry. Repeat to make one for every child attending. At the party, kids can glue foam shapes to the cup to make facial features and push a few feathers into the slit opposite the Popsicle stick; secure feathers with craft glue.
Give kids a taste of the tropics with a luau-theme birthday cake. Use gummy candy, cookies, and cereal to make an edible island.
Say mahalo with an island-inspired favor. Fill a baggie with tropical-flavored jellybeans and place upside down in a coconut cup. (We found ours at orientaltrading.com.) Push a paper parasol into the goody bag as the finishing touch.
Originally published in the July 2010 issue of Parents magazine.