Mermaid Party + ASL Story

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Mermaids! Treasure! Pirates! Sebastian the crab crooning "Under the Sea" as children splash in the aquamarine cool of the kiddie pool in the back yard! And homemade *mermaid donuts*! Late spring and summer birthdays are a great time to throw a "mermaid party" (or, as we called ours, a "mermaids-and-mermen party," since many of the guests were boys) with a refreshing child-size pool and under-the-sea flair.

Our daughter, Alex, and many of her friends from school are Deaf, so our party also included an ASL story starring Alex the Mermaid and her beloved Duck. Storytime was a big hit at our party! It's fairly simple to create a short story your child will love, put together a few visuals, and perform it at the party. (This means no having to shell out -- pun intended! -- for a clown or other children's-party performer. And the fact that you performed or read it will make the story a much more special memory for your child, too!)

Step 1: SET-UP

Here's what we did to create our mermaid vibe:

  • Our child's bath and pool toys -- we used many of these as decor! Starfish, a mini light-up aquarium, mermaid dolls, sharks... odds are you have these things just lying around for free, too.
  • This great mermaid-y backdrop I found on Amazon really set the scene! You can find similar ones online or at party stores.
  • Twin-size mermaid sheets from Target as our tablecloth.
  • Crepe-paper "ocean" -- made by hanging varying lengths of navy-blue, aqua, and silver crepe paper in a fun but unobtrusive manner in the main party area, so guests would feel as if they were "swimming" through it.
  • A few spools of "mermaid scales," wide blue-green sequined ribbon, I found at Michael's -- I simply unrolled these and hung them on the wall to add to the mermaid ambience.
  • A little "treasure hunt" area featuring kinetic sand, "treasures" (gold coins, rhinestone rings) I found for cheap at a party store, and a sand bucket and shovel.
  • Plus, of course, everything featuring a mermaid that I could find at party stores near our house (balloons, "Happy Birthday" banners, cupcake toppers for the homemade "mermaid donuts," gift bags and little trinkets for the bags, seashell-and-starfish twinkle lights, starfish-adorned paper straws, seashell-shaped paper plates, "mermaid crown" party hats...)
  • I bought a bunch of these cheap -- cute! -- mermaid dolls and used them everywhere, in the gift bags, on the food table, in the pool...

Step 2: Thematic Music for Our Hearing Guests

And of course... a "Mermaid Party" playlist on Spotify! Here's a link to our playlist, and below are a few of my recommendations for yours. The first set of songs (above the dashes) are great for a kids' party; the second set, while also appropriate for a kids' party, are probably more for the grown-ups at the party:

  • "The Little Mermaid" theme music (opening-credits music)
  • "Caribbean Blue" by Enya
  • "Beyond the Sea" by Bobby Darin
  • "Under the Sea" from "The Little Mermaid"
  • "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme music ("main theme")
  • "Rock Lobster" by The B-52s
  • "Henry Likes Water" by The Wiggles
  • "Splish Splash!" (version sung by Elmo on "Sesame Street")
  • "Shiny" from "Moana"
  • "Octopus's Garden" by The Beatles
  • "The Tide Is High" by Blondie
  • "Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles
  • "The Shape of Water" theme music

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  • "Cannonball" by the Breeders
  • "Oceans" by Pearl Jam
  • "Sea of Love" (Cat Power cover)
  • "Ocean Eyes" by Billie Eilish
  • "Weird Fishes (Arpeggi)" by Radiohead
  • "Sailing" by Christopher Cross
  • "Rio" by Duran Duran
  • "Float On" by Modest Mouse
  • "Ophelia" by The Lumineers
  • "Nightswimming" by R.E.M.

Step 3: FOOD AND DRINKS

Step 4: Mermaid Donuts

The main attraction was our "mermaid donuts." Here's how to make them:

  1. Buy a batch of plain, undecorated donuts -- glazed, blueberry, glazed chocolate cake, etc. (Save this errand for the morning of the party so they'll be fresh!) Arrange these on a cooling rack with paper towels underneath.
  2. Into each of three small bowls, scoop a large spoonful of cream-cheese frosting.
  3. Use food coloring to create the colors you want -- I used blue (blue food coloring), blue-green (blue + green food coloring), and lilac (blue + red food coloring).
  4. Heat each bowl in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds. Then, using a spoon, drizzle the just-warmed frosting over all of the donuts. I would recommend *not* heating all of the colors at once -- so, heat the blue up in the microwave then drizzle the blue... next, heat the blue-green up then drizzle the blue-green... and I found the purple looked really pretty going on last!
  5. Let these cool for a while before transferring the donuts to a cupcake stand or plate.

Step 5: Under-the-Sea Punch

We combined a couple of different blue-colored, transparent beverages in a punch bowl (I used blue lemonade plus blue-berry soda for some fizz). Then simply add gummi sharks, Swedish fish, and any other gummi sea creatures you're able to find at your local candy store! You can garnish these with a candy-rocks "coral" swizzle stick for a mocktail effect.

Step 6: Other "Sea" Snacks

We added blue-corn tortilla chips and Goldfish crackers to the standard crowd-pleasing party fare (sandwich wraps, pizza), keeping the focus on our themed desserts. (One funny note: We decided against serving seafood, because as mermaids we didn't want to eat our sea friends!) There were also sodas in "mermaid-y" colors such as blue, green, and purple, accompanied by festive straws.

Step 7: ASL STORY/BOOK

The main event at our party -- besides playing in the kiddie pool -- was the ASL story that I wrote for our daughter, who is Deaf. I made an accompanying book so that my husband could have some "visuals" while I signed the story in ASL, and while he narrated the story out loud. Many of the children, parents, and teachers at our party are Deaf. (My husband and I are hearing, and only started learning ASL when we learned that our daughter is Deaf, so I got a lot of help from the Deaf staff at my daughter's school to make sure I was signing our story correctly! You can watch our story on YouTube.)

It's actually pretty simple and fun to create a short story your child will love and put together a homemade book to perform at your party! Here's how I made ours:

1. Spend some time thinking up an imaginary adventure your child would love to star in. Our story was mermaid-themed for the party, and I made sure to feature Alex's favorite toy -- her beloved Duck -- as a starring character in the story, too. Your child could roam among the dinosaurs, go into space, be a vet to sick cats, fly through the sky with an umbrella to see rainbows and play on clouds...

2. I "storyboarded" out the story (you can do this on a piece of paper or a Word doc) so I'd know how many actual pages (pieces of large, stiff paper) I'd need to create our book. For example, I knew I'd need one page for the cover... one page for the intro/set-up of the story... After that I imagined how the story would look in a typical children's book to help me break up the story into separate scenes. My story had seven pages total including a cover.

3. Next I created some very basic art to go on each of the pages. I'm no artist or graphic designer, so believe me when I say that my "art" was *very* basic! I used the free Pixlr Express photo-editing site, plus free clip art and other visuals I found online, to create my images. I cropped my daughter's head, and her Duck, out of existing photos so that I could use Pixlr's "Add Image" feature to insert Alex and Duck into the underwater scenes I created.

4. I don't have a high-quality printer at home, so I put my seven images (saved as .jpg files) on a thumb drive and went to Kinko's to have nice-quality, 8"x11" versions printed on good, glossy paper.

5. Back at home, I used Scotch tape to affix the images onto large pieces of stiff white paper. I punched a hole in the top of the pages, and tied them together with ribbon in a mermaid-y iridescent periwinkle. Having the hole and the ribbon at the top made it easy for my husband to flip the pages when we performed the story at our daughter's party.

Step 8: Party Time!

Our party was fairly short and sweet. We invited guests to arrive just after the typical circa-noon nap time for our daughter and most of her friends. After a short period of mingling and partaking of sea-themed snacks, we moved straight into storytime. Once we had the gaggle of two-year-olds contained in one room, we decided to immediately follow story time with singing "Happy Birthday" and having our daughter blow out the candles in her mermaid donut. This saved us from having to corral everyone into one place a second time. After singing, we invited the kids to play in the pool. This prevented them from being cold and damp during the story.

We chose not to open presents at the party, in part because this can take a long time and toddlers don't typically have the patience for it. (This also helps avoid the awkwardness of a two-year-old being a little too honest about a present that's not their favorite.)

Our daughter had a blast at her mermaid party, and I think our guests did, too. Let us know if you have a mermaid party this summer!

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