Throw a Shark Birthday Party

Consider throwing a shark birthday party if you have a special child deserving of unique birthday party ideas.

My daughter can look at a shark and tell you which species it comes from. She has shark hats, shark clothes, shark books, shark videos, shark pens and even a shark-shaped toothbrush. She can recite the names of the top marine biologists who study sharks and tell you where the most recent shark attack in the world occurred.

She wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up, or at least when she learns how to swim. When it came time for her 5th birthday party, I used her interest in sharks to fashion a special Shark Party for her, which the guests and their parents raved about for months. What follows, for other parents with sharkaholic children, is a step-by-step guide revealing how I did it.

The invitations
This is an easy concept that will work with any type of regular invitation card, as well as any you might fashion on your computer and print on card stock using pictures of sharks. Take the invitation card and use a pair of scissors to cut a large, zig-zagged arc across the cover of the card, so that the card looks like it's had a bite taken out of it by a shark. On the inside, write, "You are invited to (Child's) Shark Party! Join us for a bite!" in large letters over the date, time, place and RSVP information.

Party hats
Cut a piece of colored construction paper in half, lengthwise. Take the two halves and tape them together into a tall circle that can fit on a child's head. Cut two vertical slits in the hat, directly across from each other. Using a piece of cardboard (the tops of used pizza boxes are great for this), draw and cut out the shape of a shark no taller or wider than a piece of construction paper; this is your stencil.

Using the stencil, trace and cut out paper sharks on blue and grey pieces of construction paper. Take the paper sharks and insert them into the two slits you cut in the base of the hat. The finished hat should look like a tall, straight hat with a shark mounted vertically across the top. The hat base will have plenty of room for you to write each child's name across it.

Food
You can find many inexpensive items to help you create the perfect shark-themed party foods. For lunch, serve shark-shaped Spaghettios in blue plastic bowls. Use a novelty ice cube tray that makes shark-shaped ice cubes or fish-shaped ice cubes to place in blue raspberry Kool-Aid. Use a shark-shaped cookie cutter to make sugar cookies to pass out in the favor bags.

Serve blue and white jelly sharks found in the candy section of your grocery store. Amid prepackaged fruits for children's lunches, you'll find fruit snacks called "Shark Bites" from Betty Crocker, conveniently packaged in a group of 10 individually-wrapped portions. For birthday cake, bake one in a rectangular pan using a cake mix, and use your frosting set to draw a shark on top of the cake.

Games
The way I handled activities for the party was to take games the children were already familiar with and change them slightly to involve a shark theme. For prizes, we used copies of Ultimate Sticker Book: Shark and Whale, purchased at a bookstore for under $5.00 each.

  • Musical Chairs: Set up chairs in a line and explain it as the boat. Children have to find a seat on the boat when the music stopa, or a shark might get them. Outdoors, use a picnic table and a boom box. For added fun, use the soundtrack from Jaws. The kids are sure to laugh really hard at the added twist to a musical chairs game. Other musical selections that might be appropriate for this game include "Shark Attack" by Split Enz or any version of "Mack the Knife" and the Hawaii Five-O theme music.)
  • Shark Toss: Using a sheet of blue posterboard, cut the edges off in curves so that the whole posterboard is shaped like an upturned shark's head. Then cut a large, jagged hole in the center to represent the shark's mouth. Children are given beanbags and asked to stand at a certain point. They then have three tries to toss the beanbags through the shark's mouth. Hold several rounds to find a winner. Later in the afternoon, when the game is over, hold the posterboard to frame each child's face and take pictures for their parents of each child being "eaten" by a shark.
  • Shark Tag: This was a handy way to let the kids run some of the sugar off after they had cake. One variation on tag is to have whoever's "it" be the shark, while the other kids are fish. Other ways to do this include letting the birthday child be the shark and then having that child tag "other sharks" who then tag others until everyone is a shark, or having the birthday child be the "shark" and each child tagged has to sit in a special area designated as "the shark's tummy."

Favors

The contents of our favor bags were:

  • Pencils with sharks on them
  • A sheet of shark stickers
  • A postcard with a shark on it (purchased in our local Aquarium Gift Shop
  • A sealed baggie full of jelly sharks
  • "Shark Bites" fruit snacks from Betty Crocker

The Aquarium Party we originally envisioned would have easily cost $200.00, and we came out far ahead by doing things this way instead. We avoided space rental completely by having the party at home, mostly in our backyard. A park is also ideal for this type of party, because the food and supplies in question can be easily moved and used. The total cost of this party for 10 people was less than $100 (a savings of 50%), and the kids had a better time. An added benefit to the cookie cutter and ice cube tray is continued re-usability.

Aside from the obvious benefits of saving money and children having a unique, fun afternoon, you'll find that your young shark lover never forgets your extra efforts to help them share one of their interests with friends in a fun way.

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