Ask Holly: A Shark Birthday Party

The fact that I can “sing” the  theme to Jaws—Dun-Dun, Dun-Dun—to my kids,only to be met with blank stares, makes me very aware of the generation gap. My children will not know the  international gesture for rolling down a window, slamming down a phone or turning the T.V. off, but they will, oh yes they will have good, old-fashioned home birthday parties.

Not only did my son want to be a shark for halloween, but he also had his heart set on a shark-themed birthday party. My kids have had to endure months of Mommy singing that annoying, still scary to me, theme song. I have learned  this much—if are fixing to have a house full of four- and five-year-old children for a shark-themed birthday party at home, you better have a plan.

Here’s my plan:
The Invitation:
I used I found an invitation where I could upload my own picture  and use it as my image. I used a picture of my son dressed in his shark get-up.

The Cake: My amazing mother made this wonderful shark cake. It was two round cakes frosted blue and  then she simply put a large rubber shark through the cake and stuck rubber sea creatures on the cake. She made white bubbles with a round frosting tip and a darker blue wave pattern on the base of the cake with a star tip (click here for my mother’s frosting recipe). We hung the diver in the cage over the cake so it looked as though the shark was jumping through the cake trying to get the diver.

The Decorations: I made a wave centerpiece from blue poster board and foam-core for the shark fins. I skipped buying themed napkins and opted for just using the colors blue and gray.  Using a gray plastic table cloth for the bottom layer, I took a white plastic table cloth and cut it to look like teeth. Then, using hot glue, I glued it around the edge of the table. The darker blue runner was a strip of blue plastic table cloth. I bought plain gray napkins and stamped a blue nautical design on each napkin. The shark piñata hung over the table as decoration before the kids bashed his skull in. Gray and blue crepe paper was twisted to criss-cross the room and blue balloons hung in each corner. I had saved some funny netting and plastic sea creatures that were given to me for my daughter’s Under the Sea birthday party and hung them around the house.

Favors: I had this great idea to get shark tooth necklaces as favors, but sadly they did not get to me on time, so the morning of the party I filled clear favor bags with gummy sharks and Swedish fish from ShopRite and tied the bags with blue ribbon. When the necklaces arrived I wrapped them around the thank you notes. Another fun idea is to take a clean glass jar, spray the top blue or black, put one small rubber shark in the jar and fill it 3/4 of the way up with water, put a drop or two of blue food coloring in the jar and add 2-3 tablespoons of oil. Now screw the lid on tightly and shake up the jar. The kids were fascinated watching the shark in the ocean. I made 3 of these to keep busy hands occupied.

Thank-you Cards: I took a picture of the all of the kids at the party, a picture of the cake and pinata and using made a very inexpensive Thank You card. Most office supply stores sell small boxes of plain card sized envelopes to send the prints.

Entertainment: My daughter and her friend Anna put together and rehearsed a shark-themed puppet show. It was adorable, sweet and very home spun. It was a nice way for my older daughter to feel special and part of the party by putting on this show. The four- and five-year-old kids loved it. Of course, I had to give some tips during the rehearsals—less singing and more slapstick. I also had the kids play a few quick rounds of freeze dance and hot potato to keep them moving and get some of the wiggles out.

Then we beat the shark piñata for fun!

After two hours the parents came, the happy kids went home, and it was time for my very excited five-year-old to play with his new presents.

Tips (mistakes I have made in the past):
Avoiding extra party guests: To avoid too many people  in your home and avoid uncomfortable moments of surprise when parents drag siblings to your child’s party by wording your invite carefully. “We invite you to drop your child off at the party at _o’clock and pick them up at _o’clock. Due to limited space, we ask that only the named child come to the party. Thank-you and we look forward to a fun afternoon.

Avoid the trouble of personalizing favors: As cute as this looks making sure that the the correct favor get to the correct child can be an extra problem. I have also forgotten to make favors for all of the children and or have had cancellations due to illness and for every cute favor tag I made it was time I could have been doing something else. Make a few extra favors just in case you miscount the number of children. Many times I have run into someone and invited them to a party but not put them on the Evite list.

Waiting for guests to arrive: While kids trickle in I have found it is very helpful to have an activity to keep everyone busy. Girls love a craft, such as decorating a bag for their piñata candy. Boys don’t seem to dig the whole craft thing, but I have had luck having some toys set up for them to keep their hands and minds busy. If you have entertainment such as a clown, it’s wonderful to engage the kids right when they pop through the door.

Keeping your home in one piece: For younger children I have learned that if they can see toys they are fair game. So put away any toys you don’t want dumped and all over the house and make sure they understand certain rooms are off limits.

Vegetarians and dietary restrictions: Most parents simply serve cheese pizza at parties. If you choose to try and serve something else, ask parents to let you know if their child has any dietary restrictions on the invitation. I decided to serve “shark dogs” for my son’s party and found out at drop off time that two of the kids were vegetarians. Awesome. Don’t over-do the amount of food, because kids usually take about two bites of their food at parties.

Party and paper goods available at Party City
Shark stickers availible at Aunt Jean’s Toys and Treats
Rubber Sharks available at Learning Express and A.C.Moore
Stamps and stamp pads, Poster board and foam-core, Frosting tips and cake decorating supplies : All available at A.C. Moore

Questions? Just Ask Holly in comments.

Now I plan to top last year’s Parisian Party for my daughter with this year’s Woodland Gnome Party. Where does she come up with these ideas?

Click here to sign up for Baristanet's free daily emails and news alerts.


  1. How did Holly make the shark centerpiece? It looks like an outer set of waves and also an inner set of waves? Am I seeing the picture correctly? And are the fins painted? How do the waves stay upright? And how do the fins stay upright? Is there some sort of base? I love the centerpiece and want to make it but not sure how! My son Luke wants a shark birthday party when he turns 4 in May. Not sure how he came up with the shark theme but here we go planning for a shark birthday party! Thanks for your help.

  2. What timing I saved the thing and then just cleaned out my studio last weekend and tossed the whole thing. I was hoping to give it away.

    Take one large sheet of foam core and cut a piece about 3′ x1′ use a utility knife not scissors.

    Cut three fins from the foam core. Paint them grey with acrylic craft paint. If this is too much buy gray poster board and cut them out from the poster board.

    Using blue poster board cut out three rows of waves. Hot glue the first row to the bottom outside of the foam core to cover the white. For the middle row duct tape the bottom of both sides. Light blue duct tape is now being sold at craft stores.

    I made on wave shape for either end and glued them on.

    Hot glue your shark fins going both ways. Hold in place while the glue dries.

    Hope this helps. Good luck.

  3. Yes, that is helpful. The word “studio” and most of the other supplies that i have never heard of and/or never bought translate to “do not try this at home!” If I attempted to make it, I am not sure anyone would be able to tell what it is supposed to be! You are so creative. The shark fins and waves look incredible.

  4. Thanks. Try making the the pinata. It was easy and if you put it on a cake stand in the middle of the table it would look great!

Comments are closed.