Easy Frugal Ocean Party

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Birthday Parties have become a bit insane in terms of cost and time commitment. I’ve seen some kids’ parties that were fancier than my wedding! But if you’re like me, you’re looking for a party that’s a) inexpensive, b) quick & easy, and c) cute & memorable. I think I hit all those points pretty well with Man Cub’s first birthday party. I’ll walk you through the decor, menu, and activities that I did with this fun and colorful ocean-themed party. Oh, and you don’t have to do it only in the summer! I did this party in December. You’ll need to pick up a few things now, though (like beach buckets).

I found that choosing several small elements and scattering them around the 3 rooms that we used made the whole house feel decorated without needing to do anything huge. We also stayed strictly with the theme (i.e. no mermaids or ducks because it wasn’t a mermaid or water party, it was an ocean party. Only ocean food and decorations were included. This sounds restrictive, but it actually helped me stay on track and cut things out more easily. I don’t have the original receipts, but I think I spent about $50 on the whole party (and we had a lot of people there because we both have a lot of family in the area, plus friends). Since we have a small space, we did it “open house style”, which meant we never had everyone in the house at once.

Ready? Let’s Party!

Quick Note: Send evites for free to save on paper and stamps. Plus, they’re really cute.



Make a photo background by taping a blue tablecloth to the wall. Add green streamers for kelp (tape to the bottom, spiral gently, then tape at the top in varying lengths), blue or white paper circles for bubbles, and photos (I took a picture of Man Cub each month and used these for the background). You can take pictures of the birthday kid with each guest, then print them out later for thank you post cards.








Decorate with whatever you have on hand. I took aquatic stuffed animals and placed them around the room. Man Cub was excited to find them all. If you’re giving your little one a gift that happens to go with the party theme, give it to them early and use it as decor during the party.








A single themed tablecloth (this one had seashells) can make a table seem special)






The hot seat! If you’ll be doing the traditional everyone-stare-at-the-baby-while-they-shove-cake-up-their-nose-until-they-throw-up pose, you can decorate the high chair to make it more fun (for the adults. Man Cub was thoroughly confused as to why everyone was staring at him, and didn’t want cake, but such is life). Take 2 posterboards, trace a clamshell on each (I did these freehand with a pencil. Remember, imperfections are more realistic). Cut out the shape and tape onto the high chair with packing tape. Tape a few balloons for bubbles, and you’re all set! We also decorated with balloons by taping them to the walls and leaving a few on the floor for the littles to play with.



(not pictured: table with blue tablecloth for gifts. This doesn’t need to be fancy- it’s going to get covered up anyway)





I made a trio of sandwiches:

  • Peanut Butter & Jellyfish (PB&J)
  • Crabby Croissants (chicken salad)
  • Submarines (turkey & cheese on a hoagie)




And a wide variety of snacks. You can make anything party food if you give it a cute name, like:

  • whales (whale crackers)
  • driftwood (pretzel sticks)
  • sand dollars (ritz crackers)
  • sea turtle eggs (green grapes)
  • bait (gummy worms)



I printed up cute labels using the emojis in my phone (text it to yourself, then email it to yourself to print).


We also decorated the food table with bath toys (that I washed & sanitized in the dishwasher first).


Drinks: Sea Mud (coffee) & Oil Spill (iced tea)

Desserts: clam cookies (pairs of nilla wafers with blue icing between and edible pearls) & cupcakes decorated with homemade seashell candies (made with candy melts & a mold), “sand” (crushed nilla wafers) and mini paper umbrellas (that we had leftover from another party), served on surfboard shaped platters from Dollar Tree




The cake was a mini cake with blue icing and sweet goldfish (vanilla cupcake grahams flavored) and topped with a whale bath toy (the bath toys came in a set by Munchkin at Target).







For simple (and consumable) party favors, we got a pack of mini bubbles for the kids to play with there and take home after.







For a toddler-sized coloring table, wrap a jumbo box of diapers in a blue table cloth and top with a cup of crayons and sheets from a coloring book (we used a Finding Dory book from the dollar bin at Target)





Man Cub’s play tunnel (that we already had) and extra balloons made a sea cave. If you don’t have a tunnel, you can improvise with a large cardboard box.







An empty box covered with a blue tablecloth and filled with textured balls (Infantino, from Target) became a sea urchin cave.






Supplies List:

  • blue tablecloth x5
  • green streamer
  • blue or white paper circles
  • photos
  • ocean toys on hand (aquatic stuffed animals)
  • themed tablecloth
  • blue balloons (2 packages in different shades)
  • white posterboard x2
  • tape
  • packing tape
  • pencil
  • scissors
  • sliced bread
  • peanut butter
  • jelly
  • croissants
  • canned chicken
  • mayonaise
  • sliced turkey
  • sliced cheese
  • mustard
  • hoagies
  • whale crackers
  • pretzel sticks
  • ritz crackers
  • green grapes
  • gummy worms
  • labels
  • coffee
  • iced tea
  • nilla wafers
  • blue icing
  • edible pearls
  • cupcakes
  • seashell candies (made with candy melts & a mold)
  • mini paper umbrellas
  • surf platters x5
  • boxes x3
  • crayons
  • sheets from a coloring book
  • textured balls

You can order online to save time. Don’t forget to use Swagbucks when you order to get cash back!

Party On!

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