This tropical-themed Valentine's Day party counteracts the winter blues and brings to mind summer fun. Turn up the thermostat and invite your children's friends to spend an afternoon on vacation!

Set the Mood

Balmy temperatures call for shorts, T-shirts, beach hats, and sunglasses, so ask party-goers to dress appropriately. Compliment outfits for the holiday by distributing red, pink, and white leis.

Give early-arriving guests something to do by hanging a large sheet of white butcher paper on a wall. Then distribute red and pink crayons, and encourage them to draw some welcoming images and greetings. A fish blowing heart-shaped bubbles, pink anemones, or seashells bearing friendly greetings might make nice touches.

 A few fresh flowers in simple vases can add a festive touch throughout the party area. Complete the setting with Hawaiian guitar music or tunes by Don Ho or The Beach Boys.

Chill with Great Food

What would a party be without food? Set out an easy-to-eat and easy-to-serve cruise-style buffet. Start with a centerpiece of goldfish crackers in a goldfish bowl, then complete the spread with items such as:

  • Fruit kabobs made of pineapples and strawberries. Use plastic straws if you are worried about children holding skewers or wooden sticks.
  • Individual cups of red Jell-o.
  • Bagels with strawberry cream cheese.
  • Raw veggies with strawberry salsa dip. (The dip is available in the Mexican Foods aisle of many grocery stores)
  • Heart-shaped cookies. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter on sugar cookie dough.

Serve beverages in clear glasses with colorful stirrers to give the appearance of exotic drinks. Ruth Frechman, a registered dietitian and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, recommends skipping sugary sodas and fruit drinks in favor of better theme-related choices such as:

  • Orange juice with crushed strawberries.
  • Strawberry milk. (While often sold in the dairy case, you can mix up your own using strawberry-flavored drink-mix powder—usually found by the cocoa or in the baking aisle.)
  • Cranapple juice slushies. (Put cranapple juice and a handful of ice into a blender and blend together. Add more ice in small amounts as needed and reblend until achieving desired consistency. Blenders with an ice-crushing feature work best.)
  • Strawberry-banana smoothies. To make a quick, healthy one in your blender, use 1 cup fat-free or low-fat milk, 1 cup plain yogurt, 4 large strawberries (or 1 cup frozen strawberries), and 1 small cut-up banana. Blend all the ingredients for one minute. (If your blender is larger, consider doubling the recipe to make drinks faster.)

Let's Party

Bingo is popular on cruises and with kids. Put a Valentine's Day spin on the activity by using candy message hearts as the number markers. Instead of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, how about Pin the Wings on the Cupid? And everybody loves to limbo, especially under Cupid's arrow (a red broomstick).

Need things to settle down? Spread out beach towels for guests to relax on while listening to Valentine's Day stories. A few kid-pleasing choices include Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane de Groat, Arthur's Valentine by Marc Brown, and Franklin's Valentines by Paulette Bourgeois.

Don't Forget to Send a Postcard

A party wouldn't be complete without exchanging valentines. Give the tradition a tropical spin by letting kids make postcards for each other. Set out a stack of index cards.

On one side, children can draw or cut and paste pictures from magazines. On the other side, they can write a message and address it to the recipient. Every postcard needs a stamp, so be sure to have a supply of stickers available for the task.

Decorate a cardboard box with construction-paper hearts to serve as a mini mailbox for completed cards. Distribute the contents at party's end. You're guests are guaranteed to go home with enough warm wishes to last until Memorial Day!