Hawaiian Day is a fun theme day that I have run with great success in both day and overnight camps.
In this article, I’ll offer Hawaiian-themed program ideas that can be incorporated throughout the entire day.
CHOOSING A DATE:
Of course, you can pick any date that fits into your schedule to have Hawaiian Day in your camp. However, I’ve always been a fan of tying themes and activities to actual holidays on the calendar whenever possible. Here are three dates that correspond to actual calendar observances:
• June 11: Kamehameha Day (More info: Wikipedia)
• July 5: National Hawaii Day (Source: NationalDayCalendar.com)
• August 16: Admission Day or Statehood Day (Anniversary of Hawaii’s U.S. statehood) (More info: Wikipedia)
WHAT TO WEAR?
Invite campers (in advance) to dress for the occasion. Hawaiian shirts are popular and most will be able to find one.
Leis can be purchased inexpensively and distributed to all campers. You can also get grass skirts, coconut bras, and other Hawaiian novelties at various online party stores. The latter items are more expensive, so you might opt to only purchase them for key staff people.
I also like to distribute name tags so that everyone can display the Hawaiian versions of their names. Which brings us to the next section…
“ALOHA” NAME TAGS
I love this part. Distribute name tags to everyone so they can fill in their Hawaiian names. In day camp, we give them out first thing in the morning; in overnight camp, I prefer to place the materials on their tables at lunch. Here’s what you give each group:
Name Tags: I buy the Avery 5395 (or cheaper equivalent) name tags and pre-print them using this template: (click to download)
Name Translation Guide: click here to download the guide and print a few copies per group or table. It’s 3 pages long and includes a list of the 900 most common names in America, along with instructions for translating those that are not listed.
Some magic markers to fill out the name tags.
The kids and staff wear their name tags all day and are encouraged to address each other by their Hawaiian names.
The Luau is the centerpiece of the Hawaiian Day theme. In overnight camp, this would be dinner; in day camp, lunch is generally the only option. In this section, we’ll cover three areas: Menu, Ambiance, and Activities
No need to get fancy! Just use this simple formula:
BBQ + Pineapple = Luau
Your kitchen staff may want to take control of the menu and go out of their way to do something special. That’s great! Let them run with it!
If you have a culinary program (cooking class) in camp, it’s a nice touch to have the kids prepare dessert for the luau. This adds another Hawaiian element to the day’s activities and gives the culinary staff the opportunity to get creative and come up with some nice Hawaiian desserts. (The last time I ran Hawaiian Day, my wife happened to be one of the people in charge of the culinary program. They grilled pineapple and served it under a scoop of mango sorbet.)
Depending on your budget, you can go all out with Hawaiian decor (available from the same party supplier where you bought the leis). I’ve found that the waiters in camp (if you have them) are always happy to contribute to the fun, and I’ll bet you can count on them to wear the grass skirts and coconut bras.
Many party rental companies also offer inflatable palm trees and other similar decor. If you decide to rent a mechanical surfboard (mentioned under “Activities” below) the same company can probably provide both.
Hawaiian music is a must! I bought an album on iTunes (“Luau Party – Hawaiian Ukulele Luau Music” by the Hawaiian Luau Party Band) and played it in the background.
Tiki torches and a bonfire are always a nice touch, as long as all open flames are properly supervised.
In addition to activities that go on throughout the day, here are some activities that work well at the luau:
Lei Making: I know you gave out cheap plastic leis already, but this is an opportunity for the kids to make something a little fancier. Ask your Arts & Crafts staff to take the lead on this one; set up table(s) with supplies at the luau for kids to do the activity at their leisure. Make sure a counselor or member of the art staff is at each table to show the kids what to do.
Limbo and Hula Hooping contests: For these, you’ll want to kick the music up a notch from the Hawaiian background music.
Pineapple Eating Contest
Mechanical Surfboard: Of the suggestions in this article, this is the only one that carries a significant cost, but it’s totally worth it! It operates like a mechanical bull, with the object to stay on as long as possible while someone controls the surfboard’s movements. It becomes the central focus of the entire luau, as it’s just as fun to watch, cheer, and laugh as it is to participate. Mechanical surfboards are available from many of the same companies that offer bounce houses and carnival rides. We don’t have one, but if you need help finding one, contact us and we’ll help you out.
You may also wish to take activities from the next section and move them to the luau.
HAWAIIAN DAY EVENTS
There are several ways to schedule the activities in this section. Here are a few suggestions:
(1) Put a few staff people in charge of these activities and schedule groups to participate in them at different times throughout the day.
(2) Put your division heads in charge, and let each division have its own separate Hawaiian Day night activity after the luau
(3) Have some staff run the activities at or near the luau, but have the activities begin an hour or so before, and let them continue after the luau ends. In this scenario, you would let your counselors know that they can “drop in” with their campers at their leisure.
Now, on to the activities…
Divide each bunk into two teams. Set a starting line and finish line. Place a coconut on the ground at the starting line. When you say GO, the first camper in line drops to his/her knees and lifts the coconut up using only the knees. Hands may not touch the coconut! The camper carries the coconut between his/her knees to the finish line and back; then drops the coconut so the next camper can go. When everyone has gone, the team is finished and a winner is declared.
Translation: Rolling Stones. This is a Hawaiian game very similar to horseshoes. Find a stick and place it in the ground (like a horseshoe stake). Have each camper find a stone. Line up the campers behind a line; each camper throws their stone at the stick. The stone that lands closest to the stick is the winner.
Play this one exactly the same way as Ulu Maika, but place the stick further away from the line, and make sure you are throwing AWAY from any place where people might walk by. I recommend providing only one spear (i.e. bamboo pole) per group to avoid multiple spears flying through the air at once!
HULA HOOP RING TOSS:
Each camper gets a partner and everyone lines up in two lines facing each other. Everyone in one line is given a hula hoop. Each camper must throw the hoop around his/her partner (human ring toss style) without either partner separating his/her feet. If anyone misses, both partners are out. Everyone takes a step back, and now the partner who has the hoop must hoop the other partner in the same way. Play continues until one pair is left in the game.
GRASS SKIRT MAKING:
This is an activity that can be offered before the luau, so that everyone shows up looking fancy! Alternatively, it can be offered during the luau, along with the lei making mentioned above.
Supply straw-colored streamers and masking tape. Tear a piece of tape that is long enough to wrap around each camper’s waist. Have the campers tear streamers long enough to hang from their waist to their shins. Tear enough pieces to hang side-by-side along the entire length of the tape. Provide extra tape to fasten the skirt around them. Come to the Luau wearing the skirts. Leis will also be distributed during skirt making time.