All the details on our mermaid party

When I talked to Maria about her third-birthday party, a theme immediately emerged: She wanted a mermaid party. For an almost-3-year-old, the concept feels as obvious as it is simply put, “a mermaid party.” No explanation needed.

Mermaids have captured Maria’s imagination. We’re not just talking “Little Mermaid.” We read a variety of mermaid books, including this 3D book from my sister-in-law, which considerably advanced my mermaid knowledge. Maria is particularly enraptured by “The Floating Palace,” a special episode of Disney’s Sofia The First in which Sofia becomes a mermaid. We also have “The Floating Palace” book, which has been well read in our house.

I Photoshopped Maria’s face onto an image of Sofia as a mermaid for the invitations. 

The other project we worked on in advance was making mermaid crowns. This isn’t an official thing, but if you say it in an official way to your toddler, it will become one. Don’t you just love that?

I ordered a bunch of rose flower crowns from eBay for $1 apiece. Then I used a hot glue gun to adhere seashells between the flowers. My friend lent me a huge bag from TJ Maxx. It looked sharp to have one starfish on each crown.   

 We jammed to “Under The Sea” as we worked – PJs, tutu, messy bun. Is there any other way to craft?

These were super easy to make!

Conveniently, we live near an aquatic center with a terrific indoor kiddie pool. The girls love splashing around in it, and I knew that if we could host the party there, fun would be guaranteed – and an aquatic theme would be provided for us.

The Grove has several rooms you can rent for a party, plus they allow you to hang out on their deck during open-swim hours.

We grabbed four tables in a row right by the water. It was fun being set up so close! It felt like being on a shore – but was nice and warm in early April.

Having the party at The Grove would make it fun no matter what, I knew. But it also allowed for something special I had been dreaming up, something that may sound ridiculous….I wanted to hire an actual mermaid to surprise Maria at the party.

I Googled “mermaid for hire Twin Cities” and found myself reading about Mermaid Mika. Then I broke the idea to my husband, who is more pragmatic than me.

We debated it for a while, because – let’s face it – it’s a frivolous thing to do. But ultimately I talked Ted into it (and cleared it with a manager at The Grove).

The thing is, we have a narrow window of time when Maria believes in mermaids. She believes in magic. And I just love being able to nurture that belief, whether we’re listening for Santa’s reindeer on our rooftop or searching for fairies at the conservatory.

I was excited and nervous about having Mika at the party. She was easy to communicate with in advance and a thorough planner.

I just hoped it would all pan out. The fact that she would actually swim for us was especially alluring. But I’d never seen her before, so it felt a bit like going on a first date while online dating, waiting to find out if the pictures you’d seen in advance were accurate.

This was our first time hosting a birthday party outside the home. I love decorating but knew this called for a scaled-back approach, so all I did was buy magenta and teal Ariel balloons from Party City and coordinating magenta and teal plastic table cloths.

It gave the space a unified, cheery look without requiring much effort. 

I made a magenta-and-teal banner with Maria’s name, because I make these whenever one of my kids has a birthday, but I could’ve skipped it this time; it got kind of lost in the big, bustling space.

I also bought a few tiny toy mermaids from the Dollar Tree to scatter on the tables, along with aquatic-themed magenta-and-teal confetti from Party City

My mom (the ultimate consignment shopper) scored a giant mermaid doll at Goodwill, so I picked up some fishing net from Party City to drape her in. I had visions of hanging her from some corner, as if she had been swept ashore, but we wound up just presenting the doll to Maria. It was a huge hit. She even went down the big orange slide! I added a sparkly Bachelorette crown I had tucked away in a spare closet to play up her mermaid-princess-y-ness, which Maria appreciated.

The menu was super simple because this was a pool party: pizza and cake. We ordered from Old World Pizza, and my talented mother-in-law made a beautiful cake plus cupcakes, which were easy to pass around.

On our way to The Grove, with Maria all decked out in her floral dress and mermaid crown back in her car seat, I’ll never forget what she said: “I wonder if we’ll see any mermaids at The Grove.” I was so thrilled to hear her say this I almost cried. “I don’t know, honey,” we answered with our best poker face.

As people were milling around, we kicked off the festivities by letting Maria distribute the mermaid crowns. I had packed them in her Easter basket. It made her proud to hand them out; she loves to be in that doling-out-gifts role.

One of my favorite moments of the party was seeing my grandmas rock their mermaid crowns. At 86 and 82, they are so beautiful! I love their sense of fun and spirit of adventure. They happen to be besties, and their outfits were color coordinated – to match each other and our party motif. That’s just how amazing they are.  


The schedule was going to be lunch, cake, swimming, then presents. Note to self: When kids are waiting to jump into the water, they really don’t care about much else. We managed to keep them at bay long enough to chow down a few pieces of pizza. I really wanted to sing to Maria and let her blow out her candles before the chaos of swimming began. I love having that family moment and capturing the photo and video; I didn’t want it to get away from me. So we gathered around her cake and sang, and she blew out the candles in that toothy toddler way.

Funny thing is we didn’t bother cutting the cake; the kids were dying to swim at this point. So adults could enjoy the cupcakes while the kids changed into their suits.

Once the kids had been swimming a bit, I surprised the older girls with mermaid costumes I’d found on eBay. (Amazon carries similar ones, and this variation on eBay has an even cooler tail but can’t be walked in.)

They were inexpensive, but still more than I usually spend on party favors. In the end, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to make these girls feel like actual mermaids.

I had visions of lining them up beside the pool in costume and getting a great photo. (I had also packed long pink, teal and purple Dollar Tree necklaces to adorn the mermaids with.)

In reality, only the oldest girl was excited about the costume, bless her heart. The others wanted to stay in their already-cool swimsuits. It wasn’t a battle worth fighting. 

I checked in with Mika in the locker room, and she blew me away. Her tail is amazing! Her entire get-up was far more ornate than I had imagined – and she was even prettier in person! At this point I was so excited to bring her out. Her handler carried her into the deeper pool, which is adjacent to (but walled off from) the kiddie-pool area.

The big reveal was awesome. Maria broke into a huge smile and then shyly waved to Mika.


We made our way into the pool to join her, and her mermaid persona was on point – sweet, smiley, playful. Maria fell in love. She enjoyed examining Mika’s jewelry and asking questions about mermaid-hood. 

Mika showed off her fabulous tail, and we got to swim with her. Mika even had a gift for Maria, including a handwritten note, mermaid jewelery and a seashell tritan, which was right up her alley. (Hello, “The Floating Palace.”)

The adults had as much fun as the kids taking it all in.

Mika was so patient and accomodating. I lost track of time, but I’m sure she spent way longer than the 30 minutes we had hired her for. She didn’t seem to mind in the least. It was clear she was enjoying herself too.

Her handler carried her into the shallow kiddie pool area half way through, which gave the kids even better access to Mika. (It also thrilled the other kids playing at The Grove. The mom of a 6-year-old asked me for Mika’s contact info. I think 3 is the youngest age you’d do this; the 5- and 6-year-olds present were fully believing too. Mika gave me permission to share her email address so you can contact her directly:

She shared her pet crab and goofed around with us. I mean, look at Mika’s face? Straight out of a Disney movie, right?

(By this point, you can see, I’d managed to put Maria’s mermaid costume on over her Ariel swimsuit. It was a crompromise, and in retrospect, it looks a bit odd.)  

And then it was time for Mika to return to the ocean, and we said our goodbyes.

We let the kids splash around a while longer as other party guests headed out. Maria was exhausted but did not want to leave. Toward the end of our time in the pool, she said, “I think I see a mermaid!” We were definitely keeping our eyes open at this point. Anything was possible!  

All in all, I couldn’t have been more thrilled with how our mermaid party went. It was a celebration of all the joy our curly-haired girl has brought us these past three years.

It may be the most elaborate birthday party we’ll ever host, and I’ll never forget it! The feeling of being so satisfied with every little element lingers. I’m still pinching myself!  

Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and two young girls in Inver Grove Heights. Write her at