After a busy month filled with holiday celebration, January can leave us feeling down and alone. Keep the post-holiday blues at bay for your members and take them on a virtual trip to the tropics this winter. Set the stage with inflatable palm trees and colorful luau lanterns. Give members Hawaiian leis along with their activity calendar. Then, invite members to meet you in paradise all month long using the activity ideas below.

COCONUT BOWLING – Add a fun twist to your indoor bowling league by using coconuts for bowling balls and pineapples for bowling pins. Or, just substitute the bowling ball with a coconut and use your regular bowling pins. Turn it into an afternoon tournament or play it once a week with your group.

TROPICAL TRIVIA – Test members’ knowledge about all things tropical, from the Hawaiian islands to famous beaches, and from tropical weather to Jimmy Buffet or the Beach Boys’ music. Use the Just Another Day in Paradise trivia below to get you started, then do a quick internet search for more tropical trivia.

CREATE A MOCKTAIL – Keep things interesting at your next happy hour and invite participants to create their own mocktail. Provide ingredients, such as pineapple, orange, lemon, and cranberry juices, ginger ale, sprite, and orange and lemon slices for garnishes. Give each participant a cocktail glass or cup and a spoon to stir their creations. Participants can create individually, or work together. Head over to for mocktail recipes that participants can use for inspiration, as well as other ingredient ideas.

SENSORY QUICKSAND DOUGH – Give members a sensational experience by mixing up this easy quicksand recipe. In a container, combine one cup of cornstarch and one cup of play sand, found at a local hardware store. Add two teaspoons of washable paint, any color, and knead until you reach dough consistency. Turn the dough into quicksand by simply wetting the hands of participants and giving them a chunk to work with. The dough should hold its shape while it’s being manipulated, but once participants hold their hands still, it will ooze. Let the dough sit and it becomes a dough puddle; pick it up again and it becomes moldable dough.

PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE – Fill the room with the aroma of paradise by baking a pineapple upside-down cake with your group. You’ll need a yellow cake box mix, canned pineapple slices, canned maraschino cherries, and a few other ingredients. Visit tbsp. for the full recipe and instructions.

CREATE A LEI – Create handmade leis with your group for them to wear at your Party in Paradise. Before the activity, cut colorful tissue paper into 3-inch wide by 4-inch length strips. You’ll need about 36 strips per lei. Determine how long you want the lei necklaces to be and precut jute rope or ribbon to that length. Instruct participants to select their favorite colors of the tissue paper. Participants can alternate between two colors, make a single color lei, or create a very colorful lei. Then instruct participants to twist each tissue paper strip twice in the middle before tying the strips onto the jute rope or ribbon. Once tied onto the string, gently twist the tissue paper so that the end pieces stick outwards. Continue around the rope, until participants have reached the end. Then, knot the two ends of the jute rope or ribbon together to complete the lei.

TROPICAL TERRARIUMS – Make tropical terrariums with your group and bring the spirit of summer to their rooms or your community’s common spaces. Start with empty, clear two-liter bottles. Remove the label and cut off the shoulder of the bottle. Wash and dry the inside of the bottle. Then, instruct participants to layer small pebbles, craft sand, and dirt on the bottom. Plant tropical plants or flowers found at a local grocery or hardware store, or use fake plants instead. If using live plants, follow the watering and maintenance instructions that are included with the purchase of the plant. If you use fake plants, skip the dirt and just use pebbles and sand. Once the plants are securely planted, surround the top of the dirt with sheet moss. Add a cocktail paper umbrella for color and effect.

TRAVELING TROPICAL ZOO – Reach out to your local zoo or pet store and invite them to bring tropical animals to visit with your group. (Check with the local health department about any precautions they might have with tropical animals.) Most zoos have traveling programs that bring the zoo to you for a small fee. Ask the guest to share facts about the animals and talk about the environment in which these animals thrive. Here are some examples of animals that would be appropriate to visit: Parrot, toucan, macaw, tropical amphibians/reptiles (frogs, lizards), perhaps even an anteater! (I once had an anteater come to a senior living facility I worked at, it smelled, but the residents loved seeing it up close.)

PARTY IN PARADISE – Remind members that summer is coming with a Party in Paradise! For entertainment, consider a band that performs Beach Boys or Jimmy Buffet music, or hire someone who plays the steel drums. Serve fruit kabobs and key lime pie. Feature the winning signature mocktail. Encourage members to wear their handmade leis and Hawaiian shirts. Dust off the beach balls and turn up the heat for a summery afternoon in the middle of winter.

ISLAND DIALOGUE – Spend time reminiscing with your group about island or tropical vacation destinations. Discuss their favorite tropical place and where they would prefer to spend winter, especially if you live in a colder climate. Ask participants: If you were stranded on an island, what two items would you bring with you. What celebrity would you like to be stranded with you?

HAWAIIAN HULA DANCING – January is a great time to invite hula dancers to your community for a performance. Ask the dancers to do a teaching segment, where participants can learn how to hula. Participants can learn seated or standing, as many hulas use their hands to tell the story of the song.

HULA-HOOP CONDITIONING – Channel your inner kid and incorporate Hula-hoops into your group’s exercise routine. Give each participant a Hula-hoop to use as a prop. Instruct participants to lift the Hula-hoop up and down, in and out, switch between hands, and roll towards you. Challenge participants by placing a bowling pin in the center of the room and then ask them to loop their Hula-hoops around the bowling pin. Leave time at the end of the activity to reminisce about Hula-hooping as a child.

SUNNY DAYS SING-ALONG – So many songs talk about the sun. On a cold, wintery day, plan a sunny days sing-along to keep participants’ moods upbeat. Ask participants to name as many songs as they can that talk about the sunshine or summertime. Then, sing the songs as a group. Here are a few song titles to get you started: “You are My Sunshine,” “My Girl,” “Walking on Sunshine,” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.”


  1. Which tropical fruit is an unusual, but common pizza topping? Pineapple
  2. Although bananas and apples are the most popular fruit eaten in the U.S., which fruit is the most popular worldwide: banana, mango, or coconut? Mango
  3. In the U.S., coconut palms can grow successfully outside in only two states. What are they? Hawaii and Southern Florida
  4. Which former U.S. President kept a coconut shell on his desk as a reminder of a harrowing incident he experienced while serving in the Navy during World War II? John F. Kennedy
  5. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when the winds reach how many miles per hour: 65, 74, or 90? 74
  6. How are hurricanes named? Alphabetically each season, alternating between female and male names
  7. Which U.S. state has a tropical climate year-round? Hawaii
  8. Which dance is designated as the official state dance of Hawaii? The Hula
  9. How many islands make up the state of Hawaii? Eight
  10. Parrots usually live to about how many years of age: 20 years, 50 years, or 80 years? 80 years


“Gentleness and kindness will make our homes a paradise upon earth.” ~ C.A. Bartol


“Just Another Day in Paradise” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2018 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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