How To Throw A Low Waste Kids Birthday Party

Birthday parties are an integral part of family life and rightly so – it’s important to celebrate the good things in life! Somehow though, like so much in modern day to day living and parenting, they seem to have spiralled a little out of control and have come to be some of the most wasteful events of the year. In this post I’m going to talk you through some ways to keep waste to a minimum at your kids’ party and avoid finding yourself carrying out black binbags full of rubbish at the end of it all. It’s totally possible (and even more fun, I’d say!) to celebrate sustainably, without being a total party pooper.

Growing up, my mum always made my siblings and I our birthday parties at home – it’s all I’ve ever known and I (and my childhood friends) have fond memories of being sat cramped in my parent’s hallway, wishing the parcel would land on us and taking turns to have a whack on the homemade  piñata. That said, celebrating at home isn’t always an option. In this instance, my preference would always be to support a local small business (here’s where I’ve got my eye on for one of our upcoming celebrations!) or centre, or if the weather allows, to take your party to the outdoors – the woods make the best location for kids to explore and run around in!

Paper invites just fill up other peoples’ homes and go straight in the bin immediately afterwards (sometimes even before!). Yes, they can often be recycled (if free from glitter) but I would always opt for online invitations and thank you cards from Paperless Post where there’s a bunch of different options available. If you tick the ‘Free’ box option when creating the card, there’s no cost (you do have to work quite hard though to avoid creating a card that requires ‘coins’!)

Otherwise, just an email would suffice or if you’re in a Whatsapp group with other mums from the class, why not just pop an invite through via Whatsapp with a photo of your kid. It’s actually the most time efficient way of doing it!

If you do want to go down the ‘themed’ route, then choose a theme that you think you can create easily with what you already own or can borrow. For me, being a crazy plant lady, makes a jungle themed party, for example, pretty ideal. Other ideas I come back to again and again are food related – breakfast parties, pizza or cupcake making. DIY pamper parties could also be a really nice idea.

Inspired by Etsy, I might make some very simple banners and string them up. I’ll also make use of fairy lights, some pom poms I’ve had for years. I might post on my local Facebook group to see if anyone has any spare decoration, and borrow the rest from friends and family. Balloons and party poppers are a no go for me (unless I’ve got some lurking at the back of a drawer from years ago) – ever noticed how toxic they taste when you blow them up? Plus, what goes up, must go down…Yeh, that. Painted paper chains made from newspaper are also a lovely idea, and the best part of all? You can keep using them year after year. Fresh flowers are also always a winner and make any party look pretty.

This largely hinges on the weather and what sort of space you’re in. First up, a banging kids’ party playlist is always great to play (we rotate this with ‘adult music’ too if adults are there), and then the core entertainment will really depend how old your child is; so far (and our eldest is 5), we’ve done it all ourselves / with other parents. Most recently, we divided the children into different groups and had stations set up of different activities run by different parents; we’ve had races, a craft table, face painting, pass the parcel, musical statues, reading books, and cupcake making.

I never want to serve up junk, sugar filled food but equally I knew that energy balls and hummus at a kid’s party isn’t always going to hit the spot. As always, keeping things simple is my strategy. Cut up (plastic free) fruit and veg, cheese and salad sandwiches, diluted juice (I don’t normally give my kids juice but as a treat…), and then for dessert, I love the idea of cupcake decorating: prebake some cupcakes using this super simple recipe and prepare some bowls of icing and toppings.

For plates, we use these palm leaf plates which we use every year – I’m not sure how long they’ll last but for now, we just gently wash with soapy water, leave to dry and they keep on lasting. Just be sure to make sure anyone who is helping you tidy up knows the drill not to throw them away!

The Cake
I’ve always been a bit of a nervous cake maker – my mum is amazing and in the past I’ve delegated this job to her and she’s always kindly agreed. But this year I decided to take on the task myself and actually had so much fun with it. I made my friend’s Johanna’s vegan chocolate olive oil cake twice over (SO crazy easy), added a layer of mascarpone and some green buttercream icing on top. Then I made some ‘palm trees’ out of wafer biscuits and green icing and gathered some plastic animal figures we had knocking about the house to decorate (the tiger was a recent 50p charity shop purchase). Oh, and always reuse candles – you won’t know the difference once they’re lit!

Going Home Presents
Last year for Jack’s party I didn’t give going home presents, and although I know that they’re not really necessary, they have become the norm and the kids expect them. I decided to keep it simple and plastic free so I gave a Mr Men book (sourced from Poundland) and some Bear Nibbles snacks. Check out Plastic Free Party Bags for another option, and use the code MAMALINA to get 10% off any order you place.

A few final tips for hosting a kids party at home:

-Advanced preparation is key: I made the cupcakes and the cake weeks ahead and froze them
-Instagram / Pinterest are amazing for inspiration: Follow @foodbites for the cutes kid food
-Accept it will be slightly chaotic and embrace it: there will be kids running everywhere if you’re indoors
-If hosting elsewhere, enquire what their efforts are to reduce plastic waste – it will make them think, if nothing else
-Make a ‘parents corner’ with coffee and cake: it will be appreciated
-Ensure you have a good takeaway place and bottle of wine ready for the evening

Have you hosted a kids party at your home? What sort of thing did you do? Please share any tips in the comments below.

Emma xxx

P.S A Toddler’s Pyjama Party and a DIY Kids Party at Home

P.P.S  A super cute idea for a birthday


  1. August 21, 2018 / 6:09 pm

    Hi Emma,

    I was searching for news of celebrating a birthday without using too many resources and that took me to your blog. I LOVE what you have been doing, especially focus on parenting. Thank you for doing this and sharing the idea. I just started running a Facebook page called “Birthdays for wildlife,” which I encourage people to help wildlife when celebrating their birthdays. Ways can be like organizing a park clean-up or having a zero waste party like what you’ve been doing.

    I studies sustainable tourism and am currently working at a local zoo. My passion towards wildlife conservation and a sustainble future led me to start running this page and encourge people to do a good cause while celebrating life.

    Would you mind if I share this article on my Facebook page? I left my page below and Please let me know if you are okay with that. Thank you.

    • Emma Ross
      October 9, 2018 / 12:40 pm

      hey mei, thanks for your kind words and LOVE the sound of what you do so i’ll definitely take a look. and yes pls do share away 🙂 (ps SO SORRY for the terribly slow reply) xxx

  2. August 20, 2018 / 7:39 am

    Thank you for these tips! I hate all of the tat we bring home from parties my daughter goes to. She’ll definitely want a party for her 4th birthday and this has given me some great starting ideas. Her birthday is in Jan…so I’ll start preparing now. Hehe!

    • Emma Ross
      August 20, 2018 / 12:48 pm

      ah so glad they were of use! and yes, i so hate that tat too.. happy planning mama! x

  3. Anna Midlane
    July 30, 2018 / 7:40 am

    Thanks for this article! Ive got my 6 year old sons bday in october and trying to plan ahead.
    Im stuck on ideas on cups for all the children…did you use paper cups? And papet plates? Thanks!

  4. Erin
    July 4, 2018 / 5:15 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to write a post on this! We hosted a zero waste birthday party for our 5 year old son, Benjamin and main thing I’ve learned was to plan far in advance (make cupcakes/cakes to freeze before).. A week isn’t enough time to prepare – especially for your first zero waste party. I spent time making reusable napkins (from leftover linen fabric) and a bottle of homemade face and hands cleaner, and noticed they weren’t used at all.. it was a huge learning curve for me. We did a big batch of homemade playdough in glass jars and bamboo troothbrushes as take home’s!

    • Emma Ross
      July 10, 2018 / 2:31 pm

      oh i love all these ideas and totally agree re the planning in advance – that was a gamechanger for me ! x

  5. Laura
    May 11, 2018 / 11:46 am

    Thank you for the lovely tips, we are hosting Willows 4th birthday party at home this weekend. We are giving away sunflower seeds, small bags of compost, tiny pots and stickers to decorate the pots. I refuse to give away plastic rubbish toys that end up as landfill or fill the kids with loads of sugary sweets !!!! fingers crossed the kids enjoy them. Will definitely be taking on the tip about the parents corner 🙂 thank you again, Laura x

    • Emma Ross
      May 11, 2018 / 11:56 am

      ah what gorgeous sounding ideas! glad you liked the post xxx p.s i adore the name Willow!

  6. Nicole
    May 3, 2018 / 9:30 am

    I always give books – often cheaply sourced Mr Men ones! – in party bags and I love it when others hand out books. The Book People is another good place to get them from.

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