How to Throw a Plastic Free Kids Party

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

Now a passionate plastic free mum of two myself and making my own kids’ parties, I’m more inclined than ever to recreate something sustainable when celebrating our little ones and not be part of what has come to be, one of the most wasteful events of the year. But how to achieve that, without being a total party pooper? Here’s some ideas to get you started on how to avoid generating (yet more) plastic waste.

Throw away items are my biggest bugbear when it comes to kids’ parties with paper invites being just one example: they fill up other peoples’ homes and are discarded immediately afterwards (sometimes even before!). Always opt for online invitations and thank you cards – my go to website is Paperless Post. There are loads of  free options but do make sure to tick the ‘Free’ box when choosing (you have to work quite hard to avoid creating a card that requires ‘coins’!)

Admittedly, a jungle themed party for a crazy plant lady is pretty much ideal and yes, when Jack was choosing between that and a PJ Masks themed party, I can’t say I didn’t slightly veer him towards the former. I kept it simple and economical and plastic free by collecting up all my plants from around the house and clustered them around the table in the kitchen.

Inspired by some Etsy designs and the fact I am certainly no craft genius, I made a very simple ‘Jack’s Jungle’ jungle banner and strung it up across the fairy lights and pom poms. I also used a few hanging mini jungle animals from Rex London to nestle in the plants and gathered up all the cuddly animal toys I could from around the house to place amongst everything. I also posted on my local Facebook group to see if anyone had any spare decoration, and borrowed monkeys and other cute animals from friends and family. Balloons were a no no – ever noticed how toxic they taste when you blow them up ? Yeh, that.

Keeping it minimal and using borrowed or natural items also meant that the amount of waste was practically zero – no more scooping up of black binbags full of rubbish at the end of the party. Paper chains made from newspaper or painted canvas banners are also a lovely idea, and the best part of all? You can keep using them year after year. Finally, fresh flowers are always a winner and could even be a nice addition to a party bag at the end of the party

This largely hinges on the weather and we were blessed (or not!) with some truly grey English, wet weather. I had planned a treasure hunt for the kids in the garden hunting hidden ‘bugs’ painted onto stones and have them make their own ‘binoculars’ from toilet rolls. In the event we were mainly indoors: we had a fun kids’ party playlist playing and Sam and I took it in turns to run games. As the kids arrived I had animal masks and face paints set up.

My brother was the designated face painter but some parents started picking up the paints and painting their kids faces too, which was nice. We also played pass the parcel (wrapped in newspaper), musical statues, and read jungle themed story books – reading is such a great way to calm down a group of hyped up four year olds!

I didn’t just want to serve up junk, sugary food but equally I knew that serving up energy balls and hummus at a kid’s party isn’t necessarily that much fun for them. I kept it simple and prepared cut up carrot and cucumbers, a huge bowl of chopped fruit, cheese and salad sandwiches (with a snake twist) and made some ‘jungle juice’ from diluted apple juice. ( I don’t give my kids juice but offering water at a kid’s party seems a little unfair.)

For dessert, the kids did (small) cupcake decorating: I had baked some cupcakes using this super simple recipe and pre prepared some bowls of icing and toppings and tasked the kids with creating jungle animal cupcakes. Hopefully there weren’t any kids high on sugar once it was time to go home. Everything was served on these palm leaf plates which I bought last year for Jack’s party and which we’ll be continuing to reuse for many parties to come and I had some left over biodegradable tubs which I also used for crudite.

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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