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!
Ever just watched your kid tear open gifts, without a thought who they’re from, before tossing it aside and moving on to the next? It’s not pretty. There are a few options when it comes to low waste gifting: if sharing a party, why not suggest to the children that they donate a few of their presents to charity. Alternatively, ask guests to bring only one gift to the party, unnamed and then distribute equally amongst the birthday children as a way to reduce quantity. Another option could be to ask guests to contribute to a meaningful gift or experience as a group or raise money for charities that are close to their heart – try Twish or Gudoo.
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, the age of your child, what sort of space you’re in and your decided budget. First up, a banging kids’ party playlist is always great to play (we rotate this with ‘adult music’ too if adults are there). So far (and our eldest is 5), we’ve done the ‘entertainment’ 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. Of course remember to keep all materials used from tablecloths to toilet rolls.
I’m not keen to serve up junk, sugar filled food but equally I knew that energy balls and hummus at a kid’s party won’t always 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. Freeze any leftovers or use up – leftover fruit whizzed up makes the best fruit smoothies. For plates, we use palm leaf plates which we bring out 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. We use paper cups and have a pen on hand to ask kids to write their name on it and keep it for the duration of the party – it’s incredible how otherwise they’ll just keep getting another one for every second slurp. Follow Food Bites for the cutest kid food inspiration.
I’ve always been a bit of a nervous cake maker but my mum is amazing in this arena and in the past I’ve often asked her to contribute this and she’s always kindly agreed. I might also make my friend’s Johanna’s vegan chocolate olive oil cake – if you make it twice over (it’s SO crazy easy), it makes the perfect two tier cake. At this year’s party, one of the mums had the genius idea of getting the kids to decorate a cupcake each which cumulatively, made up a beautiful, very uniquely crafted (!) birthday cake. Oh, and always remember to keep and reuse candles – you won’t know the difference once they’re lit!
Going Home Presents
I have mixed opinions on going home gifts – part of me knows they’re not necessary, but on the other hand, they have become the norm and the kids seem to expect them. Something simple and plastic free like books or a small pack of seeds plus some Bear Nibbles snacks work a treat. 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 fun, low waste kids party
-Don’t be afraid to go against the grain – you can be the parent to set a new way of doing things
-Get bins set up in a visible place – recycling, landfill and food waste – and label them clearly!
-Communicate clearly to anyone helping what they need to do to help make the party low waste eg. no mindless chucking out!
-Advanced preparation is key: love your freezer
-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
-Ask kids to bring a reusable container to take home any leftover food
-Ensure you have nothing planned for that evening (and maybe even a good bottle of wine ready!)
Have you hosted a low waste kids party? What sort of thing did you do? Please share any tips in the comments below.
P.P.S A super cute idea for a birthday