How to Have an Eco-Friendly and Plastic-Free Kids Party

by - Friday, August 31, 2018

Congratulations! Your kid is growing up, and of course, you want to celebrate. That said, if you are trying to do right by the environment, it can be intimidating to approach party time without creating a bunch of waste. I mean, we all grew up with plastic table cloths and Solo cups, so how do you do a kids party without them?

It may not be as hard as you think, you just have to shift your mindset. You don't have to serve granola in a field of hemp to have a green party. ANY theme for ANY kid can have a positive environmental impact, you just have to change how you go about it. And it is so worth it. I love parties, but I love my kid more, so I want to hand off a cleaner, healthier world to him.

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. So maybe you won't use all of these ideas, but you can definitely use some of them!

Here are my best ideas for throwing a green birthday party for kids.

1. Focus on What is Fun

One of the best birthday kid parties we have been to was a lecture on trees. No, seriously. A woman dressed like a freaking tree, and it was a great party. Why? So many reasons, but the least of which it was March after a dark, wet Seattle winter, and we were just happy to run around outside. We had a picnic, they sang "Happy Birthday" to an orange with a candle in it, and everybody stuck around a long time, just happy to hang out together.

Why does this matter to you? Because you don't need a million balloons, or the perfect cake, or any sort of over the top nonsense for a great party.

It's a platitude, but that is because it's true, and we should all pay attention to it more. What does your kid actually find fun? Do that. Serve treats. Take some pressure off yourself and actually enjoy it. Paring it down to the actually fun elements is a great way to cut out that spending that is maybe, more for you than your kid. Buy less, and focus on fun instead.

Want another hint? Go outside. Just being outside sends happy chemicals to people's brains. Think of some fun stuff to do outside, no matter what season, and be surprised just how awesome the party is.

2. Put your Invites Online

And less you have someone on the guest list who is internet-averse, online invites are perfectly acceptable (and don't use any paper!) Honestly, we just do facebook events, so simple and it keeps track of everything for us. Another great option is; not only do they send a cute online invitation, they also politely harass your guests to RSVP and even asks for pictures afterwards.

Not finding what you want? Paperless Post also creates really cute invitations.

3. Use the Plates and Silverware You Already Own

I have two little ones and I get how totally exhausting life is just on a regular daily basis. Blerg. So when you throw a party on top, that can feel totally draining, and cutting a corner or two feels really good.

That said, one of the easiest ways to save money AND have a more positive impact is to stay away from disposables. Whatever you already own is the best option for plates and silverware. It may feel worth it to shell out 10 bucks to not have to wash it, but those plastic silverware and cups will still be in our land and water when your child is having their 90th birthday, slowly leeching toxic chemicals into their water and world. If you can make what you already own (and reuse) work, it is always worth it for a cleaner world.

If you don't have enough, check your local thrift shop. A pile of Corelle plates can supplement your collection. And they don't break. So that is a big bonus.

4. Or Find Compostable Options

Ok, if that sounds absolutely terrible to you and you just can't do it, don't despair, this is still an opportunity to do some good! Just by switching to something that will break down, you can cut down the waste from your party and still avoid dish mountain.

Check out this post for a huge list of options for compostable silverware, plates, cups, and more. 

When in doubt, always choose the paper option. Even better? Choose the recycled paper option. They really are out there. They won't have characters' faces on them, but your kid does not care. If you want to bring in the characters, why not at least do it with something they can play with later? Just leave the plates as a place to put food.

Also, skip juice boxes! They are so easy, and kids love them, but they are pure waste. Cut up some strawberries and put them in your lemonade to make it fun. Buy a fun punch bowl or fill the one you have with silly shaped ice.

5. No Gifts

When I was a kid, birthday parties meant showing up with a gift, and opening your gifts in front of people. In lots of places, that is still the norm, but not everywhere. It doesn't have to be the norm. For me, it is really important that my kids don't just associate celebrating with receiving stuff. I want to model from the very beginning that life is about memories made, not acquisitions, and that what you own is one of the least interesting things about you.

So we ask our guests not to bring gifts. Family still sends gifts (they all live far away), but the friends party is usually close to gift free.

This has lots of bonus benefits. First, it is better for the environment. Our overconsumption is a key factor in climate change, as the shipping of (mostly plastic) stuff wastes tons of fossil fuels and other resources. Anywhere we can cut off our overconsumption is excellent for the Earth, and we tend to go way overboard for holidays like these. Show your kids you love them with presence, not presents.

The other big benefit? Less for you to clean! Seriously, our house is already overflowing, and I bet yours is too. People love buying kids BIG things.

Want to ask your guests to not bring gifts, but you aren't sure how to do it? Check this post for tons of ideas

There are tons of variations on this too- do a book switch or stuffie switch instead, so everyone comes with a gift and leaves with one! If you know people are going to be anxious coming empty-handed, this is a great way to ease them into it.

Will everyone listen? Of course not! When do people ever listen to parents about their children? Don't stress about the people that don't listen, instead, feel excited that you limited the plastic junk coming into your house. And if you are swimming against the current, you have just empowered a bunch of parents to throw their own "no gift" party.

6. Really Think about Your Favors (Or Skip Them)

If you are asking your guests to buck capitalist expectations and come without buying things, why aren't you doing the same thing? Instead of doing favors, consider doing a craft where everyone can take something home, seeds they can plant, or just don't give anything at all.

I work at a place with birthday parties, where the kids get a "goodie bag" at the end. After many, many parties, you know what I have noticed? Kids don't care. In fact, if they are done with treats and back to playing, their parents often have to twist their arm to come back for the goodie bag. Consistently, one is left behind. Kids don't care about this stuff, and they just want to play with their friends. And can you remember one goodie bag item that became a treasured toy in your house? Just skip it, and be free.

7. Balloons are Trashy

Balloons are so great, right? Cheap and easy, and they can make everything look festive with minimal fuss and preparation. Plus, kids love to play with them. Perfect for a kids party!

Sadly, balloons really blow. They, like so much out there, do not decompose quickly or easily and add to the growing mountains of waste in our world. They also are particularly bad for animals, because they can easily be mistaken for something else. It's time to find a new balloon-free normal.

Want to have festive decorations, but you aren't sure how to skip balloons? Check this post for tons of ideas about what to use instead

People won't notice or mind, and tons of the alternatives (crepe paper, tissue paper puffs, etc) are also pretty easy and quick. And I have watched kids happily play with both, so your kids can still have fun that way!

There are other ways to rethink the decor- if you have the party in a beautiful or busy place (like the outdoors), you don't have to do much.

Think of decorations as a thing you reuse, instead of one off materials- paper lanterns and fabric bunting can be reused again and again. I also love the idea of using toys you already own as your inspiration AND materials! Lego birthday decorations are dang cute, and you can just take them apart and keep playing after the party!

8. Say Hello to Secondhand

When I was a kid, there was still a lot of stigma around buying things used. Let's be the generation that knows better, because reuse just means fewer things in landfills, which is basically how the human race will survive (no pressure). First off, stop what you are doing right now, open another tab, and join your local Buy Nothing group, your local buy and sell groups, your local freecycle group. It will save you so much money!

I have seen people pass on everything from party tablecloths to whole Pokemon party decoration kits. Apparently everyone in my neighborhood is throwing Moana parties, because luau decorations just keep getting passed around. Party decorations usually are a one time thing, but they often have a lot of life left in them. Plug in with your reuse networks where you live and just ask! You may be surprised!

If that doesn't work, secondhand stores and Ebay can also be amazing resources. Once you have a theme or feeling in mind, you can track things down or use them as raw materials for making a new decoration. For my son's first birthday, we bought a pig tray to put the cake on, then we just returned it. I also bought the toys secondhand, which we still use. The whole thing cost us 2.99.

And you get to feel doubly good, because you are saving the world and saving yourself money. That's a pretty powerful combo!

9. Look to Pinterest, not Target, for your Theme

Ok, I love a theme. Love them. But instead of trying to buy things to fit our theme, we make them. We make a plan like a month ahead, and we craft at night while the kids are asleep and we binge a new show. For us, it is fun, but it wouldn't even have to take much time if you just pick a theme and then make food on the day to match. If you have a theme in mind, some mom blogger has already come up with ideas for it.

This Mario flower veggie plate took me about 2 minutes longer than a regular veggie plate. Food is a key tool in a low waste party, and it is just so easy!

10. Or Just Skip the Theme

"You get cake" is a perfectly acceptable birthday theme to a kid. If it isn't your thing, and you don't think your kid will care, feel strong knowing that you don't have to have a pinterest-perfect party for the kids to have fun (which takes us right back to #1- the whole point is just for the kids to have fun!). You can save a lot of money and nonsense by just embracing you are not the parent who cares about this. Just skip the obligation decorations and focus on the aspects you are excited about.

And feed people. No one misses balloons and streamers all that much, but people will get cranky if you don't feed them. Literally everything is a bonus as long as you have food.

11.  Pick Waste-Free Games

Lots of the "normal" party games (pinatas, water balloons, etc), create lots of waste. Luckily, there are tons of alternatives that are just as fun without making a bit of garbage!

- Musical Chairs. A classic! But still fun.
- Hide and Seek. Reverse Hide and Seek is a fun spin, where one person hides and everyone looks.
- Olympics. Set up some events and let all the kids try (just make sure there is lots of variety, not just super athletic things).
- Water Balloons. Yes! It's still possible. You can make (or buy) crotcheted water balloons. Thank goodness, kids can still throw stuff at each other.
- Dress Up. Costumes are always fun. You can do costume relays for older kids too.
- Car/Spaceship/Boat Boxes. Collect old boxes from your neighbors (maybe on Buy Nothing?), Glue on some "wheels," and decorate them with the kids.
- Crafts. Decorate T shirt. Make a painting. Make musical instruments and play them. You can just use containers from your own kitchen. Kids will astound you with their creativity.
- Treasure Hunt. If you have a sandbox, put "treasures" inside and have the kids dig for them. Bonus points if you send them on a hunt to lead them to the box!

What we have found to work is we basically just set up a space that's good for play, and we let them play. Sometimes we as caretakers worry people won't be having fun, but they have the most fun left to their own devices.

11 Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Kids Birthday Party

How to Have a Plastic-Free and Eco-Friendly Birthday Party for Your Kid

Congratulations and have an amazing party! How do you keep your party eco-friendly?

Want more tips on making your kids' lives greener? I have so many ideas. Check out the Green Family page for more info!

You May Also Like



Get Our Latest Posts Via Email - It's Free

Enter your email address: