Kids parties are arguably the homeland for single-use plastic. Many products marketed for parties are designed to be thrown away…I’m looking at you plastic plates…so making a party more ‘eco’ sounds like a big challenge. However, it turns out there are lots of things you can do which are pretty easy. We’ve curated a list of our favourite ideas here.
- Instead of synthetic bunting, made from polyester or nylon how about trying natural fibre bunting made from cotton or hemp? They’re very simple to make from old clothes.
- Search secondhand first – op-shops often have lots of pre-loved party decorations.
- Buy, Swap, Sell groups on Facebook and other online marketplaces often have kids party decorations listed. And often for free. (They’re also a good place to list yours once you’re kids have outgrown them.)
- Put the word out to friends, family and neighbours and see if you can borrow. Someone’s bound to have what you need.
- Go natural and use flowers or foliage.
- Leaf confetti is gorgeous. Get your kids involved in this one, it’s so simple to punch holes in leaves with standard hole punches and scatter these at the party.
- The best thing about decorations is that they’re reusable. You can save them year after year, and child after child and most items are easy to repair; so there’s no need to be throwing away decorations.
- Bubbles not balloons. The humble bubble is not only better for the planet (they don’t end up in shearwaters’ stomachs or turtles’ tummies) but they’re also easier to make. Making bubbles is very simple, you probably already have the ingredients you need – liquid dish soap, water, and if you want super strong bubbles light corn syrup or glycerin will ensure that. There are plenty of inventive recipes for mixes online – for instance, try food colouring for rainbow bubbles.
- For your bubble wands, well you’ve got a party activity checked off your list with some crafting! You can make these out of pipe cleaners by creating a loop and twisting the ends together. Kids of all ages will love to make their own bubble wand, and the best part is, if you put some beads on the tails – voila you have fairy wands for when you’re finished with bubbles. The Zoos Victoria campaign ‘When Balloons Fly, Seabirds Die’ has great resources you can share with your kids on opting for bubbles instead of balloons.
Plates and Cutlery
If you don’t trust your little ones with the fine china – we’re with you.
- Ask your guests to bring their own REUSABLE cups and plates, especially for parties in parks and outdoors (but be mindful to specify why or you might find everyone brings disposables)
- Borrow plates from friends and family
- These are also easy to find at secondhand stores. Then you have them for all subsequent parties.
- Another option is compostable plates and cutlery made from palm leaves or bamboo. These are readily available online from multiple retailers including OfficeWorks, GreenPack, Eco Party Box and BioPak.
Kids don’t usually eat great amounts at parties. As long as you have a cake and a few other things, they’re pretty much satisfied. Avoid plates of half-eaten sausage rolls and other food waste, try these ideas instead:
- Make finger food; your kids will eat less than you think and be far too full of cake.
- It’s tricky for busy parents to make everything themselves. But if you start weeks out and freeze the food, you’ll reduce your party packaging and (as a bonus) be a lot less stressed on party day.
- Cut food into smaller pieces – you’ll end up with less half eaten food at the end of the party. Kids’ eyes are often bigger than their stomachs.
- Leftover sandwiches make great packed lunches, so don’t make anything you can’t keep for a few days.
- If you end up with lots of leftovers, give your guests the gift of free food and let them take some home.
Party games are one of the easiest to make eco because most of them don’t require anything except enthusiasm. Here are a few of our most loved games.
No prop games:
- Duck, Duck, Goose: a true, tried and tested classic. Change it to whatever you like to suit your kid’s latest obsession. For example, Paw Patrol fans can use Marshall, Marshall, Chase. Or Ninjago fans use Kai, Kai, Garmadon.
- Sleeping lions: if the sugar high is spiraling into mania, this is the perfect game. Everyone has to stay as still as a snoozing cat while an adult walks around checking for wiggles, giggles and wriggles. You can speed up the process by telling your best dad jokes.
- Musical statues: another time-honoured game for kids, requiring nothing but a phone or a CD player.
- For most of the party, the kids will entertain themselves (kids are pretty good at this!).
- Treasure hunt: a forever favourite, just hide clues around your home or garden that lead to a prize. This is great for getting the kids to think independently and get those brain waves flowing.
- Check out your local toy library. For a small annual fee you can borrow thousands of quality toys, games and dress-up clothes for the party. Become a member and get toys year round.
- Pass-the-parcel: all you need is an old newspaper or some other paper you’re finished using that can then make amazing layers to recycle later. Avoid (your typical) plastic toy prize, give them a ticket to a local fun park, the zoo, or any other local experience instead.
- Set up a station to decorate mini plant pots and then plant some seeds, anything easy to grow will do. This can also then become a party bag filler!
- Make your own masks from old cardboard or paper. Use things you have around the house like bottle tops, dried pasta, sparkly ribbons, or just simple colouring will do, then the kids can wear them at the party and have something to take home with them.
- Make your own pinata out of old newspapers! This one’s a lot easier than it seems and is something the kids can get involved in. Start this one at least a week in advance though because the glue will need time to dry.
- Bake some cupcakes and have the kids decorate them. Doubles as a bonus party bag favour they can take home.
When it comes to kids toys, it’s hard to avoid plastic, so here are a few ideas to help:
- Instead of brand new gifts, ask your guests to bring one toy they no longer want and re-gift it. Kids don’t care! A pre-loved toy is just as much fun as a new one.
- Ask for op shop books or experiences like vouchers or movie tickets
- Ask your guests to bring things to donate to a local charity like blankets and tinned food. Then let your child be the one who drops it all off, they will get an amazing sense of good from it and so will you!
- Buy a gift from GoodSmiths, that way you know it’s ethical and been made sustainably and there’s a whole range of gifts dedicated to kids.
Wrapping paper & Invitations
Wrapping paper is one of the biggest wastes post-party because all the dyes, sparkles and fancy things that go on wrapping paper makes almost all of it un-recyclable. Brown paper is a good alternative but it’s still pretty wasteful, so here are some other zero-waste options:
- Use your kids’ art! How many of their masterpieces do you have tucked away? Put them to good use by wrapping gifts with them.
- Fabric wrapping: Fabric is an amazing alternative, it comes in so many different patterns and colours identical to standard gift wrap. Fabric wrapping is nothing new either it’s actually traditional to Japanese cultures and it’s called furoshiki, take a look at how Marie Kondo does it.
- Old newspapers and maps: Just use what’s on hand in your home, newspapers may look a bit dull but given a bit of paint they’ll be a show stopper. Out of date maps are also beyond cool just the way they are!
- Tins, jars and pouches: Perfect for re-using, again and again, these are perfect for wrapping gifts up, you can decorate them with anything you like, such as ribbons, bows, shells.
Invitations can be produced electronically and we’re fans of the creative designs at Greenvelope. If you’d like to add your child’s personal touch, then a photo incorporating their artwork is ideal and can be sent via text message. Or if you still like the idea of paper invitations, recycled paper options are ideal, or find beautiful invitations and support education in Nepal and buy with Loktaa.
Making an environmentally friendly party bag sounds more frightening than it is, we promise.
Party bag fillers are simple:
- If you wanted to get creative, how about making your own felt flowers or finger puppets
- Bulk buy lollies rather than individually wrapped items to cut down on plastic waste
- Make your own cookies or cupcakes (see above for games ideas and let the kids decorate their own at the party)
- Make your own Playdoh
- A packet of seeds
- Books from secondhand shops
- Toys from secondhand shops (have a box and the kids can choose what they like)
- A jar of dry ingredients for a cookie mixture. Just include the recipe and what needs to be added.
- Tiny journals for kids to write in
For the bags themselves, let your birthday child decorate paper bags or make them from upcycled magazine. Then everyone leaves with a personalised bag.
Kids parties like all things we do towards sustainability aren’t about getting it perfect. It’s all about learning what you can change and trying. Have a great party!