Feature

Simple kids’ parties

Green Lifestyle

Keeping birthday celebrations simple can be greener... and less stressful to organise, with these 4 top tips.

Simple parties

Kids don’t need all the plastic, disposable decorations available online or in party shops. The main thing is just that the party looks and feels festive!

Credit: Photo by Louise Lister; Styling and DIY by Gail Kendrick

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As much as we love our little munchkins and want to celebrate their big day, children’s birthday parties are often a bit of a headache. Synonymous with waste, mess, excess, and expense, these parties can be a nightmare for the sustainably-minded parent. But they don’t have to be. There are a lot of great ways to rein in the party madness and throw a bash you can feel good about and that your child will enjoy.

Before we get to how to make a party greener, there is one over-riding principle – keep it simple! If you stick with the mantra less is more, you can’t go wrong. Fewer guests, simpler food and fewer activities will lead to an easier, stress-free party with less mess and less fuss but, importantly, will be just as much fun.

Like so many areas of modern life, birthday parties have become subject to commercialisation and materialism. There can be a lot of competition over the lavishness of parties. Parents often feel pressured to put on a good show with the most exciting party theme, the fanciest food and the best party bags. But at the end of the day, isn’t it about having fun and the birthday boy or girl feeling special? That should be the focus of party planning. Forget the rest.

Jo Hegerty, from the website Down To Earth Mother, says, “It is entirely possible to go completely overboard when hosting a green kids party. Before you order those bamboo party plates, ask yourself: What do kids really want at a party?”

So, keeping ‘simple’ in mind, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of 4 top tips to keep a party as eco-friendly as possible.

1.) Invitations
Forget the glossy, store-bought invites, and save some paper. E-invites are a great way to go, especially for older children who may already have their own email addresses. There are a number of good online options including Smilebox, Evite and Paperless Post. But for many children, part of the excitement of having a party comes in giving out invitations to friends. There are plenty of ways to make invites with materials you have at home. Reuse old magazines, cards, paper and craft supplies to make fun, personal invitations. There are some Earth-friendly options for time-constrained parents available online, such as those from Earth Greetings.

2.) Decorations
Kids don’t need all the commercialised, disposable decorations that you can find online or in party shops. They don’t need the matching plastic banner, tablecloth, and plate sets. They just want the party to look festive. Before heading out to the shops, think about items that you might have at home that you could use to jazz things up: posters, pictures, toys and colourful cushions, throws or tablecloths. Nature can also be a great source for decorating materials, such as flowers, leaves, stones, and shells.

Kids can make some decorations too. Colourful posters, banners, or chains (using recycled paper, of course) are all festive and fun. Or perhaps start a new birthday tradition and invest in decorations that can be used year after year, like a cloth birthday banner or bunting (check out www.ecopartybox.com.au). Or, you may like to collect some bright, special plates, cups, and other tableware that are only brought out for these fun occasions.

3.) Party Food
Although a birthday party wouldn’t be a party if it weren’t a bit of a sugar-fest, keep it green by providing unprocessed, preservative-free party fare. Fresh and simple should be your guidelines. And don't forget to ask if there are any food allergies. Think fruit kebabs, smoothies, homemade ice blocks and ice creams, homemade popcorn, mini pizzas, little sandwiches, and bite-sized cookies. Stay away from over-packaged foods, especially those that are individually portioned. Try not to serve the goodies on disposable tableware if possible, but if the washing up is just too much, the Eco Party Box has plenty of greener choices.

And for the most important party food, the cake, nothing is quite like one that is homemade. So get out those mixing bowls and cake tins and give it a go. But if you are not a baker and the idea of making a cake from scratch terrifies you, there are plenty of organic cake mixes out there. Pressed for time? Have a look at www.birthdaycake.com.au, where you will be able to source a baker near you who can make a real cake.

4.) Party Bags
It seems party bags are almost de rigueur. As they are more often than not filled with cheap plastic toys that are almost instantly broken and lollies you don’t want your kids eating anyway, most parents would do away with them in an instant. But better alternatives are possible.

If you want to give out traditional party bags, use a reusable or recyclable container. Paper bags and paper cups can be decorated by your kids for a personal touch, or fill a glass, coffee mug, or little basket with goodies.

Steer clear of plastic junk. Fill bags with healthy (or at least naturally coloured and flavoured) treats, and eco-friendly toys. Finger puppets, pencils, notebooks, and colouring pages are all good ideas. Again, have a look online at the Eco Party Box for party bag ideas.

There are ways other than handing out the ubiquitous party bag to thank your little guests for coming. Homemade treats are fun. A giant cookie, party cupcake or some rocky road would put a smile on any departing party guest’s face. A little nosegay of flowers would be a lovely idea for a girl’s party. A lucky dip is always a favourite. Fill a box with eco-friendly items such as those mentioned above and let each child have a dip as they leave. Or do a craft project during the party and let the kids take home what they made as a parting gift.

Overall, pared-down and thoughtful party planning is the key to a green party. By minimising waste and fuss, not only will your party be more Earth-friendly, but you are likely to find it will be a lot less stressful and much more fun for everyone.

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For even more ideas, check out our extended Guide to throwing a kids eco-party.