“Cost-effective” and “eco-friendly” aren’t terms that commonly correspond with your children’s birthday party. Between invitations, party favours, food, and supplies, the costs add up – both in our bank account and the toll on the environment.
But with a few tweaks here, and a couple shifts there, you can make it green this year – without losing the birthday cheer.
You don’t have to invite them all
It really isn’t necessary to invite every student in your kid’s class. Yes, you might get a little flack from fellow PTA parents or a classmate or two might make a comment (that will soon be forgotten), but in the long run, is it worth it just to please others? Smaller gatherings are often better – the children feel more confident in their surroundings, and it’s easier for parents to keep track of what is going on. If the kids are on the younger side it’s nice to invite the parents to come along, without worrying about the amount of people coming.
Separate the parties
Although one big party might be less work and seemingly less expensive, it’s probably just the opposite. Invite family over for a “cake only” ‘do, not worrying about a full day of entertaining. Kids who have many cousins the same age, then, will be entertained by their built-in friends, and that saves those extra heads at the school-friends party.
Pass on the play zones
Growing up, we always had our birthday parties at home, filled with games like “drop-the-clothespin-in-the-jar”, and, years later, manhunt in the park down the road. Now, it baffles me to see halls and play centres booked for venues. Regardless that “everyone might be doing it”, haul it back to the homestead, planning a day packed with activities and excitement. Alternatively, think of low-cost or free things to do. Do you live near a beach? How about a museum? What about a park? Explore alternative spots in your area – in addition, this’ll keep the headcount to a minimum, if your car or van can fit only so many kids.
Invite via Internet
We’re undoubtedly in a world that relies more on emails and Blackberry’s than the ol’ telephone. Send emails to the parents with the plan, or use a service, such as Evite.
If you’re really keen on “real” invitations, make your own. Visit the dollar store, a haven for clever card-making supplies, and the possibilities are endless.
Can the clowns
Picture this: you’re five years old, craving some cake, dying to play in the dirt, and you’re asked to sit still in front of a clown or magician for an hour. Perfect party fun or or a flat-lined fiesta? Kids are far too antsy to sit still that long, and you’re better off with hands-on games and activities than abra-ca-da-bra.
Hype up healthier options
Carrot sticks might not conquer potato chips, but offering healthier options in fun ways is bound to meet approval. Instead of juice or ice cream, form a smoothie bar. Kids can choose their ingredients and be in charge of button pressing. Set it up buffet style with tasty titles. Fruit makes a satisfying snack, especially on hot summer days. Pair trays of watermelon with a seed-spitting contest, or see who can peel a tangerine all in one spiral.
For dessert, decorate your own. Make a couple batches of cupcakes – vanilla and chocolate – and set the table with healthy decorating options: juice-sweetened fruit snacks, dark chocolate chips, and homemade icings. There will be less waste because they make their own choices, and having a little more control of what feeds their bellies will keep sugar-highs to a minimum. (Their parents will thank you, too).
Using fresh foods reduces waste, and is less expensive than pre-packed snacks.
Pitch the paper plates
If you have younger kids, you probably have plates in your home designed for them. Using these instead of disposable plates is an easy way for less waste and less cost. Sure, cleanup might take a little longer, but because you’ve pared down the party numbers will make it go by in a breeze. If you don’t have enough, ask a close fellow mom if you can borrow a load. And swapping the cake for DIY cupcakes can be done directly on the tablecloth, fork-free.
Bid adieu to balloons
Balloons are treated with ammonia, tetramethyl thiuram disulfide, zinc oxide and added plasticizers – and frankly, they aren’t very green. If they aren’t there, they won’t miss ‘em.
Goody bags are exciting for any kid, but pumping them full of candy and useless items is just a waste. Before the event, get crafty with your child with homemade gifts. Try hemp or beaded bracelets, each with a personalized touch to fit their friend’s personality. Alternately, bake a few batches of different cookies with your child, then get paper Chinese take-out containers from your local craft store, and fill them with the treats. Add the recipes for the parents.
Want to add a little more? Have a take-home craft project with instructions provided.
Adopt the No-Gift birthday
Many children are keen to give and do something special – it makes them feel important and teaches them a valuable lesson. Suggest a no-gift birthday, where their friends will bring something to help others in need. Assure your child they’ll still get gifts – from you, their grandparents, and other family members – but then someone else gets something, too. The gift doesn’t have to be bought – ask the parents they bring an old toy or book (in good condition). Because it’s a donation, wrapping is not necessary and at the party, make it like a show-and-tell, so the children can share their generous gesture with their friends.
If you do choose gifts, ask the parents to wrap gifts in newspaper.
Plaster your own pinata
Sure, it might not be as fancy as a Dora the Explorer one from the local party store, but with kids, the eyes are strictly on the prize. Fill it with useful trinkets, such as erasers and hair elastics, and single-servings of healthier treats.
After the event: Thank-yous
Like the invite, send an e-thank you. Quick and easy with just little effort for the child, it is an appreciated touch .
Birthdays don’t have to be the big bash that makes them overly extravagant. With a little creativity, a little goes a long way in your child’s celebration. Keep them involved in the process – it’ll teach them valuable skills and make them extra-excited about the end result.
Image courtesy of dancedentistry.com