If it wasn’t for the moonhopper...
So, we've had 5 years of epic themed birthdays for our daughter. There was the back yard revolution party, the tea party in the wooded Waitākere Ranges glade, the surfing party at the beach, the space party at Bethells Lake (just like being on the moon!), and this year's circus party at a local park...(see if you can spot the parties that were pre-zero waste!).
And, I've come to the realisation that themed birthday party planning...is freakin’ hard work! The invitations, the costumes, the themed playlists, the decorations, the games, the food.
So...we've decided that, next year, we're going to keep things reeeeal simple.
Anyone want to take bets on how long it is before I come up with a fun new theme and cave to the self-inflicted pressure of being the “cool party planning mum”? But, really, I’m pretty confident our daughter would be just as happy with a slice of cake and time hanging out with her friends at the beach, as she would with all the themed bells and whistles (and the frazzled mum).
We're quite fortunate to have a summer baby (yes, this post is a bit late), so every birthday so far has been outdoors (although, with our extremely volatile weather lately, this year was a bit touch and go). One of the benefits of having outdoor parties, is that mama nature provides most of the decorations. Pop up a birthday bunting, whip out the birthday cake and...hey presto, you've got a party! So, if that’s an option for you, I highly recommend it.
As for the rest of the party planning, here are some tips for creating a birthday party for your kiddiewinkle, with the least waste possible. And, with this guide, I'm making the presumption that you're as bats**t crazy as I am in that you choose to do themed parties. If some of this advice doesn't apply to you, because you don’t do themed parties...my hearty congratulations.
Go digital. Davian (my husband) is pretty handy on Photoshop and we tend to be the type of people who enjoy being unconventional (can you tell?), so, all of Savvy’s invitations have been put together without templates. However, there are a few good template invitation options out there, including Paperless Post and Greenvelope, which will save you a bit of time.
So, I mentioned the birthday bunting. I'm quite fortunate to have a sister who knows her way around a sewing machine, and we were blessed with a fabulous bunting for Savvy's first birthday (complete with revolution fist for our revolution theme). I so much love that this is a decoration that Savana can keep and use for the rest of her life. From what I understand, they are actually pretty easy to make, but if you'd prefer to outsource that particular job, Etsy or the Made by Mum facebook page are good places to start.
We also have a stack of old-school colourful woollen blankets that we collected years ago for our wedding - we spread them on the grass to give events a festive, picnicky feel. We have flags which we made, using bamboo sticks and colourful fabric - we stick these into the ground around the party site (these are also helpful for redirecting lost guests). And, this year, we added a couple of rainbow bunting to our party kit, so we're now fully sorted for any future party needs and don't need any of those nasty ole balloons (yes, yes, I know they're fun...but they are also almost-instantly rubbish).
If you're creating a zero waste party, it goes without saying that you're buying as little new stuff as possible. Same applies for the costumes. Hit up your local costume hire shop, scrounge something off your friends or make your own. It doesn't have to be elaborate. For this year's circus party, I donned an electric blue bob wig that I nabbed secondhand off TradeMe and it was instant party! It's since been added to Savana's dress-up box and has been getting a fair bit of use.
And, brace yourself for my husband's costume (which he got from First Scene costume hire)...😂
Games & Activities...
Prior to this year, we didn't have any specific activities / games set up at Savana’s parties. It's pretty simple when they're little (and again, this is another benefit of having your party outside) - the kids just run around and play and go for a swim. But, this year, with Savvy being a bit older, we decided to organise some activities and games.
As it was a circus party, our activities revolved around the theme of clowning around. So, we had a dress-up box that the kids (and adults!) could help themselves to. We had skipping ropes, balls, hula hoops, frisbees, a moonhopper (which came to an untimely end - more on that later), homemade tin can stilts, dancing ribbons, bubbles, sidewalk chalk and Savvy’s little play circus tent which we put circus-themed books inside (yes, I know what you’re thinking…”no wonder she doesn’t want to do themed parties anymore!”)
And these are the games that we played:
Pin the nose on the clown (an oldie but a goodie)
By the way...can you guess who the clown is?
It’s me! At my school clown day, aged 6 (and no, I didn’t create this painting especially for the party - I’m a little crazy, but not completely insane...it was a half-finished art assignment from teacher training college many years ago).
Anyway, I have a vivid memory of my 6 year old self being extremely late for school that day because my mum always loved to go over-the-top for dress-up days (wait, I’m seeing a pattern here). So, I walk into class, god knows how late. Everyone else has on these slap-dash costumes with a bit of lipstick smeared on their cheeks...and there I am in the doorway, full-on CLOWN. Haha...thanks mum!
This is a great game...IF the kids haven’t already consumed a shed-full of sugar (note to future self, do NOT put lollies in jars for kids to help themselves to!).
Also, big ups to Trade Aid for being one of the only chocolate brands in New Zealand to use home-compostable packaging (where you at, Whittaker’s?)
Finger food is great as there's no need for cutlery (one less thing to haul to the party!).
Also, I recommend that you hit up your local bulk store for unpackaged snacky goodies. Options include pretzels, peanuts and lollies (but not too many lollies!).
You might also like to offer other tasty treats such as...
- Fresh seasonal fruit
- Mini corn on the cob
- Homemade bikkies (I briefly considered icing these to look like clown faces...but I am arse at the art of icing and I decided that I had already done ENOUGH! Unusually sensible of me)
And I guess it wouldn't be a birthday party without the cake...just remember the beeswax birthday candles!
(all our party food was gathered from our local fruit & vege shop, bulk store and supermarket, using reusable bags)
- Homemade ginger beer
- Homemade kombucha
- Phoenix juice (in glass bottles)
There are compostable dinnerware options out there, but use reusables if you can (gather an assortment of cheap plates / cutlery from op shops, borrow from friends or ask everyone to literally BYO plate).
We have a handy collection of melamine plates and we also used a few compostable potato pak bowls leftover from our wedding.
BYO reusable cups (we used a combination of glassware and compostable cups that we had leftover from a past event - one of the glasses broke, so I think, in future, we’ll be opting for a non-breakable option).
Remember to bring along a labelled lidded container to gather your food scraps which you can then take home to add to your compost.
Most of our friends and family get that sustainability is important to us, but we had also invited a couple of people who we hadn’t known for very long. So, this is the little gift blurb that we included in our invitation email:
“Just a request for anyone who wants to get Savvy a gift, something zero waste would be great (e.g. minimal plastic / secondhand / experiences). Or, just bring yourself!”. It worked a treat. Savvy got some lovely gifts ...and with minimal waste.
And, that just about wraps up this guide to zero waste kids’ birthday parties.
Lastly though, the ultimate pro-tip for party planning: Do not...I repeat...do not...under any circumstances, seek inspiration from Pinterest. The parties on there have been put together by paid professionals...or mums who are even bats***t crazier than I am. You’re welcome.
Oh, and what happened to the moon hopper, you ask? Let’s just say, don’t let the guy dressed as a strong man sit on a child’s moonhopper.