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10 Eco-friendly kids birthday party tips

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Low-cost party tips for kids

Every birthday party is an exciting occasion for your child – the gathering of friends and family, the birthday cake and presents, the party games and entertainment. Such a production (though your child is certainly worth it and more) is not always a welcome event for your wallet. Nor are typical kid-friendly parties, particularly with all the paper waste, easy on the environment. To help you reduce both the budgetary and environmental costs while still making your child feel extra special for the day, here are 10 eco-friendly birthday party tips.

Little girl with green party favor

Here are our 10 tips for eco-friendly birthday parties for kids!

1. Involve your child in eco-birthday party planning

Start planning your child's birthday party a few weeks ahead of time, and involve her in the party planning. An eco-friendly birthday party may initially sound disappointing to her, but instead of presenting it as a party that will have "less" than last year, stir up her excitement to throw a uniquely themed green party that will help protect the environment. She can feel proud that she is helping to save the Earth while still having a day dedicated to her birthday celebration.

2. Consider a charitable cause

If your child is a budding philanthropist, he may get even more excited about an eco-friendly birthday party if his birthday party is for a good cause. ECHOage.com, a charity-driven, online birthday party service where you can plan an entire children's party from invites to thank you notes, has nearly 25 US and Canadian-based charities from which your child can choose. (Bonus: Donations are tax-deductible.)

3. Send eco-friendly invitations

Sending paper invitations is the first step in the waste generated by birthday parties. If you are going to send paper invites, buy ones made from recycled paper. A more earth-friendly and economical option is electronic invitations. Online invitation services, such as Evite.com, save you time, money spent on paper invitations and postage as well as reduce the impact on the environment (most paper invites end up in the trash bin).

4. Request eco-friendly gifting

Does your child really need a dozen more toys? Though giving gifts is part of the birthday party fun, shredding paper and boxes for an overkill of playthings isn't beneficial for your child or the environment. Give your child the option of having guests bring green things, such as seeds, live plants, farmers' market finds that support local farmers, or even a toy or book from their own homes. Another option is having guests bring items to support a charity, such as donations for a local church, food kitchen, humane shelter, or another similar organization. Designate this on the invitations.

5. Ask for green-themed gift wrapping

No need to deprive your child of the fun of unwrapping gifts, simply ask guests to bring their eco-friendly gifts wrapped in newspaper or reusable gift bags. You can even designate on the party invitations that the greenest gift will win a prize, which can be a green age-appropriate item. An alternative is to skip wrapping altogether and use Giiv.com. More appropriate for kids old enough to have their own cell phones and spend part of their day texting on it, this online gift service lets a gift giver choose a gift from participating retailers then send a gift code via text to the recipient notifying them of the gift.

6. Green the birthday party food and drink

Instead of the usual kids birthday party fare – frosted, decorated birthday cake, candy favors and sugary juice drinks – consider healthier alternatives. Bypass the sugar-laden cake frosted with shortening and more sugar for a homemade zucchini or carrot cake frosted with a cream cheese frosting or even lightly whipped cream. Bake lower-sugar cookies made with whole wheat (or gluten-free) flour, flax and oats. Turn fruits, vegetables and other wholesome foods into kid-friendly finger food. Sideline the artificially colored, sugary drinks and serve 100 percent fruit and/or vegetable juice.

7. Invest in reusuable party dishware

Plastic or styrofoam cups and disposable dishware and utensils may be convenient, but tossing them in the garbage when the party is over means their end destination is a landfill. Invest in reusable partyware that you can clean and put away in between festive kid-friendly occasions. In the long run, reusable partyware will save you money, minimize waste and protect the environment.

8. Use eco-friendly decor

Whether your kid's birthday party in indoors or outside, minimize the eco-hazard décor, such as balloons, foil banners and plastic trinkets. Decorate with plants or fabric that can be reused. You can even make one of the party games a decorating activity using recycled paper, cardboard and nontoxic adhesive, crayons and paints. Eco-friendly birthday party decorations are also more economical.

9. Stage eco-friendly games

Make one of the first games an art activity letting kids draw their favorite animal (without its tail) on a piece of cardboard, drawing the animal's tail on a small strip of recycled paper, then randomly choose a drawing to be featured in a "pin the tail on the animal" game. Let your kids burn off some energy by rallying a game of hide-and-seek or tag, if the party is outdoors. If holding an indoor gathering, try Twister or a game of dance-stop, during which kids dance while music is playing then must quickly stop when you or another person at the party stops the tunes. Another eco-friendly option is to have kids randomly pick packs of seeds and plant flowers, herbs or small vegetables in small pots they can take home. These eco-friendly games are cheap, easy and fun.

10. Green your goodie bags

Instead of plastic toys and miniature candy bars in single-use bags, fill small reusable bags with homemade trailmix, granola bars or another healthy home-baked treat, a pack of seeds, and a tiny plant container. Include a note asking each child to enjoy the goodies, plant the seeds, and write a story about how the seeds grow. Candy-based goodie bags may deliver instant gratifation, but living gifts, like seeds and plants, will help teach kids about the Earth and make a lasting memory of your child's green-themed birthday.

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