These green ideas for children’s parties prove that you don’t have to be a party pooper, just to throw a less polluting party for little ones. All children love a party, and there are plenty of alternatives to releasing balloons and giving McDonald’s all your hard-earned cash to fill them up with factory-farmed junk food.
Did you know that the average birthday party for a child now costs £300, with some parents spending £800? Mamalina writes that it’s time to move (back) to a time when ‘pass the parcel’ and homemade cake made the day.
- Forget the plastic and invest in some reusable cutlery which is made from biodegradable materials like bamboo or corn, to compost or bin safely.
- Party Kit Network offers hire kits of reusable plates, bowls and cups, along with other items. Run by an eco social enterprise, you can then give them back, at end of use.
- Eco Party Bags & Little Otter Party Supplies both sell pre-filled party bags with plastic-free goodies. Think colouring pencils, wooden ladybird keyrings and wildflower seed packets to save the bees (see make your garden safe for pets, to avoid toxic plants near animal friends).
- As long as you are not going to leave any litter, consider an outdoor park or picnic, rather than hiring a venue. See how to enjoy a zero waste picnic.
- Hire a compassionate clown. Some do use balloons (so ask them not to). But these trained actors offer oodles of fun, with no live animals.
- Conscious Craft sells nontoxic face paint that is free from animal ingredients, and washes off with soap and water. Eco Glitter Fun is a biodegradable alternative to toxic plastic glitter, which prevents microplastics in our waterways.
- Expert advice is to not fly kites, as string can choke or strangle birds in the air. If you use them, choose biodegradable kites (slightly less dangerous) and avoid at dawn and dusk, when birds are more likely flying.
Forget balloons (harmful to wildlife) and use pretty bunting. If you use balloons, use indoors or tie securely with raffia/jute and dispose of responsibly (don’t leave string/ribbon in garden, as birds take it back to nests, who then choke or strangle). After use, deflate balloons slowly with scissors (near the knot) and bin securely (these and bouncy balls are also choking hazards).
Give Ronald a Miss
We’ve all heard that in ‘normal life’, parents often take their children to have a party at McDonald’s. Due to recent criticism, McDonald’s has now committed to removing hard plastic toys from their stores, though you could be more ambitious and be like the town that saw off McDonald’s.
The website states that if you hire McDonald’s for a party for up to 10 children, they get 10 Happy Meals (a main of burger or nuggets, a side of French fries, salad or apple slices – you can guess which one they’ll choose! – and a drink). Obviously a children’s party is not about eating muesli, but there are better options out there. The firm then include goodie bags for each child, invites, placemats, party hats, a birthday cake with candles, ice cream and a special gift for the Birthday Child from Ronald McDonald (a US actor who left due to being unhappy about promoting ‘happy cows’ and is now a vegetarian campaigner)
The corporate branding is just as disturbing. There is something almost North Korean about it: everyone who has a birthday always has to go to the same place owned by the same brand, where the same ‘man’ celebrates your birthday. It’s all a bit surreal and creepy. And if there is an allergic or vegan child who attends, he or she can’t ‘join the party’ without forgoing food (as you’re not allowed to bring anything extra). And if you do eat it, you must sign a Release of Harm form so if a child chokes, it’s not their fault.
On the other hand, the ‘shaming’ of parents who use the brand is just as bad. Obviously one reason they are used is because McDonald’s makes huge profits, so it’s a more affordable option than hiring your own community centre and buying everything separately. Why not go back to your own childhood and do what all the kids love: put on a fun kids’ CD, and play musical chairs?