Skip to main content

Host a Less Wasteful Kids’ Birthday Party With These Tips

Plus, eco-friendly birthday themes they’ll love

Writer author Allison Holm and family on a ferry in Puget Sound

Published on: March 19, 2024

Messy house after birthday party

If birthday bashes conjure up images of popped balloons and garbage bags full of plastic partyware, consider going green and throwing a more eco-friendly birthday party for your little one. 

To start, consider using online invitations like Evite or Paperless Post. Or consider using recyclable or sustainable items, such as homemade paper, packets of seeds with a message, or invites crafted from scrap paper to invite people to the party.

When decorating, include materials such as felt, cardboard, Mason jars and string lights. Twine and sheet music or colored fabric make for charming bunting, while Chinese lanterns add ambiance.

"Fabric bunting for a green eco-friendly birthday party"
A simple fabric bunting looks festive and can be used again and again.

Skip the juice boxes and single-use snack packs and opt for seasonal fruits, veggies and healthy snacks instead. Fill a beverage dispenser with lemonade, and stock a few platters with local market goodies and homemade fare.

When it comes to games, ditch the disposable duds and go classic with the tried and true: hopscotch, musical chairs and freeze tag, to name a few. Goody bags might include a craft from the party, a tree to plant or a decorated cupcake.

As for gifts, consider asking guests to bring diapers and baby goods to donate to an organization supporting families in need, or request donations to a charity of your child’s choice (perhaps even try a “fiver” birthday party).

How about some eco ideas? We’ve got you covered with these five party theme ideas:

1. Beach bonanza 

Whether you live near the ocean or not, a beach-themed party can be tons of fun. If the beach is too far from your home, consider filling a kiddie pool (or two) with sand and have a sand castle-making contest. Set up a net (that will fit in your space) and let the partygoers whack a beach ball back and forth. No space at your house? Bring some outdoor games and snacks to a local park with a sandpit and you’re all set. 

Snacks can include an assortment of fresh fruit and lemonade-filled drink dispensers. If you’re really ambitious, set up the BBQ and make some veggie kabobs (food is always better on a stick!).  

If you are lucky enough to hold your birthday bash at the beach, consider organizing a beach clean-up at the beginning of the party. Whoever fills their bag with the most trash wins! 

"Kids playing in a sandbox at an eco-friendly birthday party"
Have a beach-themed birthday party anywhere you can find a sandbox. 

2. Farmers market fun

Celebrate farm-to-party style with a farmers' market theme. Burlap bunting and wood crates work well for décor, and guests can snack on seasonal produce (think fruit bowls made from watermelon rinds).

Mason jars and paper straws up the charm, and check out thrift stores for extra cutlery. Go old-school by staging potato-sack races or bobbing for apples, or set up a flower-pot-painting station. Guests could go home with a DIY garden baggy that includes seeds, a mini pot and planting directions. 

"bobbing for apples eco-friendly birthday party"
Bobbing for apples is an inexpensive, simple activity that is sure to end in lots of giggles 

3. Bookworm bash

Set the stage for your party with a handmade bookmark invite. Decorate your space with banners crafted from old book pages and set up a spot for story time. In lieu of gifts, kids could bring a gently used book to swap and make their own Little Free Libraries from old shoeboxes. Plan your snacks and treats by drawing inspiration from a favorite book. Party guests can make their own bookmark to take home.

"Reading tent eco-friendly birthday party"
Set up an elaborate reading area at your book-themed eco-friendly party 

4. Playdough party

Celebrate in squishy style with a DIY dough party. There are a variety of recipes to work with, from no-cook to edible dough varieties. Kiddos could help color and scent their playdough using kid-friendly essential oils, baking flavors or spices. Create a “loose parts station” with items such as buttons, glass gems, beads and paper straws, or set up a playdough “bakery” with silicone cupcake liners and “sprinkle” beads.

"Kids playing with play dough at an eco-friendly birthday party"
Kids can make and create with play dough, then take it home as a party favor! 

5. Upcycle extravaganza 

Make recycling fun with an “upcycle” theme. Collect boxes, paper towel rolls, buttons, spools of thread and anything else that might spur imagination. Crafts could include anything from milk carton racers and robots to dreamcatchers and tin-can planters. Set up a milk carton derby or an “upcycle art show” as your activity. 

When it comes to going green, the sky is the limit — just focus on keeping it simple and using what you already have on hand. Have fun! 

"two boys building robot out of cardboard at an eco-friendly birthday party"
Got cardboard? Then you’ve got a party! You’ll be amazed at what kids will dream up with simple supplies. 

You might also like:

Editor’s note: This article was originally published a few years ago and has been updated for 2024.

Get the best of ParentMap delivered right to your inbox.

Share this resource with your friends!