When planning a children’s party, it can be really difficult to create a magical, delicious, yet low-impact experience for your child. If you want to create an event which offers all of the above (and doesn’t cost the earth), then it is essential to plan a few things ahead of time. We have come up with a few tips on ways for you to cut costs, have fun and reduce or eliminate plastic waste from your event.

1. Party Food

  • Make-your-own (healthier) salad/sandwich buffet (think cheese(s), tomato, lettuce, cold meats, carrot sticks, hummus and other dips, hardboiled eggs, a selection of breads and whatever else tickles your fancy)
  • Fruit salad (with yoghurt or chocolate fondue on the side if you want to be decadent – just melt some chocolate with a bit of milk or cream to keep it runny)
  • Ice cream in cones
  • Popcorn is a great (and healthy) snack. You can also buy popping corn in bulk from stores such as Flame Tree Co-op, Thirroul and The Source, Wollongong. Here’s how to make perfect popcorn.
  • Fruit infused water in dispensers, or soda water mixed with natural cordial like apple juice concentrate if you want an alternative to sugary fizzy drinks
  • Borrow a special cake tin from Make-Do Library of Things in Bulli
  • Give any leftovers to guests so it doesn’t go to waste, and then compost (check out ShareWaste if you don’t have your own), bokashi or feed any scraps to your (or your neighbours’) chickens – or if you’re lucky enough to have FOGO, do that! If you’re having a party in a park, it’s easy to take a bucket along with you for food scraps.

2. Decorations

  • Reusable decorations such as bunting, homemade birthday banners (using fabric scraps or recycled paper), colourful table cloths and runners will create a festive atmosphere – and they can be tucked away and used next time.
  • Locally sourced leaves and flowers in up-cycled bottles or even pot plants from home make a cute centrepiece!
  • Hang a piece of string with your favourite photos of the birthday child and their friends and family.
  • Borrow stuff from others. Most parents will have a box of party stuff hidden away for such occasions, but otherwise, try borrowing goods from a local “library of things” such as Make-Do in Bulli

3. Party Favours

  • Just don’t have them. When it comes down to it, does any parent want another bag of cheap plastic toys and sugary lollies coming home again? Party favours can be the epitome of unnecessary consumerism and most of the goods end up going quickly into our bins, right?
  • If you are set on favours, try giving each child a second hand book or toy
  • Or a seed planted in a compostable pot (things like tomatoes and sunflowers are especially popular with kids)
  • Use a recycled paper or homemade cloth bag and buy your treats from a bulk food store. Your guests can reuse the bags at home or for gifting in the future!
  • Include pencils, home made play dough or chalk – make it a creative party bag

4. Gifts

  • Ask guests to bring two second-hand books: one for another child to take home in lieu of a party bag, and one for your child as their birthday present
  • Request second-hand or home-made gifts only
  • Ask for donations to a charity (such as buying a chicken for the Green Connect farm), or for a contribution to an “experience” gift. There are plenty of local options for birthday gift experiences such as the Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures, Flip Out in Albion Park, Early Start Discovery Space at UOW or a Green Connect Farm Tour!
  • Wrapping – Use second-hand items such as old wrapping paper, your kids’ drawings, Who Gives a Crap toilet paper wrapping (very popular!), tea towels, scarves and more. Be creative! Use second-hand ribbon (I save every ribbon I’m ever given – it’s surprising how quickly they add up) to tie up your present and avoid using tape. Or get yourself a Wrapbag to reuse many times.

5. Party Games

  • Pass the parcel. Use a second-hand gift, wrapped in second-hand layers (see gift wrapping above).
  • Treasure hunt. Hide some of your child’s soft toys in the garden and get the group to come and find them all with you. If you are really creative, you could devise some written clues to help the team find the final prize!
  • Obstacle course. Use items you have around the house for the kids to climb over, under and around. Off the couch and on to the beanbag, through the tunnel you have made from some dining chairs, around the giant teddy bear twice, jump from one pillow to the next without touching the ground, then throw a ball into a box. My kids can do this for hours!
  • I Spy. Make a list of ten things for the kids to spot around your house / garden / party location. See who can find them all first.
  • Drawing or painting. Buy some brown paper and let the guests decorate as they see fit. You can use the final product as wrapping paper in future.
  • Dress up relay. Have two or more bags of dress-ups ready (op shops like ours are great to find dresses, shirts, costumes, jewellery, hats, bags and more in). Divide the kids into teams. Each team has a runner who runs, grabs and puts on one item from the team’s bag then runs back to tag the next person in their team, who does the same. (Added complexity for older kids: the first runner has to pass the item on to the second runner before they can go). Keep going, adding layers. The winning team is the first with an empty bag. As the suggester of this game, Jane, says: “It’s really hilarious and encourages reuse of clothing. Makes a great group photo too.”
  • Scavenger hunt. Provide kids with a list of items they need to find at their local park and have them bring them back to a meeting point. Divide into teams if you want to have a little competition. Things like sticks, feathers, stones, leaves, and maybe even a piece of plastic litter! You can make it harder for older kids by being more specific – an oak leaf, a white stone, etc.
  • Fridge box. It’s amazing how much fun children have when given a big box to play with! Many retailers of white goods will have spare boxes you can pick up. Let your child and their friends create and decorate a cubby house for the day (provide crayons, something to cut windows with, etc), and then use the box for sheet mulching in your garden or put it in your recycling bin.
  • Borrow a jumping castle, giant jenga set or  sumo suits from Make-Do Library of Things in Bulli

kids farm tour

6. Party Ideas and Sustainable Venues in Wollongong

  • Op shop parties – have all the guests meet you at an op shop and give the children $5-10 each to find something fun. You can turn this in to a treasure hunt (find one toy, one book and one item of clothing). Then head home or to a local park with all the new treasures and let the kids enjoy them together.
  • Early Start Discovery Space
  • Green Connect Farm

Remember, it may be worth talking through this with your child. Kids are becoming more aware of the impact we are having on our environment and explaining the lack of balloons and plastic cups with a 5 minute conversation about marine life and environmental pollution might just be the ticket to having their full support on less glitter and more home-made goods! It’s also a good opportunity to teach them the importance of caring for the environment.

Make sure you set out clearly labelled recycling, food and rubbish bins so you can dispose of all waste responsibly, and also see just what a huge difference your hard work has made!