Carina asked: I was wondering if you have any tips for a frugal, eco-conscious birthday party for a baby. I thought that would be a great discussion topic, and since your kids are older than mine, you might have some good ideas!
Birthday parties can definitely be a source of great waste from wrapping paper, to disposables plates and such, and it is wise to consider your options more carefully. For one, what are your goals in throwing a party for your child? Personally, I want my child to feel special, loved, and appreciated, but at the same time I do not want it to be focused on the presents. I want it to be simple, relaxing, and refreshing for all parties, but especially me as the mother and planner! For the first two years we have kept it extremely simple by making cupcakes, or a bear cake, and had family over for dessert. That’s really about it. Here are some other simple ideas for those who want a bit more:
Invitations – Use the online options of invitations to keep it simple and free. Evite.com is my favorite method for email invitations.
Decorations - Make a simple homemade “Happy Birthday” banner than can be reused time and time again. This can be made out of colored paper or felt. Buy or make a felt party hat for your child that can be passed down to others in the future. Make a princess birthday hat for the girls, and a birthday crown for the boys (skip the number so it can be reused, or attach velcro to the back of the number so that could be changed). If you want to use crepe paper for decor, choose a biodegradable option. Beeswax birthday candles are the perfect natural candle for your celebration.
Tableware – Rather than using disposables, check out the compostable bamboo plates and bamboo silverware or reusable plastic options. We have a plastic picnic set from IKEA that works perfectly for these occasions. Cupcakes eliminate any need for tableware!
Dessert – When the children are really young, we keep it simple with delicious cupcakes. Make it a fun activity to decorate your cupcakes together at the party. As they get older, I definitely want to make them feel extra special by giving them the opportunity to pick out a special cake that we can make and decorate together. I keep a favorite birthday cake cookbook on hand for them to select their favorite.
Field Trips – Invite your guests to a field trip to the zoo, science museum, fire station, swimming pool, library story time, or park. This helps cut down on any mess in the home and makes it a fun frugal outing for all. For Karis’ birthday this year, we went to the Children’s Museum in Portland and then provided a sandwich lunch and cupcakes for our guests. It was delightful and simple, and she had a blast!
Games - If games are on the schedule, stick with the old classic games that do not require any waste – hopscotch, musical chairs, capture the flag, and charades.
Give to Others - make something together with your guests that could be given to bless others in your community. Make cookies and decorate for the neighbors, elderly, or the homeless. Help teach your children the value and blessing of serving others rather than focusing on ourselves. You could also make cards to missionaries or those in prison, or simple crafts (knitted, sewed, or crotchet) for the Pregnancy Resource Centers.
Gifts can easily be kindly declined and stated clearly in your invitations, but when it comes to grandparents and close family, this can be a different story. Our solution has been to request family to chip in together on a bigger gift item. We compiled a dress up box for Karis for her birthday and everyone purchased an item or two for it. If a friend wants to contribute, it makes it easy for them as well. The previous year we bought a wooden kitchen set and others contributed food items and such. This helps keep birthdays simple without too much extravagance and focus on the gifts. The child receives a special gift that will last and can be shared among others. For their first birthday’s, we honestly only buy them one small gift (Karis received a drum, Titus a sock monkey, and books and clothes from the grandparents). Less is more!
A Time of Appreciation
We want birthdays to be a time of love and appreciation for the child. We want to focus on celebrating the child and commending them for the good qualities that are being exhibited in their lives. Going around the table and sharing one thing we appreciate about the birthday person is a family tradition and always an encouraging time for the recipient. We also like to write a letter to each child on their birthday reflecting back on the previous year and the Lord’s goodness in their life, highlights, and what character qualities we see demonstrated in their life. I received these from my own daddy while I was growing up and they meant the world to me! We keep these in a special journal for our children to be given back when they grow up.
So overall, my vision is to keep things simple and yet special through the decorated cakes, and expressing our appreciation to our children. Limiting gifts and cultivating opportunities to give to others so our children grow up with a heart to serve and bless others.
What are your favorite green and simple birthday party ideas?