A solid kid’s birthday party checklist consists of a few essential ingredients: healthy cake (and vegan ice cream doesn’t hurt), thematic décor, entertainment, and presents. As parents, it’s easy to go the quick-y route, buying store-bought trinkets, disposable plates, and pre-packaged foods, but today is a new day, a new dawn: It’s time to start doing these things right. Here are a few tips for throwing a compassionate, eco-friendly, and vegan (why not!) children’s birthday party:

Step 1: The Cake!

Cannot, should not, and could not have a b-day par-tay without the pastry centerpiece, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a big slab of refined sugar. Why not start the celebration a little early and make a cake with the birthday boy or girl the night before. While you are at it, take the extra step of make it vegan and somewhat nutritionally redeemable. Little Suzy or Sam will be so proud to show off his or her creation the next day. How grown up!

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Here are some funky options:

Having trouble deciding?

Don’t forget some ice cream and healthy snacks:

Entertain Option #1: Kids must be entertained at parties, and that’s probably one of the toughest things. Don’t underestimate a child’s desire to make or do something grown-ups do, especially at a birthday celebration. Why not make a snack together as an activity?

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Step 2: Thematic Décor

The progression seems to go something like Barney, Elmo, Dora and so on, moving on into pop stars and/or sports, favorite animals (dinosaurs specifically), significant toys…whatever. Marketers have picked up the rattle and begun shaking it, and there are plates, streamers, balloons, and plastic flatware to go with the DVDs and MP3s. It’s hard not to get sucked in, especially when a certain character or item brings an instant smile. But, that doesn’t have to mean wastefulness and extra expense.

Here are some eco thoughts on b-day flare:

  • The theme doesn’t have to be on cups and plates and hats and so on. A suggestion is enough, some stuffed animals dotted around, using the gobs of paraphernalia likely already around the house.
  • Use colors—red for Elmo, tan and green for Dora, etc.—to help with the thematic suggestion. It will be easy to find more eco stuff that provides the color ambience than the specific face of a cartoon character.
  • Avoid things that are bad for the environment: balloons, plastic cups, disposable flatware, plastic cutouts, etc. If you do falter, be sure to save decorations so that they can be reused by other parents with similarly aged kids.

Entertainment Option #2: Have the kids help with creating the décor by finding a thematic art project for them to do. Aim for using recycled materials and non-toxic art supplies. Boom: Kids entertained for a little while, money saved, decorations everywhere and fewer trees down for the count. Also, the creations could double as party favors.

Step 3: Presents

Presents might be more of a challenge as you are not in complete control as to what people buy or wrap with; however, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to gently persuade guests by arranging an eco-friendly, compassionate shopping list (like a wedding registry). Or, better yet, enforce a no outside presents rule, which will help prevent a house full of forgotten toys next month. As for your own presents…

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Here are some cool wrapping paper ideas:

Entertainment Option #3: Instead of having the other kids bring presents, have them create wrapping paper. Supply them with some eco/recycled materials. Get another parent to slip off and wrap the gifts you’ve provided.

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And, not to tell you your business, but gifts…

  • Go less and higher quality, looking for sustainable resources.
  • Don’t go overboard. If the expectation for a crazy collection of junk presents isn’t created, dozens of gifts won’t be expected.

So, that’s a great start for this year’s party, with all bases covered. Party favors are less burdensome— for your pocketbook and the environment — when they are art projects from recycled materials. Have the kids all make and decorate their own pot and plant a tree or make a cool recycled decoration. Simply put, it doesn’t take all the trash to make it a great birthday. It just takes a little imagination.

Image source: D. Sharon Pruit/Wikimedia

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