I don't know when or why kids' birthday parties got so ridiculously complicated and expensive, but some of my happiest childhood memories involve easy-going backyard parties where my mom served homemade cake and store-bought ice cream, we played a few outdoor games, and then we ran around chasing each other, playing tag and hide-and-seek. Super-simple, inexpensive, but loads of fun. So this month, when my daughter, Charlotte, turned six years old (where did the time go?), I decided to recreate one of those parties--and of course, do it "greenly."
The idea for an "old school" party came about almost by accident, as my daughter's birthday crept up on me and all of a sudden, I realized, "Oh no! I need to make a reservation at a kids' party place!" Then I paused and thought, "Why exactly do I need to make a reservation someplace?" My daughter has a June birthday--we could have the party outside at our house. Other solutions fell into place. Too many kids in her class to invite? Just invite all of the girls. How not to offend the little boys in her class? Make it a "Perfectly Pink Party." None of the boys would be clamoring to attend a pink party! We could even hire the same pony from last year's local farm party to give the kids a ride around the yard! Wait...no, that would completely negate the "simple" part, so the pony was out.
Invitations: Evite. Is there anything simpler or greener for party invitations? Bonus: it's free. We invited the nine girls in my daughter's class plus four more of her good friends, and after the RSVPs, we ended up with nine girls including the Birthday Girl. I can get stressed out about a lot of things in life, but for me, hosting nine little girls around the age of six is not one of them. I don't think I could say the same about nine little boys--of any age!
Theme: For the "Perfectly Pink Party", guests were asked to wear something pink (that they could run around outside in), and pretty much everything at the party was pink (cake, drinks, decorations, favors). The girls were also invited to bring along a favorite stuffed animal or doll. Basically, I just wanted a big playdate for Charlotte and her friends!
Food: Since the time of the party was from 2:00 to 4:30 pm, no lunch was necessary. My
daughter and I baked the cake (strawberry) the day before the party,
and I frosted and decorated it the next morning. For pink smoothies,
we tossed strawberrries, yogurt, strawberry ice cream, and a splash of
milk into the blender about an hour before the party. Done! And yum!
Decorations: I cut pink peonies from the garden and put them in vases we already owned. I hate vinyl tablecloths due to the disposability factor--not to mention the offgassing--so I bought pink cotton tablecloths that we could reuse.
No juice boxes: I'm practically allergic to the idea of juice boxes (because they're marketed as disposable but will last for hundreds of years in the landfill), so we just poured the smoothies into our smallest glasses. No plastic forks were used either--it's easy enough to put real forks in the dishwasher! We did use paper plates because we didn't have any pink plates and I wasn't about to buy some of those. I couldn't find any pink cloth napkins at the store, so we had paper napkins. Still, the only things that got tossed out were biodegradable, so I'm satisfied with that.
Party favors: I really can't tolerate the "bag-o'-junk" type of goodie bags (those flimsy plastic bags loaded with candy and super-cheap plastic items that break in the car on the way home from the party), so each girl received a pretty pen & paper set. (Those were a big hit--the girls started doodling in them immediately.) Yes, they were packaged in plastic wrap, but that was the extent of the throw-away factor. And no bags were necessary.
Gifts: Charlotte requested no presents for herself. Just as her big brother did, she wanted to collect donations for the charitable organization that saved our dog, Eleventh Hour Rescue. This time, we accepted dog goods as well as checks or cash, so that if the guests really wanted to pick out a gift for the host, they could pick out dog toys or dog food. (Her parents, grandparents, and cousins still gave her special presents of her own--after all, she is six!)
1) Storytime with stuffed animals and dolls. (I read Princesses on the Run, which was a refreshing twist on the usual princess fare, with the princesses realizing they didn't need so much "stuff" to be happy.)
2) Backyard free time. I had planned to coordinate a few outdoor games at this point, but as soon as the girls headed outdoors, they made their own fun immediately. They headed straight for the swingset, then to the big hill in the backyard.
3) A little snack. (Pretzels, pink cookies from the store, and water. Simple!)
4) Coordinated games: Duck-Duck-Goose, Mother-May-I, and Cut-The-Cake (similar to Duck-Duck-Goose--click here for a variation of it).
5) Hide-and-seek on their own.
6) Each guest got a picture taken with the Birthday Girl, along with the guest's stuffed animal or doll. (These photos can be emailed with a thank-you message to the guests.)
7) Cake and strawberry smoothies.
8) Free time to blow soap bubbles in the backyard.
All in all, this party was a piece of cake (sorry, couldn't resist). Although it was a drop-off party (which I think is a nice little gift for the guests' parents!), two of the moms who are good friends of mine stayed to help out--even joining in on the Duck-Duck-Goose game (are they troupers or what?). Maybe this type of "old school" birthday party can make a comeback...or am I just too nostalgic?
Do you have any party tips to share--simple, low-cost, green, or all of the above? What were your best and worst kids' parties (as host or guest)? Please share in the Comments section below (now powered by CommentLuv for ease of use). Also, have you liked Joyfully Green on Facebook yet? Please do!
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