Lauren Epstein, Illustrations by Colleen Madden
Summer is the perfect season for throwing a backyard bash for your child. And we’ve made it easy by gathering everything you need for a super-fun celebration—including three themes kids will love and lots of eco-friendly ideas for invitations, decorations, food, activities, and more.
We’re having an Under the Sea Party!
The invitations: Print your own designs on recycled paper, then roll them up and place them in small bottles from secondhand stores or garage sales.
The decorations: Fill recycled plastic buckets (greentoys.com has several options) with sand and tie on balloons in various shades of blue. (You can find biodegradable balloons at etsy.com/shop/harvestco.) Then spread beach towels on the lawn for kids to sit on, instead of tables and chairs.
The food: Make “fish sticks” by using a cookie cutter to create fish shapes out of melon and other fruits, then skewer them on Popsicle sticks! Prepare submarine sandwiches on whole wheat rolls, using a skewer to poke a hole in the sandwich and inserting a straw for a submarine periscope. Add a side of “seashell salad” made with whole wheat shell pasta.
The activities: Set up an underwater treasure hunt! Hang a blue tarp about four feet above a sandbox to cast a water-like glow over the area. Kids can then crawl through and look for hidden treasures in the sand. (You could even hang green streamers under the tarp to look like seaweed.) Another fun activity is shell painting—the perfect use for all the beach finds your kids have collected over the years.
The favors: Make a homemade bubble set for each child by adding 1⁄2 cup natural dish liquid and 2 teaspoons sugar to 1 1⁄2 cups water. Mix well. For colored bubbles, add a few drops of natural food coloring. Pour the liquid into a small jar and attach a store-bought wand.
Come to a Camping Party!
The invitations: Paperless online invitations are eco-friendly, customizable, and affordable. For camping-themed options, check out the Camping Map, Bonfire, or Outdoor Adventure templates from punchbowl.com.
The decorations: Create a large tent for kids to hang out in by draping a sheet over a clothesline between two trees. Attach the corners of the sheet to the ground to make a tent shape. Place sleeping bags and pillows underneath so kids can get comfy. Outside the tent, set up a faux campfire using logs and red and orange recycled tissue paper for the flames. Decorate picnic tables with items found in nature—like pinecones, sticks, and acorns—and eat off sustainable plates, which are available in a star theme from sustyparty.com.
The food: For an easy starter, make ants on a log: Spread organic nut butter on celery sticks and top with raisins. Then fire up the grill and serve better-for-you hot dogs, like the organic ones from Applegate Farms.
The activities: Make an eco-friendly magnetic fishing set using sticks, string, and paper clips. Cut fish shapes out of recycled card stock or scrap paper and attach magnets to them. For an extra challenge, write numbers on the fish and have children keep trying until they catch a pair of the same number. Also fun: a nature-inspired scavenger hunt in your yard. Kids can look for plants, animals, and objects that are native to your area. Finally, while kids eat, gather around your faux fire and tell a progressive ghost story. Begin the story with one line and have each child add his own sentence to create a unique tale.
The favors: Give kids a kit with everything needed to make the perfect s’more. You can even include your own homemade graham crackers using this recipe, where we also suggest better-for-you chocolate and marshmallow options and ways to make s’mores healthier with fruit.
It’s an Art Party!
The invitations: Head to peartreegreetings.com and order custom Imaginative Art invitations, which are printed on recycled card stock and allow you to upload your child’s artwork.
The decorations: A day or two before the party, have your child splatter-paint white sheets or rolls of paper with nontoxic paint. Then use them for tablecloths or hanging decorations.
The food: Serve a fruit salad with yogurt dip and give each child a paintbrush to “paint” the dip on the fruit. For a main dish, kids can create their own pizzas by “painting” sauce on whole wheat crust and using toppings to create fun patterns.
The activities: Enlist the help of artistic family members and friends at a face-painting party station featuring all-natural face paint from globcolors.com. You can also stretch a large roll of recycled craft paper between two trees and give each child a section to paint and draw on using nontoxic art supplies. (Deliver each child’s masterpiece to his home once it dries.)
The favors: Kids can take the creativity with them! Make our homemade play dough (find instructions at kiwimagonline.com/make-homemade-clay), then place in a glass jar, tie on a ribbon, and attach a paint chip nametag for each child.