5 creative ways to avoid plastic party bags

When it comes to children’s parties, is there a way to avoid trashing the planet for your pleasure? Here are my tips for avoiding plastic and waste in your party bags (if you decide to give them!)

First of all, just to throw it out there: the best way to avoid waste is to skip the party bags completely. They are essentially unnecessary and the simple fun of playing together is enough. However, if like me you love to give a gift and want to do this, read on about how to do it guilt-free.

1. The bag itself – choose brown paper bags as the more environmentally friendly option

You can even make your own bags from kraft paper like we did, using this simple tutorial. plastic free party bags

2. Break down the contents into categories, e.g.

  • A game
  • Something to eat
  • Something to make
  • Something to symbolise the friendship

If your party has a theme – great: you can definitely use that. This year our theme was “native Americans”  so we had plenty of inspiration*. We chose: 


The Game:
A traditional Native American stick game which we gifted as wooden lolly sticks to decorate and some instructions we found in the amazing book More Than Moccasins by Laurie Carlson

plastic free party bags

Something to eat:
Here, my mums baking skills came in handy and she made us some amazing wigwam creations. We were especially proud that as well as being zero waste they were also sugar free (we used coconut palm sugar instead.) Win-win.

plastic free party bags

Something to make: 
What could be better than a DIY mini wigwam? My son and I had a lot of fun putting these together as kits for his friends. Perfect for the 5-6yr old level of creative competence. And you don’t have to make it yourself!

plastic free party bags

Something to symbolise the friendship:
How about a friendship bracelet? My son loved making these for his friends from some vintage beads, but you could also make paper wristbands, cotton threads, wool threads or any fabric scraps. I’ve even seen some beautiful ones made from pasta. Just look on Pinterest for inspiration if you need some.

friendship bracelet kids party bag

4. A piece of party cake

I was pretty pleased with my own effort this year and we put a slice of the cake I made in each bag wrapped in If You Care snack bags, or you could also use regular napkins/paper wrap.

5. Other ideas

  • Seeds, bulbs or seedlings – look on Pinterest for home-made inspiration
  • Other DIY kits – unicorns, paper hats, paper aeroplanes etc – there are loads of ideas and you can put them together to gift as kits.
  • Modelling clay or home-made playdoh, with maybe a list or picture suggestion of what to make.
  • Bookmarks, with a list of recommended things to read.
  • home-made welly clips or hair clips etc
  • Something they made at the party, e.g. party hat, a cupcake they decorated etc.

The joy of gift giving

If you involve your child in helping to prepare the party bags (we started a few weeks before the party itself so we weren’t rushed and stressed out!) they will really put effort and care into thinking about their friends. These days, gift exchange is a rare event in children’s lives, especially at parties. I love to make it part of the event that the kids sit in a circle and each child presents their card or gift to the birthday child in exchange for the party bag itself. It gives your child a chance to thank their friends and their friends to be thanked in return.

Other ways to make your party zero waste:

  1. Instead of paper plates and bowls, use regular plates/bowls/cutlery or try ones made from sugarcane or wheat. Forget table cloths; they only get drinks spilt on them anyway.
  2. Skip balloons. Instead, hang something else outside to let your guests know where the fun is. We made a dream-catcher to hang on the door which matched our theme perfectly.
  3. Make your own decorations from paper, card or natural materials – we had an abundance of feathers which we used to make party hats.
  4. Have your party at home or at a local shared space and bring what you need yourself. The woods, a local park, the beach, a large garden all make excellent spaces to host guests. Doing this instead of hiring a party venue really cuts down on the amount of waste that is created.
  5. Don’t make too much food for your guests – they won’t eat it all and it’s more for you to clear up afterwards. Consider every item they can put on their plate and reduce the number to what you know they will eat. For the food you do offer, make it fresh and natural  – you don’t need to spend lots on ready made stuff and if you visit your local greengrocer you can really cut down on packaging waste.
  6. Invite a small number of guests. Fewer people means less waste.
  7. Consider requesting no gifts, perhaps just cards or maybe a fiver party instead.
  8. Forget the party bags altogether – most kids just want to play together and the party bags are not obligatory.
  9. Forget the party altogether – make your birthdays a family time or consider these other options (all awesome.)

    Did you try these ideas? How did you get on?

  * PS: If you’re concerned about ‘cultural appropriation’ then don’t let that detract from the message of this post, which is about reducing plastic. The way we understand and interpret history and culture is more than one or two books we might have read!

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