Recently, I had a kid request a “Love Our Mother Earth” party theme. I thought it was a totally fun idea, and with Earth Day just around the corner, I thought I’d share some of the ideas we came up with! My little client was way into recycling -- to the point where she knew the different kinds of plastics that could be recycled or not! Needless to say, I was impressed, and wanted to make sure I created a party that left as small a “footprint” as possible. My goal: no more garbage than could fit into a paper grocery bag.
We started with invitations that were printed on paper bags. They not only sported a little poem about saving the Earth, but also listed seven fun things to do with the bag, including wrapping the birthday girl’s present inside.
For decor, we lucked out because we had just done an eco-friendly Bar Mitzvah and had a ton of really cool moss products in a variety of shapes, including bowls, balls, and funky little bubble-shaped patties. At the food table, I chose to go with metal water bottles with the kids’ names on them instead of glasses or paper cups; the kids got to take the bottles home with them as part of their goodie. It also made for a terrific opening activity of decorating them with stickers and permanent markers. I also had three dispensers for drinks: water, milk, and lemonade.
My sister Freda also made an amazing manzanita branch “tree” to use as a centerpiece (although it ended up being so tall I had to place it on the ground). To add a bit of whimsy, Freda made little birds’ nests out of moss, and placed a Cadbury egg in each one for the kids to eat.
My favorite item was a handmade birthday banner that Freda fashioned from paper bags. I printed out backwards letters for her on full-sheet sticker labels. She cut those out and put them on the back of fun patterned scrapbook papers. Once cut out, she glued those to the paper bags and simply strung the bags by hole-punching the tops and stringing a silky ribbon through the holes. When all was said and done, nothing was thrown away, not even the scraps from the letters (we used those for another project)!
Once all the kids arrived, we played some funny recycle games.
Pass the “water bottle”
We actually ended up playing with those long boxes that tin foil comes in because we had them on hand, but I would have normally used a water bottle. The object of the game is to pass the item from person to person without using your hands, but instead a series of other body parts. All you need is a recyclable item and a bunch of kids. Here’s how you play:
- Split the group into teams of 5 or 6 and have them line up in their teams, one behind the other.
- Hand the first person in line an item (bottle, tin foil box -- nothing sharp). They place the item under their chin, and then do not touch it with their hands.
- On “Go!” the first person in line passes the item to the second person in line from chin to chin. No hands should be used if you can help it. The second person passes it to the third, and so on, until it reaches the last person.
- When the last person receives the item, they run to the front of the line. Once there, they transfer the item to the next body part: between their elbows.
- Play continues with players passing the item using the following body parts:
- Once the first person in line makes it back to the front, that team is done, and they sit down. First entire team to sit down and put their hands in the air is declared the winner.
First - chin
Second - elbows
Third - wrists
Fourth - pinkies
Fifth - knees
Sixth - ankles
Seventh - feet
We also had a recycle relay race, which you can find here on our main website!
We then took a break to make “Grow Buddies.” And truth be told, the kids could have worked on them all day! It’s a pretty simple craft at its heart, but the great thing about it is that you can get as detailed and inventive as possible. To make your own Grow Buddy, you’ll need the following items:
- Nylon stockings
- Soil (I used sphagnum moss) or sawdust
- Grass seed
- Rubber bands
- Soup can (or the like; just make sure there are no sharp edges!)
- Decorating supplies (duct tape, googly eyes, felt, trims, buttons, jewels, bottle caps, pipe cleaners, you name it!)
- Hot glue gun and sticks (always have adult supervision)
- Cut a piece of stocking about 8 inches up from the toe (make sure you have a toe at the end) or use one whole knee-high stocking.
- Open the stocking up and pour about 2 tablespoons of seed into the toe.
- Fill the stocking with soil to the size head you want (about the size of a good sized potato).
- Tie off the end of the stocking as tight as you can.
- Use rubber bands to make nose and ears.
- Decorate your head with eyes, mouth, etc.
- Decorate the tin can to look like a body; use pipe cleaners for arms and duct tape for clothing -- go to town and get super creative!
- Dunk your Grow Buddy’s head in water and let it absorb a good amount.
- Fill the decorated can with water and rest your head on top, with the bottom of the head touching the water.
- Make sure to keep refilling your can with water over the coming days and weeks.
- In about 1 to 2 weeks, you’ll start seeing grass hair growing at the top of your Grow Buddy’s head. Let it grow as long as you like. Give it haircuts or tie the grass in bows for that “Pebbles and Bam Bam” look.
By then, it was time to sing “Happy Birthday” -- but instead of a cake, my birthday gal opted for a sweet treat that celebrated land and sea. I made tiny glass flower pots with pudding “dirt,” and little glass bowls filled with blue Jell-O to represent the ocean. The recipe is really simple!
You’ll need chocolate pudding, Cool Whip, Oreo cookies, and gummy worms.
- Follow the standard directions to make your pudding. At the end of the mixing time, add 1 cup of Cool Whip and mix thoroughly.
- Spoon into cups and place in the fridge to set.
- For the dirt, take a bag of Oreo cookies and place them in a food processor. Grind them up until they take on a dirt-like look (you can use vanilla cookies for a more sandy look).
- Right before you are ready to serve the treat, place a couple spoonfuls of cookie “dirt” on top.
- Insert a gummy worm so that he looks like he’s crawling out from the dirt.
You’ll need blue Jell-O, Cool Whip, and gummy fish, plus a sharp knife (adults only).
- Prepare the Jell-O as directed, and pour into little cups or bowls.
- Place in fridge and let set.
- Right before you are ready to serve, add a thin spoonful of Cool Whip and spread across the top of the Jell-O.
- Use the knife to make a small slit in the top of the Jell-O.
- Insert a gummy fish into the Jell-O with the head facing up, so it looks like Flipper peeking out from the waves.
- Double yum!
We also served meringue cookies as “clouds” to represent the sky, but we bought those from Trader Joe’s!
All in all, we were able to keep to our goal, and the only real garbage we made was from the Cadbury Egg wrappers and the packaging from the birthday presents. So in my mind, mission accomplished!
Happy Earth Day Birthday, everyone!