Birthday parties are almost synonymous with piles of plastic toy swag from the cheap favor aisles at Target or other discount stores. Bouncy balls, plastic rings, and other toys that get played with for about 30 minutes, and then end up in a pile of mixed up plastic junk that no kid really needs that badly. We have whole drawers full of it that has accumulated from other events.
We needed to throw a little bash for our beautiful little girl, but what to do? My heart just couldn't bear giving out bags full of cheap plastic favors that would end up in a landfill.
I decided that an affordable and fun solution for favors was to make a few giant batches of Homemade Play Dough. You can make it with flour, water, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and oil. Completely biodegradable, completely natural, and tons of fun. Yes it was messy to make and took about 40 minutes per batch to mix and cook, but Tru has already played with it twice, making it at least doubly as useful as the plastic junk, and it is still plenty squishy for many more hours of fun.
See the recipe I used and make some yourself.
I recommend mixing any colorants in BEFORE cooking, and use a handheld mixer to whip up the flour and water mixture, otherwise you'll have trouble getting rid of all the lumps. Use beets or turmeric for color if you want something natural, or check out this site for more ideas. It's pretty fun even without color though.
We also picked up biodegradable disposable cutlery. It only came in mixed boxes of forks, spoons, and knives so we've got lots of leftover knives, but I still feel way better about this than the ubiquitous plastic utensils that appear at most events. The memories of the party will last forever, but the utensils shouldn't.
I checked the cups at the store while shopping. Only 1 type of plastic cup was made of #1 plastic. Others were all #5 or #6, which is not recyclable in many or most places. Something to think about when buying cups.
It has become a tradition that I always - always - make the birthday dessert. Hooray for no wasted cake trays, and no mystery ingredients and funny food colors! My desserts frequently look a little lumpy and not picture perfect, but they always taste great and have always featured organic and natural ingredients.
Is dessert an absolute healthfest? No, I still use sugar and real butter but it's a lot better for you and better tasting than the shortening and preservative filled Frankencakes from the grocery store. Most people have never even tasted a REAL homemade cake or dessert these days. Their eyes get big when they take their first bite. It's worth the reaction, and since it's just an every once in a while treat we don't sweat about the sugar. The birthday person always gets to pick their treat and past selections have included fruit tarts, creme brulee, strawberry and cream cakes, berry pies, and giant chocolate chip cookie cakes.
Tru and I enjoyed the party prep together and I think she'll remember that we put the time in on something just for her. And time and the memories are way more important than all the loot in the world.