Or, confessions of a parent who hates children’s birthday parties. I am the oldest in a large family and I was burnt out from running children’s birthday parties before I left my teens. Time somehow seems to run backwards when I’m in the midst of one, and I find myself wishing it were all over.
A seemingly immutable tradition is the handing out of loot bags to the guests at the end of the party. One parent I know calls them instant landfill, and another refers to the stuff inside them as shitty bits. Still, Little wanted a birthday party with all the trimmings. Fine. I’ll have the party. But I will not be handing out shitty bits at the end of it.
Inspiration struck, helped by an assignment the teenager had for his outdoor education course. The challenge was to pack a one litre widemouth water bottle for everything you needed to stay overnight in the woods after a 65 kilometre bike ride out into the country. It really made him think about what was most essential, and about how to get as much nutrition into as small a space as possible.
Voila! The Loot Bottle was born. Children do not need shitty bits, but mine at least are in the perpetual state of needing a water bottle. No matter how many we have, there’s always a search before we head out on an excursion. I would provide water bottles filled with zero or almost zero waste treats for the kids.
I ordered a dozen bottles from Mountain Equipment Co-op. The total came to more than $50.00 so, yay, free shipping. Once they arrived I had a better sense of what would fit into them. I went to the drugstore and bought chunky sidewalk chalk, and discovered an excellent sale on Easter-themed Life Saver books for $1.00 each. Six rolls of Life Savers for a dollar!
This wasn’t completely zero waste. The candy boxes were wrapped in plastic and I had to undo those to separate out the tubes of candy. Unlike many of the candies familiar to me in my childhood, the wrapping of those tubes remains the same: a layer of wax paper, a layer of foil, and then the tube of paper holding it all together. Three chunky sticks of chalk fit in each bottle and I decided to put them in little plastic bags so that chalk powder wouldn’t end up over everything. I should perhaps have wrapped them in paper.
Next time I have to gird myself to throw another birthday party, I will return to my loot bottle concept. The options for fun stuff to put inside them are endless and I may even achieve a version with no waste at all. I could do bike-themed ones with lights and ankle straps.
The children loved the loot bottles. One little girl said to me, “Hey, I can take this with me when I’m on my bike!” Exactly. Then she went off with the other little girls and they sucked their Life Savers so that they could attach them to their noses and look like they had nose rings. That party maybe wasn’t so bad after all.