Robot Party – a green birthday on a budget

So the older Applebum turned four last week. His birthday is after New Years, so it manages add a few extra days to the holiday insanity. I’m not gonna lie, I totally dropped the ball. I was driving us to school on a Monday, when I realized his birthday was the following weekend. So I had less than a week to pull a party together on a really tight budget. Did I pull it off?

Robot Party!

Robot Party!

What do you think? The kids sure seemed to have a great time. And I got to feel good about hosting a party that was both affordable and environmentally conscious.

The mission

These were the major issues I faced: We couldn’t really afford to have it somewhere because of the expense, but also, the fact that I was so behind schedule ruled it out as an option anyway. We were looking at a houseful of four year olds and that is a lot for our modest size home. Also, how to manage them with very limited space for games, moving around, etc…

The solution? Robot Party. And I wanted it as low-budget as possible. I was not interested in $50 +  worth of Wall-E theme crap, including some sort of bingo or pin the tale on the robot game. No, I wanted a project to keep a whole bunch of four year old hands busy for at least half an hour. And that required thinking like a teacher, not a mommy trying to impress the other mommies.

And please no more goodie bags

Do it for the children.

Do it for the children.

As you know, I am obsessed with our landfills. Birthdays have long been a source of discomfort for me. We use so much disposable stuff, plus all the wrapping paper and packaging and then don’t forget the all-important goodie bag at the end.

I am so over the goodie bag. Every time you see them at a party you are like, “Woo! Cute goodie bags.” And then you get home and it’s all junk. Most of it gets put in the little ones mouth, broken or stepped on the first day. And pretty much all the contents are in the trash after a month or two.

Yet when I don’t do the goodie bag, I feel like have somehow failed as a hostess. Like the only way the kids are going to enjoy this party, is if I hand them a bag of little plastic crap at the end.

Making robots was a solution I could live with. Not only did the kids have something to take away, it was something they were really proud of and meaningful to them. At the end of the evening, after all the guests had left, there was a knock at the door. A daddy popped in  and picked a little knob up off the floor. When we started laughing he said sheepishly, “There was no way we were going to leave without this piece.” That was the ultimate compliment, his child had a GREAT time.

Two words: Aluminum Foil

Googling Robot party ideas took me  to a discussion board where someone asked how to make robots on a budget.  The best  response:  I have two words for you, aluminum foil. Off I went.

Once I had the idea, the rest came together. I had tons of boxes from the holidays stacked in the garage. I bought two rolls of aluminum foil and two rolls of discounted green Christmas paper for $2 and got to work.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Had I planned this well in advance, we could have saved stuff to use for robot parts. But really, that’s not me nor anyone I know. I needed a bunch of materials quickly and I didn’t want to run out and start buying a bunch of new plastic stuff either. I will not contribute to the plastic continent.

The solution? Creation Station which is “your best source for unusual found objects.” That’s right, there was actually a place I could purchase used paper towel rolls for practically nothing. I spent $20 and had enough good stuff to get any four year old into the project. And best of all, it allowed us to use recycled materials, most of which could be recycled again when the robots were no more.

Robot PartsMr. Applebum grabbed some tubing, ducting and the plastic covers from Home Depot. I hung some Christmas lights for ambiance and the Robot Shop was ready for action.

Robot Party!

The party went over smashingly. We all enjoyed ourselves greatly, can you tell?

A small robot army.

And finally, closing the loop

Yesterday I emailed a link for a photo slideshow of the party to all the people who attended. Since I had used e-vite, it was easily done. I hoped the kids might enjoy seeing the pictures after the fact.

Ultimately I would want this email to act as an electronic thank you note, thus reducing the paper trail of the party still more. But I’m just not ready to give up thank you notes, I’m old fashioned like that. (Which is funny because I had no problem letting go of Christmas cards, I haven’t sent those out in years.)  Which just goes to show, this is a continual process.

But overall, it felt great to keep the costs under control. And it felt better still to have a party that had much less physical waste and felt environmentally responsible. We all have to start changing some lifetime habits. It feels good to do the right thing and to set a good example for our kids. We all have to take responsibility and start changing our behavior, there are no other options.

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