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No kids’ party is complete without Pass the Parcel.

It’s so exciting, that big gift being handed around, maybe the music will stop on you, maybe it won’t. That thrill of the unknown.

Unfortunately, there is often so much waste associated with this otherwise fun-filled activity.

The paper is almost always kept together with plastic sticky tape, and it’s not uncommon for the paper itself to be of the glossy, non-recyclable variety.

The gifts are usually little pieces of plastic, or plastic-wrapped sweets. They aren’t high value, and the joy from them only lasts minutes, if that.

When you think about it, it isn’t what’s wrapped up that’s important, or what it’s wrapped in. That’s not what matters, that’s not what makes it fun.

It’s the experience.

It’s the fun of passing the present around, and the thrill of not knowing where it will stop. The joy when it stops with you.

So, how do you provide the experience without the waste?

It’s pretty simple, actually – substitute every aspect with reusable and natural materials.



Let’s talk about what to use for the layers of wrapping first. You actually have quite a few options. If you have a lot of layers to do, you might need to combine some of the options below so that you have enough.


The first is scarves. You can use ones you already own, borrow from family and friends with the promise of returning them, or seek them out in charity shops (and re-donate them when you’re done). You can use Furoshiki techniques to tie them around the parcel.


Your second option is quite similar to the first – clean handkerchiefs. These can be handy for smaller parcels, or for use with scarves when you get down to the last few layers.

Patterned fabric:

Random lengths of fabric can be often be found in secondhand shops for a very reasonable price. If you don’t have scarves or handkerchiefs, or don’t want to use them, this can be an easy alternative.

You can also use these lengths to wrap your Christmas presents for under the tree! And they can either be donated back to where you found them, sold to someone who might use them, or stored for next year when you’re finished with them.

Produce bags:

Solid (not mesh) produce bags or even reusable shopping bags are another alternative to the usual wrapping paper. Produce bags are especially effective because the drawstring closure makes for incredibly easy wrapping.

Old wrapping paper:

If none of these options are available to you, consider using wrapping paper that you saved from last Christmas, or from birthdays throughout the year. I keep a box of old wrapping paper from years past to wrap future presents, and to store that paper again until I need it next time.

Old newspaper:

Old newspaper is your final option for wrapping your Pass the Parcel gifts. To secure it, either search for tutorials on tapeless wrapping or buy paper sticky tape (rather than plastic). It can be used as fire starters or shredded for animal bedding once you’re done with it.



So that’s the wrapping sorted, but what about prizes or gifts? You can use your imagination here, support a local business, or maybe commission a local artist or other creator to help you out.


Consumables, especially sweets, are always well received in Pass-the-Parcel. You can still include them in your waste free Pass the Parcel, you just need to think a little differently.

Bulk food shops are becoming increasingly prevalent in communities today. And dedicated bulk lolly (candy) shops have been around for a long time. Make a visit to one and buy a range of sweets without packaging that will satisfy the cravings of your party-goers.

These sweets can then be encapsulated in old (clean) Altoid tins, small beeswax wraps, or tiny glass jars and wrapped into the layers of the parcel.

Felt toys or puppets:

Your guests might also enjoy receiving little felt toys or finger puppets. These can extend the fun if you challenge the children to put on a play with the puppets.

Wood carvings:

Small animals carved from wood can also be a fun gift to both give and receive. Try to source them from a local artisan – support small businesses!

Something written:

Another easy inclusion for each layer is a simple joke written on scrap paper. You might find appropriate ones in a book, on the web, or make them up yourself.

A twist to this idea is writing a riddle that, when solved, indicates a specific person participating in the Pass the Parcel. Instead of using music, the riddle indicates who receives the parcel next. Everyone gets to help solve the riddle.

Other ideas for writing on scrap paper include:
– describing ideas for charades, that the person has to act out (it could be as simple as farm animals);
– tongue twisters;
– join the dots; and
– parts of a treasure map, that when joined together, leads to something special that you’ve set up.

You could use seed paper as an alternative to scrap paper and help the children plants theirs when they’re finished with it.

Bubble wands:

Yet another alternative is to make bubble wands in different shapes (e.g. round, heart, star, square, etc) from wood and wire. When the game is over, bring out your homemade bubble mix and let the bubbles commence!

Recycled crayons:

Your final option (on this list, at least) is to make recycled crayons. Gather the small, forgotten and rejected pieces of crayon from around your home. Ask family friends if they can contribute too, if need be.

Place an equal amount of crayon pieces in each segment of a silicon mould, be it a muffin mould or one with shapes, and place in the oven. The crayons will melt together to form multicoloured, shaped crayons that are now fun to use again!


Of course, this is just a small cross-section of what you might include in your Pass the Parcel. As long as what you’re buying or making is local and made from natural materials, you really can’t go wrong (for a long list of zero waste and minimalist gifts for children, read this post).

The better you can make the experience, the more successful you will be. Make it fun, do what you can to get the most out of it, and most importantly, take note of the children’s feedback for next year!

If you know of anyone in charge of organising a game of Pass the Parcel, please share this with them. If you’ll be organising one at some point in the future, Pin this post so that you can easily refer back to it!

If this post was helpful, please share so that others can benefit!

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