Party Favor Etiquette
Berkeley Parents Network >
Party Favors Party Favor Etiquette
My 4-year old daughter is dead set on having a fairy themed
birthday party, but the guest list is co-ed. Is it wrong to
assume that most of the boys won't be into fairy wings and
wands? All I can come up with is doing fairies and wizards,
wizards get capes and wands for favors. Would this irritate
some parents that it was so gendered?
I love your fairies and wizards idea! I think to ensure that
all kiddos (and parents) are happy and have the freedom to be
whoever they are going to be, just make it an option to both
the boys and the girls as to which they want to pick: fairy or
wizard? Some of the girls may want to be wizards! Some of the
boys may want to be fairies (who wouldn't want to fly?!)That's
all there is to it. Enjoy! PS -- as for logistics of how
much of each to get: well, get about half and half and just
let the chips fall where they may... first come, first serve.
love your idea
Please be sure to make it an option for the kids to choose whether they want
be a fairy or wizard--don't make assumptions based on gender. Even if you have
to buy extra of each, keep the receipts so you can return what wasn't used.
Parent of a gender variant child
My son attended a fairy themed birthday party at about that
age, and was the only boy. He and I made a dragonfly hat
for him (big foam-ball eyes covered in sequins), but he
didn't wear wings. He loved the party. The craft was wand
making,and that's great for boys or girls. Your idea about
caps is excellent. Go for it!
My 4 year old daughter also wants a fairy themed birthday
party and it will be co-ed. I hadn't quite figured out the
favors part, but I was planning on doing some craft projects
for the kids to make fairies out of cupcake papers. There
are boy fairies too (check out the Tinkerbell movies/shows),
I was thinking flower and leaves head pieces with different
colors (some being more gender neutral). I wouldn't go with
wizards, since that's not really related to fairies (at
least not in my mind). The Dover brand books make fairy
themed ones (stickers and such) so I may do those as favors
as well. Good luck!
Fairy Party for all
I think your daughter should have whatever kind of party
she wants. I have 3 boys who are 3, 6, and 8 and they
would love a fairy party! From the boys I know (and I know
a lot), I think the assumption they wouldn't like it,
particularly at that age, is wrong. If she were turning
11, it might be a different story, but for a 4-year old, I
think it is great.
Mom of boys
Hi party mom,
As a parent of two boys who've had such a blast at tea parties, etc.,
I'm always a bit dismayed when children are informed by adults--though
usually with good intentions--of the strict gender roles they're
supposed to inhabit. That said, you're probably right that most or
all the boys would prefer wizards to fairies. Just get a few extras
of each and ask each kid which they'd prefer, from costumes to goody
bags. (Don't worry if you run out. Since you're not calling one
''the girl'' bag and the other ''the boy'' bag, no one will take
offense. And there are boy fairies! In my years of doing this, only
one or two kids end up picking what you wouldn't expect, anyway.) You
might discover a couple girl wizards. Have fun!
Don't assume that boys, particularly 4 year olds, will NOT
want fairy wings. I have an amazing photo of my 4 year old
knee deep in the sand box, with trucks, with a huge set of
pink fairy wings that he would not take off for days. He
got these at a similar themed party. Many of the boys
totally wanted the wings. The ones that didn't, went for
the wands which were also loved universally. I would also
note that my boy had tons of access to capes (superheroes
have capes), but fairy wings were not in my house. So he
loved having that option. Certainly you can have capes. Or
you could just go with wings and wands and let the kids
choose what works for them.
I found that at four, most of the kids (boys especially)
had heard gendered comments but weren't really troubled by
them and seemed to go with what worked for them.
Besides, it was amazing how quickly the wings and wands
turned into fighting wings and guns. Kids can make play
out of anything. Go with what your daughter wants and let
the kids work it out. Just be sure you have enough to go
around. I'd be more concerned if I expected the boys to
have capes and the girls to have wings and the numbers
didn't work out. You may also find some of the girls would
rather have capes. I'd stick to one thing and let the kids
work it out.
Love my fairy winged truck driving kid
My son would choose the wings and my daughter the wizardry. I
suggest buying more than you need and allowing the children to
I love the idea of wizards and fairies, I would let both
boys and girls choose their wizard/fairy identity!
I had no idea that fairies are gendered! Last time I checked
fairies are male and female. A Midsummer Night's Dream had a
fairy kind and queen! Fairy people include imps, elfs,
dryads, merpeople...the list goes on. Go look at the art of
Brian Froud or go to the library and ask the librarian for
books on fairies. Or search ''types of fairies'' online. Here
is just one list: http://www.usa2076.com/fairies/types.htm
I've always thought of them as earth spirits. When I've
dressed up as a fairy it's been in fake ivy and green and
brown tones. My guess is your daughter's version of fairy is
a modified ballerina costume in pastel shades with wings,
which is why you are concerned about boys not being
interested. But there are plenty of other fairies that boys
will want to be too. Just put some clues in your invitation
so that other parents and children who might have a limited
view of fairies are able to explore which type of fairy they
find exciting enough to dress up as. If you decorate
fairyland as a pretend woodland or throw the party in a park
or backyard, the fairy world will be complete. No girly
colors needed, except maybe on your fairy princess and her
cake, if she so desires!
fairies very co-ed friendly
Why don't you have both fairy and wizard gear and let the kids decide what
they want -- some boys might want wings and some girls might want wizard hats...
let the kids decide
Just make both options open for every child and you'll be
fine. My son at age 4 was totally into fairies from Midsummer
Nights Dream and he would have chosen to be Puck at that age,
without the wings. Every kids loves wands--just have a variety
of colors if you can. Sounds like a fun party!
Keeping it simple
I think both boys and girls will be equally interested to dress up in
fairy attire, so just offer a variety of wings, wands and sparkly
things and get the camera ready! One thing you might want to prepare
your daughter for - some of her guests may not want to dress up at all
(both boys and girls), and she shouldn't have a meltdown if a guest
doesn't want to put wings on or whatever. I have seen some little
girls get very princess-like on "their" day - expectations can run
VERY high. You don't want her screaming at someone "you have to leave
because you won't be a fairy - this is a party for fairies only!" Not
unlike Bridezilla syndrome. I know she is very young but you can
still prepare her for the possibility that a guest may want to stay in
the clothes s/he came in and that's OK ("he can be a fairy in
disguise!" "her fairy wings are invisible!"), and at least start to
introduce the concept of the gracious hostess who just wants her
guests to have a good time.
At that age, I would probably do this: Assume everyone will
be a fairy. Have an assortment of fairy wings and wands,
with some in as boy-friendly colors and styles as I could
find. If a boy balks at being a fairy, I'd try to sell him
on the idea by telling him a fairy is an elf with wings. If
he still balks, I'd have some sort of simple (non-fairy) elf
costume option waiting in the wings.
Why not let guests choose which they'd rather be when they
arrive? Girls can be wizards, too. Boys can be fairies.
Sounds like fun.
I think it's great that your daughter is inviting both boys
and girls, and that she is sticking to her fairy theme! Maybe
it could be Fairies & Wizards, or Fairies & Dragons...Throw in
a bit of both; some boys like fairies, and some girls may
prefer dragons! Mix it up...
We did a fairies/bugs/winged-things party, and encouraged
those who had wings to wear 'em! We provided a few, too,
and then got a bunch of cheap headbands and different
colors of pipe cleaners & poof-ball thingies, so people
could make their own antennae sets to wear. That way they
could be all cute & pink & ''girly'', or dark and
more ''buggy''... I actually also bought glue, but we
didn't wind up using it -- just twisting 2 or more pipe
cleaners together, around the band, worked great! We
still have a few around the house.
The cheap temporary tattoos that Dover makes are good,
too -- they have butterflies and fairies and BUGS.
Anyway, it seemed to work for us, and those who wanted to
got all fairied-up, and others went a more woodland bug
route (& of course, others did neither.) Have fun!
We did a fairy-gnome party with fairy wings and gnome hats and beards, and the
kids (boys and girls) could choose what they wanted to wear and take home. I
am not sure if any boys picked wings but some girls picked gnome stuff. It was
I think it's a great idea and a good opportunity to engage boys in something
a little off the beaten path. Definitely involve wizards and the masculine
elements of the fairy world. I would love showing boys that there is a place
for them in there. My ''all boy'' son loved fairy and princess stuff at age
and I was glad for the chances he got to experience that. Now he's super
into Star Wars and wanted that as his bday party theme. it gAve his
ballet/princess loving girl buddies a chance to experience the fun of star
I'm a mom of a very typical 5yo boy, and my advice is to go with the fairy
- you're trying to make a nice memory for your daughter,and celebrating her
birthday. This will be more memorable for her than for the other kids.
- 4 year old boys just want to have fun, and some won't even notice that
there is a theme. My son's question before every party is, ''will there be
Cake?'' If there's cake, all is well. Including some physical activity,
just running around in the backyard is a good idea.
- its fine if you want to offer a second option (as you suggest,
fairies/wizards) but know that some girls will choose wizard and there may
a boy or two who is fascinated by the fairy wings. When buying supplies at
a party store or Target, ask about their return policy for unused items. If
favorable, pick up a few extras, just in case.
- if you indicate a fairy theme on the invitation, any family that has an
objection to fairy-themed birthday parties (I think this would be rare, even
Berkeley) they will simply be busy that day, and that is ok.
My son has attended several girls parties. At one, there was a Tinkerbell
pinata. When the remains were placed in the trash, he retrieved the wings
and asked the host if he could have them. At another, there were only
themed goodie bags left, and he was totally fine with this. Other boys took
it in stride as well. I think you're good. Just make sure there's cake, and
--My son (now 6) has been to more than one birthday party
after which he was heartbroken because his gift bag did not
include the princess wand that his sister's had.
--It is, perhaps, as bold of an assumption that those
4-year-old girls will be ''into'' fairies as that they boys
will not. (We seem to be okay with the notion of pressing a
gendered activity onto the ''proper'' gender whether it is
really their interest or not...why not the same for the
Perhaps a little costly, but would it be possible to provide
some overlap in girl and boy gifts, to allow for some
cross-gendered interests to find space and approval?
Better--would there be a way to not call them boy and girl
gifts, but have an open basket from which they could choose,
without having to proclaim ''I want the OTHER one!''
Mom with a son who loves pink
My 3.5 year old boys would love a fairy party. Who knows if
this will still be true when they're 4, I guess. I think
the fairy and wizard idea sounds like a good one. To make
it less gendered you could have both fairy and wizard
things/favors available, but not assign them to girls vs.
boys, but rather let them choose which one they want?
What a delightful problem to have! It's great that your
child wants boys and girls to come to the party!
I host many birthday parties and I've taught preschool for
many years. Unless the boys have been educated otherwise,
they will still delight in being fairies. If they have
already been taught that they 'should' not do that, then
you can have them be gnomes, wizards, or other things they
like. Here's what I would do if it was a party I was
To satisfy the birthday child, call it a Fairy Party.
Invite children to dress up as a fairy or other magical
creature. Then both genders get to pick what they want to
be. They can all make magic wands. They can play Pin the
Fairy on the Flower. Put a big paper flower on the wall,
and print off some fairy pictures from the internet. Put
tape on the back, blindfold the children and let them place
the fairy. This is, of course, non-competitive since the
children are not yet old enough to appreciate the joys of
competition. Just enjoy the fairies on the flower.
As a teacher, I never specify activities for boys or
girls. I don't even call them boys or girls. I call them
all children. For most children, it might not matter - the
jury's still out on that. But for quite a few children it
can be downright traumatic to be constantly told who you
are and what you should like when you don't even know
Enjoy the party! It sounds like a huge day of FUN!!!
My little boy is 3.75 and his favorite toy at our neighbor girl's
house is her pink fairy wand that makes a magic noise when you wave
it. Look at flowerfairies.com for lots of images of boy fairies. I
think a co-ed fairy party would be fine.
If you're still unsure why not have wizard capes and fairy wings and
let boys AND girls choose which one they want? Or, for an easier
option, just have wands for everyone?
Boys can be fairies too!
Yes, you should give your daughter the fairy-themed party she wants!
Please don't worry about the other parents. Little boys have vivid
imaginations and are just as capable of believing in fairies. I speak
from experience: I am a former children's entertainer. When I attended
co-ed birthday parties as an elaborately dressed fairy, the little
boys were just as enamored with me as the little girls. Sometimes even
more so! And if by chance you were considering an entertainer, may I
suggest my former company? I was a fairy with Happily Ever Laughter
back before I had my own little elf to care for. The ''real'' fairies
they send out are absolutely amazing performers. Your daughter would
be thrilled to have a real fairy at her party and I'm certain the
little boys (and their parents) would be convinced that fairies are
Best of luck with the party!
My 4-year-old son had a great time wearing fairy wings at a birthday
party last month. Why don't you just have a big pile of fairy wings,
wands, and wizard capes, and let children choose what they want. If
that's not practicable, just give the same thing to everyone-- wands
and wings are fun for all!
I am having my son's 8th birthday party at Pump It Up in
Oakland. It is quite expensive, and customers are forced to buy
their food - they have a policy of no outside food except cake.
Given these expenses, I don't want to have the extra expense of
the loot bags. Will I be a bad Mamma if I don't have parting
gifts for the children? Any suggestions?
Hi! I say, ''just say no'' to goody bags and to commercial pressures. I
call goody bags
''land fill'' because the kids play with them for two seconds and they
just get thrown
away. I don't distribute goody bags and my kids' parties and no one seems
to mind. It
is very generous of you to have the kids at Pump It Up in the first place
the kids will
have a great time without the junk.
The party favor thing drives me crazy. It is true the kids love
getting them but I am convinced they like the idea of them more
than the actual stuff. You shouldn't feel pressured to get them
for an 8 year olds party. Don't feel guilty.
If you feel it is so necessary bake cookies or do some small
thing but it seems pretty unnecessary.
In favor of no favors
Skip them! It's become way too overblown in my estimation. I
didn't do party favors this year and no one even noticed! It's
usually really cheap stuff that the kids break or forget
about. I often donate the ones we get to homeless programs. I
would like the world to be party-favor free! The kids have a
great time at the party and are happy to be there. (we also
ask for no presents, so it's pretty low key all the way around
in that department).
You may just earn silent prayers of gratitude from many moms
tired of the party arms race. I applaud you for even thinking
of de-escalating the current hyped up state of birthday
parties. There's momentary (and I mean a fleeting second) of
pleasure given by that little bag of mostly cheap crap & yet it
can take not only a lot of money, but a lot of time buying
different stuff every year. And in our experience most ends up
in the garbage. As my kids have gotten older the stuff they
want to give in a favor bag gets more sophisticated and yet
still more costly. Don't know about you but as a kid I got
little treats in a treat cup at the table (jelly beans & nuts
etc). That was the favor. That was fine! I've seen one-item
favors given at parties that embarrassed me because the retail
price of the favor cost the same or more than the present we
brought! Enough already! Oh - by the way, I have been to a
party where there was no party favor bag given out & no one
died (or barely noticed).
My daughter had a Pump It Up party in Concord. They had a bunch
of helium balloons in the party room. We let all the kids take a
couple home. That seemed to make them really happy. Check and see
if the Oakland location will also have balloons.
Hi, As a parent I would be HAPPY that there were no party favors!
Those little baggies of candy and choking hazards drive me nuts!
If you feel you NEED to have a party favor tho, maybe just give
each kid a balloon (usually less than $1/each).
What might be fun for the kids, and cheaper too (especially if
you already have some supplies) is to give them a craft to make!
Maybe when they're all just about done eating, and before
they've dispersed to play, you can hand out supplies and show
them how to do it. What they make is their favor to take home!
Seems to me the only thing kids like better than getting cool
things, is making cool things.
Those places are a racket, you know that right? I won't even
address the contents of the bags right now. So, yes I go with the
kids when invited to parties like those and they do love it. We
all have this incredible need to be social as parents and don't
have time to clean house or cook etc... on our own turf. So, skip
the bags, buy the minimal there, have fun, and remember that it
is the social interaction that you facilitated that people
remember. Watch too, other parents take your lead. We are all in
setting an example
At my daughter's request, we have celebrated her last two
birthdays at Pump It Up as well. Yes, it is quite expensive and
it's a bit frustrating that you can't bring your own food.
However, it's a fantastic place for kids to play and that's
what the party is all about. No, you don't need to feel bad for
not having party favors. I'm sure that most parents will
understand that such a celebration costs an arm and a leg and
that the party favors are just a gesture. You ''gestured'' enough
by throwing such a bash! I find that many parents in my
daughter's class don't even give parties. It's just not in the
But if you do feel that you are ''obligated'' to provide party
favors, then you could always give something small. That's what
I did. I went to Michaels and bought a couple of small things
that her age group would like. That cost me $40. It was a huge
hit. Personally, I don't like it when we get candy at a party,
so I always make a point to just give a tiny little gift - you
could even check the $1 Dollar Store.
I am having a big birthday bash for my son's third birthday this year. I am
inviting 12 children. Many of which have siblings much younger than my son,
therefor not really his friends (yet.) It is my nature to want to give gifts
to the siblings as well, but in the interest of keeping costs down I am
thinking that I should resist that desire. I am curious about what other
people have done in this situation. Is it OK to only give gifts to the
invited friends. Marianne
When did this business of party favors get so out of hand?! I don't even
remember getting party favors as a kid, except maybe a balloon or
noisemaker. My daughters have received goody-bags at birthday parties that
probably cost more than what we spent on the present! That said, we do give
out little things at our kids' parties. We get things from the tiny-item
bins at places like Mr. Mopps, Teddy's Party Store (on Solano), etc., such
as little bouncy balls, funny rubber creatures, plastic dinosaurs, fancy
pencils, and so forth, which are all really cheap. I provide paper lunch
bags, crayons/markers, and stickers so the party guests (invited or not!)
can decorate their own goody-bag during the party. I then drop in a couple
of items as they are leaving.
Here are my birthday rules: All parties at my house, only invite who you
need (invite adult relatives separate from the kid party)and have the same
type of party favors for all kids present. On my invitations I ask that the
invited child come with only one parent. I'm not entertaining families. My
house is way too small for that. I like to have all birthday parties at
home, because for me it is about letting people in and sharing my space for
a meaningful, warm celebration. And how fun the small parties have been
when you just have children the same age and design the party around what
they like at that stage of their development! It's also special for the
kids to not have their older or younger sibling there and have one parent
for themselves to share the experience with (until they are old enough to be
dropped off). And it's easier for the parents to only have one child to
attend to. I've been to big bashes - kids barely interact with one another,
it's so overwhelming to them, so much movement and pre-school noise level. I prefer small and
playful parties where everyone gets 4-5 really cool party favors that have
long-term play value. And the kids earn each through some kind of activity.
They don't just get handed a bag.
I think it is a lovely idea to give party favors to the siblings as well as
to the children who are your son's invited guests. But it is certainly OK to
not give the siblings anything special - it is really entirely up to you. If
the siblings are only 1 or 2, they might not be able to have the same kinds
of toys or sweets that a 3-year old could have. So you might decide to have
the traditional party bags for the older guests, and just a basket at the
door with (something nice), unwrapped, for any other parting gifts.
this page was last updated: Sep 24, 2012
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network