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Where to draw the line for party favors?

April 2012

My son's 2nd birthday is on the horizon, and I'm wondering (and please, this is a question for those of you who DO choose to distribute a favor or gift to your party guests - after combing the BPN archives I see this appears to be a hot button issue for some) where to draw the line with party favors. We'll have several guests attending with their older children (approximately 6 kids) ranging from 5- 11. I don't want them to feel left out when all the toddlers are getting a toddler-age-appropriate favor, but I can also see things getting out of hand trying to please everyone on top of dealing with a 2 year old's general birthday party insanity. Your thoughts and (constructive) advice are appreciated. I Like Party Favors


I personally am not a fan of party favors, but I understand the appeal. If you're into them, perhaps you could make up specific bags for each child. I was at a two-yr-old's party last weekend and my friend (the mom) had done this. She put toddler-appropriate things in my 3 yr old's bag and ''baby'' stuff in my 15 mo old's bag. There weren't too many ''big kids'' at the party, but there were a few... One kid as old as 11. Each kid had a specific bag just for them. I thought that was a smart idea. Inside ours: plastic rings (both my girls loved these!), a mini-playdoh container, a sheet of stickers, etc. Good fun. /My Two Cents
We give out party favors...but not bags of little things and candy (those annoy me, personally). What I have tended towards is one thing per kid...things have ranged from books (esp for 2 year olds...LOVE ''Mr. Sillypants'' if you can find the paperback version on ebay or Amazon...bought a dozen of them once for about $2/each or inflatable toys...again you can get them cheap and the kids will play with them later (so will the older kids)...or you can get little wooden gliders (also fun for the bigger kids)... Love to give something that will be used again...
I don't think that you need to worry about getting special party favors for the older kids. They will be happy getting the same little toys that the younger kids get. Everyone loves temporary tatoos, stickers, pencils, bouncing balls, etc. I would be happy to get a treat bag too! No need to worry
We have a basket of inexpensive books from TJMAXX or the like where each guest could pick one as they leave the party. Parents are happy they're not getting plastic and/or junk and the kids are super excited! My two boys are 6 and 8 and we've been doing this for years w/great success! Been there
Hi. So what I do is just offer the same favor to everyone regardless of age -- the ''older'' kids and the ''younger'' kids too. I figure the older kids can somewhat understand that they are at a party for a younger child and just sort of deal I just think it is nice to offer everyone something -- and the parents always seem touched that we're offering a favor to the ''sibling'' anyway -- but I have no desire to make myself crazy with trying to ''personalize'' favors. Favors Are Fun
You might try giving some not too age specific favors. I know that candy/food favors can be a hot-button for some parents, but I would rather my child get something they can eat/enjoy rather than some cheap plastic toy that will be broken shortly after it gets home. Another way to go might be for some more ''classic'' toys like a good bouncy ball (not too small!), a small tub of play-doh, or a small thing of wikki-stix (http://www.wikkistix.com/). These may not be the most appropriate for the 2-year olds to play with on their own, but they could play with them with their parents. Just some thoughts. Maria
Do you mean ''draw the line'' as in ''what age do you stop'' or as in ''amount to spend per favor''? Most older kids still like favors, but if they're attending a ''baby party'' they might not expect them. Some kids will handle that better than others, but that's their problem/lesson to learn in life - not yours. I think it's okay not to hand them out to all - but where to cut off is difficult. If you want to have something handy for older kids, some suggestions: small bag of cheap candy - as in pinata/Halloween type stuff; bubbles - all kids like bubbles - and you can get a multi-pack cheap just about anywhere; deck of cards - can buy bulk online; pencils and erasers - always will be used. All less than $2 per kid. If you want to go to $3, Sketch ice cream in Temescal does $3 gift cards (Dreyers and Fentons don't go that low). Ellen
I like party favors too! I have a three year old and somehow her birthday parties have all turned into huge parties (over 50 people, usually about 12 are kids). What I've done so far is select party favors that work well for all ages. For my daughters second birthday I bought several boxed sets of Curious George books from Costco (they usually have a good selection of boxed books at a great price, so each book is about $1 or $2 each). I let the older kids pick which book they wanted and for the younger ones the parents picked or I just handed them one as the left the party. For my daughter's third birthday party we had a princess theme (her request) so I got some of the Dover sticker books (only about $1 each). We had three different types princess, knight, and fairies. Again I let the older kids pick which one they wanted. The Dover books come in hundreds of different varieties. They are cheap and all kids seem to like them. I love favors and including all of the kids, but I like to keep it simple. Good luck! I love favors!
While absolutely not ''required,'' I think it's really nice to offer a more age appropriate favor to the older kids, especially if you've set up the party as one to which families are invited, rather than just the same-age guests. Now that I have both an older and a younger kid, I can really empathize with the older kids who, while generally gracious, really do feel a little left out if they get dragged to a toddler party and then don't get a prize when the little ones do. That said, putting lots of time and money into picking perfect favors for kids at a wide range of ages is not likely to be worth it! I suggest going to the dollar store and finding something likely to be fun/ amusing for elementary aged kids, and getting 6 identical items, one for each of the non-toddler kids. Glow sticks, ''gack'' (slime in a jar), and 3 dimensional puzzles (like rubics cubes) have been hits for us. I like party favors too
I came to the conclusion many years ago that one special favor is the way to go. I have three boys, the oldest who is 14. I have done gift bags, but realized that all the money spent on little things could be combined into one more interesting and less wasteful favor. I have given small kites, bubble blowers (not bubbles, but a little powered bubble machine), mini-garden kits, small lego sets, playground balls, and tickets to play places like the discovery museum & studio grow. Oriental Trading company has some deals on items if you buy more, but they have a lot of junk too. I watch for deals at Target too, they have lots of Spring stuff right now, they had large play garden shovels with wooden handles for $3, such a deal! If your child has something they really like right now, --planes, trains, dogs, etc -- you could theme the gift to their party/likes. East Bay Mom
I have a couple of ideas on party favors. First off keep it sane. For a 2 YO a $0.50 item will be fine and they'll get great pleasure out of it. They'll take no offense I guarantee it. It's OK to draw the line with older siblings, but I'd suggest doing it for siblings that are old enough to understand that. If you're inviting/expecting siblings, just keep the favors simple enough to get enough for everyone. Check the $1 bin at target or a small bag of treats. Michaels has some cute and cheap crafty items. Check places like Big Lots for items.

Some ideas I've seen:
1) Let the kids pick from a variety of small items. The host bought items for $2-3 dollars and the kids got to pick one.
2) Make the favor an activity at the party. Paint a tote bag, glue a crafty frame, put stickers on a little box. We made paving stones with little tiles we had (heaviest party bag ever!)
3) Kids brought a little wrapped gift (less than $5) and the kids got to pick one out as their favor. This was in lieu of gifts.
4) Best idea ever for older kids (not about favors). Instead of a gift, please donate $5 towards a gift of their choice. Miss Manners aside, it saves the giver $ and hassle, it avoids gifts that get played with for 5 minutes and thrown away, and the birthday kid gets something they really want. Also can be a lesson in money management. Good luck. been to too many birthday parties


It'd be lovely to give something to the older kids as well. I can't remember toddler party favors, but for your older guests, I'd suggest: a glow-in-the-dark bracelet or necklace, a balloon to take home, maybe a rice-crispy bar made by you. They could also play ''pass the lunch-box'' - big kids sit in a circle, you play music, then turn it off (like musical chairs) so that each guest has a turn to get a piece of red licorice from the lunchbox. Have fun! Jeanette
I never expect a special party favor when an older (or younger) sibling is invited to the party. It is sweet enough of you to invite the siblings & have extra cake and food for them! And you'd be surprised how much fun a 5 year old can have with a toddler's toy rattle or whatever. That said, I'm always charmed when the hostess *does* give an age-appropriate party favor for the siblings. It is a very sweet thing to do, a nice surprise that will put a smile on the child & parent's face. Easy ideas are - a book, a coloring book (well not for the 12 year old), stickers, tattoos. Lego star wars set for a boy of any age. mom
Bubble wands! Or some kind of bubbles. They are inexpensive and you can give them to all ages. Or you can have some kind of craft that the kids make at the party then get to take home. Or a pB1ata with candy and they take the candy home. Have fun Ava
The issue that I have with the standard party favors honestly, is that the goodie bags, though well-intentioned, are just bags of plastic crap. And pricey crap at that (when you're making bags for 15 kids). For my son's 5th birthday party - a very fun Space & Astronaut theme - I bought 15 white undershirts (from Target for about $1 each), iron-on transfers from a craft shop, downloaded some fun space/astronaut/planet clip art and made each guest a t- shirt. It was a bit of work, for sure. But the kids LOVED the shirts, got a useful and fun reminder of the party (not a plastic trinket that'll end up in the landfill) and I get the pleasure of seeing kids all around town wearing the shirt! Crafty Mama
I try to do party favors that are simpler, party-appropriate, but might be something the kids would actually play with later. So, if the party's at the park, everybody gets a bucket and shovel ($1.00 at Target that year). The time I had a Lego party, everyone got a little Lego car or truck ($2.99 I think). Either of these would be something that the whole age range might like, I think. And I as a parent like these much better than plastic stuff that breaks within 30 minutes of getting home, and just ends up in the landfill. Karen
You could have a basket of $1 items - things like hot wheels cars, deck of cards, stickers, squinkies, japanese erasers, maybe a few candy items, etc, and then let the older kids pick one item of their choice (or two or three if it suits you). Easy to cover a variety of age groups that way. L
I love giving party favors. Maybe it's the kid in me that likes to find the fun little things to fill the bags and see the delight on the faces. So, that being said, If I know there will be a variety of ages at my kid's parties, then I give age appropriate favors to ALL of them. I never leave anyone out. I'll even have a party favor bag for the 1 or 2 people who might not RSVP. I order party favors from Oriental Trading Company when I see them on sale or Clearance. I have 3 kids so I know they will get used. I keep them in a storage box and pull them out when it's party time. If I have teens coming, I will usually put a few things in that they might like (lip balm, little soap, cool pens or pencils, magnets, hand sanitizer...). They're always pleased to get something. I may be on the extreme but as I said, I really enjoy giving the little bags and so do my kids. Party favor nut
My two cents -- DON'T. Save the earth and don't buy and hand out more crap. We come home with party favors that last for a few days and then die in the sofa or different parts of our home. I try to encourage a no gift giving and getting policy. There's a huge cost (EARTH cost) associated with little bits of stuff... and you could help by not adding to it. Could you do something like an online subscription to a children's magazine or something like that? Just my two cents
2 of my most successful party favors were t-shirts (super sale at Old Navy and cheapesttees.com) and inexpensive paperback books. Like parties too

Party favors and pinata filler suggestions?

April 2008

Hi fellow parents: I read all available here in the Berkeley Parents archives, so I want to get some new and fresh ideas, specially my concern is that I don't want to create much garbage with my party, and I want healthy choices as treats. What have been the best USEFUL favors that you have received? The best choices for pinata fillers and children food. I'm hosting a 3yo party, but any other age comment is welcome. How can I avoid creating so much garbage? Thanks The Party planner


I usually try to give one nicer thing (something in the $3-7 range per kid, depending on how many kids we have) instead of a bunch of little plasticrappy things. Some examples from parties we've given or gone to: A sand bucket and shovel plus bubbles; paint-your-own wooden box or plant pot (done as an activity at the party); custom tee shirts made with inkjet iron-ons (the blank tees go on sale for $3 each at Michaels regularly, and I still see kids wearing these at my kid's school a year later); personalized craft aprons (also a fun activity for kids to decorate at party); for a construction-themed party, those canvas tool aprons -- $1/each -- from Home Depot with a Matchbox construction truck in the pocket; a set of kid-sized gardening tools or watering can; plastic bugs and magnifying glasses; stickers, crayons, playdough and temporary tattoos. It's the things we can use over and over, or in more than one way, that we appreciate the most. Things I hate getting: bad candy, toys so cheap they break right away; whoopee cushions (seriously, it's happened more than once). As for pinata fillers, check out Rebecca Emberley's book ''Pinata'' from the library -- it's a kids' book, but lists all sorts of fun things -- barrettes, toy cars, rubber balls, etc. to put inside. I Promise I Won't Judge You By Your Goody Bags
I hate pinata's, especially at a young child's bday party. Hitting something is not my idea of fun. I hate the candy or as one mom put in little bible books. I try to give 1 useful thing (like a book) to each kid. party pooper
The worst party favors are those party favor packs that match the paper-ware and have the weirdest crappy toys. For favors, you could give out one good toy like large bouncy ball .. jump rope .. yo-yo .. match box car

I guess those things could also go in the pinata. You can also put stickers, plastic animals, those super compressed wash-cloths that pop up in the water. They usually have kids motifs on them and they have them at dollar stores. Oh and mardi-gras type beads.

These are not the most wonderful eco objects in the world but kids do like them unlike the cardboard and plastic mystery objects I mentioned at first.

If you have balloons at the party, you can send each child home with a bunch of helium balloons too. anon


I would like to advocate for 1) edible party favors or 2) cheap, breakable throwaway party favors or (3 no party favors. I am on my third kid, who is now 7. For the past four years, we have been in the thick of the ''invite everybody in the class'' parties. This means that this time of year, hardly a weekend goes by without a birthday party. So, every weekend, we acquire a new load of trinkets, toys, books, craft sets and more. Sometimes the party favors are more elaborate than the gift we gave. What do I do with all this stuff? We must have 200 bouncy balls, 500 little plastic animals and snakes, and a few dozen ''nice'' favors like paint sets and models. Our house is already a trash heap of toys so I am always glad to see a little bag with a couple of pieces of candy in it, and maybe a cheap little toy like a styrofoam airplane that will break after a couple of uses and can be thrown away guilt-free.

I do have one friend who is very creative with goody bags and I have to grudgingly hand it to her, even though in general I hate goody bags. She must spend several weeks planning and collecting the trinkets for the party favors. Some of the things in her goody bags have included: soap in the shape of a dinosaur, little packs of weird tiny cookies from the Japanese market, colored pencils, a freeze-dried washcloth, cartoon character bandaids. These are all things that will either be eaten right away, or that we will use eventually.

As for the pinata - I don't think these are very successful until you get into the 6 and 7 year olds, and I would go for the cheapest of the cheap - hard candy and little throwaway plastic rings and such. Grouchy Mom


Legos - kids love them - get the bricks so they're easy to find when the pinata breaks. Lego Fan
for my DD's 3yo party, the pinata had crayons, stickers, mini inflatable beach balls (6''), bracelets, self-inked mini stamps, as well as some other small toys I've since forgotten about. I sat down and thought about what little things my child liked and then filled the pinata with such things. we did a string-pull pinata so there were no bashed heads by a swinging bat. party mama
Hi Party Planner,

The best pinata fillers and favors were from a good friend's party last year for her 3 year old daughter. The pinata was full of tiny (1'' diameter) play doh canisters, crayons (loose ones, as if they had bought a box of 128 colors and dumped it in), glitter pens, stickers, tattoos, and bracelets (the plastic/rubber friendship ones we used to wear in droves in the 80s like Madonna a la Like a Virgin). For the favor, they made a CD of their daughter's favorite songs and the dad (an artist) designed a cool sleeve for it that said her name and ''3'' on it, but it doesn't really have to be anything special other than something that is meaningful to your child and your and/or your child's friends. This CD is still a favorite in our car!

For my daughter's birthday pinata last year (which occurred before our friend's, or I would've used some of their ideas!), I used frutabu's (the organic fruit leathers) and Yummy Earth lollipops and other healthy treats from WF.

I applaud you for wanting to reduce waste, and while I didn't want to use anything disposable, I thought my friend did a great job with fun things that are actually useful that people might buy anyway (as opposed to flimsy plastic compass-rings, made-in-China frogs, toxic smelling bouncy-balls or other random stuff my daughter's gotten at other parties that have absolutely no use or aesthetic value whatsoever). Party goer and planner


Fruit leather. Packets of seeds. bottles of glue. mini water color sets (my girls got these out of a pinata -- I carry them in my purse and pull them out when the dinner is taking to long to get to the table at a restaurant...parents will thank you!) jan

Alternatives to Goodie Bags?

December 2003

Does anyone have any ideas for alternatives to birthday party goodie bags? I see the same trinkets over and over. Rarely does the stuff get played with and it ends up in my junk drawer. I'm afraid that most parents keep doing them because everyone else does! I'd love to hear some creative ideas. Help!


Try burning a CD or making tapes. For my daughter's 3rd bday, I made everyone a copy of the Wizard of Oz because that was the theme. And now that a lot of computers have CD burners, you can either mix your own (no comment on how you get the songs) so that it is appropriate to the theme, or just burn an album. Small books are good too. My second daughter turns two in a week and the theme for her party is ladybugs. So I got ladybug board books for everyone.
Boy, do I feel the same way about ''goody bags''. You didn't mention how old your kid is. For my 4 year old's parties, I have just given a balloon to each kid. I think last year we also gave a bottle of bubbles. Other ideas I've seen and liked: pail and shovel with each kid's name written on it; glow- in-the-dark smallish balls; soft yo-yos and balloon. I think the over-all theme here is one small toy.
About 2 years ago I stopped giving ''goodie bags'' at my kids bd parties. I tried giving bubbles, one bigger toy, like a dinosaur or something, but I hated that it was expected and like you said, it's all the same stuff and either breaks or gets thrown out. When I was a kid (I'm 50) we got little plastic baskets with a few pieces of candy at our seat at the table and that was it....

I! don't know where the ''tradition'' got so out of hand that we have to spend way too much money on party bags. Anyway, I just decided I'd hopefully start a trend of no party bags. I decided I didn't care what other people thought. So far, no one has said a thing (they're probably thinking ''Go, girl!!'') and the kids sitll come to my kids parties. Take a stand...NO PARTY BAGS!!!


I agree. I don't much care for goodie bags, Instead, I figure that if I'd spend $4-5 for goodies and bag for each child, why not spend that much and get each child something useful? At my son's party last year I gave out boxes of crayons and small pads. This year, I gave out flashlights and batteries. The kids--and parents--seem to be pleased. Oh, and just a tip: look in places where you might find deals, like Office or Home Depot or Costco.
hi! how about making bookmarks for party guests? we've just finished making stocking stuffer bookmarks for the holidays. my son stamped paper with paint stamps, i cut out the shapes and glued them to heavy duty paper. fun, colorful, useable, personal and not at all bad for the teeth! have fun!
We have started to give just a single item that goes with the theme of the party. We have given frisbees, hot wheels, baseballs. At first I was worried that the children would be disappointed and I carefully explained that we are giving a gift instead of a party bag. But the kids were always pleased. This reinforced for me that this is a much better way to deal with this.
I like the idea of giving one nicer item rather than a whole goodie bag. For how much you end up spending on a goodie bag you could get one fun item. I once gave out small boxes of playmobil figures. Legos has some small inexpensive items. A small metal car could be fun. The Ark has wonderful rubber knights that would work (I have a boy so these are more boy oriented ideas). Kids really like these too. If it doesn't feel like enough, you could put it in a goodie bag with some crinkled paper and maybe a small piece of candy. I go back and forth on what I do depending on what the theme of my son's birthday is. Good luck!
A good birthday idea is to do an activity that actuallyl produces a take home gift that you can substitute for a goody bag. 2 very successful examples we did were: Painting and planting a flower pot - I bought plain flower pots, paints, spray sealer and a flat of flowers and potting soil. The kids painted their pots and decorated with glue on ''jewels'', and I sprayed sealer. When they were dry we actually potted a flower into each pot and the child took home their own personally decorated flower pot. A few extra games, cake and presents while the sealer was drying and we had a party. A second one was having the kids make picture frames from popsicle sticks. I also bought an old puzzle at the goodwill store and the kids decorated their frames with the puzzle pieces. We sprayed the frames with gold glitter spray paint/sealer (I thought I had bought solid gold paint, but ! it was a sealer with glitter - actually turned out much better as you could see the colors of the puzzle pieces.) We had a poloroid camera and each child took a picture with the birthday girl, we inserted the picture in the frame and they had a beautiful keepsake to take home. We did this for my daughter's 6th birthday, she is now 13 and her friends still have these displayed in their rooms. You can get all the supplies at a craft store or the fabric stores with craft sections.
About those goodie bags - First of all, you don't have to do them. We've been to parties where they didn't give out anything and the kids were fine about it. If you do want to, I vote for small useful items. Art supplies are great. We found sets of marking pens at IKEA for 50 cents each (yes!) and went to the Depot (on San Pablo, one block south of Ashby) and found small message pads of paper for 10 cents each. They were ''preowned'' but looked brand new. Each kid got one set of pens and one pad of paper. Total cost: 60 cents per kid. As a parent, I have to say I am weary of the bags of useless plastic gizmos that my kid looks at once. I toss them out after a few weeks and feel sad about it because I know a mom or dad went to some effort and expense to buy them. But I can'! t keep a lot of useless stuff around!
Last year for my daughter's birthday we bought book packs from the Scholastic Book Club through her preschool, broke up the book packs and gave each child a book. In addition to giving something a little more useful than the usual trinkets it supported her preschool!
My boys and I were invited to a birthday party earlier this summer. The goody bags were the best! (Minus the whistles of course.) I believe the grandmother may have gone to Big Lots for some of the items. One thing that my boys loved, to this very day they still listen to a CD from Gymboree, the folk one with Woody Guthrie, Burl Ives, The Birds and a bunch of other folks I can't recall of the top of my head. You could find any children's CD at any music store of course and burn them on blank CDs for the goody bag. I also found some neat pencil boxes (whi! ch might be better than those plastic baggies that get throw away), for less than a $1.00 at Food Max several months ago. The boxes already had designs on them and my five-year-old calls it his treasure box. Big Lots always has really inexpensive coloring books or folders too. Stickers are always a classic favorite plus pencils, a box of the original box of crayons and erasers(I know my kids use them for their homework and school work.) Crayola also makes this box of markers that are actually stamps, one marker per kid is always fun, plus little snack bag of Teddy Grahams or Cheese Nips is always fun instead of the usual candy.
I DETEST goodie bags! Now that that is said and done, this year I tried something different for my daughter's birthday. We had a pony at her party, which was a picnic. I took a polaroid of each child on the pony, then as a craft ac! tivity, we made frames out of tongue depressor sticks, decorated them with stickers, and put the pictures in the frame for the children to take home. We had lots of fun snack foods, some cake, then sent them on their way. I can't stand the commercialism that our kids are drenched with! This year, I gave my kids the option of having a picnic type party with whoever they wanted to invite or a small, fun activity (like a movie or ceramic place) with 2 friends. If she picks the former and invites anyone her heart desires, that partry is her gift and we ask people to bring donations to an animal shelter or homeless shelter, juvenile hall, or ...? If she chooses the latter, she may receive a gift from the 2 friends. I know that this is against the ''norms'' of our society today, but we are hoping to take a stand and maybe effect some change in the process! Good luck!
I used a suggestion from this site and at my daughter's third birthday I asked children to bring a wrapped book to trade at the end of the party. The book was instead of a gift (my daughter has tons of stuff) and the traditional goodie bag. (Note: it's a good idea to have a few extra wrapped books--a few famiies forgot!) If you want your child to get presents, you could still buy inexpensive paperback books to give the guests instead (Pegasus is a good place to pick up remaindered books). Another thing I've done is to buy larger items when they're on sale (e.g., I bought a bunch of 12-inch ''four-square' rubber balls when they were 75% off at Target, buckets of chalk from Ikea, 4-packs of Playdough on sale) and let the kids pick one when they leave.
When my son was young (1-5) and the parties we! re smaller, I handpicked paperback books for each child. This year, he was 8 and the party included his whole class, so books were too expensive. I went to the ''dollar store'' and found large packs of colored pencils, colored building sticks (like popsicle sticks), modeling clay and glitter, and even the brown bags which my son decorated with each kids name. Each child got a couple of each item in various colors, and the whole thing cost $12 for 18 kids!
I've always disliked goodie bags too, and over the years did a few things to avoid them. One thing is to have a treasure hunt (or peanut hunt or Snickers hunt) as part of the birthday activities and buy cheap flashlights and let the kids keep those as party favors. Then when my son was five I had a pirate party for him and the kids, after a treasure hunt, found a treasure chest full of bandanas, eyepatches! , and ''hooks'' and got to keep those. So you get the idea, tie whatever gift you give to a party activity. I've heard of the idea of having the kids decorate aprons, for a girl's party, and then taking those home.
We made t-shirts for my son's birthday party, using special paper for inkjet printers that can be ironed on fabric. We used clip-art for the front, and put each child's name on the back. They were very popular, and the kids still wear them months later. Other years, we've let the kids design their own t-shirt, with fabric markers and fabric crayons. You can buy cheap white t-shirts in multipacks. Other crafy options: have the kids make something, like paint a birdhouse or other wooden object, or use permanent markers and stickers to decorate plastic light-switch plates. Or have the birthday child select music for a CD, and burn copies of the CD to give out as favors. There are a lot of good ideas at www.birthdaypartyideas.com. Have fun!
I agree with the traditional goodie bags being junk! Our kids usually take one look and lose interest. What we have done for many years now is to find a toy or book that goes along with the party theme to give as a ''goodbye gift'' (Gets the kids out the door at the appropriate time!). For instance, we gave Barbie's for a Barbie party; water toys for a water party; and Wizard of Oz books for a Wizard of Oz party. Our next birthday party is coming up in a few weeks, and since it is a ''Glamour Party'', we're giving out cosmetic bags with make-up (all bought in inexpensive lots on eBay). Each and every one of these ideas was less expensive than those darn goodie bags!
! i have a business, goodiebags, that specializes in kids' party planning and favors. this service is for the parent that does not want the mass- merchandised ''bob the builder'' or ''barbie'' theme, but a little more creative and personal. i would love to meet with you, if you would like to see my portfolio of work and see if it might be something that you would be interested in.
I too detest those goodie bags. My kids always want to give them because they are used to getting them but I've put my foot down since b-day #1. As a matter of fact, we have so many of those trashy toys that I did a carnival theme this year for my son's 5th birthday and gave out all that crap as prizes for the games. That way they got out of my house! My kids were ok with it because we have a rule that every birthday and every Ch! ristmas we clear out old stuff to make room for the new. Instead of the goodie bags I've done numerous things. Usually I'll have *one* small favor to give to the kids that goes along with my theme. For the carnival party, I made huge batches of playdough and gave each kids a chuck of two different colors along with the recipe. Last year we gave wooden train whistles for the train party. One year we had beautiful big colorful pinwheels for a garden party. My mom made beautiful small cloth and bead purses for the princess party. Kites of course for the kite party. You get the idea!
Instead of goodie bags, we plan birthday parties that have an art project as the theme. That way the kids can take home something they made. We've painted flower pots; taken polaroid photos and decorated cardboard picture frames; and, for little ones, made and decorated crowns.
I am so with you...and beyond! I am on a mission to ELIMINATE the goodie bag idea in my circle. I think it has gotten way out of control since it doesn't seem optional and it feels rather competetive. My understanding of it the phenomenon is that people didn't want guests to feel badly while the bday kid was opening gifts. To which I have 2 responses. First of all, I have yet to be at a bday party where the presents were opened in the presence of the other kids. And second, isn't it a gift to learn that sometimes you GIVE presents to others and on our special day we GET gifts?! It seems to me that we are setting up our children to EXPECT some kind of goodie bag at every party they attend. Not to mention makes more work for parents, who I'm guessing have better things to do with mental energy and $$ than worrying about goodie bags. I think getting to do fun stuff at a party and having cake/ice cream or whatever bday tradition happens is PLENTY.

What about doing an art project that kids get to leave with-- handprinting shirts, making candles, picture frame, etc. Which obviously depends on where you'll be and the ages of kids. goodie bag grouch


Why not try a book exchange? Every child brings a new, wrapped book, every child goes home with a new book. Everyone gets a present, so everyone is happy. And, not only do you not have to worry about goodie bags, you also don't have a house full of $10 toys you don't need/want and you don't have to write thank you notes!
I have many fond memories as a child of receiving very 'precious' items in goody bags at parties. I now see my 2 year old daughter receive them and things I consider complete junk, she loves and can play with for quite some time, many times over. In fact, some of these items have come in handy to occupy her while we are waiting in line at the grocery store, at the bosses house for dinner, or sitting in the car on the way to here or there. I also don't see the big deal with just tossing the uninteresting ones in the garbage (behing the back of your child). Try to remember when you were a kid and how you saw things. Small toys can really spark a kids imagination, get them interacting with other kids at the party, and bring back good memories of a great party.
our favorite goody to receive has been at a friend who burns a CD of mixed favorite kids' and dancing music (the child does it all herself), then burns copies for everybody (and plays it at the party too!)(Thanks Rose!) others: flower/seed packets to plant, something the kids make at the party, or we had a tea party and gave real porcelain teacups as the favor (assorted from thrift stores)if we had been more organized could have also given a wrapped tea bag with it. Golden dollars (easiest to get from post office machine as change) might be neat, too though they'd probably prefer chocolate coins. Chris

Ideas for Party favors

July 1999

my daughter's B-day is coming up and I hate to give out candies... I cannot afford toys, any ideas???


Instead of filling goodie bags, I stuffed small favors into balloons and blew them up with this prize inside. Had a huge barrel of balloons at the start of the party. I explained that every so often I'd ring a bell or blow a whistle, and each kid could then come and pop a balloon (I had a pushpin available to help), get the prize, and put it in his or her goodie bag, which I'd strung up with clothespins on a rope nearby. Some of the prizes were too big or too hard to fit into a balloon, in which case I put in a note that said the kid could go over to another special basket and choose a toy from that. I used a manual balloon pumper and plastic balloon ties to cut down on the work. It was a bit of a job, but two kids told their moms this was the best bday party they'd ever attended! Linda
Keep party favors simple too. A friend of mine calls those favor bags "kiddy litter", and I agree. Instead of giving kids bags full of little useless things, consider instead giving them one thing, maybe connected to the party theme. For example, a tea party or dress-up favor could be a little dress-up hat or tiara or string of pearls. Some bubble-blowing paraphenalia. Or some face paints, finger paints, water colors or markers. We recently went to a party where the favors were candy and toothbrush and toothpaste. The kids thought it was great! Natasha
I have some ideas for you for party favors for little kids that are inexpensive: Mr. Mopps in North Berkeley has shelves and shelves of 10 cent & 50 cent toys. Chinatown is also a great place to pick up stuff.

  • decorated pencils (you can buy a pack of them)
  • fancy erasers
  • pretend jewelery (plastic rings, bracelets, etc)
  • bandaids with pictures on them (my kids always liked these!)
  • bouncy balls
  • buy a box of gummy fruit snacks, each kid gets a package
  • balloons they can blow up later
  • little rubber spiders, snakes, insects, etc.
  • buy a pad of fake money notepads, give each kid a few
  • buy a pack of plastic combs at the grocery store
  • paper airplanes
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