Parents, we are insane. I was at a birthday party recently, talking to a close friend, and we realized that us parents keep torturing each other. I am guilty. You are probably guilty. Your cousin Linda is guilty, too. We have all done it, and it needs to stop. Goodie bags filled with crap. Granted, it’s crap our kids love for five minutes. It’s still crap. Party favors and party bags are awesome, and I love a good party favor idea just as much as the next mom. But can we talk about some party favor alternatives for a minute? Some of you call them “loot bags”. Let’s save our party guests, rid our homes of cheap toys, and rock your child’s next birthday party.
Let’s talk about what really happens when we buy all that junk to fill goody bags, and what really happens we receive that bag full of junk party favours. And then, let’s talk about some party favor alternatives.
The perfect party favors for kids birthday parties planning saga
Before we get into alternatives, let’s just be real about this party favor situation. As the mom-host of the children’s birthday party, I realize I need to make goody bags to give away at the end of the party. It’s a great way to thank your guests, and makes way for tons of fun ideas. However, my mind goes to two places instantly: Target dollar bins and the Dollar Store.
I purchase cute gift bags that cost about $25 each, and proceed to find every little piece of crap I can find. Stamps? Sure. Half an ounce of bubbles for a dollar? Of course. World’s smallest plastic slinky that breaks the first time someone touches it? Need those. Small rubber choking-hazards disguised as bouncy balls? Throw those in. You get the picture. You’ve been that mom, right? Kids of all ages, rejoice, moms hit the Dollar Store thinking she has a great idea.
I then proceed to force my kids into an assembly line of filling bags with all the junk I spent too much money on because I still think this is a good idea, while they whine about how they wish there was extra for them. Ya know, because an entire birthday party and 50 presents from friends and family isn’t going to be enough, they need a tiny plastic frog that jumps when you press down on it, too.
Finally, birthday party time. After about half of the guests leave I realize I’ve forgotten to give party favor bags to them. Lucky second half of party-goers, they get extra plastic junk to throw away from the floor of their car a week later. (Last year we actually skipped all this nonsense, thanks to quarantine.)
Never in all of my junk-filled goody-bag giving days did it dawn on me what we actually do when we are on the receiving end, until recently.
What really happens to those goody bags from kids’ birthday parties
This is what really happens, in my house at least, to all of the treasures from those goody bags when we receive them. Some of it makes it out of the car alive, a good portion falls into the car floor abyss, never to be seen again until I get frustrated that no one can find their shoes and finally decide to clean out the car. At that point, it goes into the garbage. My kids had about 5 minutes of so much fun with what was in the bags, and it’s over. Trash.
The portion of the party favors that actually make it inside the house are then spread all over. Then, after several days of picking up the same junk over and over from random places, I wait until the kids aren’t looking and bam, garbage. They’ve never once said, “Where’s my broken slinky from that paper bag?”
Yep, you read that right. All roads lead to the garbage.
So what I am telling you, my parental friends, is that we are all wasting a crap-load of money on a crap-load of crap that we are all throwing away the second our kids aren’t looking.
Why do we do this to each other over and over? We are smart. Completely exhausted, yes, but smart. We buy special cutters to turn our kids’ sandwiches into penguins and dinosaurs (we do this, right? not just me). We can certainly be more creative with our party favor ideas. I mean, we have Pinterest.
Party Favor Alternatives
Originally, I was only going to write this blog to tell all parents, myself included, that the madness must stop and end it there. However, about half way through I realized that if I am going to point out the problem I better offer up some solutions. So, you are very welcome for the following list of party favor ideas that are great alternatives to your normal party favor. Parents unite: may our goody bags no longer suck.
Party Favor Ideas
- While I was writing this it dawned on me that about two years back I must have thought of this (and then forgot), because that year I decided to give something a little more creative. We had a petting zoo at our party, so I gave out ceramic farm animals, paint brushes and paints.
- Coloring books and boxes of crayons – one per kid. Easy as that.
- Instead of serving drinks for kids in plastic or paper cups, get them each their own inexpensive water bottle that they’ll take home. You can find cute ones for cheap at Target, the Dollar Store, or even on Amazon.
- One small tub of play-doh per kid. They love playing with it. It lasts a while. It’s easy.
- Sidewalk chalk
- Picture frames they can paint. Then take a group photo at the party and mail it later with a thank you note on the back of the photo. You can find frames like this at craft supply stores.
- Seed packets so the kids can plant their own flowers later
- Bubble wands are always a hit and actually get used
- Water bottles – they can even be colored or decorated to go with the theme of the party. If you have a cricket or label maker, you can even personalize them with each child’s name
- Gift cards – even in very small amounts (less than you would spend at the dollar store!) to get a shake or something somewhere fun.
- Give each child their own small succulent in a tiny pot. They’ll love taking care of their own plant (that doesn’t require much care), and the parents won’t mind it as a decoration in the house. You can find tiny pots at Home Depot, Lowes, or even a craft store.
- If you are having a pool party, consider giving some sort of pool toy – mini boogie boards, water squirters, floats. My kids have water squirters that float in the pool and they use them all the time. Of course, pool toys make more sense if you live somewhere like FL like we do, where pools are everywhere and kids could actually use their gift often.
- I read somewhere (I would tell you where if my mom brain could remember) that someone once purchased tons of vintage superhero comics off Ebay and gave them out at her son’s superhero-themed birthday party.
- Puzzles. We love puzzles, and it’s a great activity for the whole family to do together.
- I love the idea of giving something the kids can plant, and these Tickle Me Plants look so fun!
- For a beach themed party or pool party, give a small beach bucket with sand toys. I see these periodically in the Target Dollar Bins!
- Themed band-aids. Seriously, don’t all kids love band-aids as much as my kids do? And if they have The Incredibles or Trolls on them, they are like gold in my house. Plus, every mom could use a package of band-aids in her purse. I literally mean they can actually use it.
- Having a bug or critter themed birthday party? Check out this list of Critter Crafts and use an idea of party favors!
- Books! You can almost always find a book that fits with the theme of your party, and books are always great gifts!
- Take-home Lego Kit: little bags with small legos in them.
- Card games, like Uno or a regular deck of cards are always a big hit
- Slumber party? Matching PJs, slippers, pillows or stuffed animals that fit your party’s theme.
- Party near Christmas-time? Send the kids home with the materials to make this cute Rudolph Pine Cone Ornament.
- Coupons. You read that right, coupons. If you’re having your party at a public venue like a skating rink, ice cream shop, trampoline park, etc, you might find that the business will include X number of coupons for “one free” ice cream cone or visit, for example, for each child on their next visit. These are great gifts and ways to support your local businesses at the same time!
- Give a donation! Let your child choose where the donations go, and have your guests sign a card that you can mail off with the donations. Be sure to send your guests a card later thanking them for the donation they made by attending your party!
- Cookie cutter in a shape that goes with your party’s theme, along with a printed recipe for your favorite kind of cookies.
- TreeInABox.com has these fun kits to plant a tree. It would be so awesome to have every child go home and plant their own tree!
- Make kits with the ingredients to make this 5-Minute Play Dough that smells good, and include a card with the recipe on it so they can go home and make it together with their parents!
The overall idea is to think useful, practical, fun for more than 5 minutes, experiences, activities for awesome party favors for your child’s birthday party. Think one big item rather than lots of little junky items. Get creative, it’s fun to think of alternatives that fit your theme, and the parents who attend your parties will surely thank you for not sending them home with a bag of junk!
What are your ideas for creative party favor alternatives? Leave them in the comments, I would love to hear them!
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Hi, I’m Jessica! I am wife to Chris, and mom to Kaiper, Alana and Koa. I am a graphic designer, website developer and aspiring author. In this space, I share about everything from parenting, working from home, food we cook, and lots of things for kids! Learn more about me here.