7 Goody Bag Ideas

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As if planning a birthday party for kids wasn’t tough enough, treat bags (those ubiquitous little goodie bags handed out at the end of the party) have gotten more elaborate and expensive over the years. If your child is over the age of 5, you’ve probably seen your fill of bouncy balls that land under the couch, cheap games that break by the time you get home and stickers that end up on mirrors forever. The alternative is loads of candy given to kids already hopped up on birthday cake and ice cream.

But the pressure is high, and who wants to be the only parent (or only kid) not handing out a goodie bag? At the same time, if you’re the kind of parent who balks at the time and creativity involved, to say nothing about the impact of goodie bags on landfills, then maybe it’s time to re-think the idea. Take it down a notch and simplify your life (and other mom’s lives as well).

1. Less Is More
Resist the urge to give out lots of little trinkets, and just go for one nicer item. Work with your party theme and be creative. Try personalizing something that kids would use and enjoy: a cute, reusable water bottle to bring to sports practice, a flashlight or a fun baseball-type hat.

The possibilities are endless once you start brainstorming.

“Dinnerware actually makes a very practical party favor that both young kids and parents love,” says Janet Doherty, who writes the popular blog www.birthday-parties-for-kids.com. She also loves two other practical party favor ideas: a bookmark and place mats. “Even kids’ paperback books can often be purchased fairly inexpensively. Just keep your eyes out for a book that coordinates with your child’s party theme.”

2. Combine a Craft and a Treat
Get a two-for-one bang and have the kids decorate an item at the party that they can take home with them. Have them embellish a T-shirt, pillowcase or tote bag using fabric markers or fabric paint. Make a fleece scarf or hat. Or decorate the edges of a picture frame or flower pot with paint, stickers, shells or foam cutouts. Have them design and embellish a doorknob hanger.

3. Go Retro
Jes Gordon of celebrations.com suggests digging up an old Polaroid camera or borrowing one. “Then just get snap-happy at the party. Take lots of pictures and let them take the pictures home.” Watching the film develop and seeing the old-fashioned image emerge is a thrill for partygoers of all ages. Maybe play some old records while you’re taking the shots to add atmosphere.

4. Make a CD
Burn a CD of your child’s favorite songs for each guest. You can slip it in an inexpensive case and have your child decorate the cover or use a copy of a photo. If you have a party theme, the songs could all relate to the theme. For instance, appropriate songs for an animal-lover’s party might include “Animal Crackers in My Soup,” “At the Codfish Ball,” or “The Hippopotamus Song.”

5. Give Back to the Earth
Gordon also recommends giving the kids little potted plants that they can take home and nurture. They could even decorate the pots at the party, and then fill them with dirt and add either small flowers or seeds.

6. Hand Out Gift Cards
Think ice cream, a local hot dog or cookie shop. Have your child personalize the gift card with stickers and a note.

7. Seasonal Fun
Find a cute coffee mug and fill it with hot chocolate, marshmallows in a bag and a couple of candy canes for stirring. Fill a beach bucket with a shovel, sieve and other sand toys. If you have a literary or creative bunch, hand out a small notebook with a pen neatly tied on and add a few stickers for fun.

The idea is to avoid the overload of useless stuff. Most of us have an abundance of that in our lives already. Birthday parties are stressful enough – make it easy for yourself, and the other parents will thank you for it.

Laura Amann is a freelance writer who frequently writes about parenting. Visit her website at www.laura-amann.com.