Just say No to Oriental Trading
February 15, 2012 2:15 PM   Subscribe

Help me come up with a party favor for a four year old's birthday party.

My son's fourth birthday is coming up, and we're having a party. I'd like to avoid saddling people with a bag full of plastic crap that was made in China. I'd like to keep it fairly simple.

I've looked in the archives, and making t-shirts is a possibility, but could use some suggestions for what to put on the T-shirt. Also, before settling on that I'd love to know if people have other, non t-shirt ideas.

The details:

-The party will be held at our local fire station*
- 8 or 9 kids: 5 or 6 four year olds, mostly boys, plus some younger siblings, with various parents in tow
- the party is scheduled to last 90 minutes, so between running around the fire station and having the cake I don't know if there will really be much time/attention span for a crafty activity.
- my son has a requested a dinosaur cake, which I have well in hand, I just need party favors.

*Our son has an unusual connection with our local FD.

posted by ambrosia to Grab Bag (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think Polaroids (or otherwise taking pictures at the beginning and then running to a store to print copies) of each kid wearing a fireman's hat, or sitting in the driver's seat of a fire truck, or something memorable like that would go over well. But I don't have any kids, and I haven't been 5 for a while, so maybe that's too corny.
posted by jabes at 2:20 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

You could go to your local craft store, buy a pile of iron-ons, & let everyone pick an iron-on at the beginning of the party. Provided you have some hardworking soul willing to dedicate themselves to ironing, you would be able to present them with their own T-shirt at the end of the day.

Or, you could go the super-easy route: Stickers. Sorry, I know they probably fall into the "cheap plastic crap" category, but it is the God's Honest Truth that all children LOVE stickers. Removable wall stickers happen to be my favorite, because kids can decorate their rooms with them.
posted by Ys at 2:28 PM on February 15, 2012

I know a 4-year-old boy who loves firefighters and got a sheet of firefighter-related temporary tattoos when he visited a firehouse -- the tattoos were a big hit. I think he also got a plastic Junior Firefighter badge, also a hit.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:29 PM on February 15, 2012

Fire Stations bring to mind Dalmatians. You could go with spotted, stuffed puppies or something along those lines.

As for what to put on a shirt: Do you know anyone who can draw? A dinosaur wearing a fire helmet could be really cool. My boys would totally wear a shirt like that!
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:30 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wal-Mart has dinosaur toys for $1 each. We bought those for my sons 4th bday and handed them out as party favors. All the kids seemed to enjoy them, plus it only cost us $10 for 10 of them.
posted by Sweetmag at 2:36 PM on February 15, 2012

How about these dalmation firefighter patches? (unless you've got more than six kids coming.
posted by vespabelle at 2:37 PM on February 15, 2012

A few ideas: thundersticks, dinosaur books, and these dinosaur tattoos.
posted by chickenmagazine at 2:39 PM on February 15, 2012

Best answer: But if you want something that is not made from plastic:
-t-shirts, as you say, with a fun design
-cotton tote bags, with a fun design
-jigsaw puzzle, of correct age with relevant theme
-coloring book, relevant theme
-book, about dinos or firefighters
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:40 PM on February 15, 2012

Best answer: My 4 year old love her toy firefighters hat she got at the firehouse as a fundraiser (plastic I know)

Recently at parties she's received:
stickers (loved them)
bad of candy (loved it, though we didn't!)
matchbox car (loved it)
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:53 PM on February 15, 2012

As someone that's been on the receiving end of way to much stuff from Oriental Trading Company, thank you. I hope you're starting a movement. Honestly, coloring books and temporary tattoos are the only thing we get from other kids party that doesn't get tossed within the week.

My talented wife makes coloring books of public domain drawings I'm sure a google image search would turn up some dinos. It's a nights worth of searching, image sizing, printing, cutting, and stapling, but your kid can help pick the pictures, which makes it extra cool.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:57 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We've gotten & received small bottles of bubble soap at lots of parties. The kids always love them & they get used up quickly. I usually buy whatever comes 3/$1 at the Dollar Store.
posted by belladonna at 2:59 PM on February 15, 2012

These excavate-your-own dinosaurs are $7/pop at Toys R Us -- a bit more expensive than the usual party favor, but super cool and not your typical junk. We got one at a party once and loved it; it kept my son hypnotized for an hour. Also, because it was a "big" favor, the parents didn't have to organize, bag or faff around with it in any way -- they just handed them out to the guests on the way out.
posted by apparently at 3:13 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My son is turning four this week and is having a space party. His goodie bags are little drawstring bags (out of space fabric) that will contain a pencil with planets, some glitter playdough (homemade) and a small bag of gumdrops. The bags will probably get the most use because, well, they're four and they like putting things in bags and carrying them around.
posted by wallaby at 3:25 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Last year for my son's third, I put a pair of socks, a small notebook w/crayons, and stickers in a little bag, all Julius Monkey-themed. The kids seemed to dig it, and socks come in many themes are are often unisex.

A super-crafty friend once made custom monsters out of her fabric stash, and had each child pick one out on their way out the door at her kid's birthday party. I thought that was totally fabulous and if I could sew, I would consider that for a party favor, anytime.

How about sending kids home with a fire hat from Michaels (or somewhere like that)? Plastic, yes - but my kid still plays with the cheap-o construction helmet he was given at a party more than a year ago.
posted by pinky at 3:32 PM on February 15, 2012

The more consumable the items are, the less annoying they are to parents. By consumable I don't necessarily mean edible, but anything that gets used up and therefore goes away quickly. Food, stickers, bubble liquid, crayons, and tattoos are great for this reason.

T-shirts sounds like a lot of work, a lot of stress over getting the right size for everyone (big potential for disappointment too), and can easily become really expensive.
posted by Joh at 3:40 PM on February 15, 2012

Series 6 of Lego minifigs is out. Most four year-olds like those, I think. They're $3.99 each around here, aren't made in China, and are tradable. Or, Playmobil now has individual figures for sale, and those are also great. (They cost less - $2.99.)
posted by Francolin at 3:56 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Firefighters are famous for the mass adoption of the moustache (though i have no idea why!). I bought some fake moustaches for my nephew and he thought they were hilarious: http://www.amazon.com/12-FAKE-MOUSTACHES-ASSORTED-MUSTACHE/dp/B000NL2K9U
posted by marylynn at 3:57 PM on February 15, 2012

Photo t-shirts are awesome.

digital camera
an iron
inkjet printer

1 box inkjet iron-on transfer paper (office supply store or craft store)
Sufficient T-shirts or canvas tote bags

You could do something as simple as a group photo or each guest in a fire helmet, or maybe the firefighters are willing to pose with each kid.
posted by Sallyfur at 4:07 PM on February 15, 2012

These kids might be a bit young for this, but I recently bought my godson a box of break-it-yourself geodes (Amazon sells them) and thought it would be a great party activity/favor to smash the geodes (put them in a sock, tap with a hammer) and let them take home the sparkly pieces.
posted by judith at 4:15 PM on February 15, 2012

I've done gift cards for local ice cream store, but usually for older kids. Instead of a bag full of "stuff" that will quickly be tossed, how about a single slightly "better" take home - like a match box fire truck or the fire helmet to remember the party? Also, instead of polaroid pictures, just bring your camera and take a picture of each child by the fire truck and / or with the firemen. Also take a picture of your child, the guest, and their gift (if you are opening gifts at the party). Then in the thank you notes put copies of the pictures in there. The gift pictures replace the "gift list" so you know who brought which gift, and the other picture is the permanent memory of the party.
posted by bmorrison at 4:24 PM on February 15, 2012

I suggest a board book about fire houses or a toy fire truck made out of metal not plastic. Maybe a DVD of fire trucks and trucks in general?
posted by AugustWest at 4:37 PM on February 15, 2012

Big fancy dinosaur or fire truck cookie? Sugary, but would be a big thrill. Maybe a bakery would make them custom for you.
posted by lakeroon at 4:54 PM on February 15, 2012

Best answer: Hi Ambrosia, I asked the same question a couple of years ago and got lots of good ideas. I too dislike giving cheap trinkets and prefer to give one substantial item as party favours.

Hot Wheels have been a go-to of mine for years, and I think they'd fit especially well with your theme if you got firetrucks.

Also possible:

I also like the idea of a fire helmet mentioned above.
posted by yawper at 5:22 PM on February 15, 2012

Slide whistles
posted by lakersfan1222 at 5:23 PM on February 15, 2012

How about something that could be enjoyed for a while? You could give each child a packet of seeds -- perhaps fireweed or red hot poker flowers to fit with the theme. If you wanted to go all out, you could paint the rim of some small terra cotta pots with chalkboard paint and write each child's name on their own little pot. Place the seed packet and some peat pellets inside the pot and wrap it up in a goody bag.

Kids that age love seeds and sprouts because they are like magic -- you put this little seed into the soil and it grows!
posted by Ostara at 5:37 PM on February 15, 2012

Best answer: PERSONALIZED "____'s Pet Dinosaur" coloring page (free if you have a printer at home! And
Firetruck crayons from Etsy: 4 for $6 (probably need two sets)
You could then add a toy plastic dinosaur each to round out the gift bag.

Or you could really do it up and include these insteadof the toy dinos, so the kids can make their OWN pet dinosaurs:
T-Rex cookie cutter, $1.29 each
Play-doh party pack of 15 = $8.00 for all.

If you had, say, 6 kids, that comes out to ~$5 a kid.
posted by misha at 7:18 PM on February 15, 2012

On preview, If all 9 kids show up, you'd still be at ~$5 a kid, because you'd just pay extra for more cookie cutters.
posted by misha at 7:21 PM on February 15, 2012

I am thirty and I still think stickers are freaking rad.
posted by Jilder at 10:45 AM on February 16, 2012

Best ever party favours!!! Cheap as chips, carved wooden netsuke, free postage often and there's dragons and toads and dogs and pigs and snails. The ebay person we bought from in China included tiny little gauze gift bags for each netsuke. And we gave the kids a string/leather thong and let them thread them themselves. A bit of craft and a fabulous, memorable trinket. LOVE.
posted by taff at 11:51 PM on February 16, 2012

We put out a box of books and told the kids to take one (or more) as they left. The only point of a party favor is to get the kids out the door, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:46 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So many great suggestions! What I finally settled on: a smallish canvas drawstring bag in a variety of bright colors, with a flashlight inside. I baked some cookies, using either a fire truck or a dinosaur cookie cutter, and each kid will get a couple of cookies in addition to the flashlight.

I also bought a dozen bottles of bubble-blowing stuff. It's my Plan B in case the firefighters have to run out in the middle of the party (let's cross our fingers for an uneventful morning!) and if we don't need them I will tuck one in each of the bags at the last minute.

Certainly easier than t-shirts, and I think the kids will enjoy them.

The fire department generally has cheapie plastic helmets for all the kids (we are regular visitors) so that's already pretty much a given.

thanks for the ideas!
posted by ambrosia at 2:56 PM on February 24, 2012

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