Goody Bag Alternatives
July 1, 2016 1:19 AM   Subscribe

Hello! My baby is having a birthday party, and I noticed that most kid birthday parties include goody bag giveaways filled with all kinds of crap. I don't really want to gather a bunch of cheap things, and instead would like to give one nice gift for kids to take home. Any suggestions?

(I actually don't think goody bags are a great idea because just going to the party and having food and games and cake seem like enough for me. But since everyone else gives them, I feel like we need to do the same.) Anyway, I thought about giving away a book of nursery rhymes since that's the loose theme of the party, but my husband thinks that's lame to give a book. He wants to give LEGO Duplos, but I think that's too expensive! I'd like toy suggestions that would work for toddler to preschool age children.
posted by lirael2008 to Grab Bag (44 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Giving books is never 'lame'. If the nursery rhymes are age appropriate, then I think that's a great gift. The children might not be overwhelmed, but what you are giving is an opportunity for the parents to connect to them in a lovely and traditional way. You are giving them a piece of cultural heritage.
If you want the children themselves to be happy, though, you might aim for something with a more general appeal... maybe something about a popular character, like Dora the Explorer? (This is a shot in the dark since I know nothing about what is popular with children in your part of the world.) They won't care whether the gift is related to the theme of the party.

Your husband might want to recalibrate his attitude towards books. I hope he reads to his child(ren)? Now THAT is truly a gift that keeps on giving. Infecting them with the love of reading is one of the best, most loving things you can do for your offspring!
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:29 AM on July 1, 2016 [6 favorites]

Little boxes of different colored chalk?
we used to spend a decent chunk of time doodling outside on the pavement when we were kiddos
posted by speakeasy at 1:39 AM on July 1, 2016 [16 favorites]

Best answer: A book of nursery rhymes sounds like a great idea.

You could also give them a coloring/activity book (with a pack of crayons). Or bubbles.
posted by modesty.blaise at 1:45 AM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

We have done books, chalk, bubbles -- all good stuff. Also, consider craft kits from a place like Oriental Trading -- we have done this as an activity during a party, and the result is the party favor. We've painted bird houses (like these) and canvas backpacks (like these).
posted by odin53 at 2:13 AM on July 1, 2016 [6 favorites]

It's my three year old's birthday party this weekend and we are giving bubbles. Other ideas that we have used for kids include Lego minifigs which are a dollar so each, Mr Men or Peter Rabbit books, bouncy balls, mini play do, the list goes on. $2 shops are where it's at for this kind of thing. I am with you on the goody bags but you can give great small gifts that kids love for very little money. Have a great party!
posted by Jubey at 2:51 AM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Bird Gliders
posted by fairmettle at 2:54 AM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bubbles are always a winner.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:25 AM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Unless you're giving a lot of Lego blocks, which would be hellish expensive, a few blocks aren't really useful by themselves.

We bought a 50 book box-set of Mr. Men books and hid them around the garden so they doubled as both a treasure hunt and take home gift. Worked well for us.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 3:26 AM on July 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

Is there a theme for the party? We do books, theme associated color pages, a Hot Wheels car, bubbles, that sort of thing. One year we did I pirate party and I gave out bags of gold chocolate coins and fake gems. Gimme a theme and a per kid budget.......
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:08 AM on July 1, 2016

I actually don't think goody bags are a great idea because just going to the party and having food and games and cake seem like enough for me. But since everyone else gives them, I feel like we need to do the same.

I used to feel the same way but I realized they serve an important purpose in getting kids to leave your house. When everyone's toddler-drunk and cranky from fun and cake and starting to melt down, you hold out the bag to entice them to leave.

Some of the best stuff I gave out: little books, crayons, seeds for the garden with little shovels and trowels, candy, chalk,Hot Wheels, little $1 coloring books. Those plastic necklaces and sunglasses and cheap balls were never my thing.

I also knew a lot of moms who would stock up on Happy Meal toys and give those out.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:11 AM on July 1, 2016 [14 favorites]

We did a treasure basket that kids could pick from at my daughter's party. I had some cool art kits in there but in the end everyone wanted the LED light up rings and fiber optic hair clips.
posted by cabingirl at 4:36 AM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Bubbles and sidewalk chalk: consumables that can entertain the kid outside. Maybe one of those little cars with the ratcheting wheels that you can pull back and let go.
posted by phunniemee at 4:44 AM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

One year I made light sabers from pool noodles for every kid (and their siblings that attended) at the party. It was a super hero/starwars dress up party so fit the theme. Took me two or three evenings to make them all but pool noodles are cheap. One of the parents told me a year or two later that the kids STILL play with them so that's cool.
posted by LoveHam at 4:47 AM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Little stuffed animals - Ty (makers of Beanie Babies) makes a bunch of different kinds and sizes. There is actually a large variety of them at my supermarket, but I know there are also a ton on Amazon and I'm sure they're at Toys R Us too.
posted by amro at 5:11 AM on July 1, 2016

I know of children who rarely go to or hold birthday parties in their social circle because birthday/leaving gift inflation has made it unaffordable for their parents. It's great that you say you don't want to spend too much; please hold to that for the sake of those families who may be struggling financially. Sorry for the downer!
posted by Busy Old Fool at 5:26 AM on July 1, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I totally missed that nursery rhymes is your theme! You can find the tiny little garden kits for under $3 that have a tiny pot, soil sponge and seeds and go all "Mary, Mary quite contrary...". Put it in a little bag with a few candies and tie it with a bow and tag that has the verse on it.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:28 AM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree with you about sacks of junk. But there is a middle ground, where a party activity can result in something that they get to take home with them. That is, whatever you give away, should be used at or related to the party. If you give away books, then make sure that you do something book-related.

With older kids, we have given them (11-y.o. boys) pre-cut pieces of PVC pipe and some instructions, and they made a marshmallow shooter -- and then the activities for much of the party were things like trying to shoot marshmallows at targets, or chasing each other around in a free-for-all.

For at an 8-y.o. girl's party, we had gotten some American Girl Dolls craft project packs cheaply, so the girls got to assemble those and them take them home instead of a bag of junk.

Don't cave in!
posted by wenestvedt at 5:58 AM on July 1, 2016

I was never happier than when I decided to stop with the goody bag madness. I just couldn't justify the waste and the environmental impact of all that plastic crap. Several parents even thanked me for it a few times. The first couple years after I stopped, I did the party activity thing that wenestvedt mentions above. Then one year I was super busy and didn't plan one and the world didn't end! The kids still had a good time! My kid still got invited to other birthday parties! After that, we did parties like this: kids come over, play, run around the yard, play some more, have some snacks, open presents (or not, depending on the kid), cake, send them all home. It was fine! Some years there were themes (Taekwondo party at the dojang! Tea party at the Enchanted Village Gift Shop!), some years it was just organized chaos. IT WAS FINE! It was also nice to not have to budget the going-away gift into the price of the party.

Stay strong! The environment (and other parents) will thank you!
posted by cooker girl at 6:13 AM on July 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

Don't go full duplo. My kids once got a loot bag including a full Lego kit each. The value was way higher than the (joint!) gift I bought. It was embarrassing. I nth th craft to bring home. I bought wooden masks from the dollar store one year, and they decorated them with glitter. Fun! For bigger kids, a make your own Lego minifig station is always a huge hit.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 6:24 AM on July 1, 2016

Another thing you can do is buy a bunch of balloons to decorate the party, and then give each child a balloon when they leave.
posted by areaperson at 6:49 AM on July 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

Highlighting a couple of ideas already mentioned that we've found to be very popular:

- Pool noodle light sabers
- LED thing-a-ma-bobs (small flashlights, light-up rings, etc.) Take a look at the selection at Oriental Trading for ideas.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:50 AM on July 1, 2016

We once gave a small raspberry plant to each family who attended a bday parry since they grow like weeds in our garden and we needed to thin out our patch and it is my son's favorite fruit.

It is nice now years later to visit these friends and see they have raspberry patches of their own. So maybe a small plant or some seeds?
posted by absences at 6:57 AM on July 1, 2016

I feel you. i always gave one small gift instead of the bag full o crap. Honestly, you might come out ahead money wise.

i'm blanking on your theme, but little coloring books, rubber ducks for bath time, beach balls, hot wheels, all that stuff goes over great.

worst party favor idea ever - live fish. the one my daughter got happened to live for quite awhile but i still don't know what the hell that mom was thinking.
posted by domino at 6:59 AM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding bubbles and chalk. Stickers are always good. I do kids' storytimes and yes, the parting gift really helps to get people to leave. You can usually put together a bunch of coloring books, stickers and storybooks from the bargain section at a Barnes & Noble. They have things like boxes of little books that you can take apart and give everybody one. (Sometimes the selection sucks-- if I had kids I'd go once a month or so to scout bargain and keep an eye out for clearance.) A conceivable problem with one book of any kind as the entire gift is that it's either a hit or a miss.
posted by BibiRose at 7:16 AM on July 1, 2016

We've done several of the suggestions above, including the Mr. Men books. This year, I announced that we were doing a gift exchange. Instead of everybody bringing gifts for the birthday child, I asked everybody to bring a wrapped gift in the $10 range, and said that in lieu of goody bags each child would get to choose and take home one of the gifts. When it was time to pick, I told all the kids not to open the presents until they got home, and the birthday child got to choose first. I brought a couple of extra gifts in case anybody didn't bring one, and I gave one of the extra ones to my birthday kid. This worked out really well!
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:53 AM on July 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Go to the dollar store and see what they have. You never know what fun things you might find, and you won't need to spend a ton.

My niece and nephew loved craft supplies, stickers, and bubbles at that age. If you have a printer, you can print out coloring pages and give one to each child with a few crayons or colored pencils. Do a Google search for "customizable coloring page" or just "coloring page" for lots of options. Or cut computer paper into fourths and staple together a mini drawing pad and give them a new pencil.

Also, a bit of ribbon makes any small thing a gift. Pencils are school supplies, and by themselves are kind of lame. But tie two together with colorful curly ribbon and *poof* you have a party favor. I did this one year with my students and it was a hit.
posted by rakaidan at 8:05 AM on July 1, 2016

Nothing. Give nothing. That's what I do for my kids' parties. Other parents thank me. NOTHING.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:23 AM on July 1, 2016 [9 favorites]

Personally I'm not overjoyed if my kid brings home another bag of junk. Consumables (chalk, bubbles) sound like a good idea if you think you can't do without a baggie. The book sounds like overkill to me. I wouldn't spend more than $1 per kid. I was taken aback when my daughter brought home a $10 wooden toy as a party favor once.
(And also: if you can't get kids to leave after a party without bribery/meltdown, consider scaling down the whole thing. Fewer kids. Less activities. Less sugar. Maybe just hang out at the park.)
posted by The Toad at 8:27 AM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Bubbles and chalk are staples and kids seem to love getting them. I have also done single decorated cookies (something with the theme of the party) or cake pops. I know it's more sugar, but the kids love it and it's consumable. I have done the marshmallow popper kit but with pompoms instead of marshmallows. The book idea is 100% great.
posted by LKWorking at 9:04 AM on July 1, 2016

We had an "Elmo/Sesame Street" birthday party for our daughter this year and gave out a bag of goldfish crackers and a box of crayons wrapped in a cellophane bag ("Elmo likes his goldfish, his crayon too..."). They were a huge hit with the toddler crowd. Can you tie the goody bag into the theme of the party in some way?
posted by Nutritionista at 9:22 AM on July 1, 2016

In my group we've pretty successfully gone no gifts and mostly cut out the goody bags. I usually just ask kids to bring cards.

Last year I did a scavenger hunt through the house and the prize was a basket with clementines the kids could grab if they wanted and some stickers. That was super fun and the kids were just excited to get to the end, they didn't care what they got.
posted by betsybetsy at 9:31 AM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

The madness never stops unless one brave parent stands up and says it's totally okay not to do what other parents have decided is required. If by "baby" you mean actual baby or toddler, then absolutely skip the goody bag! A nice cake and games is more than enough to have a festive celebration. They won't know the difference, but the parents will likely be just as happy not to have more stuff enter the house.
posted by cecic at 9:41 AM on July 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

Just stop! I did. No blowback, no one cared. Don't believe the hype!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 9:58 AM on July 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Didn't read closely; if this is a baby party, no goody bags needed. Toddler, maybe a box of animal crackers attached to a balloon.

The madness never stops unless one brave parent stands up and says it's totally okay not to do what other parents have decided is required.

But for older kids, goody bags are a THING and they look forward to them (and I'm saying this as a veteran of over 30 kid parties and I never gave crappy goody bags). Deciding to draw a marker in the sand for older kids strikes me as being the parent who hands out toothbrushes on Halloween. They may be morally right, but kids hate them.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 10:02 AM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Gift cards for a kiddie scoop at the local ice cream place.
posted by kestrel251 at 10:33 AM on July 1, 2016

I'll one-up him on lameness. I gave the kids USED books instead of a goody bag two years in a row. Our local used bookstore does a warehouse sale once a month. The birthday girl and I went and picked out two dozen books (at $5 a bag, we didn't even get our full allotment that we could have for $5) and at the end of the party, every kid got to pick a book or two.

Reader, the kids loved it.
posted by freezer cake at 11:11 AM on July 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

We did bubbles and a sticker for a 4 year old.
posted by typecloud at 11:11 AM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We like the idea of "usable items" rather than "cheap plastic junk that will be thrown away by mom & dad in a week" or a pile of candy.

Crayons, pencils, small pads of paper, little tubs of Play-Doh ... anything that is by nature a consumable item, preferably one that encourages creativity. Play-Doh gets crusty; crayons and pencils get used up; kids can always use more.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:55 AM on July 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I once attended a party where the goody bag happened in the form of an activity. In that case, the person hosting it was a potter and the kids all painted a pre-made animal and she fired it during the party and they were done by the time they went home with their ceramic hand-painted animal. I thought it was great and interactive. That's obviously a lot of work but you could make a group activity that sends everyone home with something - fabric markers and t-shirts? That kind of thing.

I also like art supplies or small coloring books as party favors.
posted by mmmleaf at 1:51 PM on July 1, 2016

Keep it simple - you really can't go wrong with balloons and bubbles. I think last year we also included crayons.
posted by echo0720 at 2:57 PM on July 1, 2016

Best answer: Something consumable would be great. A container of play dough (with a cookie cutter that ties into your theme maybe?) bubbles, crayons (with a colouring sheet that ties into your theme?), bubbles, sidewalk chalk.
posted by Lay Off The Books at 2:57 PM on July 1, 2016

Balloons! Helium if you're feeling fancy, or just regular ones if you're not. Tip: either have them all the same colour, or several of each colour on hand, otherwise there will be tears over who gets the blue one.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 4:27 PM on July 1, 2016

I hate giving and receiving party favors. It is ridiculous to give a gift to someone attending a party, especially when that gift is often an environmental nightmare of extruded plastic and endless packaging. Play dough and duplo sound great, but everyone going to the party probably already has plenty of that. Of course, I still give favors to avoid being labeled as a Scrooge by my husband. We've given books, edible stuff (but no one needs more sugar after birthday cake), mini pumpkins for an October birthday. Anything is fine. The kids forget about the favors almost immediately after receiving them. You could also offer a piece of fruit that may be relevant to the theme. A summer peach, bananas for monkeys, something to match a color theme.

Or you could lead the revolution that enough is enough. Bah humbug!
posted by defreckled at 7:23 PM on July 1, 2016

Playdough. You can get packs of 6 smaller containers, and everybody could get 2 colors. I'm in the gift bags are annoying camp, but Playdough is always fun.
posted by theora55 at 1:33 PM on July 2, 2016

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