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Down with goodie bags!

Updated on September 21, 2014

Jettison the bags o' junk! Out-of-the-bag goody bag ideas for kids' birthday parties

Back in the Pleistocene when I was a kid going to birthday parties, they were a simple affair: Go to friend's house, play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, eat sheet cake, bye-bye. Parting gift was a "thank you" from the birthday kid and his/her parents.

Nowadays kids gather at bowling alleys, arcades, indoor gyms. And they leave with a cellophane bag full of candy and plastic tchotchkes. Birthday or not, everyone gets a gift.

Full disclosure: When our kids were little, we did the goodie bags. We felt the pressure. We didn't want to be The Stingies. But in hindsight, I wish we'd skipped this nutty ritual...or at least tweaked it. Goodie bags are lame & need to go!

Or do you disagree? If so, please let me know. A healthy debate is always fun. Just be sure to do as your kindergarten teacher would have advised -- respect others, and no name calling!

(photo: Steven Depolo cc ~ cropped for shape)


Let's ban birthday party goodie bags

A modest proposal

By nature I'm a middle-of-the-road, compromise type person. While parting favors really aren't necessary for birthday party guests (hey, it's not their birthday), they are a nice touch and can even reflect the birthday kid's personal taste or style. That's fun. But why not just one little favor, instead of a bagful of tchotchkes? I believe that for every parent who might raise an eyebrow at this streamlined approach, at least 10 others will be silently grateful for the lack of yet another junk infusion into their homes. Some ideas...

Just pick one! - One cute, affordable toy is enough for each birthday guest...

Fun with Sea Life Stencils (Dover Stencils)
Fun with Sea Life Stencils (Dover Stencils)

My kids did a ton of stenciling when they were younger, using these very affordable little books. They even made personalized pillowcase gifts for relatives with these. Fun, easy, cheap.

Silly Putty 2ct
Silly Putty 2ct

A classic -- what's not to love? Rather therapeutic, even, for "sensory seeking" type kids who like to keep their hands busy with different textures. Bright colors should please both genders, or there are pastel and even glow in the dark options now too. As long as the old "stick it on newspaper to make a putty print" trick still works, all should be well.


Can't fight the sugar?

Just pick one...

I know, I know, candy tastes good. Kids love it. I love it. Who doesn't, beyond the dentist? As long as it's not a daily dietary staple, a bit should be okay for all but children with health issues such as diabetes or allergies to dyes, etc. (Peanut free candy is always a good idea, but dye-free may be harder to find, unless you shop Whole Foods, etc. Worth a shot!)

I noticed that as our kids got older, they started coming home from parties with just one full-size or oversized candy favor rather than a cellophane bag full. And somehow that does seem like an improvement. Less trash, anyway.

Watermelon Pop Rocks, 0.33 Ounce Packet, 36 Count
Watermelon Pop Rocks, 0.33 Ounce Packet, 36 Count

Probably not the best choice for preschoolers, but kindergarten and up should love the novelty of these pop-in-your-mouth candies.

Wonka Nerds Giant Chewy Candies, 1.8-Ounce Bag (Pack of 24)
Wonka Nerds Giant Chewy Candies, 1.8-Ounce Bag (Pack of 24)

Fruity yumminess here -- as long as nobody's in braces, but most goodie-bag-aged kids are not...


Label it!

Birthday party favor stickers

So you've picked one toy or bar/box/bag of candy. Way to focus! That's all you need, really. But for extra fun, grab a sheet of these personalized birthday favor stickers from They come in two sizes, feature kids' art, benefit Save the Children, and are super cute.

And voila, you're done. Party on!

Book it! - Birthday themed books make great favors

You'll be a hero if you swap out goodie bags for a paperback book for each guest. Go with one of your kid's favorite titles, or be clever and pick a birthday themed book.

Henry And Mudge And The Best Day Of All Ready To Read Level 2 English Edition
Henry And Mudge And The Best Day Of All Ready To Read Level 2 English Edition

A boy, a dog, another great story from this classic series for early readers. (Kids not reading yet? This makes an excellent, short but sweet read-aloud.)

A Letter to Amy (Picture Puffins)
A Letter to Amy (Picture Puffins)

If you don't mind a bit of "old school" boy-girl politics, this story from the wonderful Ezra Jack Keats (Whistle for Willie, The Snowy Day) is a good choice for a take-home. The illustrations alone make this worth every penny.



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