Of the items you can expect to find at every birthday party, goody bags are what strike fear in the hearts of parents, both those hosting the party and those who have children attending as guests. For hosts, goody bags can get out of control quickly and bust the budget. For parents of little attendees, they mean an influx of little plastic toys that create clutter but don’t get used or enjoyed.
Here are some tips for keeping your sanity when it comes to goody bags at your child’s next party.
Don’t spend a fortune
“One really big myth is that you have to spend a lot to have a nice party favor,” says Katherine McHenry, owner and toy shop keeper of Building Blocks Toy Store in Chicago. “If just have a dollar or two, you can still get something thoughtful.”
To make sure those few dollars have a big impact, find items that really fit with the party theme. She says her staff can work with any budget. “Parents are often surprised that there are a lots of options under $5 and that they’ll be really happy with what they’re giving,” McHenry says.
Even something as simple as a bottle of bubbles can bring a lot of smiles, while also saving parents some stress.
One and done
“Parents secretly despise the little plastic things,” McHenry confides. Instead, she suggests following the theory that less is more. “One thoughtful gift is plenty rather than a lot of things to fill a bag.”
“Kids don’t really expect a lot and people are appreciative to get anything,” says McHenry. “A carefully selected item relating to the party goes a long way.” Odds are that it will be kept longer and appreciated more than many small novelty items.
When going with just one item in the goody bag, a book is a sure bet. Select a book that goes with the party’s theme. Adding an inscription in the book noting the date and event, or a message from the birthday child thanking the guest for coming makes it extra special.
“There’s a book for every child and for every birthday theme,” says Becky Anderson, owner of Anderson’s Bookshop with locations in La Grange, Downers Grove and Naperville.
Anderson, who notes that books can be a budget-friendly option with beginning readers priced at $3.99.
Giving all guests the same book is one approach, but Anderson suggests letting the birthday child pick out a different book for each guest if they are close friends, or giving a gift certificate to a bookstore so the kids can each pick their own book.
She so believes that books and birthday go together well that Anderson’s Bookshop is planning to start hosting birthday parties in their stores.
Aim for something usable
Consider giving items that are immediately usable, rather than something to put away. Temporary tattoos can be big hits, as are coloring books or coloring pages. For a sweet treat, give a gift card for a scoop at the local ice cream shop or a cookie at a nearby bakery.
It’s a wrap!
Presentation can add a definite wow factor, so consider ditching the “bag” concept all together and wrapping the party favor. Some stores like Building Blocks can do it for you. “We can individually wrap each item, even if it’s $3 or put a bow on it,” McHenry says.
Brown bag it
If you want keep the ‘bag’ in goody bags, make it an art project for your kids.
“We use the brown paper lunch bags and have the birthday child decorate them. It’s a fun art project and as a bonus, they’re also recyclable,” says Andrea Galo, a Naperville mom of three. Writing each guest’s name on the bags can also be a fun way to get in writing practice and lets the guest know they were thought of.
Hopefully your goody bag or party favor will let your guests both young and old know that you thought of them and wanted to express your appreciation for their presence with something fun and meaningful.