My eldest daughter, Maddie, turns 7. We’re having a cooking party at a grocery store. The store facilitates everything from set up to clean up, and I think that’s AWESOME!
Last year, we did a cereal themed party at home, and it was also awesome, but much more exhausting for me! LOL
No matter how we do the party, I always struggle with lootbags. I guess I feel like they’re a waste. An obligation. And I don’t like them. There, I said it. Yup, I’m a bit of a grinch like that.
I don’t think they’re necessary and I wish they weren’t the social norm. I don’t want to buy more plastic bags, and fill them with little plastic trinkets, tiny erasers and pencils, and the ever present Ring Pop only to have them tossed in the trash or add to the clutter at someone elses home. I know people who give out loot bags mean well. I get that some kids are totally thrilled to get that extra treat as they leave a party. But I come from a home where over-consumerism is an issue and I don’t want to continue the trend for my daughters.
Are you’re looking for better options for “lootbags” for your children’s parties? I have some suggestions, and I’d love to see your suggestions in the comments.
Individual potted plants: small clay pots, a cup of soil, and a flat of little flowers from any garden centre makes a pretty parting gift. The clay pots could be personalized ahead of time, or be part of the activites during the party. Alternatively, include the soil in a little bag and give a pack of seeds so the guest can experience planting themselves and watch a flower grow from scratch.
Bubbles: one container of bubbles per child is enough, and is consumable without taking up much space. Personalize with curly ribbon if you’d like.
Sidewalk Chalk: tie 3 pieces with ribbon
Candy Kebabs: make a skewer per child, with mixed gummy candy from the bulk food section…maybe better for kids older than 5.
Chocolate Suckers: a mold from the candy making section at the bulk food store or craft store, Merken’s chocolate wafers melted in a double boiler, and sucker sticks make a fun treat, and are pretty easy to make and customize. An alternative would be to dip long pretzel sticks or licorice sticks in chocolate, then amp up with colourful candy sprinkles or nonpareils.
Custom Spoons: for Maddie’s cereal themed birthday, I glued letter beads to spoons so each child had one with their name on it. And they got to take home Chinese take out boxes (from a party store) filled with their choice of fun cereal mix.
Gift Cards: one of Maddie’s friends gave out $5 gift cards to Dairy Queen. I thought that was brilliant. A fun treat to enjoy later, and I personally love any excuse to visit Dairy Queen. Gift cards for other places would be great…maybe you have a local treat shop you could help support?
Comic books: These shouldn’t cost more than $5, but give the kids something fun and colourful to read on the ride home.
Colouring Book and Crayons: These are much more useful than a tiny notebook with matching unsharpened pencil. We go through a lot of crayons in our house.
Donations to Charity: Give a donation to a meaningful cause in lieu of lootbags and give a card to the child instead.
Photos: Set up a silly backdrop and some goofy props for kids to dress up. Take their photo and use a printer to make prints on the spot so kids can take a memory home with them. Another good idea is to take a photo of your birthday child with the gift they received from each guest, and send that photo with the thank you card to the guest. What little kid wouldn’t love fun mail addressed to them?
Beaded Bracelets: Make this part of the party activities and kill two birds with one stone.
Playdough: The brand name stuff isn’t that expensive, but you can also make this really cheaply yourself in all sorts of colours with ingredients you probably already have at home.
Baked Goods: This might be harder if there are allergy concerns with your party guests, but there are recipes out there to accommodate this. But what little kid wouldn’t love to have a little stack of homemade cookies to call their own? You could do these with a theme using sugar cookies and cookie cutters.
Labels: Mabel’s Labels do $5 loot bags, and they offer free shipping in Canada.
Mini-Figures: Lego and Playmobil have these little sealed mystery packs you can get with different little figures inside. You assemble them and they fit with your existing Lego or Playmobil sets. They’re cute even if you don’t have more…my girls love to play with “mini” things and stuff like this seems to stay in regular play rotation.
Advent Calendar: This is seasonal, of course, but if you’ve got a party in November, Advent calendars are often available for .99 cents and up. The chocolate in them is usually pretty terrible (I’m a bit of a chocolate snob), but kids love the daily anticipation of opening the doors.
Crazy Carpet: Also seasonal, these in expensive sleds make for a fun outdoor activity. If snow play isn’t your thing, spread these out on table or floor surfaces when doing a messy craft for easy clean up.
Treasure Chest: Decorate a box, suitcase, bin or whatever suit your decor/theme. Fill it with any of the above OR with little toys your child is ready to let go (I’m thinking MacDonalds toys, etc) and let the guest choose something on the way out. Obviously, don’t put anything worn out or broken in there, but this is a way of cycling out things your child is done with to a new home.
Books: Chapters, or other discount department stores often have childrens books on sale for a couple of dollars. Let the guest choose, or wrap it up for a mystery reveal once they get home.
Pumpkins: These would be fun from late September to the start of November. They come in mini-sizes and you could decorate them at the party, pre-personalize them with the child’s name, or give them a little packet of something to decorate them at home, like stickers, rhinestones, permanent markers, or a small squeeze bottle of glitter glue.
Sand Toys: A bucket and shovel works in summer or winter. They come in fun shapes, too, like little castles. I see these on sale all the time.
Beach Towels: These come in all sorts of fun colours or themes. Licensed characters like Dora or Spiderman (or even Justin Bieber) are available and would be a fun but useful thing to give a child. Even if you don’t go to the beach, this is the kind of thing you pull out for backyard picnics, living room tents, and after a playdate at the splash pad. Look for these at the end of the season to get deals.
No Plastic Bags: If you need to contain your gift in a bag, skip the plastic and try these options instead. Brown paper lunch bags, mini canvas or nylon bags from the dollar store, or home sewn cloth bags in awesome fabric (easy peasy) are easily customized with stickers, stamps, markers, bingo daubers, glitter glue, or paint. Dollar stores also often carry little boxes or baskets that might work well and are reusable.
Water Bottle: Keep kids hydrated with a bottle in a fun design. Sometimes you can find them with names on them, but there’s a wide range of styles out there. My favourite bottles are Contigo.
Reuseable Sandwich Wraps/Bags: These come in fun fabrics and last long after the party is over. Your guest will be able to enjoy them every time they have sandwiches for lunch, and their parents will appreciate not having to buy and toss plastic zip bags. We have a wrap from this vendor and it’s wonderful. GoSewEco
Hula Hoops and Soccer Balls: I’ve seen these go on sale at Old Navy for just a few dollars. They are fun, and encourage physical activity.
Pack of Playing Cards: I’ve seen multi packs of decks of cards for games like Go Fish, Old Maid, and Snap. I like getting new sets of these because we’re always losing cards from old sets, which makes them useless.
T-Shirts: Using fabric paint pens or tye-dye, make decorating t-shirts part of the activities. It keeps guests focused for a while and gives them a great take-away. Custom t-shirts could also be useful if you’ve got a big crowd and you’re at a public venue…having all the guests in one colour of t-shirt helps you keep visual track of them better. Or do different colours for teams during treasure hunts, or outdoor games.
Sunglasses: Maybe a little more expensive than $5 per child, but they’re appreciated by parents since this item is often lost and repeatedly replaced. Be sure to only get 100% UVB/UVA protective glasses…anything less actually can put sensitive eyes at risk to sun damage.
There’s so many more options. I bet you have great ideas, too. What were your favourite loot bags you ever received as a child? What do you appreciate as an adult?