If you’re anything like us, you probably try to steer your brood past the loot bags at birthday parties, praying your kids won’t notice. You already know what’s in them—random toys and candy that will potentially break, cause fights or get stuck in someone’s hair on the way home (and nobody’s got time for that). But we do admit that it’s nice to thank your guests, and it’s important to teach your kids to show gratitude, so we’ve come up with great favour ideas kids and parents alike will love. Most of the parents we surveyed said the same thing: The loot needs to be useful or edible. If it’s food, it shouldn’t be messy or make life difficult for Mom and Dad (so skip the penny candy—go for something like a couple of these delicious homemade energy balls). If it’s useful, it should have staying power and be well made. Easier said than done, right? Right. Especially on a budget. But don’t worry, we got you.
1. Stationery sets
We’re all for one great item instead of many not-so-great items, which is why we love sticky note and note pad sets. They’re already packaged, so add a cute thank you tag and cross ‘loot bags’ off the party to-do list.
2. Pencil case filled with pencils or markers
Instead of using a disposable bag for loot, go for something reusable. Kids love new pencil cases and colouring or writing supplies, so this is a surefire crowd-pleaser.
3. A book
This might seem overly simple, but is there anything better than a new book? It can be anything from a mini picture book (perfect for diaper bags— Mom or Dad will thank you the next time they’re stuck in traffic or waiting in line) to a graphic novel. Set a per book budget and let the birthday boy or girl help choose for their friends.
4. A gift certificate
Most people think gift certificates have to mean big bucks, but you can do totally $5 gift cards to places like Baskin Robbins or Tim Horton’s. Kids love the grown-up feeling of handing over plastic, just like their parents, to pay for a treat.
5. A donation
OK, so this one is a little boring for the party goer but altruism is never a bad lesson to impart. Work with your kiddo to find a charity that resonates with them, choose a dollar amount per guest and make a lump-sum donation. Post a sign or hand out cards at the party to explain this philanthropic loot option to guests.
6. Take-home craft or treat from party
If you really want to get creative, plan a party activity with a take-home final result. That way, you’re keeping the kids entertained and saving money by not having to shell out for party-game supplies in addition to a take-away gift. Think about activities like T-shirt or tote bag painting, cookie baking or cupcake decorating.
Originally published in the Fall 2018 issue.