Goodie bags that don’t suck

I think goodie bags get a bad rap at birthday parties. I kind of enjoy looking for neat little things to hand out at the end of our parties, and don’t think I really end up spending more than I would if I just grabbed a bunch of trinkets.

Yes, if you are going to any section of a store called the “goodie bag section” or the dollar bin, the majority of stuff is going to be junk, but here are some of my favorite ideas that aren’t junk at all:

* Make the craft you do during the party the main “goodie” they take home. One year, the girls painted tea-cup planters and I set them to dry while we ate cake and played games. Before they left, I put a little packet of flower seeds in their cup and sent them home. 

* Or, have a scavenger hunt for items that would sense for your party theme and let the guests “find” the items for their goodie bags. Just make sure you label each bag and set them by the front door to hand out at the end of the party. For my daughter’s fairy party, the guests found bottles of bubbles, fairy wands, fairy wings, gel pens and stickers—yes, little trinkets but still pretty useable and they made sense for the party.

* LEGO lovers should check out the Fun Favor Pack with a real build-able toy that can go into a little goodie bag with a handful of Candy Blox. Or grab a bunch of Minifigures and let each child pick one on their way out—our local toy stores sells them for $2.99 each. Playmobil now has a version as well.

* Search Etsy for “recycled crayons“, and you’ll find so many different shapes and styles. These make a great gift for an art party or, really, any party where the guests are still of coloring age. 

* For my daughter’s mock-sleepover, I found cute mugs for a dollar each. I then put a packet of cocoa and homemade chocolate-dipped plastic spoons inside for each guest.

* A movie party might send guests home with microwavable popcorn and, if you are one to splurge, a $5 Redbox gift card. We once did a $2.50 Blockbuster store gift card (which was the cost for a child’s movie rental, but—alas—that option went the way of the dinosaur).

* Have a great local ice-cream place? Kids’ cones are often under $3, and I’ve giving gift cards to each guest for one free cone. Make it extra cute by rolling up the gift certificate into an empty ice cream cone.

* For my son’s pirate party, all the adults got a mini bottle of Pirate Bay Coconut Rum. Hey, any adult who sits through a kids’ party deserves a little something too.

Feel free to add your own ideas for not-junky birthday party favors. After all, I still have three kids who keep having birthdays.


  1. Great ideas. I agree, I hate filling loot bags full of dollar-store crap, but the kids so look forward to loot bags that I can't skip them. We often have our parties at art studios, so their art is their loot bag. My friend once made CDs for everyone of her daughter's favourite songs (copyright violations were politely ignored – she wasn't selling them, after all). We've also had kids paint t-shirts or aprons, bake and take home the baking, painted smiles on pails and shovels for a Blue's Clues party (wow, that was a LONG time ago). You just have to think ahead and a little out of the box. Love the teacup planter.

  2. Fairly Odd Mother says

    Bibliomama, YES! The CD idea is a great one—we've done that with disco music, pirate songs and even outer-space themed music. It's even easy to make custom CD labels and cases and I love playing the music during the party and afterward. Thanks for your other ideas as well!

  3. Suburban Correspondent says

    We fill ours with candy. My kids are total sugar junkies.

  4. Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog says

    I want to come to your parties! I just send candy from the prizes. That is, IF I remember. I am not a hostess with the mostess.

    I love the seeds and pots. We've gotten those before and loved them.

  5. We've done CDs with our child's favorite songs. Once for a pool b'day party we made soaps with I think frogs in them, and in the bag we put in some natural lollipops. For my daughter's last party she wanted a pinata and the candy was the goodie bag. Easy.

  6. My boy had a lot of science-y parties. One year, we sent home a film canister alka seltzer rocket kit *film canister, alka seltzer, cardstock cut out to make nose cone and fins, and instructions. plus the candy from the black hole pinata.
    I love the single use gift certificate for food things idea.

  7. I so want to embrace my inner curmudgeon when it comes to the goodie bag debate. But, especially when the kids are small, giving kids something to take home really eases the transition when the party ends and you've sugared up someone else's kid to the point of potential meltdown. As the children age I see that often the party really is the "gift."

    When my kids were little I gave Playmobile specials.
    This year the big one had an art party. Everyone brought home a painting, an ornament and snowglobes they made.

    When the little one was three we had a waterslide party. I made the kids towel capes with their initials.

  8. That rum WAS the best goodie bag favor EVER! I tell people about it all the time!

  9. Yeah, the rum was appreciated! And we STILL listen to that pirate CD. My kids still play with the foam light sabers they made one year, too.

    I loved the pineapple drink cups we gave at the kids' luau; someone did those for a Sponge Bob party which I think is genius.

    Birthdays coming in May, so I better get thinkin'!!

  10. Wow, that pirate party with the rum for parents is cool! You hit that one on the head any parent who's sat through a kids party definately deserves a drink! My daughters last party, she had a spa day at home. Much cheaper then Monkey Dooz and she could have more friends. At the beginning of the party before the pampering they made "designer" hand bags. AKA really surprisingly cute bags found at the dollar store that even matched colors of party. They were decorated with jewels, ritestones, etc. They also decorated flip flops. These were their "goodie bags" plus I bought feather boas, costume jewelry and hair clips that they also got to take home. It was a huge hit and several kids have copied since! 😉 I shopped around for a while to get great deals on everything!

  11. i bought some Beanie boo backpack clips for $2.99 each and bought valentine’s day mini boxes of smarties when they went on sale ..the year before i spent $3-$5 per kid and bought beanie baby dogs for a “puppy party” and each kid had their own puppy to adopt and take home.

  12. I have a children’s party coming up in Feb. For the girls invited, I made lip balm out of kool aid packs (cherry) and vasaline. I also bought ribbon and adjustable rings from the craft store and made flower rings. I often visit Walmarts clearence section and they had boxes of chalk made into popsicle, ice cream and sucker shapes and I brought those to go along in their bags. I am here at this website for advice for boys gift bag!!

    • My son recently had his 10th birthday in January. I got those little Lego characters, one for each goody bag along with a homemade chocolate and coconut cookie (wrapped up nicely) and 2 pieces of Lynds chocolate. The boys loved everything in their bags. Have to say that they costed a bit more but they were well appreciated.

  13. Thank you for all the ideas! I was planning my sons 1st birthday party and of course with no goodie bag experience under my belt, I was feeling a little lost. I had a wide range of ages at the party for children and I wanted to make sure that no one felt left out (and of course like everyone else, I didnt want to just junk up the bag just for the sake of filling it). Heres what I did:
    Age 6 month-18month: Baby mum-mums (crackers), bib, bubbles and a onesie/ t-shirt
    2.5-6 year: coloring book, crayons, stickers, twisty straws and play doh
    12-16 year: gum, chocolate bar, bracelets & lip gloss for the girls, $5 gift cards for the boys and hot chocolate packages.

    I know that 12-16 is a little old for goft bags, but I wanted to make sure that everyone felt included, even if it was a little silly ;P

    I hope this helps out anyone else who is scrambling for good ideas!

  14. I also wanted to have each kids blow out their own “wish candle” from a cupcake just to make their day special and more magical too, but as you can see, i was missing that age range 🙂


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