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.

Too old to play?

A couple of weeks ago, a friend was telling me her son wanted to play soccer in their town’s recreational league, but she had a problem. Her son was too old to be “a beginner”.

Around here, soccer is a big deal (probably for you too?), with recreational leagues starting for kids as young as 3 and “travel soccer” teams—these require try-outs—beginning in third grade. You can spot the soccer kids pretty early—they can dribble and shoot and run like a grade-schooler before they can even tie their own cleats.

But, my friend’s son is seven. And that bummed me out. Is seven now considered “too old” to start a sport?

She isn’t alone in feeling this way. In fact, I clearly remember when Belly was playing first-grade soccer, and I looked over at the second graders playing and thought, “she’s going to get crushed in there.” To Belly, soccer was fun, social and not really all that competitive. But the girls in the grade above were a well-oiled machine at seven. I can understand my friend’s hesitation to throw her son into it.

Another example: My friend’s daughter is a gifted gymnast, but never took a serious gymnastics class until she was ten. When she began, she was told that she may be too old to get onto the more competitive track because of her age—the other girls had started training much, much younger. (thankfully, I think her ability convinced them otherwise, but if she had been 11 when she started? probably not)

Want to play football? Don’t wait too long. . .our town’s third graders start practicing daily in August. . . if you wait until junior or (gasp) high school to try out for a sport, you’ll be years in training behind some of your peers.

What about ballet? Jilly’s Pre-Ballet class had only one ten-year-old in it; everyone else was younger. Not such a big deal if you are small, but a tall twelve year old would tower over her much-younger classmates.

Now, to be fair, I don’t think that most of these classes/teams/groups overtly state that older kids can’t join in—-but older kids will surely notice that everyone seems to have gotten on board a lot earlier than they, and I imagine this discourages a lot of kids from even trying.

What do you think?

Is this a parent-created problem in that we’re worried about our kid being the worst one on the stage/field/mat, so we discourage them from starting something much later than their peers?

Or, do you think your kids don’t want to try out for something new because they’d be starting at square one when their friends are already on square 15?

Breaking up the house party

At last count, I’ve planned/hosted/cleaned up over 24 kids’ birthday parties in my home (that number isn’t exact, but let’s go with it, ok?).

I’ve thrown fairy parties, pirate parties, outer space parties. There have been mock sleepovers, luaus and first birthday parties where the theme is only “Red things”. I have had Candy Land, LEGO/Star Wars, Alice in Wonderland and Dora-licensed character thingymabobs. All at home.

Now, D, my littlest, is staring down the days until he turns seven (in three weeks! ack!) and I thought maybe we’d have a camping party (like this one, but as if hillbillies threw it because there is no way I’m sewing that tent or painting wooden signs or even ordering expensive cookies from NYC)

Not-so-little D thought about it, shook his head and said, “no”.

Oh-kay what would you prefer?

“A math and chess party.” (here is where I realize I have not explained to my readers that my cute blond-haired boy has morphed into a kid who considers his math/chess class to be the pinnacle of fun) (insert homeschooling joke here).

But, you know, I can roll. . .a math/chess party may be hard, but it could be fun! Division cookies! Subtraction relays! A Pawn Pinata! I could almost see it!

And then he said the words, “And I want it at Frenzy’s” which is some indoor padded play space in which you throw children and let them bounce and flop until they are a sweaty mess, while the adults presumably sit calmly watching coffee and texting.

Oh, and because all play spaces need to position themselves as being enriching and educational in some way, this place has a mechanical bull. Yes.


yeehaw, I can handle the bull, mama!

I smiled and thought, “eh. . .those places are always a million bucks, make you eat their crappy cake—I like cake WAY too much—and are so far away”. And then I checked the website.

Under $200 for a party where you can bring the cake and do the invitations (oh, and it does NOT include use of the mechanical bull—the more expensive party does, but I consider this a downside of spending more) (my kids can learn how to ride a mechanical bull when they are drunk and 24 like normal people). AND, this place is right down the street.

This may put a screeching halt to my home-party streak.

And I wonder if there is a way to work in math relays while the kids run around the room.