Goody Bags that are Nicer than the Gift My Kid Gave


We all know that birthday parties have become outrageous and ultra-competitive - that's yesterday's news.  The new frontier is the dreaded goody bag.

The goody bag has always been the bastard of the birthday party.  It's a throw away.  An afterthought.  Because it's the bastard it's always been full of cheap junk or teeth rotting candy.  It's a small token that says, I just paid about twelve to fifteen bucks for your kid to come celebrate my kid's birthday and we appreciate your $12-25 gift so here is your bag of shit.  Thanks for coming and see you next month at your kids' party!

Thanks for coming! Here's your bag of junk!

A few years ago I noticed a slight trend where a couple of the parties my kids went to, there was no goody bag.  My kids were devastated, but all the moms were thrilled.  The few brave souls who ventured into this no-man's land of goody bag-less parties confessed they'd just had enough of spending hundreds of dollars on a party and then another several hundred on shit that would end up in the trash.  I loved this idea.  But, of course, it didn't catch on.  Instead, it appears we've gone the opposite direction.  Last week, I was sent this article.  It seems that the goody bag is a pretty big deal to a lot of parents and the gauntlet has been thrown down as to what constitutes a "good" goody bag.

Nooooo....The goody bag is the bane of my existence.  I can barely get it right as it is and now I'm supposed to do better?  WTF?

When I'm throwing a party for my kids I'm too busy trying to find an affordable and fun venue (we have winter birthdays here so the great outdoors is nixed and the hell I'm going to host a bunch of wilding, frosting-covered grade schoolers in my home nor will I ever go to Chuck E. Cheese - my kids think it's just for other kids' birthdays) or cute plates that fit the random theme we've picked that year (Gomer wants NERF Battle theme this year - yellow plates it is!) that I do not have time, desire or energy to look for the "perfect" goody bag insert(s).  Because of this, my party goers end up with a bag of cheap shit and teeth rotting candy.  Thanks for coming!

I have seen some really cute, relatively affordable ideas for goody bags that I've been dying to try, but so far they haven't fit my theme.  Last year, Gomer was invited to a party at a pottery painting place.  The kids painted a ceramic trivet that we kept and they each got a little paint by number set from the dollar bins at Target.  I thought it was perfect!  I'm trying to convince Adolpha to have a painting party this year so I can do this and look like a semi-over achiever, plus I love to paint my own pottery.  Over the summer, both kids were invited to a birthday party at a petting zoo.  Lunch was served and it was a picnic.  Each kid got his or her own personalized insulated lunch bag (also from Target) with lunch inside.  Loved it!  We still use those bags.

See, OAM?  It doesn't need to be a tennis racket or an American Girl doll.  Your goody bag should not cost what I spent (or more!) on the gift for your child.  That's just weird.  Who does that?!  I know it's hard for the OAMs - and the rest of us really - though, because you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.

The mom who said NO to goody bags was called "cheap" behind her back by some of the moms, the mom who gave out a bag of crap was called "unimaginative and boring" and she obviously hates the environment since all that shit will end up in a landfill, the mom who gave out small packages of Legos made me uncomfortable because all I could think at the time was, Crap, Gomer is having a Lego party in two weeks and all I've got are lollipops and gum.  At the last minute I found cute printables online that I thought seemed simple and easy enough.  I worked on for HOURS to make the boys their own laminated Lego luggage tag.  Won't do that again for 21 kids!

You see it's tough being a mom and trying to throw a party for your kid.  I've been asked, "What is reasonable then, Jen?"  I guess I just think back to what made me happy when I was a kid:  celebrating with my friends, having cake and ice cream, opening a few presents and enjoying being the birthday girl.  Kids haven't changed that much and I think they're still fairly easy to please.  They're usually pretty happy if they get a party with a few family and friends and a balloon for everyone when they leave.

This year for my kids' birthdays I'm thinking of doing something even the OA Earth Moms would approve of.  I'm going to have a nature party and every kid who attends gets a tree that I'll buy in his/her name and then the kids will help me plant them in my yard (bring your own shovel).  They can come and visit their "goody tree" anytime they'd like (parental supervision required).

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240 comments:

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FFW said...

I started ordering inexpensive books from Scholastic (the flyers the kids drag home every month) that are usually $1-2, then attach them to a balloon for the "goodie bag". Or, I have a party where the kids make something---homemade playdough, or GAK (borax and glue) or something else that keeps them busy making it, playing with it, then they take it home in a zipper bag, and I'm a genius!

kfarthing said...

Soooo, I'm the mom who doesn't do big birthday parties for kids. EVER. We always had one huge kid party a year - New Year's Eve. No lie, my kids would print FLYERS and take them to school. My husband was a cop and always worked that night, so I wasn't going anywhere. I figured having 60 or 70 kids over was a good thing to do - ONCE a year. I made slime, and we had slime races. We had shaving cream and popcorn battles. We had epic games of Fear Factor Kids. My kids have gotten too big for this now (dang it), but it was a good time. And, no goodie bags. Ha!

When I Grow Up said...

this year I bribed my kids (so not above doing that!) to skip the party and they get an extra nice bday present. My son's birthday was during our winter vacation this year (took us two years to save for a winter mexico vacation!), so we got him an underwater camera - he had a blast snorkeling and in the pool and we spent less than if we'd had a party!

Unknown said...

I stopped doing bags years ago and get One Cute Thing. once it was a webkinz frog (princess & the frog theme) once it was a pink pirate bandana with a plastic skull ring (pink pirate theme) and last year was a graphic t from either ON or TCP that had 'superstar!' on it (rock star ice skating). I rolled it up and tied curling ribbon on it...easy and cute and with a coupon, pretty cheap. I hate bags o' crap!!

Unknown said...

I have only given out goody bags twice.
I avoid it by *gasp* not having birthday parties for my kids. (I have 3) Lest you think I am a giant party grinch...you are partly right....but partly wrong.
I've basically told my kids I don't believe in elaborate children's parties. I just don't. My son recently went to a party, a lego party...really cool. Interested I picked up a flier for this location. $450 for 15 kids. $5/kid after that. (And you HAVE to invite the ENTIRE class remember) Ummmm. No. Especially when you multiply that by 3. WTF, indeed. My kids have been invited to parties, where..when I ask.."Who is X?" I have actually gotten shrugs and "I dunno" as the answer. I can't afford it, and I think it's a bit silly.

So I don't throw parties.
My kids know that birthdays are about celebrating with family...and SOMETIMES friends.

So here are things we've done.
First, I always make them a homemade cake with the theme of their choice. They often ask to help make their own cake so we do that together.
Then they get to pick dinner. Homemade or going out.

And we do special things, for example:
a day long trip to the zoo, with picnic.
a trip to Greenfield Village (historical village)
a pontoon ride in a boat parade (that was grandpa)
a trip to the waterpark
a trip to the cider mill
A couple friends over, and we take them out to dinner.


Often Grandma drives 5 hours to visit..they love that. Sometimes favorite Uncle and Aunt fly out to visit (even better).
We do gifts and a big ta-dah is made all week.

At the end of all this modest fun, you know what all three kids have said?
"Thanks Mom, BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!"

I'm not saying a party can't be fun, but I certainly don't feel obligated to do them. Nor should anybody else.
It's your life. Make it what YOU choose, and do what YOU LOVE...and pass that on to your kids.

Unknown said...

For my sons 2nd birthday (Sesame Street theme) I wanted to give each kid a goldfish in a bowl for a favor (I thought it was cute, didn't care that my friends would hate me) but 1) I was scared they would all die before the party (fish and I don't get along!) and 2) my Dad lectured me FOREVER on how you don't give out live animals for party favors. I still stand by my "it would have been AWESOME"....

smamomheidi said...

Okay, I just HAVE to share because my girls are now 12&15 so we're over this stage but I was a bit of a goody bag "hater" over the years and did little things but was quite minimal. I had two great ideas that were so cheap I had to share with you all in case you're in need of a great idea!

For my daughters 6 or 7th bday we went to a local beauty college and for $6/girl they do their hair and nails all fancy, the kids LOVED it and were all occupied well over an hour! In the same shopping plaza was a Round Table Pizza so the girls were able to prance over there making sure everyone saw how BEAUTIFUL they were and we sat in the party area. I ordered a few pizzas and while we were waiting they did a craft. I picked up 3 packs of wooden frames from Ikea for $.99 each and had pre painted them at home with those cheap little bottles of paint. I let them stick on little stick on jewels or stickers and I took a picture of each of them with my daughter all fancy and the frame was their "goody bag". When we sent the thank you cards I printed out the pics of each girl and my daughter to put in their frames! I have people tell me they still have them after all these years! The party was a HUGE hit and so crazy cheap and easy!

I also did a "Christmas" birthday for my daughter whose bday is close to the holidays. It was her choice. Pulled out the decorations and did my whole house in all it's Christmas glory a week before I normally would have, we played Christmas music on the radio, I made a TON of Christmas cookies and did a huge cookie decorating station (plate of cookies was one of their take home gifts), they made reindeer food to sprinkle on the lawn (glitter and oatmeal in little sacks with a poem printed/attached), and they got jingle bell necklaces that I got for like $.50 a piece online. I did big Christmas bowls I had with goldfish, ice that held gogurts and string cheese, grapes, and pretzels and a cooler of juice boxes and water bottles! Such an easy party and the kids loved it!

Unknown said...

Are you kidding? That's totally original. Great idea! I love it!

Unknown said...

Beautiful!

Unknown said...

It's when the guests bring one of their old used toys to exchange with one of your kids old used toys.

Unknown said...

Just a thought, you could bag the pinata treats into the amount of kids attending. Then each kid gets a bag once the pinata breaks open. Voila! Treat bags. :)

Unknown said...

YES! Can I just stress that the polite thing to do is to RSVP whether or not you are coming? I assume that if you don't RSVP you aren't coming, but we have had kids show up anyway. That's when the treat bags really suck!

I went all OAM a few years ago for my daughter. We had a Fancy Nancy party. I bought dollar store tiaras, feather boas and made tutus for all of the little girls. We had 3 kids show up who hadn't RSVP'd. This meant I needed to figure out how to stretch out the boas, tiaras, and tutus. So a few girls didn't have all three pieces. It ended up working out fine, but it bugged me. I made sure we had enough for those who RSVP'd. Since then I always make sure to RSVP either way. (FTR- We didn't do treat bags, the other crap was the treat bag, and it all cost me less than $3 a kid. I made the "tutus" out of ribbon.)

Unknown said...

Good for you! I am flabbergasted at the thought of having 21 attendees! I tell my kids the invitations come in a pack of 8. Choose 8 kids.

Erin Jones said...

We just had a party for my now 3 year old - a Mickey themed party. I got each kid a 99 cent bottle of mickey bubbles, and made them each their own ears (under $1 each). I got some plastic test tubes and filled them with sixlets candies in red, black, and white, and put those on the cake table for the kids to take home. Relatively low quantity of sugar, and they looked so cute!

Notyourtypical said...

As soon as my kids turn about 8-10 I offer them the party plus a modest gift, or the money it would have cost to plan said party and invite friends. We have never had another party in this house (except for my youngest who is still six) They each get about 150-200 dollars on their day and get to pick their dinner. Birthdays are the best here now. No stress, no worry and I get off a heck of a lot cheaper!

Valerie said...

Same concept as an office Christmas party, everyone brings a gift and everyone leaves with one.

Sister Serendip said...

Best goody bag any of my kids ever got was a can of squirt cheese for each 10 yo boy that went to the sleepover.

Erin Jones said...

My mom did that right about when I was that age as well. I LOVED going shopping with my friends instead of doing the traditional cake and singing!

Anonymous said...

Wow some of the goody bags in that article are way OTT. My 3yo often gets a lollie bag at parties - I used to be able to eat most of them myself but seems she's on to me now.

Marla said...

I concur. If you want to do a goody bag, fine. If you don't, fine. On every drive home from a birthday party my kids go through their bags and talk about the fun they just had; the crappy rings and toys give them a reminder of that party for days, weeks or months after the event. The goody bags are for the kids not their jaded parents.

Steelerfan said...

My daughter has a summer birthday. I got .99 cent flip flops per girl from WalMart and we decorated them by tying different colored ribbon on the flip flops so it was a craft and something to take home which I spent maybe $1.50 per girl!

Unknown said...

My three year old wanted a balloon party this year, he's a spring baby, which means snow here, so we had to be indoors. We bought a bunch of balloons and two tanks of helium from Target and blew up about 60 balloons as decoration. Kids loved it and when they left we gave each kids a bunch of balloons to take with them. Clean up AND gift all in one!

Positionality said...

I never understood the whole goody bag thing. I'm not a hobbit. It's my birthday and that means you shouldn't be expecting a gift of your own (however glam or crappy it may be) to take home. Whole thing makes me glad I have no kids.

Wendy White Van said...

The dollar store NEXT to the theater has those candy boxes!!! Take the big purse

Anonymous said...

Fair enough! We are at the point where I ask the kids if they want a party or if they want a shopping trip/ entertainment venue and their birthday dinner. I'd rather spend the money on them then on the goody bags.

Oh and we don't always do birthday cakes either. Pies and cookies have been just as popular as cupcakes!

tdeselm said...

My son (12) wanted a Nerf gun fight party. His birthday is in November so we could still do that outside. I bought 5 two pks of guns at target along with 100 'bullets' and spent about $100 for all of it. Each boy got to keep his gun and as many bullets as he could fit in his pockets. My kids still play with those guns (sometimes we do too). I think everyone was happy.

kristiemarie518 said...

I think this year I'm forgoing the goodie bags. Every year, I throw the party, stress out over the food, the decorations and entertainment and then I stress out over the bags of "goodies" that get dumped in the car and lost forever before the kid even gets home. If I do decide to do anything, I'm doing something like I did for my kids "half birthday" this year. (Shes a summer baby and misses birthday at school so they sing happy birthday to the kids on the day that is half way to their real birthday.) I bought the kids stick on mustaches and tattoos from the dollar bin. That's it. Spent a total of $1 per kid, including the baggies. As I saw the kids walking out of the school, many of them already had their mustaches on. Don't have to spend much to make kids happy.

Unknown said...

I'm a bit late in the comment pool, but I'm posting this anyway just in case. My daughter's birthday is in December, so I totally get the difficulty with finding something fun to do in the winter. I'm not sure where you are, or if there is a good sled-riding hill near you with a small place to go inside, but I have one in my back yard, and I used it to throw my daughter an awesome party one year. We did a sled riding theme, and invited the kids to bring their favorite sleds. My husband built a camp fire to warm up by, but the kids didn't use it. After about an hour and a half, we all went inside where I had their favors. And boy were they simple....I bought cheap white 50 cent mugs, put a bag of cocoa mix inside, and popped those inside a white paper lunch bag. I handed one out to each kiddo, and sat them all down with some paint markers. They had a lot of fun decorating their cups (no running around my house like a pile of raging banshees), and the whole party only cost me about $50 including the cake. Granted, I didn't have to rent a venue...but even if I had, it would have been no more than renting a skating rink for two hours. The nice thing is that you don't need to do sled-riding if there is snow...have a snowman building party instead! Just thought I'd share the idea :) I have also done this many times since for a family friendly party for both kids and adults...our winter fire and sled riding has turned into a yearly event minus the indoor activities.

Unknown said...

My kids have only been to two birthday parties. One for each of them so far and both were very sweet about saying it was ok that I bring the sibling since I didn't have a babysitter. My favorite thing about them was that they said on the invite "So and so has enough presents, and their present this year is getting to invite all their friends to their party. We will however be taking donations for the local food bank." I couldn't have appreciated this more since at the time I could not even buy my own kids birthday presents.

Unknown said...

What the hell???? Would someone please explain to me why parents feel the need to give, or more importantly, to receive goody bags? Sometimes I think parents fail to ask themselves one question..."What am I teaching my child???" It's all about looking good for others, impressing the neighbors and accumulating the most stuff. When, if they would stop and evaluate, they are teaching kids that rather than go to a party as a grateful guest, with the priority of GIVING, they are now reinforcing the notion of GETTING! Kids are going to parties with the expectation that they should GET SOMETHING! The notion that I have to entice you to celebrate with my child boggles my mind!

tk said...

book exchanges are popular in my circle. Each kid brings a wrapped book from their own library (no need to buy a new one.) the host brings a few extras in case someone forgets. Every kid goes home with a new read!

Unknown said...

I can't stand goodie bags. I don't want to make them, and I don't want to receive them. WHEN will we stop the madness???

On the other hand, some of the ideas in these comments, like the splash party with the water-gun to take home... are AWESOME. =)

mateenisis said...

We just had a group birthday party with my daughter and our roommate's two kids. This was my girl's 2nd birthday and the first time I'd ever heard of a goodie bag....more like nightmare! I went with cheap toys and bubble gum because it fit our Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme...omg even going as cheap as possible for 30 people (15 showed) we still spent an easy $300! And most of the kids didn't even WANT a goodie bag! I thought I was going to pull my hair out!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I view the Goody Bag as just a simple way of saying "hey - thanks for coming." Thus, what's inside only needs to be simple. I already spend money on cake, ice cream, munchies, etc etc. I make them for the kids - not the parents. Thankfully most kids are easier to please.

For my 4 year old girls party, I bought these little wood keepsake boxes at the dollar store: $2 each for 4 girls invited. And then I bought some hair accessories and jelly bands to go inside. I already had paint and stickers and embellishments in the craft drawer at home. All told: well under $20 and the girls LOVED them.
Plus, they had fun decorating them at the party.

Irt8ed said...

ok i'm sure i'll get a bunch of shit for posting this being a dad and all. I also hate those stupid "required" god-die bags, but since i'm the one having to throw the parties i would at least try to make an effort.

I bought some very inexpensive plastic fridge magnet frames, took picture if each friend and my kid and a group photo. while they were all involved in other activities i printed each picture off and put them in the frames..this along with some candy was their goddie.. kids actually liked having a picture with their friend. i still see them up on the fridge when i visit!!

Unknown said...

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jade said...

I loved this idea. But, of course, it didn't catch on. Instead, it appears we've gone the opposite direction. Last week, - See more at: http://www.peopleiwanttopunchinthethroat.com/2012/03/goody-bags-that-are-nicer-than-gift-my.html#sthash.FEeWp6O7.dpuf

Splash90 said...

Your post has some good tips (and, as usual, jaw-dropping parental behavior)! I've never thought much about goody bags. But there was one party where I couldn't help it: they had goody bags with very loud, high-pitched whistles (like coach whistles) in them, which the preschool kids were allowed to blow all they wanted, IN the house. I had to go outside for the rest of the party!

msslynne said...

I love thank you gift bags to give a little something to a guest who has taken the time to show up and be a part of the celebration. This year I am making painted keepsake rocks for my granddaughters 5th birthday with hello kitty painted on them, handmade gift bags with random art supplies, mini muffins and fruit treats-they are small things but very cute and my granddaughter will be signing her own thank you notes to include in each bag.

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