It’s not just celebrities that are on the party circuit! It seems like there’s a kids’ birthday party every weekend—and, gasp, sometimes it’s your turn to throw the shindig. When you’re the hostess with the mostest (and sometimes the leastest inspiration), the idea of adding a goodie bag (what celebrities call “swag”) to your planning can sometimes be daunting. How often do you end up racing to the dollar store to get a bagful of candy and trinkets that may all get thrown away. And this is intended for the kids as a thank you for coming to a party you paid for?

In talking to other moms about goodie bags, the consensus was that they’d just as soon not, but they’ve become a “necessary evil.” (Kind of like giving Beyoncé a fabulous watch for coming to your soirée.) And so, the cycle of swapping hard candies and plastic tops continues. I’ve realized it’s ingrained behavior: we as moms, will always feel compelled to pass out something, anything. I guess we were raised right, but how about making it fun and satisfy our need to hand something out? Also, I’m very conscious of things I wouldn’t mind finding in my kids’ goodie bags when they come home.

With the average cost of a goodie bag being around $5 per guest in my area (though in New York, L.A. and other areas that can soar to $10), I’d like to suggest that you consider buying one toy and skip the candy. After all, you’ve probably just loaded the kids up with sugar, and you can get some really fun toys without exceeding your budget. I’ve found small LEGO sets at this same price that would be great for a boy or girls birthday party. Stores often have them for $3-$5 and come in a variety of their popular lines. My boys love LEGOs, as do most boys. And now, with LEGO Friends, you can get them for the more girly girls on your guest list. In addition to being a hit with the kids, this can greatly minimize your shopping time with only aisle shop from at the toy store.

Trading cards are another great option. The kids will want to open them before the guests all leave so they can ohh and ahh over who got a rare card and make their trades. There are many different types of cards. You can even go old school and pass out baseball cards and attach a stick of gum. Again, these are great for both girls and boys as many hot bands, movies and popular toy lines have trading cards these days.

Mini collectible figures seem to be a gift for the goodie bag creator. Squinkies, Trash Pack, Ickee Stickeez, Mighty Beans and many others are under five dollars and something the kids would love to collect. I say this as we have a small bin full of them and the boys love playing with them at restaurants, in the car and in various waiting rooms. Many have themes and lines with popular shows or characters and are great for both boys and girls. With so many on the market these days, you are sure to be able to match them to your party theme.

Planning a party for and, when they’re old enough, with your kids should be fun. And that includes the goodie bags. Think beyond the hard candies and sticker sheets, and depending on their ages, have your kids help you create them. Remember, you were taught to be a good host. That’s something you want to teach your kids as well.

Have you seen some amazing goodie bags? What have been your child’s favorite items from them?

  • http://twitter.com/beccabernstein Becca Bernstein

    You're right. Gift bags are a total waste. And every year, I find myself at Dollar General or another $1 for all type store looking for plastic items to fill my bag. If the average is $5, you're right, we should invest in something better. Or more sustainable. 

  • Kim Prince

    I love your ideas for inexpensive, yet actually worthwhile, goodies for the end of a party.  As an attendee mom, I like the goodie bags because it's a great lure to get the kids to leave the party – I tell them they can't open the bag until they're strapped into their seats in the car.  As a party thrower, I hate them.  I like to have a craft the kids can make and take home as their prize, but I know I'm probably judged as “lame” by the other moms for that.