Summer birthday party? On-sale school supplies make smart party favors.

Amazon: A&W Products 3-Hole Pencil PouchI'm all for birthday parties, but I'm a grump when it comes to goody bags…those pernicious party favors that kids love but parents resent. Most of the birthday party goody bags my kids get are filled with plastic, throwaway junk which clutters my house, clutters the landfill, and unneccesarily empties the wallet of the party host.

All the same, what's a birthday party without favors for the guests? I usually choose a single, quality toy that we give to each guest as he or she leaves. One year, we served lunch on Frisbees, and those were the takeaways. This year, I took advantage of early back-to-school sales and created school supply goody bags.

Glitter pencils, whimsical erasers, scissors, rulers — and some Silly Putty for fun — make a colorful and useful collection. Instead of a throwaway gift bag, everything went into three-ring pencil pouches, which were a steal at two for $1. Everything came in at under $5 per bag, and I know it will be put to good use.

Any more ideas for useful, reasonably-priced summertime birthday party favors?

More: Birthday party goody bag ideas

And: Birthday party guidelines for sane parents


  1. says

    We just had craft party for my 6-yr-old, and everyone took home their creations (pasta necklaces & keychains, coffee filter butterflies, bubble paintings) in a gift bag. At a Lego party, we gave small Lego sets. I always prefer something related to the party theme instead of a bag full of junk & candy.

  2. says

    Here’s another idea. Do away with “things” altogether. I find the best gifts to give are that of experiences.

    Have your kid think of a “playdate idea” for each one of his friends at the party.

    – “Hiking through the woods”
    – “Beyblade tournament at my house”
    – “Nerf gun battle sleepover”

    And give out the little paper to each one of his friends at the end.

    Reducing waste and building connections.

  3. Caro says

    I’m not a big fan of the goody bags either so I’m going to be watching this thread for inspiration.

    However, I do have a related hack for the bags themselves if you end up still doing a collection of small things.

    I was at a local restaurant supply store (Cash & Carry in the Seattle area) when I saw Chinese food takeout containers with no logos. I got a HUGE stack (40 or 50 of them) for a few dollars. I then had my daughter decorate the boxes with stickers and markers.

    I am now planning on using these for all sorts of occasions.

  4. says

    I have the same feeling about goody bags, and my daughter’s birthday party (she just turned 3) is this Sunday. Since we’re in mid-summer, our goody bags are going to be sand castle pails ($1/ea at the party store) with kids’ toy sunglasses (not meant for eye protection but the kids love ‘em), mini-sunblocks (the kind you can put on a keychain), and, well, the list isn’t finalized but we’re going to find 2 or 3 more “summery” things like shovels, etc. and maybe a piece of candy.

  5. says

    arrrgh, why didn’t you post this a week ago? brilliant idea for my summer birthday girl! and i LOVE the frisbee idea, next year…

  6. Jen (yup, another one) says

    It doesn’t have to be for a summer party either! I stock my gift drawer with school supply items in July and August — 24 packs of crayons for $0.10 each, markers, etc. — and have them whenever I need to whip up a last minute “Ooops I need a sibling gift” or other unanticipated situation, and of course for goody bags no matter when the birthday occurs. Plus I am always on the lookout for clearance or otherwise deeply discounted items that are good for party favors or travel entertainment, and stash them in the drawer.

  7. Jen says

    My son’s 3rd birthday is next week, and we’re having a friends/family party with 12 kids between newborn and age 7.. I’m making crayon rolls (tutorial on Skip to my Lou) for each child, made with fabric that fits our theme, and will probably bake and decorate some cookies or buy fancy lollipops too so the grownups will also get a treat! I HATE dollar store-type goody bags. Another thing I did once was just to give each child a sheet of stickers (or other small item) and a $5 gift card to DQ. I know it will actually get used!

  8. MJR says

    Like Anthony, we’ve come to eshew goodie bags, but also because we’ve eschewed gifts from our son’s friends.

    He’s 6, so of course he wants prezzies. Our response is that he receives birthday gifts from us as his parents, from 2 sets of aunties/uncles/cousins, and from 3 sets of grandparents, so he really doesn’t need more. It wasn’t easy to go this route the first time, but I am glad that we did.

    We pay for an experience-type party, and figure that is what counts most and is more than enough. Last time, it was roller-skating all afternoon plus lunch/snacks and cake for several friends and their parents. Since he was a January baby and we live in a cold climate (e.g, -30C on the day of his 6-year-old birthday party), an out-of-the-house party is probably more fun for all involved — and certainly less stressful for us as parents.

    I know some parents really love putting together great goodie bags, and so don’t want to suggest that I’m on any moral high-ground here. But I have come to think that we as parents need to resist a sense of OBLIGATION to throw money out the window on garbage-bag-bound goodie bags. What messages are we passing along? What messages to we want to convey and instill?

    Last time, one of the guests and his father made a donation in our son’s name to the local food bank, and that was a learning opportunity for our son. I’m not sure if he would have done so if we hadn’t stated in the invitation that gifts were not expected and that none would be opened during the party – because who wants their kid to be the only one who doesn’t bring a wrapped gift to a birthday party?

    Our local food bank also collects wrapped toys and clothes to distribute with hampers when a child in the home is due to have a birthday, as do many other charities.

    For those parents and older kids who want to go the goodie bag route, because it’s fun FOR THEM, I’d like to bring up the donation option. Just because a family is throwing a birthday party, and wants to give out it’s-time-to-say-goodbye loot bags, doesn’t mean that a birthday party has to mean accumulating more toys (because that’s usually what younger kids receive at birthday parties.) And based on previous experience, when we ‘allowed’ gifts and distributed it’s-time-to-say-goodbye loot bags, at least some of those toys are not what we would have chosen to have in our home otherwise and created additional problems – well beyond clutter and it’s-time-to-say-goodbye GARBAGE bags.

  9. Sarah says

    My son’s birthday party is tomorrow and he is the Matchbox king. I let him pick out one for each friend and we tied a ribbon around it with their name on it. Now, they might not like it as much as he does, but they’ll think of Theo when they see it. My only worry is whether he will let them out of the house without a fuss. Just in case, I put one out for him!

  10. says

    We have skipped goodie bags altogether by making costumes for the kids instead. At my sons’s recent Star Wars 5th birthday, all the kids trained to become Jedi’s and then received a Jedi robe. My mom sewed them for us out of sheets we picked up at Value Village (a second-hand store). We’ve also done super-hero capes, cowboy hats and bandanas and train conductor hats. The kids are thrilled to get something to wear and never seem to notice that we don’t hand out a goodie bag!

  11. says

    I’ve incorporated “favors” into the party activities – felt crowns to decorate for a princess party, personalized teacups & saucers (using etching cream & punch cups from the thrift store) for a tea party etc. It’s stuff I’m going to get anyway to keep the kids occupied, and then they take them home. I also picked up a set of bright plastic plates during back-to-college clearance a few years ago & use those for every kid party. No breakage, no waste!

  12. Simone says

    My sons last birthday..I gave all the kids blow up beach balls as a party favour. The party was at a park with a sausage sizzle.

    The first half of the party was all a buzz with the kids turning up…so they made their own fun.

    After lunch all the kids were given the beach balls and had to line up and get them inflated..thanks to my battery operated air pump for camp beds.

    The kids then entertained themselves and had beach balls instead of beach balloons.

    I also had brown paper bag for each child with a mini bag of chips/chrisps…mini bag of teddy biscuits..a zip lock bag of lollies and a lollypop..these were on the table..and the kids had the option to eat what ever they wanted now or to take home…a few just had the lollypop at the party and took the rest home…these items I would have normally had on the table in bowls for the kids to fill up on.

  13. says

    For my son’s August birthday I got a big stack of hula hoops at the dollar store (in kid and adult sizes). That was the “give away”. Everyone got so excited and played with them – we didn’t get to the planned games. The next year, I got a new batch, and planned games to use them. Everyone had a super fun time (parents and kids) with the hula hoops – and happily took one home. After both parties, we heard from many families how much fun they had for the rest of the summer with those hoops. For $1 each!

  14. says

    I read this tip on Facebook, then almost immediately found myself in the school supplies in Target. We picked out a box of crayons, a pair of blunt scissors, and a glue stick to go into a small plastic pencil box. I plan to crimp and/or shred some loose leaf notebook paper for filler. Of course, these boxes are going to have to wait until my youngest turns 4 in February, but I’m so happy to have such a practical goodie bag already done!

  15. says

    Party favors are a kind of thanks giving things to the guests who arrived with due respect in response to our invitation. Anybody will invite guests to share.

  16. Jill says

    I have done this every year (I LOVE a good theme!) and it’s always a hit: foam swords from the swordfights at the pirate party; golf balls painted with their names (by me) from the mini-golf party; inflatable fighter jets from the fighter pilot party. (Ok, the planes were the decorations — but then the giveaways actually served as a kick-start to clean-up!) Killing two birds with one stone when planning the party also equals savings! Bonus!