“When my child comes home from a birthday party, I let him show me his party favor bag, and then we carefully sort the items into his existing collections. We have a shelf for plastic pencil toppers, a small basket for erasers that are too small to erase anything, and a tupperware in the car for noisemakers, so that the children can enjoy them while I am driving,” said NO PARENT EVER.
My online friend Melissa Sher asked why we do this party favor tradition on The Huffington Post last week. “Because decades ago some overachiever decided that throwing a party, serving cake and entertaining a horde of loud, sticky children wasn’t enough?”
And my old friend Val wrote on Facebook, “How about kids be grateful they were invited to a fun party to celebrate a friend, eat cake and play games and walk away empty-handed and happy with a nice real-life good time under their belts?” I think most of us agree with her.
But it’s hard to break what has become a tradition. After some discussion with my smartest parent friends, I discovered two themes that seem to make parents feel more comfortable. Offering one thing, rather than a bundle of stuff, and having it be related to the party. In other words, I’m not going to play out this dynamic where I invite you to a party, provide fun and food, and then send you home with a bag of clutter. Instead, when the party is over, my little guests, you may choose one of the helium balloons that served as decorations to take home. And hey, take one for your sister, too, because who doesn’t like a balloon?
Party favor ideas for those who are not comfortable sending guests home empty handed:
- Book exchange in place of favors AND gifts. This may sound super scroogey, but I don’t think a kid under five who has doting grandparents needs to receive gifts from friends.
- One gold dollar coin. Tamar, who became a new mom alongside me, says that at the end of a treasure hunt, the booty feels special. And the favor budget for a seven-kid party is seven bucks!
- A work of art. Rookie Moms reader Katy suggests, “Do a fun art project at the party and that’s the takeaway.”
- Mini-pumpkins at a fall party, suggests Rianna. (Yes! You can see in the photo above that I’ve had kids decorate pumpkins with stickers and take them home.)
- Punch balloons is a single item that can be ordered in bulk and, like a helium balloon, provides fun for the days to come.
- One container of bubbles.
- Sand toys for a party that’s at a park with sand. Write the guests name on the toys with a Sharpie and they can take them home at the end.
- Helium balloons. At the same party where kids left with pumpkins, they also left with a single helium balloon.
- Pinwheels. My cousin used a dozen pinwheels to mark off the party area on a grassy lawn, and then passed them out when guests left. (So many pretty ones!)
- 1 LEGO Minifig per kid. At a LEGO-themed party, this favor will be valued by the guests — and can be put to immediate use back home with a tub of LEGOs
You’ll see on our Facebook page that this conversation generated a huge response. Join us over there to keep talking!
Note: I’m super sorry if this embedded amazon ad thingie does not show you the tasteful party favors — like pinwheels and bubbles — but instead the kind of stuff I’d throw right away.