No matter how tempting it is, just don’t
You’ve picked out the perfect theme and ordered an elaborate cake. Now it’s time to dig into the ever-important details of your kid’s birthday party. Everything needs to be just-right, from the balloon arch highlighting the photo wall down to the party games and perfect favors. But that last one can be a bit tricky. After all, what toys and trinkets won’t cause problems or wind up in the trash a few hours after getting home? To avoid a serious party foul keep these absolutely terrible things from finding their way into the goody bags. Trust us, your guests will thank you.
1. Plastic trinkets
We’ve all been there: searching for small and inexpensive items to fill goody bags with when…lo and behold! What do you spy in the party aisle so obviously grouped together and in such enticing colors? All kinds of plastic cra—stuff. Mazes, tops, mini frisbees, kaleidoscopes, shaped slinkies, hand clappers, finger eyeballs. The list is endless. But it’s time to stop the madness, parents. Let’s all agree to leave these items on the shelf.
Unless your little one’s party is at a local parade, a kazoo should never (ever) find its way into a kid’s goody bag. We know kids love them. We know they can encourage creativity and in some cases even help with language development. But we’re still giving a hard pass to this headache-inducing favor.
3. Small bubbles
We get it. Bubbles are a reliable add to any party bag, especially in summer. Kids love them at every age, and they hit that price point that makes them irresistibly appealing. But before you grab a box of mini bubble bottles or wands, think again. Little hands have a tough time getting the bubble stick out, and there’s just enough solution to make a mess if it spills (which it inevitably does). Trust us, stick with the larger wands if your kid wants bubbles in the bags.
Related: 22 Fantastic Party Favors Kids Will Actually Use
4. Train whistles
What’s not to love about a train-themed party? One where the kids get to wear those adorable train conductor hats and tie on a cute red kerchief like an old-timey conductor. But you know what parents don’t love? When you put one of those toy train whistles in with the loot (yes, even the wooden ones). Once they’re home, they’re just another noise maker we have to try and tune out while making dinner.
We know kids love slime. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t too. But resist the urge to drop a small container of slime, or putty, or literally any other sensory substance into your goody bags. Why? Because it always ends up somewhere it shouldn’t be—and it’s impossible to get out. On the upside—Play Doh gets on a pass on this restriction.
6. Mini squishy toys
We’re not sure what this popular item’s official name is, but if you’ve ever gotten one, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Their cuteness is only outmatched by their squishiness. And if you don’t want to squeeze these adorable little buggers like they’re the sweetest baby cheeks around, you might need help. But give it half a day and you’ll see why this one is on our list. They pick up dirt like nobody’s business and turn into totally gross (albeit cute) little masses quickly. And because we know you’re wondering, yes, those sticky hands fall into this category too.
7. Party blowers
Say “yes” to party hats but “no” to party blowers of any kind. While the two may go hand in hand, we’re banking on the fact that kids won’t miss what they never had. Not only are these suckers obnoxious noise makers, but they also get pretty soggy after a few whistles. Clearly, this is an item that should stay in the past.
8. Non-washable markers
Markers. Crayons. Colored pencils. You’ve got the green light to put all of these things in your kid’s goody bags on one condition. They must be washable. Because if they don’t come out of clothes, carpet, or the car seat cover, they’re going straight into the trash. For real.
Show us a kid who can “walk the dog” or go “around the world” and we’ll say yes to sticking a yo-yo in their goody bag. Otherwise, there’s just no place for this old school toy that requires way more coordination than most kids can muster. Save this one for pros.
Gum is a definite no-no for anyone under the age of 10, even if they can chew it. Why? Because gum has a tendency to wind up anywhere other than the garbage can. Hair, clothes, on the bottom of a lone shoe. Hold off on this one for-like-ever.
11. Too much candy
Can we also all agree that anyone adding candy to a goody bag after kids have downed a huge piece of cake is clearly asking for it (and we didn’t). Unless you really want your parent-friends to think twice about attending a future party, don’t put candy in the goody bags. No good can come of it.
Related: 25 Unique Birthday Desserts That Aren’t Cake
What’s the problem with an innocuous pencil adorned with cute designs and patterns? Nothing at first glance. But do people even have pencil sharpeners at home anymore? We think not. So unless you throw in a mini pencil sharpener with the loot, party favor pencils are a no-go.
Along those same lines, it’s time to make adorable, multi-piece erasers a thing of the past. They don’t actually erase anything (although to be honest we haven’t really tested that one out—see above re: pencils), and once the kids pull them apart, those pieces are as good as gone. Sure, they’re as cute as can be, and it’s easy to coordinate them with your party theme, but are they really worth it? Really?
14. Glitter glue
We love the idea of including a small craft or craft item in a goody bag. It gives kids something to do after the party’s over. And while it’s tempting to get a multi-pack of glitter glue and give every guest a color or two, this is one of those craft supplies that gets everywhere, no matter how hard you work to contain it. Bottom line: steer clear of anything glitter related, including glitter glue.
Now that you know the pitfalls to avoid, let’s talk about what guilt-free goody bag items you CAN include. Here are a few winning party favors that top our list:
- Book. Pick up a few inexpensive copies at the next Scholastic Book Fair, write a quick “thank you for coming” on the inside cover and you’ve got a two-fer guests will appreciate.
- Play-Doh. This sensory item is always a hit and comes in its own party pack for a reason.
- Large Bubble Wands. This one gets them outside and having fun.
- Sidewalk Chalk. You can never have too much of the good stuff.
- Small Craft Project. Design one of your own or pick up a kit at your local craft store.
- Beach Toy. Shovel, bucket, small inflatable ball. These toys are always getting lost or broken so replacements are welcome.
- LEGO Minifig. Who doesn’t love a new Minifig?
- Shaker Egg. If you have to have music in the mix, try a shaker egg. It’s not too loud and even super young kids can play it.
- Pack of Crayons. Make sure they’re washable and pack ’em in. Our tip? Buy them at the start of the school year when they’re on sale.
- Picture frame. Put a pic of the birthday kiddo and the friend in the frame, and you’ve got a keeper.