Where do you stand on party bags? A pleasant way to end a party, or a mad symbol of our out of control materialistic times? Call me crazy, and I know many of my friends will, but I love them. As a parent, I appreciate their very existence when it comes time to extricate my little over stimulated and over tired child from a party. I’m not afraid to resort to bribery – if you come now you’ll get your gift. And when it comes to throwing parties for the kids, I love making up the little bags and handing out goodies at the end of the party. What’s nicer than having free reign to give sweeties and toys to children? It is why Halloween is my favourite holiday.
Here’s the best of the party bag tips we could find, from the internet, our own experience, and from other PlayPennies parents.
One thing to keep in mind is that really, there is no obligation to have party bags. I’ve been to a number of parties where the children have walked out more than happy with cake in one hand and a balloon in the other. Party bags are really only something to think about for younger children. For older children, parties often have an activity that either results in something to take home or is more than enough on its own. I have never seen a child walk out of bowling, ice skating or laser tag disappointed they didn’t get a party bag!
It’s a bag!
First off, the bags themselves. This could be the gift all on its own. My son got a toy tin bucket at a party when he was three, and still uses it in our sandpit and at the beach. Last year Tanya collected paper bags from her workmates. “The sandwich shop next to the office gives out food in white, plain paper bags. I just got people to give me any that were clean and uncrumpled. My daughters and I decorated some for gift bags, and used the plain ones to hand out the party food in.”
Kids are going to rip apart or throw away whatever it is you use for the bag. It won’t matter if it has Ben 10, Scooby Doo, or Princess Barbie on it. We went to one party for four year olds where the party bags were A4 sized manila envelopes that the birthday girl and boy (twins) had decorated with paint. A very nice touch, but not something I'll ever be able to get my son to do. This year I bought a couple of packets of cellophane bags that were on special offer in a party shop: a total of 40 bags for £3. You can see the bags here.
Dee uses plain bags, such as blank cellophane bags or paper bags, and gets the party guests to do the decorating. “I let the kids pick out and colour in a picture off the internet (a small one) and cut out and glue it to the front of the bags”.
How about this for a cool idea? If you have the time that is. Over at Parentdish.com, Debbie made ‘plastic buckets’ to use as gift bags out of milk bottles splashed with acrylic paint.
Just about every supermarket and pound shop sells multi packs of party fillers. Little plastic toys that are less than robust but will last in landfills for the next few hundred years. What to do? I like to pick one toy for the bags. If I’m doing a large or whole class party, I don’t worry about making it the same toy for everyone. Keeping an eye out throughout the year for special offers is always a good idea.
Nicki says she likes to get “a sticker book with 20 pages of stickers for £2, then put a sheet in each bag. You can also buy multi packs of pencils in pound shops, with kids characters on them - works out cheaper. Buy a pack of temporary tatoo's and cut out individual one's to put in the bag - kids think this is great. If you want to make the bag look fuller go for an individual pack of crisps or popcorn to bulk it up.”
If you’re worried about adding to landfill, there are eco-friendly options out there. These aren’t going to be the cheapest but neither will they necessarily be prohibitively expensive. For example, you could go for bio-degradable balloons. A pack of 10 costs £1.99 from eco-friendly party supplier Little Cherry.
Make your own
Craft parties were popular with lots of the parents that we talked to. At her daughter’s fifth birthday party, Nicki got all the girls to make their own beaded bracelets – these went in the party bags. Debbie got the party goers to print their own t-shirts. Sheona’s daughter recieved a CD as the ‘party gift’. “She came home with a CD that the mum had made while they were all out running around the garden - it had photos she'd taken of the party, a picture of each child with the birthday child, a couple of videos they'd made of them all singing. Plus the official version of the song (but I'm not sure of the legality of that.).”
To finish with though, how about this superb idea? I love it so much I’m going to have a go myself for my son’s next birthday party. Kelly at Craftin Up has figured out a way to make her own crayons. She uses old broken crayons and a silicon mould – heart shaped ones in this instance. This ticks all the right boxes – it is eco friendly, inexpensive, and it's unique. Tell us your fab ideas!