It's In the Bag
Published: May 25, 2016
By: Claire Yezbak Fadden
As the mother of three, I have frequently taken on the role of party planner over the past several years. I’ve hosted (or been involved in) every type of party imaginable. Some good, some I’m still trying to forget. I still shudder to think about when my husband, Nick, and I hosted a bubble-themed party. With a dozen 6-year-olds all slick and slippery, we learned that a wading pool full of bubbles and first graders don’t mix. The darkest memory of all, though, was when a naive young mother invited the entire soccer team plus neighborhood kids to a costume party. To say that the afternoon was chaotic wouldn’t even begin to explain it. I hit success with an All Things Dinosaurs party. The kids loved the dinosaur parade when they marched around the backyard toting their stuffed dinosaur to the tune of Baby Elephant Walk.
Since then, I’ve learned a few things. Never invite more guests than the age of the birthday child, plus one or two. Don’t send invitations to school to be disbursed. And most importantly, keep the focus on fun, not the amount of money spent. Kids just want to be together and play. That means you don’t have to break the bank to have a great time.
With these thoughts in mind, I’ve put together some creative and inexpensive party favor ideas that might help you stay on track when planning your next birthday event. Just a word of caution, though. When filling your guests party bags, consider what items you wouldn’t want coming home with your child. Don’t include guns, live animals (like goldfish), blowers or other loud noisemakers. Other parents will appreciate it and they’ll return the favor when it’s their turn to host their child¹s birthday party.
Puzzler Send each guest home with a boxed, 100-piece puzzle, matched to the theme of the party. With the resurgence in popularity of the super heroes like Spiderman and Batman, these inexpensive puzzles are in ample supply. You can also shop for boxed puzzles with fewer pieces (24 to 64). They’re perfect for guests younger than your birthday boy.
The Sky’s the Limit Kids love to fly kites. Send your party-ers out the door with their own kite, complete with string spool.
A Bag of Tricks Everyone has a little bit of magician in them. Put together a bag of tricks that can include a deck of cards, a rabbit’s foot and even a magic wand.
See It Grow Shop for small terra cotta pots. Add a garden spade, seeds or a small plant. The parents will admire your creativity and the kids will be eager to go home to plant their seeds. Extra bonus: No cavities with these favors!
Frame It Glue four Popsicle sticks in a square to make a frame. Have the party guests decorate their frame with glitter, lace, yarn, stickers, confetti, or whatever you have handy. Take an instant photo of each guest with the guest of honor. Glue a magnet to the back of the photo and date it.
How Big Am I? Kids love to see how big they are. Invest in a roll of butcher paper and have each guest lay down on the paper and strike a pose. Draw their outline. Your guest can then color their shape in and take it along when mom or dad comes to pick him up.
Sleepover Sacks Provide each guest with a new pillowcase and allow her to decorate it with fabric paints. Let dry overnight. A fun variation on this favor is T-shirts. All the guests can wear them the next day.
Edible Necklaces What’s more fun than candy hanging from your neck. Party guests can make their own necklaces (or Hawaiian lei) from a variety of candies. Some ideas include: LifeSavers, gum drops, Cherrios, mini-pretzels. Pre-thread the string on to a blunt needle before you begin this activity. You can make matching bracelets, too.
Water-bound Shop for plastic sand buckets (assorted shapes and sizes) with the attached shovels for party favors. Have your guests decorate the buckets and write their name. Add sunglasses, visor, water bottle, deflated beach ball or other water-related items.
Do-It-Yourself Party Bag Sometimes the most fun is having the kids decorate their own party bag. You can purchase inexpensive paper lunch bags for your guests to color or paint. Use stencils for patterns and add stickers, glitter, sequins, feathers and buttons for a personalized touch. Don’t forget to have each child write their name on their bag. If you are planning to have a piñata, the kids will enjoy filling their bags with all the goodies that fall out when the piñata is broken.
No matter which party bags and favors you decide to use, the most important part of the day will come when you see a loving smile on your child’s face. That’s when you know that all the planning and fuss was worth the effort. Happy Birthday!
Claire Yezbak Fadden is an award-winning freelance writer, mother of three sons and a veteran party planner. Follow her on Twitter @claireflaire.