Happy Birthday! 32 Kids’ Goodie Bags That Are Actually Good

Goodie Bags

For better or worse, goodie bags are a birthday party staple that seems to be here to stay. That doesn’t mean you have to load up your kid’s friends with plastic junk, though. Here are 32 fantastic suggestions for goodie bags that aren’t stuffed with little plastic toys from Oriental Trading Company or tons of candy.

Read on for ideas from GeekMom and our readers who shared their wisdom in our original post about goody bag alternatives. (Thanks, commenters!)

  • One year I used boxes of Crayola crayons as balloon weights! Each kid got to take home a weighted balloon and a dollar-store coloring book. – GeekMom Patricia
  • For my daughter’s last birthday, we did a sundae bar and bought dollar store sundae glasses for each child. They loved them! One of her friends had a screen printing party and the kids had to bring their own shirts and pillow cases. – Cherie
  • Last summer I found very nice $2 boxes of sidewalk chalk at Target and ribbon tied a sheet of .50 stickers and voila! A useful and fun outdoor project! – Jane Berger
  • Custom coloring books made from clipart to go with the theme of the party (magical creatures, dinosaurs, pirates). – Ellen
  • Painting cheap tiles with ceramic paints. – Ellen
  • Customized sets of Yu-Gi-Oh cards made to feature the kids attending the party (using a free online template). – Ellen
  • I picked up a number of interesting items over several months (books, folding fans, decks of card, refrigerator magnets, etc.) The kids each got a bag containing two random items, with the instruction to swap until they had something they liked. This was incredibly entertaining for both the middle school aged party attendees and all of the adults in attendance. – Ellen
  • We also do crayons that I pick up at school supply time for super cheap. As a kid who loved to draw (and eventual artist), I have always loved crayons and always see a use for them in our house. – Cheryl
  • Last year, my 4 year old had a Spider-Man birthday so I raided Oshkosh of their $5 T-shirts for boys and girls picked one our for each attendee (plus a few extras). I tied them each to a very long string of yarn with their name on the end and hid them throughout the yard. With the strings all tangled up, it looked like a spider’s web. – Stephenie
  • Flower pots paired with seeds or a small seed kit can create a party favor that lasts months after the birthday party. You can even add a few items related to the party theme, and paint and personalize the pot if you have the time. – GeekMom Kelly
flower-pots
Photo: Kelly Knox
  • For a favor a little over $2, you can dress up watercolors with a ribbon and stickers or a printed label. – GeekMom Kelly
  • Large bubble wands are also cost-effective and easy to decorate with a party theme — and can double as entertainment as an outdoor birthday party winds down. – GeekMom Kelly
  • Tea cups for a tea party – decorate them. – Chris Rusanowski
  • Chocolate coins and a “real” money pouch for pirate party (for a treasure hunt during party). – Chris Rusanowski
  • At my son’s third birthday it was a Thomas party at a train store. The goodie was a wooden train they painted. – Angie
  • For my older kid who turned 8, we did T-shirts that they decorated with fabric markers. Marvelous all around. – Valerie
  • For his 4th birthday, it was jungle theme. So, hubby and I made safari belts with pockets that contained magnifying glasses, cheap compasses, and some plastic pretend camping things. – Ann-Marie
  • For his 5th birthday, we had a space party. With only 5 kids invited, we made a bit more effort and created rocket jet packs out of postal tubes. Inside we put glow sticks and glow stars for your bedroom walls. – Ann-Marie
  • I am going to let the kids decorate their own crowns and take those home as party favors. – MJ
  • For my daughter’s upcoming birthday (fairies and kings theme), the kids will make terrariums (fairy gardens) in glass jars. I also made a simple cloak with faux velvet for each of the boys coming and bought fairy wings for each of the girls. – Rachel
  • We did a scavenger hunt for the items that went in the goodie bag. We made the kids run all over the park to find the objects like small frisbies, a bubble wand, small balls and a couple of candy stops. It was fun and they got some exercise. – VandyJ
  • We buy $5 Amazon gift cards to give to folks, suggesting that they purchase 5 songs. – Anne
  • My favorite that we have done is kites! We got a bunch on clearance at Target the year before. – Lisasjm
  • I’m sewing the loot bags so they can be reused, and putting things in them like pieces of amethyst. I got a good deal on a bulk pile of Audubon Jr. Nature Guide type books for around 50 cents apiece. – AliA
  • My eldest chose Wonder Woman for her 7th birthday party theme. It was the same thing I had chosen for my 7th birthday. Instead of goodie bags, I went to Michael’s and got blank T-shirts in blue ($2.50 each) and then printed out a Wonder Woman as Rosie the Riveter saying “Girl Power” image and ironed them on the T’s. The T-shirts then became the “thank you gift.” – Natali
  • The past few years we have done a pool party and as each kid arrives, they get a pool toy as a favor. I can usually get rings or diving toys for 3/$1 in the dollar aisle in Target. – Karen
  • What we’ve done for my children’s parties is create thank you notes ahead of time — something like “Thanks for coming to my party! Hope you had a good time!” or something. The kids have a blast decorating these with stamps and stickers, etc. Then we attach those to a little Lego set, a mini-fig or a small book. (Once, when my daughter was 3, we just attached them to balloons! Seemed a little cheesy but the kids LOVED it.) – Shannon B
  • When all of the party guests were fifth grade Webelos Cub Scouts, ready to move to Boy Scouts, everyone got a real (but low end) $4 compass. – Sharon

Do you have even more ideas to share? Let party planners know in the comments below!

Top photo © patchattack / Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Kelly Knox is a freelance writer in Seattle, WA, where she contributes to local parenting magazines. She also writes for StarWars.com, Geek & Sundry, and more. You can find crafts and art projects for geeky families at her blog The St{art} Button.