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Build a Better Goodie Bag

Send home party favors mom will favor.

Photo courtesy of Baby Favors and Things

You’ve booked the venue, ordered the cake, sent the invitations, secured the helium tank. There’s one more major step to check off before the birthday party begins — putting together the goodie bag.

Kids on the social scene expect a sackful of favors and sweets at the end of every party. While young revelers love the tradition, the treat bag is anything but for the parent unearthing bouncy balls from under the couch, scraping holographic stickers off a bathroom mirror or soothing the tummy of a kid already hopped up on icing, ice cream and soda. Still, nobody wants to be the only one in the neighborhood not handing out a parting party gift. Instead of plastic doodads and candy, give guests a goodie bag even a mom could love by favoring simplicity and creativity.

Less really is more. Resist the urge to dole out lots of trinkets and go for one nicer item that jibes with the party theme. Personalize something practical yet enjoyable: a reusable water bottle for a sports party or a flashlight for a sleepover. Janet Doherty, who writes the blog Kids' Birthday Parties, loves giving out bookmarks and place mats. “Even kids’ paperbacks can often be purchased fairly inexpensively,” she says. “Keep an eye out for a book that coordinates with your child’s party theme.”

Take home the fun. Get a two-for-one bang by having the kids decorate an item at the party that they can take home afterward. They could embellish a T-shirt, pillowcase or tote bag using fabric markers or fabric paint. Make a no-sew fleece scarf or hat. Or decorate the edges of a picture frame or flowerpot with paint, stickers, shells and foam cutouts.

Make some noise. Burn a CD of your child’s favorite songs or tunes related to the party theme for each guest. For a superspy bash for her then-7-year-old, MetroKids managing editor Cheryl Krementz compiled a song list that included the James Bond theme, cuts from the Spy Kids soundtrack and “Secret Agent Man.” Remember to throw a bone to the parents who’ll be listening along. For a train CD, for instance, sprinkle something like REM’s “Driver 8” or anything by the band Train among the Thomas the Tank Engine ditties and kiddie staples like “Down by the Station.”

Make the season the reason. In summer, fill a beach bucket with a shovel, sieve and sand toys. In fall, hand out colorful school supplies. In spring, bubbles, butterfly nets and outdoor toys are welcome. And in winter, fill a cute mug with packs of hot chocolate, mini marshmallows in a baggie (to keep them fresh), plus a couple of candy canes for stirring.

Go the gift card route. If you’re going to spend $5 or more on each favor, support a local business in the process and purchase individual gift cards to a popular ice cream, hot dog or candy store. Have the birthday kid personalize each one with stickers and a note.

Give back to the Earth. Jes Gordon of Celebrations.com recommends giving guests little potted plants to take home and nurture. Let the kids decorate the pots at the party, then fill them with dirt and plant flowers or seeds.

Give back, period. Make a small donation in each guest’s name to a cause or charity that means something to your family. (It’s important to let your birthday child get involved in the selection.) Send the guests home with a nicely decorated letter explaining what you’ve done – and instill some good pay-it-forward vibes into your party.

Laura Amann is a freelance writer.

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