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Best Birthday Party Favors: Less Is More And Consumable Is Even Better

By Melissa Summers

I have a few allergies. I am allergic to not having the last word and to paying full price for anything. I am also allergic to Polly Pocket’s shoes, or more specifically, tiny pieces of clutter which never seem to have a place. If you open my vacuum bag right now, you’ll find at least 32 tiny shoes I’ve ‘accidentally’ sucked up. Of course, I don’t recommend you open my vacuum bag because you’ll also find an entire cat worth of cat hair.

As I mentioned the other day, all the children at my son’s school were born in March. Not every child of course, but almost half the class has a birthday this month. This means a few things: the summer of 2000 was really fertile in Michigan, many parties, a lot of sugar and lots of tiny little things sent home in goodie bags to be sucked up into my vacuum.

I know that’s not what the birthday boy’s parents had in mind when they plunked down $40 to give everyone something to take home from the party. I wrote about this topic on another site before and want to re-share those ideas and add a few more good ones I’ve come across while browsing.
When creating a take-away from a birthday party let’s all make a point to remember this little motto I made up: “Less Is More And Consumable Is Even Better”.

Consumable = Nothing to find a place for or to be sucked up in my vacuum, except perhaps crumbs.
When talking about this topic before, readers sent in a lot of great ideas I think are worth sharing again.


crayons.jpgColoring Pages, a small box of crayons and a small container of homemade play dough. You can print some nice coloring pages out from here (maybe you’re having a Netherlands themed party. You’re all set!) and find the recipe for scented play dough here. For the crayons, you could make some multicolored crayons or buy some adorable emoji ones here.

bubblecustom.jpgUse foil balloons weighted by a bottle of bubbles for decorations, at the end of the party send each child home with one. My kids always eyed the mylar balloons at the grocery store check out with regret and want because I would never buy them one. Ever. If you’re tricky (and/or married to someone who is tricky) you can even customize your bubbles.

fireengines.jpgI love these Dover Little activity books. I stock up on them  when we’re going on a long car trip or for restaurants. Kids love stickers and these little books come in a lot of themes you can coordinate to your child’s interests. Like dinosaurs, trains, firefighters or dogs.

monsterfingerpuppets.jpgThese finger puppets are  so cute!  I’m thinking if you used them as placemarkers on your birthday table or put them on sticks as a centerpiece, they’d be decorations *and* your take away. It’s one small thing, not several small things so I don’t think this would make my allergy act up.

How about just a cookie? A simple sugar cookie in the shape of the birthday child’s choice. My son loves taking cookies to school as a treat in the shapelephantcookies.jpge of his newly acquired age. We’ll be taking 6’s in the next few weeks which is probably a really bad omen….666….

I made red elephant sugar cookies with the number 4 in yellow icing as favors a couple of years ago. You’re saying, “No, Melissa I can’t make cookies!” I’m saying you can and they’ll look as imperfect as mine and the kids will love them anyway! Here is a great recipe I’ve started using for all my sugar cookies. When it comes to decorating, you’re not going to want to go crazy here. Use royal icing in a pastry bag, a little thicker consistency to outline your cookie and a thinner consistency to fill in the design.

numbercookies.jpgOkay, okay, you don’t want to make cookies. I searched around for affordable decorated sugar cookies and first came across Rolling Pin Production‘s site and then spent a couple of hours browsing. These are beautiful cookies but like I said, I’m allergic to clutter and I also don’t like paying a lot for most anything, especially for a bunch of 5 year olds. But look at these beautiful cookies! A portrait of the birthday kid, these numbers (which look nothing like my amateur version) and all these versions for kids. These are beautiful cookies but most of them are $5-$8 a piece and I love birthdays and all but I’m allergic to paying that much for cookies as well.

cakecookie.jpgVeronica’s treats offers some lovely cookies for around $3. They have a lot of the same types of cookies as Rolling Pin like, numbers, birthday cakes or sports balls. They’re not as intricate as the others but remember, these are for kids who are pretty much happy with a big pile of sugar. I think these are a great option.

Tell me your best party favor ideas. Yes, I know you don’t have to have anything to take home from the party. I just enjoy doing it.


Melissa Summers
About the Author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.


Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.

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  • Procrastamom

    March 8, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    For a couple of my kid’s birthdays (when they were younger…4 or 5) I bought buckets and spades from the Loonie (dollar) Store for a buck per set and then I filled them with candy (3-4 dollars per kid). These are good for summer birthdays.
    This year, for my son’s 9th birthday, I attached a bag of candy to those keychain lanyards that all the kids are wearing lately with their Tamagochis attached (again, a buck a piece at the Loonie Store and no, I didn’t splurge for the Tams). All the mothers exclaimed over how crafty I was, so I didn’t tell them that it took me all of twenty minutes to assemble the things.
    I too hate all the little bits that come home in goody bags, so I try not to send that junk home with kids. I figure I’ll just fill them up with cake and candy and send them on home to their parents. I’m sweet like that.

  • dana

    March 9, 2007 at 11:54 am

    After spending hours thinking about party favors and lots of money, I wish that I had thought of any of your ideas. They are terrific. Too bad my girls are over the favor days of birthday parties.

  • slouching mom

    March 9, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    Last year, Lego had a free shipping offer (which is not uncommon), so I bought ten of their smallest sets for the ten kids at Ben’s party. Cost per set? $3.50. Yes, that’s pricey, but Legos go a long way, and that was the only item each kid went home with. I wrapped each set to make it look a little more festive. The partygoers seemed more than thrilled.

  • Kate

    March 9, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    I love your ideas! I have used one that you talked about before – burning the CD of party songs. I put those and some mini candy bars in a party bag and the moms still talk about how their kids love the CD’s!

  • Gretchen

    March 9, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Pencils! Our elementary school age kids ALWAYS need pencils for school. I like to buy the decorative ones at the party store and put them in a bag with the ubiquitous candy…

  • bgirl

    March 9, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    Must. Use. Movie. Card. Idea. Excellent!!

  • melissaS

    March 9, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    I love that CD idea too. But last time I wrote about it I was reprimanded by Blogging Baby readers for stealing.
    Which, you know it is technically. I think of it as sharing songs we love with other kids.
    But it is still stealing so I can’t endorse it publically. Unlike being drunk around your kids, that I can totally endorse. 😉

  • Joceline

    March 9, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    We went to a recent party for a 3 year old, and the parents provided a white t-shirt for each child and set out fabric markers, paints and stencils so the kids could decorate their own shirts. They killed two birds with one stone – it was a fun party activity and took care of the favor all in one. Brilliant!

  • Kate

    March 9, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Perhaps you paid for those songs. . . then that would not be wrong. You know. . let’s just say PERHAPS.
    I still like the idea. Also, while you’re up, can I have another margarita, frozen, no salt?

  • Sara

    March 9, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    My five year old attended a birthday party where the favor was a candy cane with a gift card from Steak’n’Shake with enough money on it for a milkshake. He was thrilled and so was I. NO SMALL PARTS to clog my vacuum! I like the movie card idea as well.

  • De in D.C.

    March 9, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    My son’s birthday is in Aug. so we usually go with a water-themed party (set up the sprinkler, slip n slide, and a wading pool). For party favors, I’ll get all the kids an inexpensive water gun that they can play with and then take home. Below 5 tends to have higher quality guns than the dollar stores for around $2-3 a piece.

  • wndl

    March 9, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    What we do for our daughter is to have the craft project be the take home. Snowflakes, with all the glitter they could get on them. Butterflies, with layers of tissue paper and then buttons glued on.
    This meets two needs in one: craft and “goodie bag.”
    Oh, and another double: I’m cheap and hate goodie bags!

  • Shannon

    March 9, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    I, too, hate the typical goodie bag stuff. Little junky things that make me feel bad when I finally throw them away. I totally agree with your cookie idea. We have done cookie pops from Cookies by Design…just a simple round cookie on a stick decorated in the party colors (ex: red cookie with black ribbon for an Incredibles party a couple of years ago). LOVE your movie card idea!

  • Kim

    March 9, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    My daughter’s birthday is Dec 16th so in the past I have made up a bunch of sugar cookies in Christmas shapes, several colours of icing, and ton of small candies and sprinkles from the bulk foods department of the grocery store. The children decorate as many cookies as they like and take them home to their families in inexpensive festive plastic bags I pick up at the dollar store.
    It’s a little on the messy side but CHEAP and it eats up a bunch of time at the party. And we all know about time killing at birthday parties……..

  • amy

    March 10, 2007 at 1:10 am

    Your ideas rock Melissa! Going to use one for my daughters next party. I too am weary of the goodie bag phenom. Lots of money spent for stuff my kids will look at once and then disperse throughout the house.
    Love the cookie idea.

  • Beth

    March 10, 2007 at 1:29 am

    Fun ideas! Books are also relatively inexpensive and easy to match to a party theme. Print a label for the inside cover with your child’s name, date and “thanks for sharing my Xth birthday.” Kids could make a bookmark as a quick craft idea.

  • Peggasus

    March 10, 2007 at 10:11 am

    On the movie card idea, I also sometimes just buy one of the small buckets of microwave popcorn at Blockbuster and put the card in there. Little gift certificates to the local ice cream place were always welcome.
    The dollar store is the place to go. Their mylar balloons are also $1, though it costs $1.50 to fill them, but that’s still lots cheaper than the grocery or party store. I got small puzzles in there, pencils, all kinds of stuff. One of the best things I ever got there were those fake nose, glasses and eyebrows things. I took a picture of each kid in theirs, and that was the thank you note that we later sent, with the 2nd grader’s scribbling on the back.
    One time we also did tie-dye t-shirts for a 10 year-old’s party. The kids loved it, and it wasn’t too messy at all.
    I miss those younger days. With teenagers, $20 bills just go flying out of my wallet for birthdays. Like one last night and another today.

  • Krissy

    March 10, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    I confess that I went through a phase of LOVING making creative goody bags. Now that my boys will soon turn 8 and 6…..not so much anymore.
    My favorite goody bags were ones I made for a buried treasure birthday party. The “bags” were actually gold Chinese food boxes (bought from a party store) decorated to look like little treasure chests. Inside we put mostly consumable candies — chocolate gold coins, candy necklaces, “gold treasure” bag of gum, etc. The girls got a fun chunky “rock” ring and the boys got a compass.

  • Isabel Kallman

    Isabel Kallman

    March 10, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    call me a party pooper but I too hate junk party favors.
    Melissa, I know you and many others hate licensed characters, but com’on when do you actually not mind them? Probably on sensible things,like toothbrushes and band-aids? How about giving a package of one or the other? They fall in the high $2 range at the drugstores. I didn’t even check the prices yet at my FAVORITE store, Costco. But I imagine that one would score well there.
    Another idea is edible candy jewelry like those bracelets and rings. Oriental Trading sells lots in good bulk prices.
    Then, you could wrap it in a nice personalized ribbon from your kid, with something like “thank you for coming to my party!” From you can order lovely ribbon.

  • wendy

    March 10, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    For my son’s August 31 birthday we give school supplies. The other one is in July, so usually water toys, frisbees double as a plate, all from the dollar store.

  • Melanie

    March 10, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    Oh, those monster puppets! I adore them, and I decided that since I’m too cheap to buy them I’d make them myself – so far I’ve only made two, but they came out awesome, were easy to do, and felt is CHEAP. It was $1 a piece and you can make a ton of monsters from one piece of felt.

  • Evie

    March 10, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    I used to work as a caricature artist to get walking around cash in college. So now that I am a grown-up (sort of) I do caricatures of all the kids each year at my daughters’ parties. It is fun because, as it is usually the same kids, each year they get a caricature to take home as a memento. I’ve had lots of parents frame them. I know you aren’t a caricature artist, but when I was in art school I would have jumped at the chance for someone to pay me $20 or so to do a kids’ party. Kids are the funnest and easiest to draw.
    Anyway, I have had lots of the other moms tell me how much they look forward to my girls’ birthdays so they can get their caricature!

  • Pixie

    March 11, 2007 at 1:17 am

    I printed out pictures of the guest w/ the bday child & tucked it in a bag w/ pencils
    (best if you have lots of adults helping w/ the party or are having a sleepover.)
    I also like giving out alphabet stencil/rulers, pencils, & fun sized containers of play-doh.

  • K

    March 11, 2007 at 10:20 am

    Even better, make cookies ahead of time and the kids can decorate them as a party activity. All of the trimmings are edible and easy to clean up, kids are busy for lots of time, and they can decorate and eat one and bring one home.
    Even better, my lack of artistic ability was never an issue.

  • Kaleigh

    March 12, 2007 at 10:48 am

    Or, just do what we parents did in pre-school. Blood pact. We formed a group called MAGB (pronounced Mag-Buh), which is Mothers Against Goody Bags. And we swore that none of our parties would have goody bags. The kids totally didn’t care and we saved the money, time, and irritation. Everyone wins in MAGB!

  • Lara

    March 12, 2007 at 11:17 am

    Target $1 aisle usually has some pretty cool stuff too – depending on where you live and what time of the year it is. I just went over there today and bought a bunch of Spider Man stuff for a friend of mine’s little boy as a “Big Brother” gift since she just had another baby – lots of cool things over there for Birthday Parties though……
    Melissa- that sugar cookie recipe ROCKS!!! My neices love coming over to make cookies and that’s the recipe we use. Thanks for the Martha advice on the decorating/icing.

  • Vikki

    March 12, 2007 at 11:41 am

    We bought Hanes t-shirts and tie dyed them ourselves and each kid got to take a shirt home. That was for the 4th b-day. The kids loved it and it wasn’t that expensive.

  • Kathy

    March 13, 2007 at 9:03 am

    I have given gift card to the local ice cream place (Brusters) for $3, which is enough for a small kid sundae.
    I hate goody bags and I hate even more kids who expect them (I have had kids ask me “where is the goody bag” at the end of a party before – grrr.)

  • -erica

    March 13, 2007 at 9:59 am

    One year for my son’s February birthday, I put together a bag with a small clay pot, envelope of flower seeds, and a sandwich baggie of potting soil. I think I even found small plastic shovels to include. It was about $5 for each child, if I remember correctly. Just in time for spring!

  • Robert Mahar

    March 13, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    Hello Melissa!
    Thanks for including our handmade finger puppets in your virtual goody bag – much appreciated!
    Robert @ Mahar Drygoods

  • Bethany

    March 19, 2007 at 10:40 am

    The best party favor I’ve seen was a single small teddy bear at a 1-year-old’s party. My friend found an assortment of them in a clearance bin, and since her daughter’s party cake was shaped like a bear, snapped them up. Each child got a bear with a pretty name tag tied around its neck. Even though plush creatures do seem to multiply when we’re not looking, I still think one bear is better than a bunch of little crap!

  • pnutsmama

    March 19, 2007 at 11:17 am

    i’m “late to the party” on this one (please pardon the corniness! agh!) but just wanted to share two ideas for favors for younger kids that you could probably translate up for older ones. we had a rubber duckie themed 1st bday party for pnut and i ordered bday themed rubber ducks and small canvas frames from oriental trading that i painted yellow and decorated with some duck themed ribbon and buttons, and a magnet on the back for the fridge (don’t tell your real estate agent, melissa!). when guests arrived we took a picture of each group with the bday girl and then i printed out the picture and put it in the frame, with a duckie in a duckie cello bag and that was the favor! the printing was time consuming, but you could also send the picture in the thank you if you don’t have the time or the capability. for an older kids party, you could just have the ‘decorate a frame’ be a craft for the kids at the party and be the favor. we still see the rubber duckies in random places when we visit family members, as they are too big to be sucked up by the vacuum.
    for the older kids at the party, i made foam bags with ducks and bubbles on them and wrote ‘pnuts 1st bday’ with paint pen on them, they were kits i also purchased at oriental trading, and filled up with a few duck themed toys, bubbles and crayons. if you are a forward-thinker and have the space to store stuff you can stock up on 20cent boxes of crayola at back-to-school time. again, this could be a craft for older kids, although a beach bucket would probably be more practical and less annoying for the moms of the kids who bring them home from the party. we gave adult duck gifts (socks, soap, paper goods) as a few prizes for winning games we had at the party, too, found at various dollar-type stores, bins, etc.
    i am already thinking of ladybug ideas for bday #2 in july…i am holding off on licensed characters for one more year since i can!

  • kaimonogirl

    March 19, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    As a first timer to the kid’s birthday party hosting and the goodie bag drama, I just couldn’t get into the idea of “little junk toys” in a bag. I wouldn’t want that in my house, why would I give it away? My son turned one on March 3 and we had a St. Patty’s Day themed party for him. I gave the kids shamrock covered treat bags (a Dollar Tree find) and a pair of St. Patty’s socks. (JoAnn’s for about $2.30 a pair, but Target even had them in the dollar section) Just about every kid I know loves funny socks and they are something you can acutally use!

  • CityStreams

    September 13, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    For girls in the 4-7 year old range I know that dressing up is always fun at a party. I love the idea of filling a box or chest with thrift store dresses and accessories for the kids to put on and prance around in. You can take pictures of all the girls to send with thank you notes (and/or scrapbook). For favors you can find great deals after Halloween. Feather boas, princess tiaras, etc. Last Halloween the Dollar Tree had tutus and fairy wings for $1 each – perfect for a group picture and everyone can have a tutu&wing set to take home.

  • Angela

    March 30, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Thanks for all of the wonderful ideas. I have another one…small ice cream bowls (you can buy the cute ice cream shaped ones for $1 at the Dollar Tree)with $1 coupon to a local ice cream parlor (covers the cost of a kids cone)wrapped in tulle with a spoon attached to the ribbon. A cute saying attached would be “I think it’s ‘cool’ that you came to my party…have some ice cream on me!”

  • Susan

    April 8, 2008 at 1:34 am

    Thank you so much for the mention!
    With regard to kid’s cookies and pricing, I’m designing a bunch of new stuff that will fall into the $3.50 – $4.50 per piece price range and some will feature less sugar as well.
    Thanks again! Great blog :)!!!

  • Molly

    March 8, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    We just celebrated our youngest daughter’s birthday this past Friday. She turned 5. I sewed up 15 party bags from empty Caprisun juice pouches. Because my sewing is so bad, I embellished the bags with feathered trim, beads, ribbons. For the boys, I just bordered the Caprisun picture with navy blue, green, yellow, black offray ribbon. It didn’t look girly at all. I filled the bags with bubble gum, chocolate coins, a lollipop, gummy care bears, Scooby-Doo fruit snacks, My Little Pony fruit snacks, a cookie pop (my first time to make it, but they all loved it), small boxes of raisins and dried cranberries. These are all my daughter’s favorite treats. The cookie pop was an idea I got from my neice who ordered cookie pops for her daughter’s birthday party and paid a fortune for them. I made my own using the Betty Crocker recipe. I also made strawberries ‘n cream cupcakes (also from and just used cream cheese frosting and topped it with pink, purple, bright green sugar sprinkles. I made a cute signs for the cupcakes on my computer that read “Berrylicious”, “Very Berry”, “Yummo!”, “Sweet”, etc. cut the little signs and taped a toothpick to the backs of them and stuck it into the cupcake!
    The important thing here anyway is that my daughter had a wonderful time and she thanked me and her dad so many times for a wonderful party with all her friends! Her sister’s 7th birthday is coming up next month and I’ll do pretty much the same thing with a twist and fill up the bags with my 7-year-olds favorite things.

  • Shawn

    September 2, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    For my sons 9th Star Wars birthday party favors, I made light sabers. I purchased water noodles at the dollar store, cut them in half and wrapped duck tape around the base to make a handle. The guests played with during the pool party, then took them home as a party favors. I still get comments from other mom’s about how much their children still play with them. I have pictures if requested.

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