a peek inside the fishbowl

07 Apr, 2009

Giving the lootbag the boot

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Yaktivism

Where do you stand on loot bags?

Last year for Sarah’s birthday the kids went home with a bunch of stuff they’d made during the party: potted plants with kid-sized gardening gloves tied together with raffia, beanbag ladybugs, frosted cupcakes tucked into easter baskets… At the very end one child asked that dreaded question (dreaded to me at least):



It’s that time of year again, and Sarah has another birthday party coming up. It’s all planned out. It’s going to be a sleepunder, basically, a sleepover without the sleeping. There’ll be dinner and root beer floats, balloons (we have a great source for party balloons), popcorn and a movie.

The lootbag/party favour question came up during the planning stage of this party (which was originally going to be a science party) and I had to consider where I stood on the issue.

In the past I have tried my best to make the lootbag a memorable one, because I have to admit, everyone loves a nice lootbag and it makes a nice parting gift.

I tried not to include any items I wouldn’t like to see in my own home.

I tried to take it easy on the crappy candy.

I tried to abstain from making purchases at the dollar store, avoiding the worst offenders: cheap jewelery, toys with lots of little losable parts, and things that look like they might break in 2.5 seconds and end up in the garbage.

I tried to consider things like packaging, requirement for batteries, and re-usability when making my loot bag purchases.

Not everyone does this.

Well, I have decided not to make loot bags at all, instead, we’re going to exchange it for a nicely wrapped (as yet undetermined) tiny gift.  Trust me. This is easier.

Right now I’m brainstorming lootbag alternatives.

– a small plant in a pretty pot
– a skipping rope or special ball
– sidewalk chalk
– a homemade gift (?)
– a book
– wind-up toy
– ?

Any other ideas you could add to the list?

The party’s on Thursday. So I better get moving.

69 Responses to "Giving the lootbag the boot"

1 | spydergrrl

April 7th, 2009 at 8:01 am


Hey missfish!

I know your pain about loot bags. In the past few years, we’ve done:

– pail & shovel with creepy crawlies and an animal bookmark for an Outdoor themed bday

– a stuffed animal from IKEA for a bday party where all the guests donated goods to the Humane Society.

Have you considered stuffed animals? Sleeping buddies for the sleepover gang… The IKEA ones are adorable and cheap! The bunnies I bought last year were about 9 inches tall, cost me $3 and they were super soft.

This year we’re skipping the bday for a trip but that won’t help you :) Best of luck!

2 | Erin

April 7th, 2009 at 8:09 am


we’re working on a plastic-free//crap-free 4yr old loot bag. so far we’re leaning towards plants/flowers – but the garden glove idea is great – they have little ones at Rona for $1.67. Our other idea is to make up some dry cookie mix and package it in nice tins with a cookie cutter. I fear that this might not cut it with my daughter’s princess obsessed friends but I am the adult and I refuse to buy dollar store baubles.

3 | Sherry

April 7th, 2009 at 8:12 am


I really like the sidewalk chalk idea, it’s good for this time of year.

I have a love-hate relationship with loot bags. We do them (and George pulls together pretty good ones, I told him he should start a business) but I hate that they’re even necessary.

4 | andrea

April 7th, 2009 at 8:14 am


Good ideas!

Erin: I like the cookie mix idea. And couldn’t you slap a couple of princess stickers on the tin and call them princess cookies? ;)

5 | DaniGirl

April 7th, 2009 at 8:22 am


Great ideas here! (Will I be able to remember this post in 10 months?)

While it’s a little sketchy on its infringement on digital copyright, we had huge success this year with home-made CDs as loot-bag gifts this year. The boys each picked a selection of favourite songs (everything from the themes to Batman and Pokemon to a Ramones cover of Scooby Doo to Great Big Sea’s Lukey’s Boat, with a healthy share of BNL Snacktime songs) and I burned them to CD. Tristan even designed the artwork, which I replicated on the colour copier. Some of the moms at the school stopped me in the days after the parties to say how much the kids loved them and how they’ll be doing the same thing at their own parties.

We slipped each CD into a sandwich baggie (ours had Sponge Bob on them) with stickers and a pencil and eraser for Tristan’s party and a mini-playdough for Simon’s party. The whole package cost about $15 per 10 kids. And since I had most of the music in iTunes (and sigh, now have the Pokemon theme in there as well!) it only took about an hour to do. Yay!

6 | Loukia

April 7th, 2009 at 8:32 am


I try to be creative when doing loot bags, but it’s hard sometimes, to think of an alternative to the dollar store/candy combo that is easy to do, you know?

I think Shannon at A Crafy Mom had a great idea – she was giving out (or had already done this) Lego or Playmobile kits (the small ones) at her sons birthday party for a loot ‘bag’ alternative. Great idea, especially for boys – I know mine is obsessed with Lego/Playmobile. And these are relatively cheap, too.

I like the plant idea – very nice! Will consider this, because my son LOVES gardening.

A book is the best idea I’ve read! And if you know the guests well enough, and if the party is small enough, you can really get individual books for each person – like, if one girl loves horses, get her a book on horses, etc… oh, I like this idea so much I think that’s what I’ll do this year! (So thank you!)

Michaels has some cute stuff in the bins near the front – stationary with initials, soap, notebooks, etc… all for under 2 dollars usually! Very nice stuff for little girls… ;)

7 | Jane

April 7th, 2009 at 8:35 am


I am a huge supporter of reading early with your kids so
when my daughter turned three (she’s ten now), I got a bright idea to give the party goers a book instead of a lootbag.

You have to plan early for the books. I look at the Scholastic sheets that come home from school and buy a boxed set of 6 copies of the latest Scooby Doo or Fairy book that are $1.99. Costco is sometime good for this too.

This year in March we did an Allie Finkel book and for my son who is six, we did a Pokemon Step 2 reader.

We wrap the book with a package of fruit gummies or a loolipop and a big ribbon and they write a little thank you on card that we attach. The kids love them (parents too!)

8 | Krista

April 7th, 2009 at 8:47 am


You all have great ideas! I really dislike the lootbag filled with candy and dollar store items that break the same day.

This year we are giving each child a book or a slide puzzle.

DaniGirl – the CD idea is GENIUS. I love that your kids picked the songs and designed the artwork – so thoughtful and creative.

9 | andrea

April 7th, 2009 at 8:53 am


It’d be different if you were buying it (obviously!) but my worry about the CD is the copyright issue. Must think on that.

10 | andrea

April 7th, 2009 at 8:57 am


My secret fear is that I hate looking cheap. I shudder to think about the other parents standing around wondering why they spent $$ on a birthday gift yet their kids came home emptyhanded. (Not that I could ever let that happen. I couldn’t!!)

I think there has to be a little something, just not sure what it is yet. I do love the Playmobil idea. Play Value on Carling is the Superstore of Playmobil. Might check that out.

I’ve also had my fill of pencils and erasers. We have so many that I’m going to start throwing them out any day now.

11 | ian

April 7th, 2009 at 8:57 am


We had a sleepover one year with limited guests, and they each got PJ’s. It was something that they were able to wear that night, bring home and have something to remember the party each time they put it on.
Of course, if you’re planning on having 10 kids over it adds up – still cheaper than taking them to a party place I suppose.

12 | andrea

April 7th, 2009 at 9:02 am


OMG ian – I love that idea!

13 | andrea

April 7th, 2009 at 9:15 am


Posting on behalf of a commenter who was having technical issues:

“I like the one thoughtful gift idea. In particular, I like the potted plant idea for this time of year, something that might be transfered to the garden in a few weeks.

My daughter recently had a PJ party for her 7th birthday, and I assembled the ingredients for homemade bubble bath (the girls chose their own fragrance and colour) which they took home in some small toiletry totes (in case the plastic drugstore bottles I bought leaked). My husband made pretty labels for the bottles.

We also iced cupcakes, and I bought some brightly coloured “Chinese take-out” containers for the girls that wanted to take extras home. (Some girls opted to eat all that they iced!)

No one left empty handed, but I didn’t go to the trouble to buy a lot of crap that was destined for the landfill.”


14 | tanya

April 7th, 2009 at 9:53 am


You could take pictures or let the kids if you have a simple digital camera. Then print them while they are watching the movie and send each child home with a mini photo album. I have also printed recipes on index cards and included them in the photo album. Or they could write stories/pictures on index cards. Part of the fun could be assembling their album.

15 | words words

April 7th, 2009 at 10:06 am


I don’t like loot bags or parting gifts, but was always impressed by an idea my sister had for her daughter’s birthday party. They had a tea party, and she found a bunch of very nice, china cups at her local second-hand store for cheap. Each girl took her cup home.

16 | Jennifer

April 7th, 2009 at 10:15 am


Not a fan of the loot bag (gift’s either for that matter, but that’s a whole other topic!!) All great ideas though. I especially like Tanya’s idea of the picture. You could also pop them into cute frames or something like that. I did a similar thing for a neighbour’s kid’s prom, it included video from the night as well. They just LOVED it!!

17 | The Veg Next Door

April 7th, 2009 at 10:19 am


I like the potted plant idea but all your ideas are quite good.

For The Peach’s recent b-day party (which was only family) I gave each kid a book that was appropriate for their age.

In the past, I haven’t given loot bags out but gave each child a note explaining that the money was donated to a local charity (Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre).

18 | Shannon

April 7th, 2009 at 10:21 am


Ugh. I would be mortified if my kid was the one asking for the loot bag. And my answer to that little boy would have not been very polite (but, said in a nice tone with a smile of course). I only have a one year old and we did not do a lot bag/bucket/basket or anything. I think kids are so accustomed to getting items and that needs to stop. It’s the birthday childs day, they get gifts, and on their bday, they get gifts. I do like the idea of a make and take craft or something but not a basket of junk. I’m also too cheap to spend $20 per kid on a few nicer items. If you give just one gift, you’ll have that same kid say where’s all my toys? You can’t win!

That being said…I’ve never really been a traditional rule follower.. :)

19 | Trea

April 7th, 2009 at 10:47 am


Ah, the loot bag conundrum. I liken it to the dreaded wedding favours dilemma. It’s too bad, really because all of that commercialism and expectation takes all the fun out of it. I don’t remember the loot bag growing up in Alberta, I just remember being relieved to even be invited to a birthday party. But I digress …
Wow – even after all that from my soap box I don’t even have any ideas to share (unless kids enjoy donations to charity on their behalf). Can you tell my son is only one?

20 | mel

April 7th, 2009 at 10:59 am


At one party my daughter went to, the parents took a group shot of the kids during the party, then one ran around the corner to have it printed and she left with a framed picture of herself and her friends. Lovely! She also made a mini-scrapbook at the last sleepover party she went to and brought that home.

A sort-of alternative, because it involves your kid getting only one present: each kid brings a copy of their favourite book, wrapped (and new, of course), and the kids exchange. Everyone leaves with a book.

This year we had a hunt related to the theme of the party (chess). When a kid found a chess piece, they brought it to us and exchanged it for a wrapped gift from Scholar’s Choice (playmobil, mostly) that corresponded to the labeled with the chess piece. At the end it went into a bag with a yummy treat.

Those are a few ideas, but I’m really looking forward to what else other parents have done.

21 | Chantal

April 7th, 2009 at 11:08 am


I just did the loot bag thing for my 4 year olds party and I have to admit that I hate it, even though I do it. It is almost as much work assembling a loot bag (that isn’t full of crap) than it is to plan the whole party.

It visited Michaels and Party Packagers. It was a fairly small loot bag, each with small bottle of bubbles, a paint your own picture frame, a pirate ship 3d puzzle (pirate themed party), a small note pad, and a glow in the dark bracelet. All told the loot bags cost me about $4 each. The kids also did 2 crafts which they took home with them.

I have seen some insane loot bags, so much stuff, too much stuff. I try not to be swayed by what the kids take home from other parties. It just isn’t necessary. Funny I look at my list and it seems like quite a full loot bag, but the bags were half empty and I did feel a bit of pressure to fill them more, but I stopped myself and told myself to relax.

22 | LO

April 7th, 2009 at 11:11 am


We have been doing the ‘one parting item’ in lieu of a loot bag for a few years now and it’s much better……we usually go according to the theme of the party. I find it costs a bit more but it’s worth it.

23 | jdw

April 7th, 2009 at 11:36 am


I’m doing this this Saturday:


Super easy and the totes are no sew.

24 | Shan

April 7th, 2009 at 11:46 am


I am not a fan of the loot bags at all. Although I have done them in the past. This year for my daughter’s 7th birthday I’m making each guest a little cookie bouquet with decorated sugar cookies on sticks. It’s something relatively easy and inexpensive for me to make.

25 | Shannon

April 7th, 2009 at 11:51 am


We don’t do loot bags either . . . and as Loukia mentioned, we gave little Lego firemen/policemen (on sale for $4.99 each, not bad) to each boy at my son’s fifth birthday party. They were the biggest hit ever – I wrapped them up in homemade paper so the kids could take them home and unwrap them. They loved it. I “borrowed” the idea from a friend who gave my sons a Playmobil knight at her son’s party . . . my kids slept with those things under their pillows for SIX MONTHS!!!

I have also done craft items – home-made picture frames and painting stuff . . .not such a hit with the younger boy crowd, but something I will keep in mind for when my daughter is older ;)

My cousin always gives a $5.00 bookstore gift certificate to each child, I love that idea too!

26 | porter

April 7th, 2009 at 12:18 pm


wow so many comments! i didn’t get a chance to read through them all so sorry if i’ve duplicated anyone elses idea.
here’s mine (all of these things will be included in my niece and nephews easter baskets because i avoided candy, chocolate, and dollar store items)
– individual playmobil characters, they are under $4 which is probably less than you could get away with spending at the dollar store. wrap them up cute and voila.
– you make sidewalk paint, why not make some sidewalk paint in a reusable container with a brush and the recipe for how to make it? add some sidewalk chalk. the easter baskets will contain some 3d sidewalk chalk, homemade sidewalk paint in melissa and doug paint containers, some brushes, some bubbles, that type of thing.
– another idea could be a movie rental voucher, a package of popcorn and a small can of pop (i know pop but it’s okay as a treat no?).

27 | Dagne

April 7th, 2009 at 12:38 pm


We’ve mostly relied on the “one special thing” approach and also tried to source things which are made in Canada, although we’ve also had parties where we gave out just a couple of nice high-end sweets/treats and left it at that. Why should kids expect to take much home? Isn’t the party the treat?

I’m interested in the whole second-hand thing (more for gifts rather than the loot bag topic). Our children are very happy getting clothes/toys/books second-hand (whether gifts or just because they need them), but I wouldn’t yet feel very comfortable giving second-hand gifts to my children’s friends, and this is probably silly. I have a few people in my life where this works, but even though it’s important to me, I still balk at the idea of giving a second-hand gift to anyone else, worried about what the receiver/receiver’s parents will think, and even though that second-hand gift might be a real find and quite special. (Let me couch “second-hand” as not meaning “valuable antique” or “rare” – most people wouldn’t sneeze at that type of gift!)

28 | Marci Simonini

April 7th, 2009 at 1:10 pm


Some of my favourite alternatives include:
-Cloth draw-string bag to be re-used as a lunch bag
-Homemade playdough (I know you already make it)
-donation to a charity with a homemade certificate to put in the loot bag
-books (second hand in good condition are $1 each)
-a cactus makes a good plant for a kid to take care of and keep in their room
-Pure Fun Organic candy & organic fair trade chocolate (both available at your local Loblaws)
Don’t worry about what the other parents are thinking because they are probably thinking, “Damn I wish we would have though of this I hate those dollar store, just throw them in the garbage and annoy the parents loot bags!”

29 | Tammy

April 7th, 2009 at 1:48 pm


My son recently went to a party where they gave out small flashlights instead of a lootbag… he LOVED it!!

30 | leel

April 7th, 2009 at 2:43 pm


i vote for the skipping rope!

spring reminds me of the ones from the late 70’s – 80’s that came in pink and orange. that was your choice :)
they had white striped handles. i can still remember the smell…. maybe they can learn double dutch! those were the great things, after all!

(…or maybe i just need to go find a pink stripe handled skipping rope of my own. i’ll skip out back so the neighbours don’t lose it and pull out the camera. )

maybe start little Journals with them? glitter glue, glue stick, markers, plus a stack of old gardening mags and catelogues, and you have a party! something to do, and take.

anyway, that’s my 2 cents!
love your blog :)

31 | Sheila D

April 7th, 2009 at 3:12 pm


How about a memory box. Got this idea from Caroline Parry writing in The Citizen many years ago. Type up a jazzy looking page on your computer and print it out on pretty coloured paper. Here’s a sample:

Store your memories of 2009 in this special box

Things you might want to keep in your box:

a note from someone important
ticket stubs from a show
a postcard from a place you visited on your holidays
birthday cards, Christmas cards, etc.
a letter from a friend
favourite pieces of school work
articles from the newspaper about events of interest to you
your report card
a pressed flower or leaf
a button pin
a snippet of Christmas wrap
a funny comic strip
a calendar
special awards
a lucky charm

your diary or journal
what have you done this year?
where have you been?
what are you most proud of?
what was the most exciting thing that happened to you this year?
what was the most challenging?
how much have you grown in height and weight?
lost any teeth?
broken any bones?
what milestones have you passed?
new school?
new adventures?
new friends?
did you learn to do something new?
any changes in your family?
move house?
new babies?
what has changed?
what has stayed the same?

Decorate your box with:

paint, crayons, markers
stickers, stamps
a collage of coloured papers, foil
calendar pictures
magazine or Christmas card cutouts

Label your box:

Sarah’s Memory Box 2009 (… but use your own name)

The palest ink is sharper than the sharpest memory.

32 | Tali

April 7th, 2009 at 3:23 pm


I wouldn’t worry about looking cheap – I think parents don’t want more crap (not to say the above-mentioned ideas are crap!) in their house. Most of the parties I go to nowadays are present optional, and alot of people are doing handmade gifts.

I’ve given out stickers and/or tattoos, or the craft from the party. I like to give out consumable art supplies, since they don’t take up alot of space, and then get used for something. Notebooks, play-doh, crayons, etc. depending on age.

34 | jennP

April 7th, 2009 at 4:32 pm


i LOVE making loot bags… but I tend not to get the usual stuff.

This year (last weekend) i got some little grassheads (they were on clearance at michael’s for 1.49) you just put them in water and their hair grows. Or you can have the kids make their own! you need grass seed, nylon stockings, dirt and a bowl or glass i guess. then you get googly eyes and other things to make the face.

I also got a Kooky pen for each child. I got them when they were on sale at Staples (the regular at Staples is 2.49) At micheal’s its 4.99!

i also include a handmade chocolate sucker with the age on it (I have Happy Birthday suckers for ages 1 – 10) . I am at 7 now with my daughter :)

In past years, I would buy a big container of chalk, and then out 2 chalks in a 4X6 zip loc bag from the dollar store. I included that with bubbles and a bouncy ball in the loot bag.

I assume if the party is mainly girls (ours are boys because my daughter prefers the boys)… you could have a lip balm, a pair of socks with designs on them, a flashlight..

35 | Amy

April 7th, 2009 at 5:28 pm


I don’t think loot bags are necessary. The things you sent home with them last year should be more than enough. It’s the same as getting gifts: give something thoughtful or handmade, maybe some sort of treat, it’s good enough. I agree that getting invited to the party, plus the party itself, should be the loot.

36 | Rebecca

April 7th, 2009 at 6:58 pm


It’s so nice to see so many people with loot bag alternatives. I think we all should move away from them. And from what I’ve seen (and based on your post) it’s a real stressor for the parents!

Here’s what I’ve done: I usually tie the ‘end of party gift’ to a donation. For example, one year I made a donation (basically taking the money I would have spent on loot bags) and did sugar cookies in the theme shape. I attached a note saying that a donation in celebration was made. Everyone got cookies. A charity got my money.

I would also do the donation and give a book. Nothing beats a book and you are pretty sure it will get used. One of my sons fav books was a loot bag gift!

37 | BeachMama

April 7th, 2009 at 7:44 pm


Oh Andrea, I love all these suggestions. The PJ idea is awesome, I made some at Christmas for my family, so it would be an easy thing to whip up for a slumber party. Be sure to let us know what you end up doing. I usually do a little gift, but actually did official loot bags last year, it was fun but so much more work.

38 | Kim

April 8th, 2009 at 4:11 am


I don’t know what your budget is or how many kids you’re having. For my son’s last birthday I did have loot bags but have the same opinion as you about the cheap stuff. The biggie in our loot bags was a $5 giftcard for Chapters, then a couple of real little things like a taketombo (japanese twirly toy which I got for about a dollar a piece), a small chocolate rabbit wrapped in gold colored paper (easter fare was already out in the stores). That was it. These bags get dissassembled so quickly that it pains me to put too much effort into them. But I am a sucker for a good loot bag.

39 | lizzy

April 8th, 2009 at 5:55 am


I am not a big fan of loot bags. My kids love them, and I despise them. Mostly because they are full of junk that will get thrown out.
So when it is my turn, to do up a loot bag, I have tried to give the kids something that can be used.

Some ideas we have used over the years include Gift cards to a video store

We have made a music CD of our child’s favorite songs and gave the children who attend that.

A Pail and shovel with a bottle of bubbles is another great idea and very usable.

Large marble ball/soccer ball/basket ball depending if there is a theme to the party.

I always include some kind of treat along with the item, whether it be a lollipop or a pack of gum.

Hope some of these ideas help. Have a fun party!

40 | karen at Virtually There

April 8th, 2009 at 6:47 am


I’m a fan of making the “loot” bag match with the party. I loved Ian’s idea of the pyjamas. Last year my Emily had a cooking party. For loot bags, I bought Loblaws cloth shopping bags and gave each kid a wooden spoon, a small egg whisk and an egg cup and spoon. They also got a homemade apron to take home as well as all the goodies they baked.

Maybe to add tot he pyjamas, some homemade hot chocolate powder that they could help make and you could put in a container they decorated?

41 | Nat

April 8th, 2009 at 7:07 am


Wow. Popular topic.

The museums did a wonderful job with the loot bags last year. I work full time those buy a party things — as cold and uncaring as it sounds are a god send for those of us born without the crafty gene.

The year we did it old school at Plant Rec. Centre we did cheap Playmobil sets (Pirates, cops, etc. etc.) One family did the little K’nex set.

The craftiest mom, seriously she rocks, did an Amazing Race party and gave out The child’s favourite song on CD and a laminated map of the world. (It’s now up in The Boy’s room.)

All the other crap, I’ve chucked.

42 | Vanessa

April 8th, 2009 at 10:22 am


Since it’s a movie night at your place.. what about a $5 gift card to a local movie rental place tied with a pretty ribbon to a bag of microwave popcorn?

43 | Flashlightman

April 8th, 2009 at 4:05 pm


Giving an LED flashlight is such a great idea! All kids like flashlights.
Best thing we ever handed out as a post-party-take-home treat was…a Team Canada Winter Olympics scarf (multi-coloured) made by the Bay. Useful, stylish, unisex and cheap! Regular $25, on sale in March (after Olympic fever had died down) for only $4 each. Years later I still see them on kids who attended the party. I’ve even spotted the parents wearing them. It felt soooo good NOT to hand out something “dollar-store” that would likely not go in the garbage. I have a great idea for the next party – but it’s a secret. ;-)
In my perfect world, there would be no loot-bags.
And I am not at all miffed when they are not handed out.

44 | Tali

April 8th, 2009 at 6:19 pm


I think $5+ for each loot bag is a little high. I don’t think they really go over a buck or two in my neighborhood. If the loot bag is so much, what’s the total budget for the party?

45 | BCMary

April 8th, 2009 at 7:11 pm


Loot bags are little gifts that you give when the children are ready to leave but never before…it helps the parents encourage them to get ready. We’ve given compasses, emergency whistles, screwdrivers – can you tell we have boys?

46 | andrea

April 8th, 2009 at 8:10 pm


Wow. I guess I struck a nerve. :)

Thanks everyone, for your fantastic suggestions.

Tali: BUDGET? Money is flowing out of my wallet! All kidding aside, we’ve cut a few corners (i.e. making popcorn instead of buying boxes of Pink Elephant or a big bag at Kernels etc) and decided to spend out on other things. (Like her gift, which I will reveal later.)

I was sorely tempted to buy eight red and white-striped plastic popcorns bowls at the Dollar Store today. They’re made to look like old-fashioned paper popcorn boxes, a pretty cute idea, but after debating the merits I eventually decided against it.

I was at Play Value today and snagged some really neat Playmobil sets (pic here) at $4.99 each. I bought eight of them. I’m going to wrap them in pretty paper with a bow, and that’s it.

Cake is in the oven as I type. Streamers are going up next.

47 | Anne

April 9th, 2009 at 7:27 am


It was blown away by the number of people doing loot bags that were so not into it or didn’t like the materialism of it all.

Maybe a wacky suggestion, but how about those that really don’t want to do it, don’t do it. And those that have a passion for it, go nuts.

There is no entitlement around loot bags. Who do you think is in charge? The birthday child? The guests? News flash. You are. You should never apologize for the gift of giving of time and effort when it comes to having an event in the first place.

Aren’t we supposed to be teaching our children that it is okay to stand apart and be an individual. If you can’t do it, then where will they learn it.

My son is 16 now and I don’t ever remember feeling judged by guests or parents if we didn’t do loot bags.

BTW, if you ever need an idea, my son still talks about his most favourite party being a treasure hunt we created to fill the afternoon’s time.

48 | Chantal

April 10th, 2009 at 8:33 am


I stopped doing loot bags a few years ago. I figured that the joy of sharing in my kids’ birthday was enough. Cake, games or entertainment and fun! If I’ve sent anything home it’s been the potted plants we made at a spring birthday, a decorated Christmas Tree ball at the December birthday or some other crafty item.

Some kids have wondered and whined, but overall, the parents LOVE it.

49 | scatteredmom

April 10th, 2009 at 11:27 am


I tried to also make the loot bags fit in with the theme of the party, but I also wanted to include things that the kids would love. Sometimes small things that cost very little or could appear ‘cheap’ are something kids are thrilled about-and so I included bits of that kind of stuff as well.

The most loved item has always been glo-sticks. I have no idea why, but they LOVE them.

snow/winter themed party:
-hot chocolate mix
-snowman poop (marshmallows and a poem)

space themed party:
-glow sticks (biggest hit)
-glow in the dark stars
-small toy space ship/aliens
-mini mars bars

pool party:
-squirt guns
-pool frisbee
-gift certificate to Dairy Queen
-water balloons

Chinese New Year party:
-mini oranges (for good luck)
-fortune cookies
-red envelopes with money inside
-“snappers” or mini firecrackers

Movie (Narnia) party:
-treasure box with “Turkish delight”
-mug and hot chocolate mix
(tried to find each a copy of the book but couldn’t)

Easter egg dying party:
-Easter basket
-tiny book
-seeds to plant with instructions
-sidewalk chalk

50 | Mary

April 16th, 2009 at 4:20 pm


I’ve read most of the posts and I can see a theme developing, no loot bag but still give a parting gift.
But how about no gift at all?
When I think “no loot bag” I think “no gift”. I want to have a party where the kids spend time with our family and we do something fun and interesting, we have cake and… that’s it. I’d rather spend the money on taking the kids to the pool or the gym or the agriculture museum or Little ray’s reptiles. Everyone goes home with happy memories. That’s the “gift” for all involved.
I figure the thing I have to do is inform the parents so they can warn the kids that there will be no loot bag. I just have to be upfront about it….

51 | loli

February 28th, 2010 at 11:02 pm


I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who thinks loot bags should be canned. The kid should be excited about the party itself and being with their family/friends. I remember leaving parties with a sucker and that was a jaw dropper. Nowadays it lootbag olympics!
It’s the most dreadful part for me.

Last year my daughter turned 7 and insisted on collecting money for charity. She donated her collection to Sick Kids . She wants to do it again this year (this week actually) I think I’ll suggest that she accept the gifts and we send money to charity in Lieu of the “loot”

For those of you that do love putting together a parting gift …2 years ago for her 6th she only had 3 girls over, I took them to a movie at our local theatre that is within walking distance. Then we went home for cake and some unorganized playtime….. Since it was such a small group I splurged and bought them each a pair of pink rubber boots, tied them together with raffia, filled with easter and St pattty’s stickers, a lip balm, candy a polka dot umbrella from the dollar store and small bouquet of daisies. Adorable!

I consulted with the mom’s on shoe size of course

52 | Birthday party loot bags « Javaline

March 4th, 2010 at 2:14 pm


[…] big preoccupation for me has been what to do for loot bags. I have a similar view point as this person, so I racked my brain trying to think of something non-dollar-store related that I could provide in […]

53 | Annie @ PhD in Parenting

April 7th, 2010 at 8:30 am


My mom (craftier than I am) used to make tooth fairy pillows for all the kids that came to our parties when we were of the tooth losing age. Basically a small pillow with a little pocket in it to place the tooth in and where the $$ the child gets would go once the tooth is removed.

What we generally do is things like playdough, books, small playmobil toys (always some on sale at Play Value).

54 | Jenn

March 21st, 2011 at 8:14 pm


I have seen and liked the following:

High end sugar cookies designed in theme of party

Glasses from Disney store go on sale. Buy them and through stickers inside

Kids decorate foam frame and group shot is inserted.

55 | Cathleen

June 18th, 2011 at 3:37 pm


My daughter LOVES hummingbirds…she had a hummingbird cake and then gave away hummingbird feeders along with a small bag of treats!! I printed off the recipe for the nectar and tied it all together with a pretty red ribbon!!!

56 | Kathy

August 5th, 2011 at 4:57 pm


We invited 5 boys to stay overnight for my son’s 7th birthday. Our living room was empty at the time so I blew up mattress’ to let them sleep there all together.
To keep them entertained, we spaced out the activities.
We had a piniata, then Wii games, then they each painted a t-shirt however they wanted, Movie time. i also gave them a small $ store lantern to sleep with. Throughout the night when i saw they had too much energy i took them upstairs, lined the walls with the air mattresses and yelled “pillow fight”. They LOVED IT.

They each went home with their own t-shirt, lantern and lots of candy from the piniata. NO ONE asked for a lootbag.

I don’t think I spent more than $50 for everything.

57 | Gaela Nelson

September 11th, 2011 at 12:13 pm


I love all these posts! What great ideas. I rack my brains trying to think of alternatives for birthday parties too, because so many of the ‘event’ ones are really expensive in Ottawa.
Here’s one that I thought of last year – I love getting kids outdoors and we are lucky that birthdays fall in June and September. For my daughter’s 5th birthday we had a nature fairy theme. We all went to Gatineau Park, near the Visitor Centre where there is a large open grassy area with picnic tables and bathrooms. We had a nature walk/scavenger hunt and then built fairy houses from natural materials we found on the scavenger hunt (not picking anything live though)
For a loot bag I gave each girl a beautiful toothfairy tooth box that I found at Scholar’s Choice. They were $7 each but worth it, not junky at all, and useful since all are at the age to lose teeth now.
This year my daughter really wants a princess party and I’m thinking I might do a princess tea party and give away the tea cups – like someone here suggested…

58 | KRobska

January 16th, 2012 at 9:30 pm


Something I did as part of the loot bag was to make my own word search puzzle online where the words for the puzzle were based on the party theme or words like “cake”, “candles”, plus the party girl’s name. You could also use the party guests names. For the title I wrote “Thank you for coming to my party”. You can tailor the size of the font as well as if you want to exclude backwards writing (easier for little kids). I printed them on dollar store printer paper which had a border with party balloons.

59 | katie

January 25th, 2012 at 9:30 am


I totally get how you feel, not wanting to give the cheap stuff in the loot bags. I have made some pretty awesome loot bags for my daughters parties, with original items (but still small and cheap)

This year however we are having 20 kids… even $2 a kid will equal $40, which is a lot. So I am going the cheap dollar store route.

However! I have also come to the realization, that kids LOVE all those cheap little trinket toys! Even if they play with it for an hour, it’s the exciting moment when they open the loot bag and see a whole bunch of little things! I think we as parents, might worry a little too much about the loot bags :)

60 | Jenny

February 24th, 2012 at 2:51 am


I remember as a kid getting loot bags and how excited I was to get a little something at the end. Just a nice polishing off to a great day…
Skip ahead 25 years and wow, is this stressful!! I try so hard to find original ideas, but I am just about out of ideas. Here are 3 of my favorites so far, although not always budget friendly….

1. I found beta fish on sale and bought 15 of them, plus one tiny can of beta food. Went right to the dollar store and
bought fish bowls and teeny tiny plastic baggies to divvy up the fish food in. Plus cheap see through plastic containers as the “loot bag” holder and cello. Next I hit Walmart for a small bag of aquarium stones to split up among the loot bags. Came home and put it all together. (the fish are fine overnight in the plastic bags as long as there is air in them.). They were gorgeous and about 8 dollars each – since I split up most of the stuff. The kids loved them and only one set of parents flushed the 2 fish after about 6 months.

2. I got inexpensive terra-cotta pots, puff paint, soil, veggie seeds, a small trowel, and kid sized garden gloves. Put the kids names on each individual pot, stuffed a baggie full of soil in each along with all the other stuff, wrapped it all in cello and they were beautiful. I didn’t get much feed back from parents that time, but that’s ok, I thought it was a great idea.

3. I bought packs of 3fruit of the loom under t-shirts from Giant Tiger then went to the local embroidery shop and had the shirts printed (80’s style) “I survived Rocco’s 5th birthday!”. I then added a pack of cheap hockey cards and a pack of gum. These shirts were a huge hit!!! The kids wear them to school and even the teachers, the principal, and the secretary commented on them.

Now I am out of ideas, although a video store gift certificate, a bag of microwave popcorn, and some other movie night in stuff is a great idea!
Please do not let the loot bag thing become the way of the dinosaur! It is one of the great things about being a kid!

61 | Lorrie

March 3rd, 2012 at 10:19 pm


I have loved reading all of these posts and seeing all the different points of view. I am currently planning two birthday parties (I have two children born in the same week), I was also looking for ideas.

Katie I loved your post. I think we place too much pressure on ourselves to do the “right” thing when really it is for the kids and they really don’t care how much you money you spent, they just love the fact that there is a little something for them to go home with. I know I loved getting a little bag to go home with.

Let them be kids and enjoy those little moments, they will be hit with reality soon enough and then it will be their turn to stress about the Loot Bags.

62 | jo

June 12th, 2012 at 11:02 pm


I usually put à juice box, granola bar(peanut-free), banana and small treat(ring pop) in à paper bag. About $25 for ten kids, healthy and parents love it.

63 | Amanda

July 23rd, 2012 at 2:59 pm


Yeah I must say loot bags are a pain! For my son’s party one year I did wooden birdhouses (they had quite a selection of them at the dollar store) and tied the birdhouse with ribbon to a package of paint (12 colors in one pack, also from the dollar store) with the children’s name tags on them. This year my son’s party will be held at our trailer and he loves to fish so I’m thinking of getting nets from the dollar store and a see-through bucket to go with it. Total cost for each loot bag will only be $2!

64 | Chelsea

August 6th, 2012 at 9:35 pm


Wow. I am so glad I stumbled upon this thread! I hate loot bags.
The only thing I get regularly from the dollar store for the loot bags are those glow sticks/glow bracelets. I don’t even care that they only last the night, my kids love them.
I have 2 boys, turning 3 and 5. I may try the little lego guys for the 5 year olds party, so thank you!

I also made cake pops to stick in the bag, so they have a little treat to eat later. I love the photo album idea, and I would love to get them all sitting to do a craft to take home, but 1/2 the guests will be 3 (5 year olds friends siblings) abd I don’t think they would sit long enough to do it….
Books, maybe?
Decisions, decisions. I also don’t want to look cheap, but who wants to spend $100 on loot bags??

65 | Chelsea

August 6th, 2012 at 9:44 pm


ALSO, check out this site http://www.echoage.com. This is a fantastic idea and what we are doing for both boys probably from now on. You and your child pick from one of the charities registered, invite guests via email, guests donate however much they want, 1/2 the money goes to the charity and 1/2 goes to the child to pick out a gift. (There is a 15% deduction for the company). Easy peasy, and helping out at the same time, a great lesson to learn young!

66 | Sarah

August 13th, 2012 at 7:07 pm


One great idea I got from a neighbor was to do a skewer of candy with a $5.00 gift card to Dairy Queen. My daughter LOVED it! I actually did the same for my sons birthday and it was a huge hit with the boys too!

67 | Ange

December 9th, 2012 at 8:13 am


I love the idea of loot bags! Sure it can sometimes be a hassle when you start to think “what am I going to put in there this year?” but the most creative minds are that of a child, simply ask your son/daughter what they would like to give their friend as a party favor, and add your touch to their idea. Last year my daughter wanted to give her friends a cup with their name on it, so we found some really nice ones on sale for $4.00 each. I then had her write out thank you letters to each of her friends and we rolled them up like scrolls, tied them in a ribbon and put the party favor in clear siliphane bags. The cost was much less then dollar store stuff, my daughter and I were able to sit at the table and work together making them, and the joy on her face when she gave her friends their little cups was absolutely heartwarming!! I think that letting the child do most of the planning and work, adds much satisfaction to the art of giving. It’s not about “who the boss is”, it’s about choice and creating memories! If your child has an awesome idea one year, great. If the idea is not as great the next year, great! And you’d be surprised how able your child is when given the responsibility of staying within a budget! There’s a great lesson here, and watching their minds change each year is something to be proud of!!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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