What’s your party bag tip?

Seen in Chelmsford (I was born here, but lived in Herts!).

Recently (8 Oct 2010) I spent a happy half an hour on Radio Essex’s afternoon show talking with the friendly Etholle George (standing in for Steve Scruton, 2-4pm) about my book Homemade Kids. She’s got one son, and his 4th birthday is coming up. She’s already invited 25 guests but was agonising over the party bags. For good reason: at one of her Reuben’s friends parties the going home party bag was a treasure chest she reckoned had cost a tenner!

And even if Etholle went to a pound shop and kept to a pound budget that’s £25 (often on throwaways), or for two quid each it’s £50 for a going home gift that children apparently now expect. Whereas our kids’ mums and dads used to just go home with a smile and a piece of cake (and in my case mud on everything!).

I was luckily prepped for this particular challenge when Rita sent a load of friends a round robin email asking: “Got any green (or at least non-tat) ideas for party bags for 4 year olds? Have done seeds in pots before, any other suggestions? Halloween / birthday party kind of theme, but doesn’t need to be particularly relevant to theme.”

Ideas for you

Quick gift: write a wish on the leaf. Turn oak 'pipes' into fairy nests.

Mums worry about party bags a lot, often for so long that there’s no alternative but to just go and splash the cash. But if you’ve got a party coming up now (autumn into winter) here are some tried and tested ideas that won’t break the bank and hopefully the party guests will really enjoy:

  • Conker on a string – old-fashioned, fun to play with.
  • Fairy nest (use an acorn cup that looks like a pipe, fill with moss for bedding and then add a tiny stone – which you will call a mini dragon egg), see pic above.
  • Horse shoes (ideal for the horsy girl stage – ask for used shoes from a blacksmith, local riding school or buy off e-Bay).
  • Something made or decorated at the party – simplest is the initial letter of the child’s name (eg, J for Joe) on a piece of wood, drinking glass, big stone, etc.
  • Daffodil or tulip bulbs for outdoor planting, hyacinth for indoors
  • Older children who can just read (eg, 7-9 year olds) often love to be given a wish (write on to a slip of paper a wish that can be activated when the child has left the party and sees something, eg, dog on a lead, pedestrian in red coat, police car). You could also hand out a wish voucher on a leaf, see pic above.

John’s reply to Rita was: “Give them a book. Get on to the book people website and buy a set (Usborne easy readers are really great). It works out at less than a pound per child and they get something much better than the usual tat. Give them a bit of cake on top and Bob’s your uncle.”

Also see more suggestions and comments at Friends of the Earth’s website.

Books are great

Beg or buy lucky horse shoes for party takeaways.

In Homemade Kids a particularly imaginative mum Zoe (who loves parties!) suggested: “Rather than party bags hand out second-hand books – each is a repeat of one of my kid’s favourites and wrapped in newspaper. I collect them through the year from the local library chuck-out pile or from car boots.”

If you run a party that works really well I wouldn’t be surprised if you consider giving up the day job to set yourself up as party organiser extraordinaire. Mind you anyone with a child gets party practice at least once a year – and as Rachel, mum of four told me, “I only need five minutes to set up a party nowadays for a child, and they’re still really good parties”.

Just goes to show that with a little bit of trial and error you could soon be an unflappable party planner for any aged child – with loads of creative, thrifty and eco-friendly party bags to offer, if that’s what’s wanted… because you don’t actually have to give out a going home present!

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3 Comments on “What’s your party bag tip?”

  1. Penny Says:

    Why not try what we always do. Turn the party bag into a game. You hide “money” around your party area – if in a park, under trees etc. You can use uncooked pasta wheels or print your own…Give each child a bag and tell them to go find the money and put it in their bag.
    Then you unveil your ‘shop’ which consists of gifts and sweets that you have priced up. Keep it simple for small kids, make it massive for bigger kids.
    Kids then buy their own party bags. We have been doing this for years and discovered that they want one toy and one or two sweets, not the piles of plastic and Haribo we throw at them.
    So why not bake some biscuits and dip them in chocolate, give away books you no longer need, collect those bits and bobs from your office that no-one needs (post it notes from other companies, key rings, etc), get some fun stuff from the second hand shop (thus donating party expense money to charity).
    Price it up and sell it off with you party money.
    Everyone is happy, its fun and educational too.
    This is our 8th year and it really really never ceases to charm and amuse.

    • homemadekids Says:

      Penny, what a great idea and how interesting that the kids at your parties have a sense of proportion when they choose their sweets. Size aside I don’t actually know many people (including kids) who truly like Haribo. Although varnished and with a pin through the back they make fab badges (especially the fried eggs). Nicola

  2. Elizabeth Says:

    I really enjoyed this article.


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