Arg! Those cursed plastic character goody bags filled with useless piñata trinkets that end up all over the car or in every toy bin or basket in the house. And somehow, we've all come to believe the success of our kid's party lies in the bottom of those plastic bags. I personally despise them and piñatas...really? Nothing is more fun than dive-bombing for junk, then one child hoards everything, leaving the less-aggressive (read: rude) kids standing around empty-handed.
Think beyond those bags, it's so easy and sometimes just as affordable. Even plain paper bags bulked out with tissue paper and decorated with themed stickers is so much more personable. Take a cue from your party theme. Top off a fishing party with a pail with a twig fishing pole made from stick or string, gummy worms and a few chocolate fish wrapped together in cellophane, tissue paper, or wax paper and tied with a ribbon.
In the Gospel According To Great Parties For Kids, they share a few creative suggestions. Jars of homemade playdough look charming and are perfect for the three and under crowd when paired with a fun-shaped cookie cutter. Add a label bearing it's recipe: 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup salt, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1 tablespoon food coloring in a heavy pan over medium heat. Stir as the mixture thickens and, when it comes together as a dough, remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, knead the mixture for a minute or two and it's ready!
When it comes to favors, don't think about quantity or dollar value, think instead about how to present what you are giving. Sports cups filled with felt tips are perfect for a sports party, while a stack of ribbon-topped boxes filled with a few barrettes and a bottle of bubble bath easily found at a local dollar store. A pretty bag with a floral pin attached is perfect as is, and needs no wrapping. The same goes for a miniature water can and trowel, to top off a beach-themed party.
Have fun with clear containers like small acrylic boxes and tubes. Fill with fun candy, crayons, plastic necklaces and bracelets. I did the same for favors for my Around The Clock shower. Shh...scored mine at Michael's. Even a cellophane bag filled with animal crackers or homemade cookies tied with a pretty ribbon seems extravagant. Layer dry ingredients in a larger box so guests can add wet ingredients at home to make delicious cookies from a cooking party. These long tubes from Garnish are perfect for Lego blocks, jelly beans, etc.
I like my guests to work at my party; crafts serve as an activity and a take-home favor! Have them paint small wooden chests, then go on a treasure hunt for gold coins to fill them with. Try painting plant pots and planting seedlings or T-shirt decorating.
Unfinished wooden frames, purchased cheaply at a local craft store, can be painted and decorated with sequins, pom-poms and stickers. Take a picture of each child at the party and give it to them to put in their frame when they leave. Not Just A Mommy!