Party favours and loot bags are the norm at birthday parties—and kids love getting them. But we parents aren’t quite as fond of a bag of plastic trinkets that, inevitably, are forgotten after a day and ultimately end up on the business end of the vaccuum.

Sweets are a popular and relatively clutter-free loot-bag item, but chances are kids have filled up on sugary stuff at the party itself and don’t need even more.

We’re betting other parents feel the same, so we’ve pulled together 18 inexpensive but fun party favour ideas that are reasonably priced but not junk and that kids and parents can appreciate.

Make-at-the-Party Favours

Borrow inspiration from the party theme and activities. If the activity is baking, kids can take home some of the goodies they made, plus a decorated wooden spoon or chef hat. For a fashion party, let kids decorate a hat themselves to take home.

Have kids decorate their own unfinished wood frames from craft shops like Michaels and frame artwork they made at the party. Not crafty and need step-by-step instructions? Try this cute flower-pot wind chime tutorial for kids from Jennifer at Sugar, Spice & Glitter.

Playing Cards

Everyone can use a deck of cards—it’s always good to have an extra deck on hand, and a great rainy-day or take-to-the-cottage activity. Browse toy stores and dollar stores for kid-themed decks. Or go for a card game like Go Fish or Old Maid.

Make a whole game-themed loot bag by printing out these kid-friendly card games instructions too, and add a Mad Libs, rainbow dice (and ideas for dice games), or an inexpensive travel game.

Lego Vehicles and Minifigs

Add to the kids’ Lego empire with cool one-off vehicles or mini-figurines.

Stamp Set

A gift that kids can use long after the party, a stamp set also makes for a useful activity to bust out at the end of the party when their (or your) energy is flagging. Be sure to include a stamp pad or buy a set that comes with it.

Bubbles

Easy. Fun. Classic. And they’re so inexpensive you can (and should) spring for the “deluxe” bubbles at toy stores that make surefire awesome bubbles every time.

Party pro tip: Switch out the labels with decorative paper to match the party theme.

Personalized colouring books

An inexpensive, unique gift is a colouring book customized to each child attending the party. Just make sure you check with parents to get spellings right.

Party pro tip: Have some extra non-personalized books on hand for last-minute RSVPs.

Real musical instruments

Did you know you can get actual instruments—not plastic toys—for under $10? Good options include the classic Hohner Bluesband Harmonica, glow-in-the-dark egg shakers by Latin Percussion, a wooden train whistle, and maracas. Find them at music shops or toy stores.

Let kids choose one instrument each, or make a gift bag of several instruments.

Reusable Sticker Sets

There are many options out there, but Melissa and Doug reusable sticker sets are probably the most widely available. They’re under $10, make for a great rainy-day activity and last for years.

Books

You can find great deals on classic books at big-box stores or online and we’ve heard of parents regifting gently used books with great success, too.

Party pro tip: Make bookmarks as an activity at the party.

Cookie Cutters

This is an obvious choice for a baking or cookie-decorating party, but it’s a fun gift-bag addition for any party, too. Just choose shapes to match the theme, like this T-rex cookie cutter for a dinosaur party. You could also go with a first initial cookie cutter for each guest.

Party pro tip: If you made a special cookie recipe for the party, include the recipe in the gift bag, for kids and parents to make later.

Idea Box

We love these boxes filled with activity ideas for kids, made by a mom in Oregon who started out crafting for her kids. Each box has 10 double-sided coins with an activity idea on each side, for 20 ideas total. All activities encourage independent thinking and play-based learning.

Arty Loot Bag

Fill each bag with a mini container of modelling clay, stickers, a cool stamp, stencils, coloured pencils, washi tape, a tempra paint colour they may not have at home (like glitter purple or glow-in-the-dark neon) or other small-scale art and craft supplies.

Funky Socks

Novelty socks with stripes, polka-dots, and crazy patterns are a functional and fun party favour. Let kids pick their own, or make a game out of choosing the socks using white elephant grab-bag rules.

Frisbees and Balls

Perfect for a beach, park, or backyard party in warm-weather months. Think quality over quantity. There is a “wow” factor for kids to a bag full of trinkets, but ultimately, a single, good-quality Frisbee with a cool design or that glows in the dark is going to be played with again and again, whereas that mini dollar-store version that doesn’t actually fly will be forgotten—along with all the other stuff it was packed into the loot bag with.

Creative Genius Loot Bag

Museum stores like ShopAGOkids at the Art Gallery of Ontario often have bins of small toys that are unusual, inexpensive, creative, and a big step up from what you find at the dollar store. On a recent trip, we spied stackable crayon blocks, weird wind-up monsters, bird whistles, and cool travel games in tins.

Flower Pot and Seed Kit

Give kids something that grows, and looks nice around the house, or can take up space outside instead of adding to clutter inside.

Or buy colourful seed bombs and give away with a pot. (Or, if you’re adventurous, you might try making them yourself.)

Ice-Cream Shop Gift Certificate

Call a favour what it is—a gift. Cover the cost of an ice cream at a local ice cream parlour for a sweet treat that doubles as a fun excursion.

Decorated Cookies

Go simple, go consumable. Yes, it’s sugar, but it won’t clutter up the house or add to an already out-of-control toy collection. Hand each kid a decorated cookie that matches the theme on their way out the door.

When in doubt (or when time runs out)…outsource it!

Plenty of party-supplies shops or party planners carry party favours or can even pull together gift bags for all the kids on your guest list in 24 hours or less.

Live in the GTA? Browse our directory for shops that carry or specialize in birthday party gift bags and supplies.

PHOTO: LACEY GERARD/FLICKR CC

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