whose point of view do you want it from?
parents or children?
because i've found those are two different things.
what age range?
for the 5s and up bring a book and swap have been fun.
interesting shaped candy and cookies have been appreciated by children (perhaps not so much by mom).
3 to 5 - a bunch of miniature toys.
Last year we did a cookie in a jar mix, the kids assembled them at the party (it was a Harry Potter theme and this was our potions lesson). I think both the kids and parents like that one, at least a couple asked for the recipe which I took to mean they liked it.
This year we're going to use fabric markers to decorate pillowcases, as she's having a sleepover party. My favorites are generally the craft we've made at the party
From other parties recently DD has got a set of pretty noptebook and matching pencil, a book and from a cupcake decorating party they each brought home a box of cup cakes, they have all gone down well with her (these are generally girls turning 9)
Do the parties have themes? Eg. Beach/pool/water play party - Offer beach or pool or bath toys like a bucket and shovel, water guns (unless moral objections).....
We avoided the big bag of junk and gave one or two items as party favours. A few we've given or received over the years:
- framed photo from the party (printed off the computer, kids decorated the frames as part of the party activities)
- a book (favourite novel)
- stuffed toy (from a teddy bear's picnic)
- potted flowering plant (again, the kids decorated the pots as a party activity)
- scarf/necktie and re-usable water bottle (from an "Amazing Race" themed party - the teams had different colours and the scarves and bottles matched the colours)
- juggling balls (from a circus-themed/backyard fair party) or skipping ropes
- dyed/painted t-shirts - got the t's on sale for a few dollars each and the kids decorated them
- big bottle of bubble stuff and a bubble wand
Hands down best - box of band-aids. This was, I think, a three-year old party. The age they are when they are obsessed with band-aids. Each kid got a box of colorful ones. They were in heaven!
We have also made CDs with the birthday kid's favorite music. Not sure how many people still have a CD player!
My daughter's last party favor was a printed out photo on cardstock - I took pics of the kids in mid-air jumping at the beach (they were jumping off of lifeguard chairs, so it looked pretty cool) and put one pic of each child on there with a thank-you for coming to the party. My friend told me her daughter wanted hers framed and put up in her room, so that must have been good.
Oh! Well it depends because some of our parties are goodie boxes/bags and some are crafts we've done at the party...
Homemade crayon rolls + crayons are great (you can buy them on Etsy or make them if you're crafty..)
Crayons that are fun shapes that go along with the theme
Fairy house DIY kits (little pot, little gems, some moss etc..)
My brain just stopped working
Age 5 we always did a "make your own pizza" party. I got some inexpensive aprons (oriental trading), large spoons, and chef hats for the kids. They kept those afterwards. Two out of three times I also found inexpensive rolling pins. The kids and parents liked this; the kids would remember the party everytime they baked.
One year we went bowling for my dds birthday. I got some shirts and turned them into bowling shirts. There was a large image on back and a smaller pocket one with their name on it in front. The images came from family fun magazine's web site.
One year, my daughter wanted a 'candy' party. I didn't want it to simply be consuming lots of candy, so we made candies with the girls instead and everyone brought home a box of goodies to share with their family.
Spa theme another year--kids brought home home made bath salts along with a bath poof and some nail polish.
An all around winner has been art supplies. I would stock up on the back to school sales for boxes of crayons, watercolor paints, etc.
Another hit was a puzzle. Our dollar store has decent 24 - 100 piece puzzles.
Nothing food. It makes kids with food issues feel left out.
I like buckets and shovels for summer. Swim goggles. Beach/splash park stuff.
As a parent though, I HATE IT ALL. 99.9% of the time it's plastic crap that we don't want, need or have room for. It's usually cheap and breaks and is a waste of money. I would much rather take the $ and put it into the party itself or donate it to something.
So, I am combining our favorites from lots of parties (and different types of parties. We generally try to go with a theme.
Makeover Sleepover - we did nails, make up, hair, played dress up, and had a sleepover. The girls took home a hair accessory, lip gloss, and a bottle of nail polish. We bought multi-packs at target, and then divided them into gift bags.
Homemade crayons - when the kids were little we took broken crayons and baked them in a silicone baking mold to form multicolored crayons and sen those home.
Picture frames - we had a mystery party and glues puzzle pieces to frames from goodwill & the dollar store. I put pics of the kids in the frames and they took those home.
Tie-Dye - I did this when the kids were small I got a multi pack of size small t-shirts and tied them all off before the party, we dyed & dried them during the party.
Fake fossils - Dinosaur party. I had the kids put playdoh and a plastic dinosaur in the bottom of a paper bowl, and then poured plaster of paris on top. When it dries, you have a fake fossil.
Our favorite (we have received) so far - glow in the dark stars for the ceiling for a space party, a box of movie candy for a movie themed party (there was a huge variety to accommodate different diets), and a few quarters for the video games at a go-cart track (this was awesome, because the kids used the quarters in the downtime between races).
We had a music party ( My daughters teacher is a music and more lady and she came and did that), each of the kids had a small playsilk to use and they got to take them home afterwords. I don't usually do favors because I hate the cheap plastic crap that comes home and ends up all over my floor. If we have a pinata they get a goody bag and get to fill it from the pinata stuff (some candy, seed packets, hair clips)