Sometimes I have done them, sometimes not. Sometimes a child asks, and I tell them that we don't have goody bags but we hope they will take home the good memories we made today. Sounds corny, but it's an honest and polite answer to an innocently impolite question.
I have seen balloons given out as children leave, which I think is a neat idea since the bunch of balloons doubles as a decoration for the party. You could get them at the dollar store, but for 20 kids, that does add up.
A lot of times, doing some version of a pet rock activity works well as a craft and then we put it in a paper bag (house) that the child also decorated to take home. We did an owl theme for my daughter's birthday, so I put out feathers and dried beans and the kids made pet rock owls.....you get the idea. Don't underestimate the lure of the pet rock! Even the older cousins loved this.
I like the idea of sending well-wishers with a gift. However, I am TOTALLY against bags of plastic crap that never biodegrades and is made by children in sweatshops!!!
For dd's bithday I bought a flock of ducks from Heifer International (www.heifer.org). We then made little cardboard ducks which dd decorated. When they left each guest got the "duck" and a Heifer brochure, with an explaination that one duck had been donated in their honor.
There could be all sorts of variations on this theme, benefitting any kind of charity. (We almost gave out rubber ducks but I was glad dd was happy to make cardboard ones).
You could start bulbs (put rocks and water in a clear plastic tumbler with the bulb, we did this for our wedding reception) that the kids can take home and watch grow all winter on their windowsill, then plant in the spring. Or have the kids assemble them at the party, a la craft station.
A friend had kids build little terrariums in goldfish bowls (with plants from a local nursery). She had little dino and fairy and critter figures too.
A food craft--decorate a cupcake/cookie/whatever.
Decorate anything, really---little boxes, notebooks for school, wee cloth bags. It's winter--decorate gloves with fabric paint? You can get lots of mittens/gloves/scarves at the dollar store.
Crappy trends need to be bucked.
LOL, your post made me shudder as the mother of a peanut allergic child!
We did goody bags for DS's 1st birthday (most guests were 2 or 3 - the same age as DD) but they contained a matchbx car, crayon, silly bands and a small pack of smarties. You can see them here on my blog - http://www.rookblog.com/2011/04/moustache-party-goody-bags.html
It was low key and non-junky. I hate getting goody bags which are either filled with sugar or contain dollar store items that break fast (and break DD's heart).
Leila, mama to Eleanor (10/08) and Emmett (4/10)
Visit my blog! www.rookblog.com
I have Stiff Person Syndrome and my other car is a candy apple red Rascal. Feel free to ask me about it.
We just got back from DD2's party and we did goodie bags with crafts. Things to make bracelets and ornaments. I did put some kisses and a candy cane in each bag. The kids loved it and I invited some adult friends of mine who are really just grown up kids and they made the party so fun! The kids didn't care about their goody bags at all. The only cared about playing.
I must be a mean party throwing mom because I hate gift bags and just don't do them, for all of the reasons you mentioned. Granted, my kids are a bit younger, but DS1 just turned 6 and I didn't do gift bags. All of his friends parties (which were in the last 2 months) had gift bags.. and no one asked for one. I just... hate them! LOL. They're always full of junk or candy I don't want in the house anyway. I feel like our society is so centered around "what's in it for me" instead of being there to celebrate someone elses special day.
So yeah, no party favors here
Jesse, mama to my three wonderful boys, our newest born at home late Jan 2012
I knew that gift bags were becoming a problem with our girls when they started asking me, discreetly, when we're leaving a party, where the gift bags were. I knew there and then that we would never be doing gift bags in our parties.
So for Dd's 6th birthday we made puppet crafts with wooden spoons, and they got to take home their puppet. The whole craft probably costed about $10 for 6 girls, and took up about 45 minutes of party time.
A friend of mine is obcessed with gift bags and parties for each of her 5 kids. Even when we aren't able to come to a party, she still makes a point of handing us a gift bag from the missed party, even weeks later! I hate to tell her but I really don't like all the dollar store junk, and the hockey puck sized, home made chocolate lollypops that she includes with each bag. Its one thing if its good chocolate, but its "craft" chocolate, bought at Micheal's and comes in weird colours and flavours.
Mama to Emma (7) and Sarah (5)
I despise the plastic goody bags filled with junk as well. I also really chafe against the attitude that a gift bag is expected because somebody sprung for a big gift. In some way (I know this idea might seem offensive and I admit I'm climbing up on a bit of a soapbox here . . ) I think the whole gift bag thing is a reflection of things gone wrong in our society - - the pervasive sense of entitlement; the need to spend money to make people happy; the idea that things equate to caring, and the addiction to horrible plastic things made in China.
Ok, rant over. :-) I do think something small and meaningful, sent home with guests, if the host so chooses, is lovely.
What we've done in the past is either completely eschew the gift bag notion altogether, or do something simple. If we do a gift bag, we use brown paper lunch bags (which my Dd paints in polka dots, and we will fold over and then punch a hole in the top and secure with a bit of raffia ribbon or twine), and inside is something like a few seed packets (our farmer's market gives them away for free, and DD's birthday is early June, so it is perfect seed planting weather). We have also made homemade playdough, as a PP mentioned, packaged in a small, attractive bell mason jar, and once we included 2 - 3 small jars of finger paint. Now that my older DD is a bit past the age of playdough and finger paints, and very into the idea of "playing spa" (not sure where this came from - it's not like I frequent spas!), we will probably make some sort of homemade bath salts or facial scrub with oatmeal and send home in a little jar.
But then again, maybe we won't, if I am feeling harried and unmotivated, because I have so little invested in the idea that a gift bag is a must.
In general, my humble opinion is that the gift bag is the choice of the host, no one should feel bad about foregoing it, and that any child asking his/her parent about the lack of a goodie bag presents the perfect opportunity for the parent to say, "didn't you just attend a fun party and play games and have cake and ice cream (or whatever)? That experience was your present!"