Inside This Post: 50 Alternatives for goody bags that aren’t candy, chochkies or junk. Alternatives for kid’s birthday party goody bags that won’t get tossed in the trash.
50 Alternatives for Goody Bags: No Candy, Plastic Toys or Junk
Gift bags are a nice way to say, “thank you” for coming to my child’s birthday and/or for bringing a birthday present… but how many of us cringe at filling these goodby bags with candy, plastic items from $1 bins and chochki pieces we don’t even want in our own homes?
The truth is… I hate goodie bags.
I don’t know about you, but when my kids bring home a goodie bag, I understand the thought behind them is nice, but my kids don’t need more candy or cheap toys that will inevitably break and I have to secretly bury in the bottom of the trash after they’ve gone to bed.
Wouldn’t it be nice to admit this birthday tradition is one we can go away with?
That’s exactly what I did several years ago – I swore off goodie bags, candy and any more miniature sized junk!
I began to replace thank you gifts with items
- I knew would be used,
- were appropriate right for the season,
- wouldn’t give guests a sugar rush,
- can be played with for longer than 24 hours
- and well, you know…
Didn’t make me feel as if I was taking a twenty dollar bill and lighting it on fire.
I’ve put together a list of my favorite 50 alternatives to goody bags you can pull together for your child’s next birthday party and save yourself the headache of digging through the dollar bins.
50 Alternatives to Goody Bags (That Aren’t Junk)
Stage a Party Craft or Activity That Doubles as a Take Home Gift
My favorite tip for sending kids home with a momento from a birthday party is to get them involved in an activity or craft, that can go home with them!
Unless you’re hosting a birthday party at your local gymnastics studio or trampoline park, you’re likely looking for activities to do with the kids to fill party time. An organized activity or craft is perfect for getting kids to sit down together and to leave the party with something in hand.
Here are my favorite activities or crafts to do at a kid’s birthday party.
- Decorate Your Own Pillowcase
- Grab a stack of white pillowcases and non-toxic fabric markers and let kids doodle away. I’d recommend staying away from puff paint and fabric paints as you might not have enough time for them to dry completely before the party is over.
- Decorate Your Own Canvas Tote
- You can also use canvas totes to decorate with fabric markers and always come in handy at home!
- Paint or Color a Canvas Masterpiece
- Hosting an art themed party? This is perfect for budding artists. Simply set up an art station with paint, watercolors or markers and let kids create their own stretched canvas masterpiece they can bring home with them.
- Paint Your Own Pottery
- There are dozens of options for different kinds of pottery to have at a “paint your own pottery station” at a child’s birthday party including plates, vases, bowls and even a party kit with 6 bowls. The paint quickly dries while the party continues and then you can send each piece home with the child’s parent and include instructions for baking at their house and sealing the paint.
- Make Slime
- Make your own slime party sounds like a good ‘ol time! Whip up large batches of slime using a slime making set and let kids add elements like beads, glitter, eyeballs, foam and then have containers they can save their slime and take it home with them when the fun is all done.
- Picture Frame with a Picture from the Party
- These are the wooden 4×6” frames I’ve used in the past and then I let the kids paint, color and decorate the frames with stick on foam pieces, glitter, rhinestones, puff paint, etc. I grab from a craft store. I’ll snap one group photo as the party starts and then send off my husband to print them on photo paper on our printer so when the kids leave, they take a finished photo frame with a picture of all the kids at the party.
- Make Tie Dye Shirts, Towel or Accessory
- This is one of our favorite activities to do in the summer but works perfectly for parties too! Whether you grab a set of t-shirts, hats, towels, sweats or other clothing or accessory, kids can get involved tying, twisting and tie dying their item and bringing it home afterwards. We just grab a tie dye kit which makes it easy, and get to work! This works best in the summer when you can set out items to dry in the sun.
- Cookie or Cake Decorating and Take it Home
- Sending kids how with a sweet treat they decorated is an easy alternative to goody bags. Set out a decorating station for cookies, cupcake or cake and let them design, embellish and turn into a masterpiece that can be slid into a zip top plastic bag or take-away box for later.
- Paint or Make a Birdhouse and take home a bag of birdseed
- Set up a paint your own birdhouse station for kids to brighten up a wooden birdhouse. Add twine for hanging and pair with a bag of birdseed and voila, an instant take home craft! I’d recommend buying a set of wooden birdhouses like this one, that already come assembled and include the twine.
Crafts to Take & Do at Home
While you may not have time, or the ability to do crafts at a birthday party, there’s no reason why you can’t send one home with each guest who came. I love to give out craft supplies, craft kits and easy at-home sets for kids that are creative and inspire imagination. Here are my favorite crafts to give to kids as an alternative to goody bags.
- Play Doh with Mini Tools – tie a string around a container of play doh to a shape, cutter or mold and you’re all set!
- Crayons or Markers – with so many fun sets of markers such as glitter markers, silly scent markers, window markers, and even metallic crayons, there’s a ton of options to choose from other than a standard set.
- Coloring Book – grab a set of coloring books, like this 8-pack that even comes with stickers and let guests pick out a book before they leave.
- Watercolor Set – watercolors have always been my favorite because they never stain or ruin clothes! hand out sets of watercolors & paintbrushes to guests to play with at home.
- Stickers – do kids ever outgrow their fascination with stickers? Mine are almost 8 and haven’t yet so I know this is one of those options that can span a big age range. Stickers at the store can be so expensive so I recommend snagging a set like these animal variety sheets or puffy assorted stickers and mixing and matching a few sheets together. Tie the up with a bow and set in a basket to hand out when the party is over.
Goody Bag Options Good for Anytime of the Year
No matter when your child’s birthday falls, these alternative items are great for year round!
- Book – this was an easy alternative to goody bags we’ve pulled out several times for my three kids. I don’t buy individual books because that can get expensive, but find sets of books online and then throw them in a basket for kids to pick one on their way out the door. Depending on age, these Eric Carle board books are adorable, or National Geographic early readers are a favorite with my son who likes to read, but is captivated by the world and animal kingdom.
- Balloon – I never waste my money on buying balloons from the store because I usually grab a portable helium tank like this one (but it’s about half the price at Target, so use this link to see what it looks like and then head to the store) and fill up balloons at home. Every child gets a balloon, but be sure to make extras in case on pops and you don’t have to worry about tears.
- Friendship Bracelets – set an hour aside a week before the birthday party and begin braiding and making friendship bracelets. Attach a special note from your child.
- Keychain – I never realized how popular keychains were, or even that they are back to being “a thing” before my kids went to school. Now, I see kids loading their backpacks with keychains like it’s a badge of honor. May as well add to the backpack keychain collection with one of your own from the birthday party. Here are some puppy keychains, emoji keychains and squishy keychains.
- Mini Puzzle – There are so many different puzzles you choose from including magic snake puzzles, and 24-piece wild animals pack.
- Nail Polish –non-toxic nail polish tied to a buffing pad or nail stickers would make a cute bundle.
- Mini Lego Set – you can find mini lego packs in check out aisles or something like these mini-lego builder sets would make a great option instead of candy or plastic junk in goody bags.
- Rubix Cube – Give guests a brain teaser with a never-ending challenge of a mini rubix cube.
- Card Games – Our family loves to play cards games and Uno, Old Maid and Go Fish are some of the easiest to start with. They also make great to give to kids as a alternative for goody bags!
Something Yummy to Eat (& Save for Later)
Sending something delicious home to enjoy for later is always a simple (and yummy) way to thank birthday party guests. Here are some ideas of easy to make or buy and package as a gift.
Just be sure to be conscious of any food allergies or dietary restrictions so no one gets left out.
- Slice of Cake
- Peanut Butter Bites
- Bundt Cake
- Caramel Apple
- Ice Cream Sandwich
Sports Theme Ideas
My kids are active…. super active and that’s something that makes me really happy. Kids should be on the move, and sports and outdoor activities promote teamwork, friendly competition and movement.
- Bouncy Ball – Grab a couple $1 bouncy balls at the grocery store or a place like Target and watch kid’s eyes light up when they get to take one home.
- Playground Ball – These playground balls are also perfect for four-square, kick-ball and other fun games.
- Knobby Ball – knobby balls are not only great as a sensory ball, but are great for learning how to play catch, also great for the pool or tub.
- Jump Rope – This is a fantastic option if you’re looking to have an action-packed group activity with kids.
- Scoop & Toss Set – This game is also known as jai alai and it is perfect to improve your children’s eye and hand movement coordination. This scoop ball game is not only for kids… so stay active, grab your ball & scoop, have fun and exercise at the same time!
- Paddle Ball Set – paddle ball game this classic toy has given kids and adults hours of fun for generations! The is a great way to have fun, stay active and improve your motor skills and coordination. Increase your speed or use it upside down to make it more challenging and exciting!
- Velcro Ball Catch – These usually come in a set of four paddles and four balls, perfect for splitting into two sets and handing them out.
Outside Toys and Fun
Kids should be outside playing and spending time in the outdoors. So… give them another reason to head outside, no matter what time of year it is!
Here are some fun ideas you can give to kids to get the moving, and taking in some fresh air.
- Bubbles – grab a pack of bubble wands and tie a balloon or ribbon to each one for a colorful and fun gift.
- Chalk – give out a pack of chalk and pair it with stencils for some serious sidewalk art and competitive games of hopscotch, four square or follow the line!
- Frisbee – grab a set of frisbees for backyard fun at the party and give them away at the party’s end.
- Kite – This Melissa & Doug Kite is made of nylon and not just plastic, so it’ll stand up with use.
- Water Splash Ball – Water Splash Ball is excellent for playing water games. Whether you are a three-year-old kid or older, you can surely enjoy these little water shooters. Innovate your kids’ water balls using these water bomb balls that functions like reusable water balloons.
- Water Balloons – back when I was a kid, water balloons had to be carefully filled up one at a time. No more, because now you can fill up to 100 water balloons in just under a minute. These make for backyard fun for the entire family to take home.
- Pool Noodle – You can find pool noodles anywhere for $1 – $2 each. Grab some for a great Summer gift idea!
- Pool Toys – mix and match a handful of fun pool toys. a couple pool torpedoes, pool fish, pool rings and diving sticks for a splash bundle.
Something to Wear
This is always the easiest category to fill, because based on the time of year, you surely can find inexpensive wearable options for boys, girls, kids young and older. Here are a few ideas of wearable gift ideas.
- Baseball Cap / Visor
- Superhero Cape – these can be plain in various colors like these ones, or add a design to them on your own to jazz things up.
- Hat / Beanie
- Purse / Tote
- Dress up Shoes & Play Jewelry – a princess dress up set like this one, lets little ones dress up and then go home in (ultra) style.
I’m curious, what other have you used as an alternative for goody bags?