Down with Birthday Party Goody Bags!

goody bagsEvery year my daughter celebrates another birthday and every year I refuse to hand over goody bags at the party. If a “Down with Goody Bags” picket line existed, I would probably join it. Probably. I can’t stand them.

Call me an old-school parent or whatever you like, but I believe the “goody” is attending the party. And, quite frankly, my daughter has never attended a party where the bag wasn’t filled with absolute junk that wasn’t toss-in-the-trash worthy. I mean plastic kazoos and harmonicas? I could create an amazing ball pit with all of the yo-yos we have received over the years.

Every year there is a lone parent that comes up to me after the party has ended to double-check that, in fact, no goody bag was handed out and every year I say the same thing: we gave up goody bags when the birthday girl was three. As if birthday party goody bags were an addiction that required my family to go cold turkey.

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Maybe it’s where I live, but I have seen some truly exceptional party bags on Pinterest that I would absolutely never throw in the trash. And I want to be clear: nothing Pinterest-worthy has ever crossed our path. Plus, I am not a crafter so the poor children who attend a birthday party thrown by me are out of luck. My themes go as far as color-coordinated balloons in primary colors and matching cutlery.

I guess I’m the equivalent of a birthday party Grinch. Kids today get rewarded just for showing up — whether it’s at someone else’s birthday, sitting down to a meal, or visiting a museum – and that’s a trend I want nothing to do with. Of course it’s thoughtful to have trinkets to entertain, but I tend to think we’ve gone just a tad overboard in gifting our children things in order to placate them or make them happy. An experience can just be that: an experience. Things cost something, but memories are free and last longer.

And just in case: I also threw a birthday party where my daughter didn’t get presents. So I play it fair all the way around.

No one has ever complained about my goody bag policy, but they have inquired and almost every response has been one of: I can’t stand them either, but I do it anyway. Oh, those poor souls.

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But I get it. I remember the first year I protested goody bags. I mean I actually really did care and thought there might be a child-sized riot with pint-sized terrors grabbing at my ankles and not letting go until I coughed up the goods.

I’m more than thrilled to tell you that I still have my ankles. 


Do you always have goody bags at your child's birthday parties?

What do you think?

Down with Birthday Party Goody Bags!

Liz Henry is the irreverent voice behind the award-winning blog The Six Year Itch. She lives with her daughter and her partner, Slasher, in Philadelphia. That's not his real name and that's not her real hair color. Her soft middle is totally real. Liz graduated summa cum lazy with a degree in English literature, which means she knows how to write properly, but rarely does. She loves Harry Potter and Luna is her favorite. ... More

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  1. nichole says:

    i do "gif bags" when my kids have sleep over partys. in the bags, i have various little activitys. like the last one had a few bracelets and hair ties for each girl, but then had bead animal making kits, and some crayons, and some of the wax covered stings for model building, and a kids bottle of nail polish.. i then went to the dollar store, and bought two coloring books, and used ribbon and a hole punch to make a little coloring book for each kid so they didnt fight over the pages inside the two books. and all of this stuff we did at the slumber party so it wasnt so much a goodie or gift bag, it was the nights activity bag. and because my oldest is born jan 7th, we also did a ginger bread house that the kids made before breakfast that morning, and once they all ate a good breakfast, i let them tear into the house. they loved it!

  2. Rosie2day says:

    I always do a craft or something they can take with them. My oldest is a fall b-day so we have done handprint/thumbprint fall trees one year and silk leaf place mats the next. The kids at my sons last party took soap slime and home made moon dough. It is stuff I would do for the party anyway and less for me to have to take home.

  3. Courtney says:

    i try to get creative…last time i gave out little plant kits…all my guests keep sending pics of the plants they grew

  4. The goodie bags are a "thank you" for showing up. I agree about the crap toys that is put in them. That’s why I just do candy.

  5. Alisha says:

    I never cared for goody bags either. There is such an age gap between all the kids we invite to parties that I’d have to make individual bags to make them age appropriate. I think for my son’s 2nd birthday this year I might make cake pops or something and let the kids take them home.

  6. Grace says:

    I do goodie bags, but I do not do the trinkets either I do not like them so I put in pencil, writing pad, marker and activity book along with some candy this way it is still entertaining and you can throw them out when all done but it keep the occupied till it all runs out and there are no more pages to write on.

  7. Amelia says:

    I went all out every year, every party, the stuff ended up all over my house so I started a box, went through and made the bags, when I realized the amount of waste from it all I just started buying candy, whether an addition to the pinata (Hand Made at that, they are a riot to watch try to crack) Or just set out on the table, now with my kids older I set out the candy on the table and do a buffet type of event, some times set out a bag. I still get asked and the last party my kid was 12 🙂

  8. when i was a kid i though the crap was fun!

  9. Lisa says:

    I don’t do goody bags because I feel like the guests are there to honor and support the birthday person not to get gifts themselves. We play all kinds of games and there are prizes for winning (I go out of my way to make sure everyone gets something so one kid isn’t left out or feeling like a loser). As my kids get older they don’t really want to do goody bags anyway because the things that go into them are cheap and childish. We have planned different themed parties and have the prizes fit that theme (one year was tea party- gave out mini tea sets, different teas etc, another year was rainbows, bubbles, etc)

  10. Sarah says:

    My plan is not to have goody bags mostly because they are usually filled with crap. Plastic toys that break as soon as they get out of the bag and a bunch of candy that my son can’t have because he freaks out on sugar. Maybe if they had good things in them like seeds for planting or fun craft ideas I MIGHT consider doing them but since he is 2 and has never had a party with them I’m thinking probably not. I will go ALL out for the party but I agree going to a party is a treat you shouldn’t get stuff when you leave other than fun memories and a few pictures.

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