What Do You Do About Party Favors?

Years ago, before I had children, a co-worker was agonizing over what to put in the party favor bags for her child’s birthday party. She didn’t want to not provide one but she didn’t want to be over-generous and make other parents who couldn’t afford as much feel bad. I remember being as dismissive and insensitive as my non-parenting state could muster. Which was very!

Years on, I remember that conversation clearly. At the time, I couldn’t understand a) why she felt so pressured to provide party favors or b) why parents were either intent on out-doing each other or feeling ‘less than’ if their party favorsĀ  didn’t pass muster or c) her anguish over trying to satisfy both. And all for flippin’ party favors for gawd’s sake.

20 years later, I understand.

I, too, have been sensitive to making sure that my kids party guests go home with the requisite favors. I wouldn’t want my kids to be known as having the mum-who-didn’t-provide-party-goodie-bags, now would I? And I also became very sensitive to what was contained in those bags. I noticed how my kids evaluated what they got. If it wasn’t up to snuff, they would remark upon it. At a very young age. The entitlement state starts early.

But what drove me mad was the utter crap that a lot of these bags contained and the cost of providing this utter rubbish. The pencils that didn’t get used, the teeny tiny erasers that were too small to even hold let alone use, the plastic figures that were no good for anything, the junky candy. Ugh, the list went on and on.

I vowed on the boys second birthday not to fall into the same trap and before their Thomas the Tank Engine-themed third birthday party went on eBay to find a supplier of Thomas wooden trains. I negotiated a rate for 25 genuine Thomas trains that I trusted wouldn’t just go in the landfill but instead, as just about every kid of that age had a wooden train set, would actually get used.

Over the years I’ve given out gift certificates for ice cream, DVDs of slideshows featuring the party guests and my favorite, used paperbacks. I would *much* rather spend a little more time and money to give out gifts that are of value than give out the chotkes that are more like an empty handshake than a meaningful hug.

Seems like some people agree with me. Don’t get sucked into giving out the Oriental Trading Company type favors for any type of party. Please.