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Avoid the Plastic Junk With These Clever Party Favor Ideas

Ditch the waste and keep the fun with these creative ideas

Published on: March 21, 2023

Collection of plastic toys
JiaYing Grygiel

Birthday parties are back with a vengeance after a more than two-year pandemic hiatus. Yes, it’s great seeing our friends again and celebrating milestones together, but tell me a tiny part of you doesn’t miss relaxed, carefree weekends not spent racing to back-to-back birthday parties. Plus: All. The. Tiny. Plastic. Things!

I’m talking about goody bags, those little sleeves of swag that kids emerge from parties with, clutching them in their sweaty fists, their faces smeared with pizza sauce and looking slightly dazed after spending two hours in close quarters with 20 screaming peers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100 percent guilty of handing out goody bags, too. Kids love them. And childhood is fleeting, so why not let them have a little bit of joy?

I’m all for joy, as long as I’m not constantly picking up joy or stepping on joy. We’re all smart people. Let’s do the right thing for the planet — and for our sanity.

Skip the goody bag.

It sounds extreme, but hear me out. Kids don’t actually notice when there’s no goody bag unless you point it out. They’re too hopped up on ice cream and cake, and focused on friends, which is the whole point of a party.

Really, can we parents band together as a collective whole and agree to ixnay this one out-of-control tradition? It’s the bane of existence for every being who picks stuff up from off of the floor: moms, dads, caregivers, pets — and little siblings who stuff choking hazards in their mouths.

Make it consumable.

Not comfortable quitting cold turkey? At least make your goody bag something consumable, not a further contribution to populating the planet with bits of throwaway plastic from the Dollar Store.

You can give something that always gets used up; for instance, sidewalk chalk or sticky notes.

Or something edible, as long as you make it junky and as nonnutritious as possible.

Or packets of seeds, which really give something back to the planet, in addition to providing a bonus science lesson.

Or a book. “We have too many books,” says no parent ever.

Or vinyl stickers, so kids can personalize and clearly identify their own water bottle.

Or incorporate a craft activity into your party, so the kids make an art project and take their original masterpiece home.

Regift it.

Even if you scrap the goody bag, chances are your kid is going to come home with some treasures anyway. Kids do love swag. But the joy is short-lived. The thrill is in opening a surprise, and it takes about a nanosecond before they’ve moved on.

Here’s my solution/confession: Every year, hundreds of small children come to my door seeking a handout. It’s called Halloween — you may have heard of it?

I save goody-bag trinkets all year and regift them to trick-or-treaters. It’s actually a thing, putting out a teal pumpkin to signal that you have non-candy treats for kids with food allergies. Kids get a fun little prize, I get stuff out of my house. It’s a win-win.

I know I’m just handing off the problem, but at least that little piece of plastic goes through another round of enjoyment before it hits the landfill.

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