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14 cheap goody bag ideas for kids

With all the stress of planning your child’s party, it’s easy to overlook the party favors and goody bags — but that doesn’t mean you have to resort to last-minute junk. To help decide what to put in goodie bags, Cherie Lowe, author of the money-saving blog Queen of Free, does what she calls “The Step Test.” Before you buy that trinket to put in goodie bags for kids, imagine stepping on it in the middle of the night. If you wince in pain, put it back. No parent wants toys that end up smashed in the trash. “Even if you spend a bit more, it’s wiser to purchase an item that will go the distance,” she says.

Here are 14 creative and smart goody bag ideas that will wow all of your party guests (and their parents):

1. Pack up some snacks

From small bags of flavored popcorn to individually wrapped candies or packs of gum, the options are limitless. However, watch out for allergies. “Before you load the bags up with Twinkies and candy bars,” says Lowe, “ask if any of your guests have food allergies, and be mindful of that.”

2. Make them laugh

Cindy Smith, a party planner with Party Cheap, recommends something as silly — and timeless — as a whoopee cushion. The kids will get a kick out of playing pranks on each other (and on you)! Joke gifts keep the kids laughing and entertained long after the party has ended.

3. Book it

For a goody bag that will keep kids and parents happy, pick up a few copies of your child’s favorite books or choose ones that match your party theme. You can snag inexpensive books at your local discount or dollar store.

4. Be practical

Get some toothbrushes, bubble bath and other practical personal care items with your tot’s favorite characters. Lowe says, “You might be able to even match a character up with the theme of the party.”

5. Give dress-up supplies

Give them the right tools and kids will entertain themselves. Smith recommends giving packages of eye patches, plastic tiaras, stick-on mustaches or temporary tattoos and letting your guests pretend to be princesses or pirates.

6. Decorate a water bottle

“My daughter recently received a teeny bottle of water with a special heart wrapper as a party gift,” says Lowe. “She loved it, and it was water — simple, healthy and fun.” Simply wrap colorful paper around the label of a mini bottle of water for a pint-size present.

7. Let it grow

Nurture your guests green thumbs. Give the kids a packet of flower or vegetable seeds with instructions, so they can plant something special at home and watch it grow throughout the year.

8. Make bracelets

Gather colorful beads or teach kids to braid embroidery thread before letting them make a special bracelet of their own design. “You provide the materials, space and oversight,” says Lowe. “The kids provide the creative power.”

9. Prolong the fun

Consider handing out gift cards in a small amount to be used at a later date, such as ones for a local ice cream shop, arcade or toy store. “You can quickly spend $5 per kid on goody bags without realizing it,” says Lowe. “Make one simple purchase, decorate the envelopes with your theme, and you’re good to go.”

10. Get artsy

Small coloring books, pencils, sidewalk chalk, stickers and erasers encourage creativity — and won’t take up space once they’re used up.

11. Play stylist

Let the kids’ style shine through. Colorful hair clips, head bands, slap-on bracelets and inexpensive plastic sunglasses are sure to get a lot of use.

12. Rock out

Make CDs for each guest with of some of your kid’s favorite kid-friendly songs. Have your child decorate the CDs for each guest and include a playlist. This is a great way for your little one to say thank you to her guests.

13. Stay seasonal

Offer goodies you know will get a lot of use right away. Buy colorful swim goggles for a summer party, or gift hot cocoa mix and marshmallows for a winter affair.

14. Mix it up

With a little prep from you, you can send your guests home with a treat they can make themselves. Package up the dry mix for your favorite cookie recipe for the little chefs to make later (just be sure to include directions for how they can bake the cookies at home).