Candy-Free Party Favors

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I am just being honest here. I am so tired of my girls coming home from birthday parties with goodie bags full of candy. Maybe it is just me, but after letting them indulge in highly processed pizza, cake, juice and in some instances even soda do kids as young as 3 and 4 years of age really need a bag full of candy? I don’t want to sound ungrateful because my daughters have so much fun at these parties, and I know it’s a lot of work and expense for the parents. But, it is a pretty solid reminder that we are very much the minority with our “real food” desires. And frankly, I don’t know what to do with these bags full of junk food that the party hosts keep handing out to my kids.

Luckily my girls are still young enough that they often forget about the party favors shortly after the party, but ever since Halloween last year I started giving them quarters for each piece of candy that they chose to give up to me. I certainly don’t want them to “miss out” on anything special and they happen to love saving up their change so they can go pick out a toy with their very own money. This of course means I end up throwing that bag of candy in the trash, which unfortunately seems like such a waste.

Earlier this month we celebrated our youngest daughter’s fourth birthday, and I was on a mission to come up with fun candy-less party favors. I know some say everyone should go without party favors all together, but I am not quite on that bandwagon yet. Plus I used to be a corporate event planner in my old life so I think it is fun to get into the details of an event. So, without further ado, for only a couple bucks each we gave out the pictured pots, bags of soil, seed packets, shovels and plant tags to all our little guests. I was lucky to find almost all of the items marked down in the dollar bins at Target. And I was even more thrilled to learn that most of the kids have since “planted” their party favor including my own two daughters who both really enjoyed the task. So hopefully these will last at least a little bit longer than the candy-filled alternative!

I recently reached out to my wonderful facebook community to get even more candy-free party favor ideas and here is the list of ideas that they came up with. We’d love to hear your ideas as well so please leave them in the comments below!

  • Bubbles
  • Books / bookmarks
  • Craft projects (can usually find $1 packs at craft store)
  • Pencils/erasers
  • Crayons
  • Small pads of paper
  • Stickers
  • Chinese yo-yos (found at Pier 1)
  • Bouncy balls
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Boxes of raisins
  • Small containers of Play-Doh or a homemade version
  • Bracelets that can be made at the party
  • Snacktrap holders
  • Boo boo bunnies
  • Animal or other fun hats (can be found at A.C. Moore)
  • Finger puppets
  • Scholastic books (they offer many books for only a dollar!)
  • Karate kid headbands (made at party with white napkins)
  • Teacups
  • Magic wands
  • Aprons
  • Paint supplies
  • Homemade sword/shield sets
  • Goodie tote bags that the kids can decorate at party
  • Silly Bandz
  • Balloons / water balloons
  • Water guns / goggles
  • $5 gift card to bookstore
  • Shirts that kids paint, decorate, or tie dye at party
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Tulle tutus that kids can make at party
  • Glow in the dark stars kids can find on scavenger hunt
  • Sunglasses
  • Hand-me-down stuffed animals
  • Foamerators made at party
  • Lego mini figures
  • Diego place mats and binoculars
  • Toothbrushes
  • Matchbox cars
  • Sand toys
  • Small puzzles
  • Jedi robes and pool noodle lightsabers
  • Nail polish

For more ideas go to this post: Easter without the junk!

[Entered into Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday]

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102 comments to Candy-Free Party Favors

  • I was JUST talking about goodie bags the other day! When I was little, I’d get so excited about putting together goodie bags for my friends. I don’t really see it as wasteful because even the simplest little items can be so fun for a child to play with or use. You never know what they might feel attached to or get the most use out of to fuel their imaginations.

    My mom and I would go to the local craft shop and I’d get to pick out an assortment of little trinkets for everyone. I took so much joy in thinking of what each friend would like. Everyone got the same things, but I’d pick out different colors or types to suit each friend – little dinosaur pencil erasers, a scented marker, stamps with little ink pads, stickers/temporary tattoos, mini rulers, sparkly pencils, bubble stuff… I’m not sure that we ever put candy in ours. Maybe, but I think generally it was more fun little trinkets, and as a little kid I looooved things like that. I’d get white or brown sandwich bags and custom decorate them for each guest, drawing pictures of things they liked and making a fancy name, etc. I got to feel like I got to celebrate my special day by giving my friends gifts too and I think it helped everyone feel like they got to be celebrated. I can see how some might think of it as frivolous or wasteful but at least in my own experiences I never felt that way. It just made me really happy.

  • Jenise

    I am doing a train party next week, and I am giving out train whistles and train-themed items as party favors. It might annoy the parents to be sent home with a whistle, but oh well. I am having cake that I am making, but the rest of the food will be pretty healthy.

  • Ally

    We just did a backyard water party for my son’s birthday with sprinklers, kiddie pool, etc. We gave out these cute little hoodie pinch towels they have at IKEA ($9.99) as favors. It was a small party, so we didn’t have to buy a ton, and the kids an use them at splash parks & pools all summer. We also did a watermelon “cake” with canteloupe stars that I found on Pinterest. No junk food for kids at my house! Thanks for the ongoing inspiration!

  • Tracy

    My 10 year old daughter’s birthday party was Harry Potter themed, and we gave out a wax sealer with the guests’ initials and a small stick of wax. Last year we gave out a small family game to each party goer – there are a lot of games that are 8 bucks or less, and the wax sealers were 5 bucks.

  • Sarah

    For my daughter’s party favors, I ordered tutus and wings from They have a ton of dress up items, sold in eaches, but priced like wholesale. I got a tutu, wings and a ribbon wand for each girl for $6.00. We’ve done this for two parties and it is always a hit!

  • JC

    Most hospitals have chemotherapy wards, and these wards will usually accept candy donations for their patients. Chemo has a reputation for leaving a bitter or sour taste in the mouth, and small candies are VERY helpful in counteracting this during treatment. Contact your local hospital and ask for info. Our two nearest high schools collect during and right after Halloween, but chemo is administered all year long…

  • Samantha

    We just had our son’s 3rd birthday with an art theme. The favors we gave were a painted an 8 x 10 inch canvas as the party activity and as the favor every child got a small bag of lego duplos. Everyone loved the party as a whole!!!

  • Jody

    I have to say – I hate when I’m given seeds. They end up in the trash whenever I’m given them. I have tried to grow them, but then we fail because I am horrible in the garden department and I end up with disappointed children.

    That being said, my son had his fourth birthday and I found a $5 DVD at our local FCB, and the families all went home with a copy of that for their “treat bag”. Both mom’s had seen the videos sitting on my counter and had asked what it was for since there were multiple copies of the same dvd. When I told them they would be taking them home after the party they both LOVED the idea! And it was good – because I was bad and sugared their children up with an ice cream cake ;-) (But I then sent them into the yard with bathing suits on to run it off for an hour!)

  • Lisa

    We had a birthday party for our 7 year old daughter. It was right before summer, so we gave out flip-flops and chapstick in cute party bags for the favors and it was a HIT!!!

  • Hey there, You’ve performed an incredible job. I will certainly digg it and for my part recommend to my friends. I’m confident they’ll be benefited from this website.

  • Jenise

    I just wanted to share an awesome idea for a fall birthday party that we just did for my son. He had his birthday at the local pumpkin patch. There were picnic tables, a playground, hayride, pumpkin launching, farm animals, etc. There was a pumpkin patch where every child was able to pick their own pumpkin as their favor. And for the “birthday cake,” we had my son’s favorite…homemade pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream. We had some homemade cookies as well for non-pumpkin eaters. It was also very economical, and it was so relaxing and FUN! Just thought I’d share!

  • Noelle

    We just had our daughter’s 3rd birthday party at a waterpark. It was a Dora theme, so the goody “bags” were a large Dora cup, and inside was a pair of sunglasses, bubbles, and a squirt gun. Party City has a huge selection of non-candy items and most of it is pretty cheap.

  • Stacey

    I was very happy to see this post on facebook today! My daughter’s birthday os coming up in May and I have been wondering what we should do. Thanks!

  • Mari

    Love the seed/pot/dirt idea however the seeds in the picture don’t look organic. Those are poisonous too especially tomatoes.

  • Shannon

    Thanks for the tips. I am going to be making play dough to put in the party favors and am probably going to pick up something else from the dollar store. I let my daughter have a couple treats when we get party favors but most of it gets tossed. She is only 3.

  • Shannon

    Your tomato party favour looks very similar to birthday gifts we gave out last year. We tucked a picture book about gardening in there too.

  • Samantha

    Another great party favor (non-edilble) but amazing. Is the TickleMe Plant party favor. This party favor grows the only plant that I know that will close its leaves and lower its branches when tickled. Kids never forget the experience years later. My students love them too. See a TickleMe Plant in action at Has pink flowers like a Truffula tree too!

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