Candy-Free Party Favors

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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131 thoughts on “Candy-Free Party Favors”

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  1. One of my favorite “favors” for a birthday party is some sort of craft that the kids cab take home. For my daughter’s first birthday, the kid painted flower pots and took home the pots, seeds and a bag of dirt in the shape of a butterfly. For a pirate/mermaid party, we did she’ll sand art necklaces. The kids also took home dress-up pirate accessories. Love these kind of favors instead of candy and cheap toys.

  2. I’m doing a Carnival theme and all these ideas are great. I hate buying candy so I bought animal crackers and stealing an idea from you gals. ;-)

  3. We did a themed activity book with a themed pencil tied to the front with a ribbon one year and they were a hit. It was a Transformer party and I found the books at the dollar store I bought a 20 pack of pencils off Ebay. Each one was about $1.20 all said and one and were perfect!

  4. Mary Elizabeth Tait

    Wonderful ideas and I am glad you are leading by example……wish I had thought of the “buy back” for the candy when my kids were younger . You are inspired!

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      “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.”

      1. You can donate candy to the troops overseas (not the chocolate)-just Google it and several charities will pop up with how to send the unopened candy to service members!

  5. My daughter recently had a Rockstar themed birthday party for the party favors we gave out a bag with inflatable guitar and microphone, some temporary tattoos and star shaped sunglasses. I found everything on Amazon and spent about $25 for 12 bags. The kids ended up playing with them at the party and they were a huge hit!

  6. I am totally using these ideas for valentine’s and many other activities or gift bag ideas. No more junk no more sugar!!! Thank you for this website and the daily Blessings you share everyday. This website is truly changing the way I eat and think about food and so much more. GOD BLESS YOU!

  7. Another item I’m putting in my daughter’s party favors is a mini LED flashlight. They are perfect for kids to play with and only cost a dollar! Flashlights, glow bracelets, and a juice pouch. Done!

  8. I totally agree with not giving out candy, and there are some great ideas here! Only one thing I’d like to add: Not pencils! Especially not the ones that have cool designs on them. Every holiday my kids come home with 20 pencils, and the ones with cool designs seem like a good idea, but they don’t sharpen well and the tip ALWAYS breaks off, resulting in 20 abandoned and slightly pointed sticks laying around that I feel bad about tossing (but have to or they become swords or spears and result in games that are more dangerous than I tolerate). Hopefully more people will see this list of ideas and cool it with the garbage pencils!

    Fancy erasers are awesome though. Usually terrible for erasing, but make fun little toys with cool designs.

  9. I love all the ideas, especially the $5 gift card to a bookstore. Never thought of that, and it seems so simple! My kids love picking out their own gift with a gift card.

    We’re having a Minion party this week for my daughter, who’s turning 8. Included in the treat bag are homemade balls of yellow, blue, and black playdough and googly eyes as a “Make Your Own Minion” kit. My kids can’t wait to play with them!

  10. Cute, I probably would have gone with flower seeds, though. Tomatoes take such a long time to grow from seed.

  11. In years past, I’ve gone to a local bookstore and bought a bunch of books for different age ranges and asked in advance if I could return any books that weren’t given away and the owner is usually happy to do so as long as I save the receipt. I then put the books in baskets divided by age group and let the kids pick one out before they leave. Then any remaining books I just return or keep any that I want for my own collection.

  12. I don’t like the excess of candy, but I was not brave enough not to put any in my daughter’s party bag, so one of the favours was candy. The other edible thing was a box of organic raisins. Apart from that, I put little toys that were already mentioned in your post. Then I did some online research for fun printable activities and coloring pages. I contacted the person who made the pages to make sure it was ok to print lots of them, and handed them out with the party bags. One of the mothers came to talk to me at school the following week and she told me that the party bag was great and kept her daughter busy for a long time. I think most people find it easier and/or cheaper just to add lots of candies in the party bags, but it is not that hard or expensive to look for alternatives. When my daughter turned 2 I bought lots of ceramics bowls at IKEA, personalised them with ceramic pens and filled them with homemade treats. I got lots of compliments at the time, and it was something very useful. Which kid doesn’t use ceramic bowls?

  13. Thank you so much – my daughter’s 4th birthday is next month so this gives me some great ideas although I know of some healthier treat options without harmful dyes / colors.

    for Halloween…how about switch witch (I think maybe like you are doing..or the alternative:

    http://www.natural.bm/kids/susie-switch/

  14. We ran out of time, but for my daughter’s party I bought a big kit of paint your own magnets. I’m tired of all the candy too.

  15. Dear Lisa,
    I hear you on that and I also feel the same during classroom parties at school. During Halloween, Christmas and valentines day my daughter comes home with lots of candy and I feel so bad about it.
    I wish if the parents and party organizers find other alternatives to avoid wasting their money on stuff that are not good for their kids.
    Thanks for the note.

  16. 4th grade has my daughter eating 5-6 pieces of candy a day!!! I’m so upset that I have yet to speak with the teachers regarding the health concerns I have for my daughter and her classmates. Two teachers give out candy for various reasons – I have donated coins that kids can choose to save-up, or donate to the class missions project. Daughter does understand and wants to be healthy, so she only eats one per day and puts the rest in her pocket. On another note, same daughter is hosting a spa birthday party – healthy “spa food” like cucumbers and fruit compote. Take home gift is a spa bath wrap we are making for each girl and her favorite doll. Not much junk other than the cake. :)

  17. Great idea’s, thank you! We just gave out mood rings, and a color chart wrapped in a small box for my daughter’s 7th birthday. Big hit!

  18. Just a note on super-balls: these were always banned from our house on advice of our vet. We had a golden retriever and now have a lab. They love to fetch. Most super-balls are exactly the right size to be a deadly choking hazard to larger dogs. I threw them straight in the trash, and the kids understood why. We never had any balls in our house smaller than a tennis ball. I know, we all have our own issues, but I lived in fear of a giant bouncy dog trying to catching a tiny bouncing ball.

    I love these ideas that are disposable items like chalk, paper hats, or the plants and pots.

  19. Last year we had a train parry for my son. We gave put train hats, bandanas and a train whistle. I have never given out the “traditional” goodie bag filled with candy…

  20. I agree on the junk food and the plastic toys all over my house that break as soon as they are played with, half the time. I try and just send home one item that is useful. I have found wonderful stuff at the dollar store or in the dollar section of places like target. Also have found great stuff on clearance at the end of a season that I snatch up if I know what party is coming: kites, crazy or fuzzy socks, pedicure kits, coloring books (especially if it goes with the theme), balls. And for older boys that are out of the “cute” stage, Frisbees, foam footballs, pack of water balloon grenades. We try and have the take-a-way favor be something that works in to the party theme too, like for a younger child’s “boot camp” we have bought army hats they can use for dress up, inflatable light sabers for a Star Wars party (bet the parents loved us for that one….) Or for an arts and craft party, make something at the party, picture frames, painted flower pot, as an activity and then send home with them. Again, something useful and fun that hopefully won’t get in the way.

  21. See, I’d rather have the candy than the plastic crap toys! Ugh. Clutter. My kids get candy very rarely so I don’t mind if they have a little bit from time to time and then it’s gone. But cheap, plastic made-in-China army men? They’re forever.

  22. I like to try to stay away from candy favors too. Here are some of the things I have given at my kids’ parties: flashlights, glow bracelets/necklaces, lip balm, tattoos, stickers, colored pens with notebooks & stencils, crafts created at the party, sand pails/shovels, bubbles, sunglasses, pool toys, sidewalk chalk.

  23. Hi Lisa, We also prefer to avoid any type of food with little or no nutritional value, especially since so many types of food are questionable these days. Flower Seed Packet party favors decorated with pretty mermaids and fairies are a fun way to connect with nature and a great reminder of the event as the flowers grow each year. Another idea is empty Tin Party Favors decorated with guitars, girly make up and even video games, that can be filled by the parents with whatever contents that they choose. http://www.PartyFavorWebsite.com

  24. 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 http://www.ticklemeplant.com Has pink flowers like a Truffula tree too!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

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

  28. 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!

  29. 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.

  30. 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!

  31. 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!!!

  32. 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!)

  33. 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!!!