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:

  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.