Loot Bags: Glorified Garbage or Childhood Necessity?

Loot bags. My kids love them and I hate them.  My kids love opening their loot in the car on the way home from a party.  The cheap plastic toys make them squeal with joy and make me cringe.

I don’t see the point of a loot bag – does anyone really want more junky little toys cluttering up the playroom?  Don’t most of the contents end up in the garbage anyway?

Unfortunately, my kids didn’t buy into my anti-loot bag sentiment and when my oldest had his last birthday he was adamant that his friends leave the party clutching a bag of treasures.

In an effort to provide the kids with something useable, I took my cue from the party theme: art.

After a trip to the dollar store, each bag was stuffed with a set of paintbrushes, paint and a three-pack of canvas squares.  Noting that the candy pre-requisite was missing my son convinced me to add a Rice Krispie treat to each bag.  For a couple of dollars, each child left with a memento of the party that I hope will be used to showcase some of their newly learned skills from the party.

So what’s your take?  What are your loot bag secrets?

Are loot bags a waste of time and money?  Or are they part of childhood that our kids will look back on with fond nostalgia?

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17 thoughts on “Loot Bags: Glorified Garbage or Childhood Necessity?

  1. One easy theme for a girl’s Loot Bags is jewelry. You can include costume necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets. Also consider including some more creative pieces, like Oriental fans or hair jewelry. Likewise, you could create loot bags around a “makeover” theme by including lip gloss, eye shadows and nail accessories like polish and files. You could even include stick-on nails with glittery stickers.

    • That could be a lot of fun and better than junky toys and candy. The jewels would most likely be played with and then stored with her dress up clothes.

      Nice to read a comment from you. Are you new to 4mothers?

  2. Ugh. I hate loot bags. And the stupid toys that come with fast food. But, like you, my boys want to dole out loot after their parties. I give books and a little bag of candy. One year, Griffin had an eco-friendly themed party, and we gave out copies of Dr. Suess’s The Lorax. Another year, we had a magician and gave copies of The Magician’s Nephew. Last year, when he was in SK, we gave Rowan’s guests We Are in a Book, a fantastic beginning reader by Mo Willems. We supported the Brickworks with our Ecoage party, and they gave us some seed packets for the kids to take home and plant. Books can be tricky because the kids might already have a copy, but I figure they can be passed on, and it’s better than landfill plastic.

  3. I loved the party I went to where a loot bag was a pail and shovel. A trained-themed party had train-shaped cookies, train song mixed-CD, and train stickers. Books are an awesome idea. Loot bags are garbage and I can’t stand them, but there are several ways to get creative and make loot something of substance.

  4. I totally agree! At F’s building themed party last year we gave all the kids a bag of LEGO bricks so that they could build something at home. The year before was similar to your art theme with Crayola markers and a colouring book.
    We have been to a couple of parties recently that were book exchanges – in lieu of a gift, you bring a wrapped book and at the end of the party each child leaves with a book. I love this idea! Not only does it resolve the loot bag thing (if you so choose), it also alleviates the “15 gifts that my child DOES NOT NEED” issue.
    For both, we took a trip to the bookstore to pick a favourite that we know one of his friends would love. And he loves the books he has received. It’s a win-win, if you ask me.
    Great post as always!

  5. I. Hate. Loot bags. Simple as that. And the toys you get at fast food restaurants always accidentally make their way onto the tray before dumping. But my daughter was the same as your son, DESPERATE for her friends to bring something home. SInce she has a winter birthday we did flavoured hot chocolate in a dollar store mug and a chocolate covered spoon. And the game prize was a colouring book and stickers. If I had it my way there would be no loot bag but I don’t see a way around! Time to put thinking caps on!

    • Love the idea of a mug for chocolate! A friend of mine did a pizza party and she gave away a make your own pizza kit as the loot. Sort of laborious to put together but was so much fun and inexpensive.

  6. Some great ideas. I usually do books too. I try to get a good deal on them through Scholastic book order from my child’s class and try to match them to the theme of the party. This year we are going to Solar Stage Theatre for the Robert Munsch play. I lucked out this month with Scholastic as they have Robert Munsch book sets on sale. This way the classroom also gets some books too. I really enjoy reading your blog Beth Anne!

    • This is a great idea! Not only are you giving books (which in my opinion is the only thing that the boys can’t have too much of) but supporting your child’s classroom by purchasing books through Scholastic.

  7. I am also anti-loot bag and we send home a party favor or two but never the pointless and unimaginative bag-o-crap. People make a lot of effort to add birthday parties and presents into their schedules and budgets, and I do like to send a little something home with each guest. We’ve sent home everything from a “Splish-Splash Dance Party” mixed CD for a swim birthday, which the moms loved as much as the kids, to a sweet little bar of soap with a puppy face embedded into it for my son’s first birthday party. We made teething biscuits with a dog-bone cookie cutter for that one, also. I’ve found World Market to be a great source for party favors that I can’t make myself. We also keep the parties fairly small to keep costs reasonable.

    • So many great ideas! Just goes to further my belief that moms truly are the most resourceful people around 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, Suzan. I think that this is the first time I have read a comment from you. Hope to see more 🙂

  8. I totally agree: HATE the loot bags, both the giving and the receiving. But, as with many things with kids, for as much as I hate them, they sure do love them, and we haven’t been able to get away from them (yet). I’m quite sure I could make my fortune as a peddler of pencils/tattoos, with all that we have accumulated over the years from birthday parties and school holiday parties!

    I loved reading all the great suggestions here for alternative “loot,” and thought I would share one. For my son’s 6th birthday, since his favorite meal of the day was breakfast, we hosted a “birthday breakfast party.” We told the guests they could come in their pajamas if they wanted, and we cooked up a huge stack of pancakes and bacon. Then we put all manner of toppings out on the table for the kids to decorate their pancakes with: syrup, cherries, whipped cream, chocolate chips, nuts, etc. For the loot bags, we gave breakfast-themed treats: granola bars, mini-boxes of cereal, packages of instant oatmeal, and toothbrushes with mini tubes of toothpaste. We wanted to give “loot” that would actually get used, instead of stepped on, and then wind up in the trash as soon as the kid wasn’t looking. It was probably one of the best parties we’ve done with kids.

  9. Pingback: The Pressure Behind Loot Bags | Brunette Diaries

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