Saturday, November 17, 2007

Stop the Loot Bag Insanity!

To all parents out there in the world. I'm begging you. I'm pleading with you. I'm on my knees IMPLORING you. Please please more dollar store loot bags. My house is already filled with enough crap. I have so much crap, I could open a crap store store and make a decent living.

I don't need any more dollar store toys coming home. I don't need cheap plastic games with pieces that get lost or fall apart the first time you play with them. I don't need anymore super-duper bouncey balls. I don't need anymore tattoos. Or cheap knock-off playdough. Or plastic clackers. Or any of the 1000's of items at your local dollar store.

I'm not the only mother who feels this way either. So, if you are out there and you are sick and tired of dollar store loot bags, please join me in starting the "No Loot Bag" Revolution! This doesn't mean kids have to leave a birthday party empty handed. I'm certainly not the Grinch Who Stole Loot Bags. I'm just asking that you give the kids something that won't be thrown in the garbage within three hours of coming home.

It doesn't have to be expensive. I realize that the reason most parents raid the dollar store for birthday party loot bags is because it's cheap. Who wants to spend alot of money on 20 kids that aren't your own? But you can come up with some great alternatives that won't drain your bank account and the kids will love it.

I was at a birthday in October and instead of loot bags, the mother brought small pumkins and craft items. Decorating the pumpkin was a part of the actual party and the kids got to bring it home to proudly display for all to see. Brilliant! Last year she made a CD with her son's favorite superhero songs (he spent most days dressed as Clark Kent with his Superman costume beneath waiting for the moment to strip down and save the world). It’s one of my favorite cd’s

Three years ago, I was at a birthday party for my friend's son and she raided the sale bin at Chapters and bought each of the kids a book. Since she knew all of the kids, she took the time to buy books based on each child's interest. Cost of each book? About $3.00. If you don't know the child (and this will happen as your kids get older and go to school), then buy generic books. What girl wouldn't love a princess book?

For Adam's birthday this year, I'm giving out Christmas ornaments (cute ones I found at Costco) and have made cd's with our favorite Christmas songs. Adam even drew a winter picture and wrote "Thank you for Coming To My Party) which I scanned in and used to make the cd labels. Total cost per child? Less than $3.00.

I've also made personalized t-shirts for the kids to take home. T-shirts were bought at Walmart for $2.50 each and I bought a package of iron-on transfers. An hour on the computer and another hour ironing and the kids were thrilled.

Liam's birthday falls during the summer so I tend to (a) be more imaginative and (b) have the party outdoors so I won't have 20 kids running around inside my house. This year I took the kids on a treasure hunt. I hid treasures throughout the neighbourhood and had the kids read clues to find them. What were the treasures? Pebbles, soil, seeds and tiny plant pots that I had personalized with each of their names (from IKEA - three pots for a dollar). The kids got back to the yard, planted their own sunflower and took it home as their "loot". I even got to see some of those sunflowers grow from a seed to over 6 feet in height.

The year before that was a Hawaiian themed party. I went to H&M and bought hawaiian shirts for all the kids - they were in the sale bin and since I was buying so many, I asked for an extra discount. I hung them up in the yard and before the kids could enter the party, they had to put on their hawaiian shirts and a Lei. We played games like pass the coconut and stick the coconut on the palm tree. Liam is now old enough to wear Adam's hawaiian shirt from the party - I got double duty out of that one.

I know, I're thinking "I don't have the time to do this - I'm busy enough all ready". Not everyone is going to have the time or inclination to make personalized t-shirts. This post isn't to make parents feel bad because they aren't burning cd's with their kids favorite songs. We all have enough stress and activities in our lives - why add more? I'm just asking that you take a moment and think of something kids can use and that won't break or be thrown out within 24 hours of the party. In the end, it will save your pocket book, it will save our planet and it will save the sanity of many many parents.