Not too long ago, a desperate mama was pleading online to see if loot bags were still a thing and would she need to spend a lot on said trinkets for the kids.
I felt her pain.
You see, I remember when I was a kid, way before the dollar stores existed, when loot bags were super exciting and the contents inside were almost always unique or special little things. But now, the little things can be found everywhere, and kids have too much of them to even know what to do with them all.
When my three boys are invited to a party, their loot bags hang around for a while, items get left in strange places and unfortunately, most things break and soon after get thrown out.
I can tell you truthfully, I am over loot bags.
Now, I get that kids might not have the same sentiment as parents. Kids have grown accustomed to going to a party with a gift for the birthday boy or girl and receiving a thank you bag of stuff. And while I wish parents could come to a universal agreement that loot bags are total waste, that won’t be happening anytime soon (one could wish!).
However, it would be nice to instill different values for our children when they attend a party. I make it a point, when possible, to take my children to our local toy shop to choose a gift for their friend. This does two things.
- Shopping for gifts shows them the cost of items, making them aware very quickly that things cost a lot. I still pay for their gifts for their friends, but I make it a point to put a price limit on them, so they can see just how much toys can cost. When they see items that they have at home in stores, it’s also a wake up call for how fortunate they are.
- Holding them accountable for the gift choice makes them feel independent and also much more thoughtful. They have to take the time to think of what their friend likes or dislikes. If I’m really on the ball, I ask them to chat with their friend ahead of our shopping or at least think of their friend in the days before we go out, so they notice them more at school. Do they love to draw? Do they enjoy soccer? What is their favourite colour or favourite type of book? This way, when we are in a store, they become more focused on things their friend would love, and not just shiny things that catch their eye that they would want themselves.
Now back to loot bags.
Because we have taken the time to shop for a gift, we have also taken time to look for loot bags for their own parties. We try to keep a theme to our parties, but even when we don’t, we try to find one item that would be fun for their friends to receive. Since the beginning of their school years, we have put together a compilation of their favourite songs of the year for their friends. We purchase the songs in advance if we don’t have them, then make a CD for their friends. Other suggestions have been books. And I don’t mean dollar store books that won’t last more than the ride home from the party. I mean, I hunt the bookshops when there is a great sale and find something all the kids would love. One year, I struck out and found large Usborne sticker books that were on liquidation. Each book was $3.00 but the quality was fantastic.
Other good ideas for loot bags are gift cards for the local ice cream shop, a frisbee, a kite, a mini basketball, do you see where I’m going with this? One thing is more than enough. And it doesn’t have to break the bank either.
There are still parents that find joy in collecting trinkets for loot bags. And for them, I say go for it! But if you are a parent that feels obliged to “get stuff” and it causes stress when you see the bill, do no do it.
I believe it is really important for children to understand that the party is the gift for everyone. As adults, we don’t expect to go to out friends house for dinner and then get a gift on our way out too. Understanding the thought and care that their friend (and friend’s parents) put to throw a party is what should be talked about before and after, so kids understand what is important.
Over on Omaiki.com, I have written a new piece I feel passionate about entitled Stop Wasting On Birthdays and Summer Parties. Consider it a how-to on being less wasteful this summer. These changes I made earlier on to our parties allows me to enjoy the event much more.
How do you feel about loot bags, gifts giving and party throwing? I’d love to know in the comments below.