Many think the days of Party bags are over. But I think most will agree that they hold fond memories of receiving that little party bag when they said goodbye at their friends’ birthday parties! In those days, of course, you likely would have received one of those little white plastic ones with the creepy clown on the front. Inside you would have found the obligatory snake lolly, some milk bottles, a balloon or two and a party blower.
Today we find ourselves in a very different situation. Giving away plastic junk at parties has become a bit of faux pas (and rightly so) and so the time has come to think of plastic-free alternatives for party bags and ways of keeping the joy of giving and receiving alive.
Living plastic free doesn’t mean eliminating all plastic from our lives. Some plastics are fabulous and make our lives easier and enrich us. Where would I be without my electric toothbrush? And I don’t think life would be worthwhile living without my Pop Jewel glitter earrings! But there are some plastics, not all, that are completely unnecessary. And let’s be honest, party blowers, plastic hand clappers, finger puppets and mini slinkies, are pretty unnecessary.
And so where does that leave the party bag? With children’s parties, we don’t particularly want to spend a lot of money on each bag and so plastic toys and candy are an easy and affordable option. But it doesn’t take an extra lot of money or time, to find plastic free alternatives that are just as fun and often have a lot more longevity than their plastic counterparts!
Here’s a list of my Top 20 ideas for plastic-free party bag fillers that are not only cheap but fun and festive for little minds and hands and also kind to our planet. Plus, there’s no sugar either!
Seeds are a lovely way to say thank you. They are the kind of gift that instigates parent and child interaction, often in the great outdoors. They are also a gift that keeps on giving. You can make your own little seed packets or you could buy them already made in some gorgeous packets, all ready to give. Visit Sow ‘n Sow and Mystery Blooms for some beautiful Seed Gift packets.
You really can’t go wrong with pencils. The great thing about them too is that you can get a whole variety of novelty ones and even ones with custom phrases and names on them. I remember rainbow pencils were a big thing in the 80s. Let’s bring them back!
A notebook is a perfect complement to a pencil or 2. You can buy a range of different cover designs, and you can choose from lined paper for writing or plain paper for drawings. A nice idea might be to write a little thank you for coming to my party note on the first page of the book. The mini notebooks below by Glitter Gloom Shop are 8 x 6cm small, making them the perfect size for little party bags.
4. Origami paper & Instructions
Ok, I actually hate Origami. I always managed to get to step 4 and then I was lost. BUT, many kids absolutely love it. Just make sure that the design you choose is age-appropriate. Allocate 4 or 5 sheets per child and roll the sheets up with the printed instructions on the inside. Use a bit of string or ribbon to keep it all together. Another fabulous thing about Origami Paper is you can make practically anything, so you won’t find it hard at all to match your party theme.
5. DIY Paper masks
Younger kids especially, love masks. You could pop one of these masks into any party bag as is, or you could also include things like pom poms, cut up bits of coloured paper or stickers to help each child decorate their mask. They are a super cheap addition that will create an opportunity for kids to explore their creativity.
Crayons, namely shape and custom crayons have become a thing. And I’m so glad because they truly are the ultimate classic kids’ art tool. I love how crayons focus on pure colour, ease of use for little hands and durability. And that smell! Oh, that smell. Custom crayons can be found in a huge range of shapes and designs and children can even have them personalised with their names or initials. If the traditional crayon is more your style, custom crayon box templates can be purchased, printed and folded. Just add crayons!
7. Iron on patches
Personalizing items like denim jackets, backpacks and shoes have had a bit of a resurgence over the last few years. For older kids, iron-on patches can make a great addition to their belongings and can make a great memento of their friends’ birthday celebration. Another item that comes in a huge range of themes and can suit any party theme! Spotlight sells a huge range or you could check out The Patch Kingdom for some unique designs.
8. Bath bombs
Bathtime fun doesn’t have to mean plastic toys. Bath bombs are a super fun way of bringing art and science into the bathroom. They come in an endless array of colours and scents plus they clean! Just keep in mind that not all bath bombs are created equal. Some are full of nasty chemicals that could irritate delicate skin. Pay a little bit more to ensure you’re getting ones with quality ingredients. Remember, what goes onto our skin, goes into our bodies.
We don’t want to create death traps for small children, of course, so this one is best left for much bigger kids. What’s better than giving kids an opportunity to put down their phones and iPads and engage in an activity that requires them to get down on the ground, exercise their fine motor skills and interact with others in a real-life game. Yep, you can call me old fashioned.
This is the only gender-specific item on the list and it’s one that most girls will love. Let’s face it, a girl can never have too many hair accessories. The 90s are back in full swing and you’ll find scrunchies in most fashion and accessory stores but lots of clever makers sell them online in a variety of unique and fun fabrics. Plus, you’ll be supporting someone’s little business and that’s just super.
When’s the last time you saw a child put their cup on a coaster? I’ll tell you, never. I’m lucky if my kids put their cup on the table at all! But coasters are like mini functional canvases that kids can paint and decorate. It gives kids the opportunity to see their design as a functional piece of art, rather than the usual painting on paper, stuck to the fridge.
You can purchase wood coasters and paint them with regular poster paint or you can use mini white tiles (I’d suggest your local Bunnings) and use coloured Sharpies to decorate them! Visit Natural Beach Living for a How-to tutorial on how to use Sharpies on tiles. Super fun!
12. Shadow Puppets
All kids have seen the shadow puppets we make with our hands but paper cutout shadow puppets make great fun for the whole family. Perfect for games around the campfire or during a sleepover, many shadow puppets can be enough for even the youngest of kids.
Kids could work together to create their own plays and film them on their digital devices perhaps!
13. Friendship bracelets
Friendship bracelets are a fantastic craft activity for kids. They use simple macrame techniques that are great for fine motor skills. However! You probably aren’t going to get your kids making a friendship bracelet for each of their party guests! Fear not, you can buy them already made pretty easily and very cheaply. With the fun array of colours they come in, kids will love wearing them. If you buy from a maker, you can even have them personalised with names and custom colours.
14. Timber Papier-mâché Letters Letters
Timber letters are another great canvas for kids to be visually creative. These letters are a nice touch where kids can receive the first letter of their name to decorate.
They come in a range of sizes but small ones are easily popped into party bags.
15. Paper Straws
Plastic straws are developing a bad name. And it’s about time! But I must say, drinking from a straw makes drinking more fun and I’m not even a kid! I mean, are you even drinking a milkshake if it’s not through a straw? Let’s ditch the plastic straws, but surely paper ones can stay!
Wands used to be a fairy princess thing, but I think Harry Potter has made the wand quite gender-neutral. They’re another fun blank canvas for kids to decorate and they can be used for a whole range of imaginative play activities. You can buy ones pre-made or you can make theme-specific wands by glueing wooden or cardboard shaped cutouts to a length of thin dowel. Wand decorating can also be a great party activity.
17. Mini Books
Can’t go wrong with a book. Never a truer word spoken. You can find a range of mini books available, although this will likely be limited to very young children, often board books.
Mr Men and Grug books aren’t exactly mini but they’re fairly small and can suit an older child. I’m sure there are hundreds more.
It’s always a nice idea to dedicate the book to individual party guests, as a lovely reminder of the celebration.
Perfect for drawing, spelling out or doodling on a board or better still, a concrete path. Colourful chalk sticks are super cheap and you can get those nice fat ones that are great for little hands. I’m not the biggest fan of Kmart, but chalk is something that’s near impossible to buy handmade and Kmart sells a pack of 27 for $2! They’re even in a cardboard box. Can’t go wrong really. Just remember that chalk isn’t for littlies that still put things in their mouths.
19. Sticker Notes
Everyone loves stickers. Kids will love these novelty sticker notes they can write on, draw on and stick all over the world! You can get sticker notes in a huge range of designs and colours. Quick tip – divide one booklet into a few pages for each party guest. Another quick tip – plan in advance and buy on eBay as they’re sooo much cheaper than somewhere like Officeworks, where they’re particularly expensive!
20. Novelty soaps
Novelty soaps are just the cutest gifts. They’re becoming pretty popular with baby showers and hens parties and come in a huge range of designs and flavours. Soap Art soaps have some absolutely quirky and delicious designs and they’re made with Goats milk, so no nasties in these little morsels of delicious cleanliness.
But wait, there’s more!! To celebrate Plastic Free Party Bag Week (Yes, I just made that up) I’ve teamed up with some wonderful designers and artisans to give away 5 sample paper party bags filled with some plastic-free goodies!
Each bag will include some fabulous seed packets from Sow ‘n Sow and Mystery Blooms, a Chocolate Chip Cookie soap from Soap Art, a set of custom crayons from Nik Nax Creations and a Crayon Box PDF file from The Digi Dame Party Shop.
To enter, all you need do is visit my Instagram and follow the instructions on the giveaway post!
Good luck to all and a big hug to the businesses below for making such fabulous eco-friendly products.