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Unique Birthday Party Gift Bag Ideas that Aren’t Junk

Are you in need of some fun birthday party gift bag ideas that won’t end up in the trash? I’ve compiled a list of goodie bag ideas of items that kids will actually use. I’m here to help you make sure your child’s birthday party favors are ones that both the kids and parents will be happy with.

Goody bags are a long time birthday tradition. I remember getting them at kids birthday parties when I was a kid (although they most often were just a couple of inexpensive items). 

Party favors don’t have to be so expensive and complicated? It seems like many parents are spending a fortune on kids party favors these days. Often times, many items inside of those goodie bags are junk that nobody has any interest in saving. 

I know, I know, I don’t sound super positive here. I am not against goodie bags in any way – I give them out at every birthday party. And to be honest, I have never give the best goodie bags around. But I do make sure that my goodie bags have at least some items that are consumable or practical (except that one time I opted to just have Chuck E. Cheese do the goodie bags for me – those were all small toys nobody needed). 

This image is showing one of the birthday party gift bag ideas which is themed for dinosaurs - dinosaur egg, dinosaur mini golf gift card, fidget, dinosaur toy, and dinosaur stickers.

There are so many fun ideas you use to fill your goody bags or you can give out unique party favors that don’t involve a gift bag at all. While it’s always a great idea to say thanks to your party guests somehow, you don’t have to get too crazy (unless you want to of course!) 

It just takes a little creativity to create birthday party bags that your guests won’t hate (or I should says your guests’ parents). 

Kids of all ages may not enjoy goodie bags the same. Little kids will be more likely to be okay with little toys but older kids may not need party favors at all. Or instead, you could just do a small gift card if you really wanted to still do something. 

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Where are Some Good Stores to Get Party Favors?

  • A craft store (Michaels, JoAnns, Hobby Lobby).
  • Dollar Store
  • Target or Walmart
  • Party store (but avoid the cheap junk(
  • Amazon
  • ETSY

ETSY has the best party favors but be prepared to spend a little extra money on them. While they may have the best ideas, they may be out of your set budget.

But Isn’t the Dollar Store Just Junk?

No! Not everything from the Dollar Store is junk. There are still some great items you can get there for goody bags. You just have to be careful in your selection. 

Party Favors Don’t Always have to Match the Party Theme

Sometimes are so focused on matching the party theme that we end up settling for cheap plastic items from the Dollar Tree or Party stores. 

If you Really Want to Match the Theme…

If you are set on themed party favors, then I suggest using custom labels or stickers to make your birthday gift bags match the theme. Honestly, you can easily print your own labels at home to save money on making custom favors. 

Do a Take Home Craft as Part of the Party 

One way I like to give party favors is to have the favor be part of the actual party. For example, one year my son had a car party. The kids colored a wooden toy car as a party activity and I placed the finished car in their goody bag before they left. You could do this with:

  • Tye dye
  • Decorated cookies
  • Decorated cupcake
  • Decorated tote bag
  • Painted birdhouse
  • Gingerbread house
  • Painted canvas
  • Painted rocks
  • Painted mugs
  • …and so much more!
This image is showing one of the birthday party gift bag ideas which is a craft a child is painting to take home in place of a goody bag.

What Makes a Great Party Favor?

A great party favor would be one that doesn’t just get tossed in the trash as soon as the kid gets home. It can match the theme but doesn’t have to. Things that are practical and functional are always a good idea. See specific ideas below. 

This image is showing one of the birthday party gift bag ideas which is a wooden birdhouse craft to paint.

Generic Goody Bag Ideas

Here are some ideas for simple party favor bags. Below, there are some cute ideas for fun party favors that are themed.

  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Bubbles
  • Deck of cards
  • Uno
  • Stickers
  • Temporary tattoos (kids seem to love these for some reason)
  • Crayons or markers
  • Fidgets
  • Lego people
  • Fun chapstick
  • Bath bomb
  • Nail polish
  • Fun pencils
  • Hot wheels car
  • Other mini vehicles
  • Friendship bracelet or novelty bracelet 
  • Fun socks
  • Wikki Sticks
  • Play doh
  • Scrunchies
  • Hair accessories
  • Cute cookie cutter
  • Fun band aids
  • Erasers (ones that are actually usable not just cute)
  • Sunglasses
  • Finger puppet
  • Figurines (ones that will actually be played with – Little People for little kids, action figures, barbies)
  • Soft headbands
  • Nail stickers
  • Stressballs
  • Cute gloves
  • Cute winter hat
  • Baseball cards
  • Pokemon cards
  • Washi tape
  • Mini flashlight
  • Bookmark
  • Popsicle holders
  • Keychains (for older kids)

This image is showing one of the birthday party gift bag ideas which is a Peppa Pig themed decorated cookie.

Food Related Party Favors

Food is a great option for kid’s birthday party favors. Since food is a consumable, it wont be wasted. Most kids love sweet treats of any kind so it’s an easy addition to any goody bag. Plus, it’s easy to make the items match the party’s theme. 

Special Note: If you’re going to do food as a party bag item, make sure to find out about each guests’ food allergies beforehand. 

  • Bag of cotton candy
  • Candy 
  • Decorated cookie matching the theme
  • Bags of chips (easy to customize with a printed label)
  • Bags of popcorn or kettle corn
  • Hot chocolate bomb

Candy Bar Goodie Bags

Another alternative to standard goody bags are to have a candy bar. It’s a great way to give your guests a parting favor while making sure nothing goes to waste. 

Guests can take a bag and fill it with their desired candy so they can pick out their favorites they know they will eat. They will have so much fun making their own birthday favors. It’s a great idea for kids’ parties and adult parties as well. 

Below is an old shot from one of my son’s birthday parties where we chose to do this in lieu of traditional goodie bags.

This image is showing one of the birthday party gift bag ideas which is a candy bar.

Party Bag Alternatives

Want to avoid giving a “bag” altogether? Sometimes it’s better to give one larger, single item instead of a bunch of small items. 

Here are some options that you don’t need a bag for. 

  • Stuffed animal or plushie
  • $5 gift card to anywhere
  • Mini lego set (they sell small bags for about $5)
  • Coupon for a free game of mini golf, bowling, movie pass, jumping pass for trampoline place, etc. 
  • Book
  • Ready-to-Make Craft to go
  • Wooden items to paint: wooden birdhouses, cars, trains, peg dolls
  • Personalized item (beach towel, pillow case, bag, hat, etc)
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Sports ball
  • Sand bucket (cute for a pool party) 
  • Rubiks cube
  • Travel game
  • Mad libs book
  • Coloring book + pack of crayons
  • Book of jokes
  • Small notebook and pen
  • Cute pencil case with some pencils inside
  • Mini art set
  • Melissa & Doug Water Wow! Drawing Pads (for younger children)
  • Cute umbrella
  • Dress up clothes or accessories (cape, superman mask, tiara, etc)
  • Earrings (for older kids)
  • Outdoor plastic ball
  • Donation to somewhere in honor of the guest (only works with older kids – little kids won’t understand this)

Stuffed Animal Adoption Idea

Here are some examples of an animal adoption set up. The polar bears are some older photos from my oldest’s first birthday party so they aren’t the best quality but you can still see how well it worked.

This image is showing one of the birthday party gift bag ideas which are some stuffed animals you can "adopt" instead of a goody bag. It says Adopt me! Please take 1 of us home to love.

This image is showing one of the birthday party gift bag ideas which are some stuffed animals you can "adopt" instead of a goody bag.

This image is showing one of the birthday party gift bag ideas which are some stuffed animals you can "adopt" instead of a goody bag.

This image is showing one of the birthday party gift bag ideas which are some stuffed animals you can "adopt" instead of a goody bag.

Fun Themed Goody Bag Ideas

Here are some ideas for different themes for parties. You don’t need to put ALL of the items under each category. These are just some ideas that could work with each theme.

Spa Goody Bag

  • Sleep mask (for older kids)
  • Lotion
  • Face mask
  • Nail polish
  • Nail files
  • Bath bombs
  • Bubble bath

Ice Cream Sundae Kit

  • Ice cream bowl
  • Ice cream sprinkles
  • Spoon
  • Ice cream topping

Cookie Making Goody Bag

  • Inexpensive cookie mix (Dollar tree sells them)
  • Cute cookie cutter
  • Sprinkles
  • Frosting

Arts Themed Goody Bag

  • Paint brush
  • Paint set
  • Stamps
  • Stamp pads
  • Crayons
  • Markers
  • Color pencils
  • Beads
  • Bracelet or necklace string

Gardening Theme

  • Small pot
  • Seeds
  • Soil
  • Potted plant
  • Succulent
  • Moss
  • Garden gloves

Movie Night Themed

  • Popcorn bucket
  • Popcorn bag
  • Box of candy
  • Coupon for an online movie rental

Beach or Pool Themed

  • Sand bucket
  • Sand toys
  • Flip flops
  • Sunglasses

Baseball Themed

  • Baseball or baseball stress-ball
  • Cracker Jacks
  • Babe Ruth bars
  • Sticker from local baseball team

Dinosaur Themed

  • Dinosaur stickers
  • Dinosaur temporary tattoos
  • Small plastic toy dinosaur figure
  • Dinosaur “fossil egg” to open
  • Dinosaur themed cookie cutter
  • Dinosaur themed book

Train Themed

  • Wooden train to paint
  • Small train toy
  • Book about trains
  • Train hat and bandana
  • Train cookie cutter
  • Train stickers
  • Coal stress ball

Here is an example of one of our old train party bags.

This image is showing one of the birthday party gift bag ideas which is a Thomas the Tank Engine train themed bag with a Thomas book, toy trains, coal stress ball, and a lollipop.

Mermaid Themed

  • Novelty mermaid themed necklace
  • Mermaid temporary tattoos
  • Mermaid stickers
  • Mermaid barrettes
  • Mermaid craft
  • Mermaid tail change purse
  • Small beach toys
  • Small thing of kinetic sand

What Items Should you Avoid Putting in a Goody Bag?

Try to give items that don’t annoy the parents. If you wouldn’t want to keep the item in your house, don’t put it in your birthday party goody bags.  

You should avoid:

  • noisemakers
  • slime
  • sticky hands
  • cheap, small toys that will just go in the trash (think rubber ducks, bendable toys, foam airplanes, etc)
  • glitter or glitter covered items
  • poppers
  • kaleidoscopes/prisms 
  • finger traps
  • googly finger eyes
  • bouncy balls (just because kids seem to have so many)
  • Small plastic slinkies (they never work)
  • Swirly plastic straws (how are you supposed to clean these? Just avoid them)

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