For kids, nothing beats bringing home a goody-bag. Here's how you can send everyone off with something extra special and out-of-the-ordinary.
A pail with a twig fishing pole made from stick or string, gummy worms and a few chocolate fish can all be wrapped together in cellophane, tissue paper, or wax paper and tied with a ribbon.
A large brownie planted with several "flower" lollipops will look like a little take-home garden.
Use moon and star stamps to decorate light-blue bags with acrylic paint. Once the paint has dried, fold over the top of the bags, punch holes, and add ribbon handles. Goodies can include bubbles, toothbrushes, bath sponges, nailbrushes, glow-in-the-dark stars, and teddy-bear stickers.
Mini canvas totes, available at craft stores, make great goody bags. To decorate, use fabric paints. Pack the totes with magnifying glasses, bug and butterfly stickers, plastic bugs, and lollipops, which you can decorate in a buglike fashion by adding chenille stems and beads.
Fill little first-aid kits with bandages, toy stethoscopes, "prescription pads," and candy buttons.
Let children use stickers and markers to decorate train cars out of small boxes, such as the white ones sold at stationery or craft stores. Later during the party, fill each with candy, stickers, and little toys. Then line the cars up in a row, add an engine and you'll have the perfect goody train.
Fill minipyramids with chocolate coins, stretchy snakes, toy compasses, beads, stickers, and "rock" Granitex clay. To make the pyramid, enlarge and trace the template onto gold card stock. Punch holes at the top, fill, and then tie edges together with gold-wired ribbon.
Use travel-size soap cases to hold baseball cards, sporty key chains, whistles, and stickers. Decorate with first-place ribbons. Cut paper into one-inch strips, and notch the ends. Then attach with medal-style stickers. Wrap the cases with sports-theme sneaker laces, and tie in bows.
Be sporty: Give out juice-filled water bottles tied with theme whistles.
Attach sparkly hair clips or elastics, pretty costume jewelry, glittery lip glosses, and minibrushes to puffy pink bath sponges. If you'd like to indulge your guests, tie the sponges to bottles of bubble bath.
Fill doll-size straw hats (available at craft stores) with raffia or moss and add a little feathered ornamental bird (also available for a dollar or two at craft stores). Perch a bird on each nest and then add egg-shaped wrapped chocolates, wrapped speckled egg candies or gummy worms.
Use a darning needle to poke constellation-like holes in small black bags. Put a small flashlight, some space-age sweets (small candy bars with planetary names or packets of colorful fizzing candies), plus a small plastic robot, space-ball shooter, moon ball, or lunar crystals. Tell the kids to shine the flashlights inside the bags to see the portable night sky.
Fill purple mini shopping bags (available at paper-goods stores) with assorted lollipops and purple candies. To make name tags, cut out large circles with scallop-edged scissors, using paper in a paler shade of purple; glue to bag.
As kids are leaving, fill decorated treasure boxes with foil-covered chocolate coins, Swedish Fish, telescopes, and beads.
Fill a Barbie-themed cup with a cellophane bag full of logo novelties; tie with pink ribbon.
Tuck a few art supplies into each self-portrait folder. Consider a pad of paper and a few colored pencils, a jigsaw puzzle you've made by cutting apart a large postcard, or a few pieces of origami paper with a photocopy of an instruction sheet.
For a change of pace, give each child a stamp or coin collector starter kit.
Give each child a single snow-globe that has a slot for a photo. Slip a Polaroid photo of the child taken during the party into the slot, and you're done.
Give each guest a child-size inflatable saxophone or guitar, available from party-supply stores such as Oriental Trading Company, at www.oriental.com. Kids will have a blast mimicking the cool moves of real-life musicians.
Copyright© 2004. Reprinted with permission from the April 2002 issue of Parents magazine.