Why I'm Done Giving Goody Bags at My Kid's Birthday

I used to spend so much time and money making goody bags to give to my daughter's friends at her birthday parties. I decided to stop handing them out—and felt so much relief.

An image of a girl blowing out candles on her birthday cake.
Photo: Getty Images.

If every party has a pooper, I suppose I've always assumed it was me. At least, if we're talking about kids' birthday parties. And especially if we're talking about the junk-filled goody bags at those parties.

I hate to be "that mom," the one who goes all "back in my day," but back in my day, birthday parties were fairly low-key events. Your friends and family came to your house, you maybe played a few games, there was cake and presents, and everyone went home happy.

There was no $500 spent on a venue, or hours upon hours spent cultivating a specific theme. And there were certainly no expectations of goody bags. Kids got to go to someone else's house to play with their friends for a few hours and typically enjoyed pizza and cake before heading home.

That was a win! It was a glorious way to spend a Saturday.

That's been lost in our generation of parenting, though, where many kids now expect extravagant themes and a gift thanking them for attending. Even worse, the goody bags and party favors we tend to give kids for attending are things no one needs. Cheap plastic knickknacks or more sweets. Whose idea was this?

For my daughter's first six birthday parties, I swallowed my objections, and I did what everyone else was doing: I made the goody bags. I set aside an extra $50 to $100 to purchase bags and party favors to put in the bags. I attached balloons to them, and I handed them out as a thank you to kids for attending a party that had already cost me hundreds of dollars.

I hated it, but this is what parents do right?

I found I hated bringing home the goody bags from other kids' parties just as much. I tend to be a bit of a minimalist as a mom and finding those cheap plastic toys or random stickers and temporary tattoos all over the house was enough to make my skin crawl. My daughter was super excited about her goody bag prizes initially. But that excitement always faded 10 minutes in. And then I was left collecting those random items for the trash from around the house as soon as she abandoned them.

It seemed like such a waste. But I always assumed I was the only one who felt that way. After all, why would we all keep doing this if we all hated it?

Shortly before the pandemic, I thought to ask. I posted a poll to my public Facebook page and to a closed group I run asking other parents how they felt about goody bags. And to my surprise, 90 percent of the respondents (nearly 1,000 parents in total, from across the country) felt the same way as I did about goody bags.

I was shocked. All this time, I assumed I was the only one who hated them. When I pushed further and asked questions, I found most parents not only hated making them, but they also hated bringing them home too.

So then I thought, why are we doing this if most of us hate it?

When I asked, there was a common theme: parents said they were doing this thing they hated purely because they thought it was expected. They didn't want to be the first to break the tradition.

But I realized this insanity must end. For my daughter's seventh birthday party, I boycotted goody bags. And you know what? It turned out just fine. Not a single kid seemed to notice or care. Everyone had fun, and a few parents even thanked me for not sending their kids home with more things they didn't need. They said I'd inspired them to nix goody bags at their next kid's party too.

My feelings have only increased during the pandemic when we've seen firsthand how much connection overpowers material things.

This is my plea to you to stop the madness if you want to. If you are someone who truly enjoys making goody bags, you do you—I'm not here to steal your joy. But for the rest of you? The ones who hate the goody bags and loathe Pinterest for making it seem like they're a necessity? Give them up. There's no need for us parents to add extra stress to our plates. And in fact, some parents may just laud you as the hero for being willing to take that brave first step.

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