October 03, 2011

Baby & Kid Week: Taking the 'looting' out of birthdays!

This week's posts are all focusing on babies/toddlers/kids.  
Today we have a guest post from Erika of St. John's Kid.  Welcome Erika!

The search term that brings people to my blog most often is ‘birthday’. Besides the usual things such as cake bakers, theme ideas, rentals, and entertainment, people are also looking for loot bag ideas. Loot bags have been a part of kids birthday parties for as long as I can remember, but I am sure, like me, many parents curse the inventor of this practice. Firstly, it can be pretty darn expensive and secondly, it can be challenging, particularly if you are trying to do loot bags for toddlers.

Let me elaborate. The cheapest way to fill a loot bag is to stuff it with candy, but after cake and ice cream at a birthday party  some parents won’t appreciate more sweet stuff being added to the sugar rush. There is also the choking factor; a lot of candies just aren’t toddler-friendly. These days allergies are another important consideration when choosing candy.

Another popular and inexpensive option is a trip to your local dollar store; however in my experience, many of the items at these places are not suitable for kids under the age of three, and lets face it, some of it is just junk and won’t hold up to a toddler’s less-than-gentle approach to play.   

I have taken a different approach to loot bags for my own toddler's parties and I thought I would share a few of them. I've also included some suggested by readers of my blog when this topic came up:

  1. Garden plants – depending on the time of year of your party, gardening centres often have plants and flowers on sale for under $3 each. I gave plants away at the end of my child’s party one year and everyone seemed happy to have their very own flower to plant at home.
  2. Musical instruments – for between $2 and $5 each I found lovely toddler sized musical instruments at Michael’s craft store and this year at my son’s party I gave each child one instrument with a ribbon and gift tag with their name on it.
  3. One of my readers suggested $5 Chapters gift cards as a loot bag alternative. Depending on the number of kids at your party this seems reasonable, plus it might encourage reading and there are still children’s books in the $5 price range on sale at Chapters from time to time.
  4. Another reader suggestion was bags of bird seed for feeding the ducks. I thought this was a pretty clever idea. Would be particularly good if your party was held at Bowring Park playground!
  5. Another idea I like is an activity that involves creating something they take home. For example decorating pumpkins for an October party, crafts, art, or baking.

There also seems to be a bit of a ‘no-loot-bag’ revolution. Here are some alternative loot bag links :

If you have loot bag alternatives for toddlers or older children that you'd like to share, we'd love to hear about them! Leave a comment or send an email!


  1. My son's birthday is near Xmas (Dec 14) so last year for his 6th birthday I did a gingerbread house decorating party. I made little houses out of graham wafers and melted brown sugar as glue (crazy glue for gingerbread houses!) for each child, a small snack sized ziploc full of icing and a table full of candy and sprinkles ready for them to decorate. Their loot bag was their finished houses plus a "surprise snow ball" - small treats from the dollar store wrapped up in white streamers in the shape of a ball. As they unravelled the "snowball" they would discover treats.

    M Tulk

  2. Great idea! It's great when you can incorporate a holiday theme! I'm now thinking of all the food-related items could be kid-decorated for loot bags....cookies, cupcakes, mini-cakes...it's fun for all ages really. I have had cupcake decorating parties with my grown-up friends!

  3. A comment from a reader who had difficulty posting (via e-mail).

    I like the musical instruments idea! Some other ideas for loot bags that my daughter has received include:
    1. A puzzle
    2. A water bottle (the party was held at the Little Gym)
    3. A child-size fanny pack
    4. A child-size watering can

    The water bottle, fanny pack & watering can also had some other small treats inside. I find it challenging doing loot bags for a broad range of ages, as there are often kids younger and older than your child attending the party.

  4. I gave $5 Booster Juice cards instead of loot bags for my son's 9th birthday party. In the past, I have given pails and buckets, butterfly nets, frisbees, tea cups, and flower pots. Kiddies and parents seemed pleased with these as opposed to a bag of sugary treats and junky toys.