In a perfect world, we wouldn’t even give out goodie bags. After all, what parent doesn’t want to put a stop to the endless stream of trinkets and doodads that ultimately end up in the trash? Still, the primary audience (our kids!) love and look forward to party favors, which is why we tried to find a happy medium. In other words, what are the goody bag items that will surprise and delight our kids, but also have a longer life span for use? We polled parents we trust and vetted dozens of gifts to come up with the ultimate list of birthday party favors. Here, 20 of our favorites.
20 Birthday Party Favors for Kids That Are Total Crowd-Pleasers
And not throw-away
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Best for the Bath
One mom we talked to doled these out at her kid’s birthday party and got great feedback: “Parents told me they used them for weeks,” she says. “They’re great for the 2/3/4 year-old set.” They’re also mold-free and include a variety of beloved ocean creatures—everything from a Great White Shark to a Sting Ray.
Most Likely to Be Used
How much do kids (and parents) love sidewalk chalk? Let us count the ways. First, there are endless ways to use it. (Anyone else spent a summer entertaining their kids with wet chalk i.e. sidewalk paint?) Secondly, it’s mostly mess-free, because it stays outside. We love these 12-packs because they’re nice and sturdy and come in a rainbow of vibrant colors.
Sunny Days Entertainment
Never under-estimate the power of a jar of bubble stuff. With these easy to maneuver wands, the bubbles are big and the solution lasts. In fact, all kids really need to do is hold their arm out and twirl to make the magic happen. Let party guests choose their favorite color on the way out and be done with it.
Best Easy Art Project
Stickers are a forever favorite, but what if they’re extra-special (meaning they go with your party’s theme or nod to something the birthday kid loves)? Pipsticks to the rescue: A sheet of stickers (like this one or this one) costs about $2 to $3 and you could pair it with a mini notebook ($13 for 24) so that kids have a spot to immediately create.
Best for Dramatic Play
It’s a bird, it’s a plane—no, it’s just all the kids at your child’s birthday playing dress-up in their very own superhero cape and mask. In lieu of a goody bag, you could place this superhero toolkit on each kid’s chair ahead of cake, then remind parents to take theirs with them as a parting gift. Hours of at-home use, guaranteed.
Best Car Companion
Melissa & Doug
Another one-and-done fan favorite—instead of stashing it in a goody bag, tie it up with a bow and make it a parting gift vs. bag. These reusable water-based coloring pads will deliver hours and hours of use. They’re also great for a variety of ages.
It’s tough to beat the practicality of a flashlight—especially one that comes with the batteries included. Kids can use it to create shadows with their toys, carry it with them on nighttime walks or just to play around with it before bed. You could even forgo the goody bags and give it as a stand-alone. (Tie a ribbon around each one and let kids choose their favorite color as they depart.)
Best Parent-Friendly Noisemaker
Before there were fidget toys, there were Poppin’ Pipes. These tiny tubes can be bent and stretched to their limit without breaking, but they also make cool and varying sounds while they do it. (It all depends on how fast or slow you go.)
Best Table Game
There are 12 Wikki Stix—plus, an activity sheet for inspiration—in each of these tiny packs. Unfamiliar? Wikki Stix are basically bendable wax (the non-toxic variety) that also have a “stickability” factor, meaning that kids can bend and mold as many creations as they can think of. Oh and they’re totally reusable.
Best for Reusable Creativity
One parent we polled said her four-year-old received one of these LCD drawing tablets at a recent birthday party and uses it all the time. “We keep it in the car to keep her busy on long drives and bust it out at restaurants,” she adds. It comes with a stylus that allows your kid to draw directly on the board, then erase with the tap of a button.
Best for Staying on Theme
Matching ball caps, matching t-shirts: Even if they just say something punny like “High Five” for a kid’s fifth birthday, they will be a hit. Plus, you can guarantee months—if not years—of use. Who doesn’t love and cherish a customized hat that evokes a good memory?
Got a wildlife theme? Even if you don’t, these card sets will be a hit. Each one includes 24 animal cards and a magnifying glass. The challenge: Use the magnifying glass to find the hidden camera (there’s one on every card). A game that’s destined to keep kids occupied beyond the party, for sure.
Best for Early Readers
Little Golden Books
This one came up the most for parents we polled: Mainly, due to the range of options to choose from. For example, throwing a party for a room full of Swifties? You can’t go wrong with Taylor Swift: A Little Golden Book Biography. Throwing a Marvel-themed occasion? Pass out copies of The Amazing Spider-Man. You could even offer a variety and let kids choose their favorite as they depart.
Best for Non-Stop Giggles
Los Angeles Superstore
One mom we chatted with said her kid was recently gifted one of these at a birthday party and the whole family still plays with it. “Whenever we forget about it, someone discovers it in the playroom and hides it on a chair or under the couch and it’s got a new life in our house again,” she says.
Best for Mystery Lovers
Gift in Box
Help kids channel their inner spy or detective: These pens, which come with a UV LED light that’s turned on with the tap of a button, make it possible for kids to pen secret messages, then pass them to a friend (or parent) for quick decoding. Throw a mini-notebook in the bag along with it and call it a day.
Best for On-the-Go Art
Another thing for parents to keep in their on-the-go toolkit: A retractable pen that offers almost every color of the rainbow (there are six in total).
Best Screen-Free Alternative
Just add water to these handheld arcade-style games. Simply press the buttons to activate the water jets, which will help propel the rings onto the pegs or the basketballs into the hoop. A mindless activity (and great goody bag item) that kids can play whenever they have downtime—and one that doesn’t involve a screen.
Best for Budding Builders
The piece count (typically, around 60) is just right for this age group, but the best part about these micro-LEGO kits is the ability to use (and re-use) the pieces after the design has been constructed. Plus, how on-theme is this party clown?
Best for Personalization
Yes, it’s a blank notebook. But depending on the party size, how fun would it be if your kiddo personalized it ahead of time for each guest? Use stickers, markers and more to make it an extra-special parting gift (and one that’s parent-approved).