Why I Think Birthday Party Loot Bags Are Unnecessary

Elliott turns 3 years old today! I can’t believe I’ve been a mom for 3 years. It’s true what they say (whoever they are): time flies when you’re having fun!

This weekend we threw a small birthday party for Elliott. Most of our family was busy, unfortunately, so only a few family members could come (some friends/neighbourhood kids came as well).

When I was planning the party, I kept having Pinterest images pop into my head. I needed the coolest decorations, the most delicious food in a multitude of flavours and types, games galore and amazing loot bags that people would be talking about for ages… but then I wondered… “why do we need to give out loot bags anyway?”. I’ve never really understood why you are supposed to give presents to other people on YOUR birthday. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

I asked a few friends with children what they thought, and they said that loot bags were kind of a “thank you” for coming to the party. Which still doesn’t make sense to me. Isn’t all the food and entertainment thank you enough?

My husband and I talked about it and decided that loot bags were not for us. It was an expense that we really just didn’t find necessary at all. We had tons of food (we gave leftovers to lots of people to take home, there was so much!) and my friend brought over the most amazing bouncy castle for the kids to play in. We had a pool, toys and lots of other fun stuff. From what I could tell, everyone left happy and there were no complaints about the lack of loot bags.

People have been telling us they had a great time, so we deem this 3rd birthday party a success – even without loot bags!

How do you feel about giving loot bags at birthday parties?

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  1. Amy says:

    My daughter is only 20 months so I’m not too sure how I feel about this. At my friends 2 year old’s party she gave out little “gifts” instead of gift bags to all the babies so they would have something to open when her son was opening his presents. Just little books or toy cars, it was neat. At my daughters 1 year old “party” there were only two little ones there so I just bought two box of smarties and some coloring books at Walmart. I think a few pieces of candy to a little one is a big deal, and it is totally worth the few dollars I have to spend to brighten their day.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Hello, I completely agree with you. First of all, whenever we get loot bags, they tend to be “junk”….throw away toys. What waste. So what we do at parties for my children is have activities….at my daughter’s 3rd birthday the guests decorated fairy crowns, face make up, went on a jewel treasure hunt, danced…these are experiences. Aren’t these things what people remember? Who needs yet another pack of stickers, colouring book, etc.? Children need to learn to give without expecting something in return.

  3. Louise says:

    I not only agree with NO loot bags… but I also agree that birthday parties should by at home simple celebrations. back when a cake, ice cream and a light lunch (maybe) and a good round of happy birthday to you. if age appropriate a few games. limit the number of child for your child’s age.
    I was also at a party where the invitation stated that the child was blessed with many toys and that the parents were giving him a large toy and guests need only donate to a specific charity (i think it was the operation christmas) although I have seen them for the children;s hospital too.
    So simplify the party, the invitations, the gift giving and NO loot bags.
    let them enjoy the day of celebration. If they are over 7 you could make it a one friend day ending with a movie.

    good thoughts….. enjoy the summer.

  4. betty says:

    not necessary.

  5. Helen W says:

    Well, the whole idea stems from a good place. You are thanking people for coming to your party, for buying a gift for the birthday boy/girl, and bringing home a little something to remember the day. It is the same idea when you go to a wedding, and bring home a little gift. Do I think they are necessary? No, not at all. Do I think many of them are way too much? Yes. I like the way my sister always did it. She bought each family one of those large size chocolate bars, or plastic containers of jelly beans from Walmart. Easy, consumable, and not too expensive. Overall, I think its nice but those who are competitive about it are missing the point.

  6. anna says:

    I have always said I will start the new trend of NO LOOT BAGS when i have a kid. Not only is it not necessary but kids learn to expect gifts on other kids` birthdays. Kids need to learn to be unselfish and learn how to be happy for their friend, cousin, or sibling when it is their birthday and learn that that day is about the birthday child and not themselves. My son just celebrated his first birthday and I followed what I preached. Now others are following.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Boy, it’s easy for parents to consider loot bags “unnecessary” when it comes to hosting their child’s birthday party! I think giving to others on “your” day is an important part of showing hospitality, friendship, and gratitude… That whole “thank you for coming to my party” tradition at the door when a guest is leaving is really charming, and nice when there’s a little loot bag to give.

    I think loot bags really are a nice touch at a birthday party. Not every child has birthday parties your child will be invited to (some may only have family parties), so it’s nice to be able to give them something right away. As a kid, I really enjoyed being able to “take home” some part of the experience to share with my family. I don’t think people should buy “gifts” for siblings to prevent them from being jealous of the birthday boy/girl though — kids need to learn to be happy for others and enjoy the party traditions rather than expecting gifts to open because someone else is getting them.

    I love doing loot bags, especially with good-quality things the kids will be able to use/enjoy. If you’re tuned into sales, you can definitely get some great things to include for very little money. My son goes to a home daycare, and I make the kids (and the daycare provider and her kids) some kind of loot bag for Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter, as well as my son’s birthday. (And he enjoys having a cake and being able to give out loot bags to his daycare friends on his birthday) I think it just makes certain times of year kind of special. At different times, I’ve included things like books, Smarties, Crayola crayons, Crayola markers, colouring books, Play-doh, clothing,Matchbox cars, little Webkinz,summer toys, etc. I even found UNO card games on clearance at Superstore for $0.44, and, for older kids, travel games like Monopoly, Clue, Operation, etc. for $1.00 each. My son’s birthday loot bags this year cost less than $2.00 each, but the items would probably have been worth $15.00 at regular price.

    I do like the above poster’s idea about keeping it simple with a family-size chocolate bar or a tub of jelly beans to share at home. It needn’t cost much to do something nice.

    Keep in mind that straying too much from traditions can be confusing to some kids… I remember being invited to a birthday party when I was in Grade 1. I think it was being held at 1:00 in the afternoon. Well, I hadn’t had lunch yet, as every other party I’d gone to involved lunch. My mother must have thought the same. I didn’t know what to do when we were seated at a table covered in bowls of candy, chocolate, cookies, and cake. I didn’t eat anything, because in my view of the world, I wasn’t allowed to eat treats before I’d eaten lunch.
    Maybe money was tight over there, but a simple, inexpensive lunch of hot dogs followed by cake would have saved me. Sometimes changes to expected traditions can be an uncomfortable surprise to a kid.

  8. Shannon says:

    I think loot bags are okay, especially if with something nicer or more useful than dollar store junk or gross candy. It is cards that get me..why spend $4.99 on something that is just going to be thrown away anyway. What a waste of precious paper.

  9. barbara says:

    my children are all young alduts now, I used to love making loot bags, playing games and always had a fish pond..the kids all loved it..I would buy things on sale and the kids all went home with lots of goodies…

  10. Monica says:

    I remember getting loot bags when I was a kid. I loved them. Useless toys, and often thrown out after a week, or got broken, but kids love em. Loot bags are not necessary, but if you have the extra money, I say spend the $10 at the dollar store for the loot. It’ll be another childhood memory that the kids grow up with.
    My daughter turned 3 this summer as well, and while I did not have loot bags since I didn’t have children at the party, I do plan on doing loot bags for her birthday once in a while (not every b-day) when she’s at school age.

  11. Mel says:

    I am actually a big proponent OF lootbags. I love the idea of my son giving (rather than receiving) and I love the excitment of the kids leaving with a little token. I try to have useful items (or one big item, that’s the best!) rather than dollar store toys. In fact, if I had my way, I would have NO GIFTS for my son and only lootbags for the guests (he is too young to ‘get’ the donation thing, but I hope to do that!). I agree that it should not be an expectation to have a loot bag at a party, but sadly, as they get older, it is! (even if they don’t say anything when leaving, you can bet an older child will wonder why the party didn’t have one). I have seen some amazing ideas for loot bags that don’t cost much, but are a nice thank you (and boy do the kids eyes light up – priceless in my opinion). For example:

    – A ziplock bag separated by a clothes pin (making it a butterfly) with grapes on one side and fishies on another for a little after-party snack (could also do that with Candy)
    – A ceramic pot with a bag of seed for the kid to plant (pot decorated as a craft during party)
    – Art supplies (markers, crayons, etc…)- super useful
    – Small craft (Michaels has tons)
    – A nicely decorated cupcake box (done as a party craft) where the child put a take-away cupcake to eat a bit later (cupcake decoration is also a great party craft).

  12. Olusola says:

    I loved loot bags as a kid so I will definitely be giving them out at every birthday we host. I try to make them fun and educational. The last set had sticker books/coloring books, crayons and edibles. no matter how much fun kid have at a party, I think a little something to take home is the icing on the cake for them.

  13. Mia says:

    I don’t think loot bags are unnecessary. I think it’s nice to thank someone for coming to your party and bringing a gift, the same way you would at a bridal or baby shower, or at a wedding as someone else has already mentioned. However, I can see how they might seem a little unnecessary when the child is too young – loot bags would be a tradition I would do more for school-aged children. It’s a nice gesture, and there are lots of ways to put together loot bags full of useful things (or consumable treats as other people have mentioned).

    I loved loot bags as a kid, but what I remember best were the ones that I gave to my friends – as opposed to the ones I received. I think it’s nice to turn that into an experience for your own child. It’s even a good learning experience. (They learn to help you shop for the treats, make sure there is enough for all the bags you are making, divide the treats equally between the bags, etc.)

  14. gloria says:

    I also feel that loot bags are not necessary. The children will have had there fill of goodies during the party anyways. If anything–give them an apple sauce snack pack upon leaving.

  15. Meaghan says:

    Just seeing this though it is a year old. This year I have made a small loot bag now that my son is 8, but I usually don’t throw in the stupid cheap toy and crap candy. When he was younger I have given a shovel & pail, or a frisbee, bubbles, a flower pot my son painted & a packet of seeds. This year he is 8. I bought white baseball caps and fabric paint that they (just 7 of them) will paint and take home.

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