15 Alternatives to Candy and Plastic Shrapnel in Kid's Loot Bags

Need loot bag ideas that avoid candy and plastic junk? We have 15 ideas for you!

(HealthCastle.com).  As a child, I remember birthday parties having colorful balloons, pointy cone hats, a ping-pong table turned into a pretty table with napkins, plates and those (irritating) noise blowers, pin the tail on the donkey, and the beloved loot bag.  These loot bags were filled with treasures – rings, jewelry and of course, candy – candy necklaces, suckers, ring pops, mini-chocolate bars.

As a dietitian, I struggle with what “treats” to put in lootbags.  A part of me wants to include a few treats for the immediate positive reaction I receive from the kids.   And yet, as a parent, it feels like every time I turn around, there is candy being thrown at my kids.  Every month, there is a holiday that involves “treats”: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, end of school celebrations, Halloween.  Between all the family and friends birthday celebrations, it doesn’t take much to be eating candy and artificial food dyes every time you turn around.  

My other pet peeve about loot bags is the inundation of plastic shrapnel.  The little plastic treasures that accompany loot bags – toy cars, little figurines, mini-erasers – these are cute – for a day.  And then, the plastic toys get lost, broken, or get added to the giant pile of miscellaneous junk in my house. Plastic shrapnel. 

I don’t mean to sound unappreciative of parent’s efforts.  I have been “that” parent who has contributed to the shrapnel and candy.  Birthdays already take money and effort to put these treasure bombs together. It just feels so wasteful when it ultimately ends up in recycling. 

I asked a group of moms about their favourite loot bag item that their child has received from a party.   Below is their list.

15 alternatives to candy and plastic shrapnel to your kid’s lootbags:

  1. Music – My son went to a birthday dance party and the lootbag was a CD with the songs that the kids had just danced to.  It was brilliant.  Three months after the party, we are still listening and dancing to his new playlist.  
  2. Gift cards – My other son went to a party and received a small gift card to a Jugo Juice.  The amount was for $5 – just the right amount for a Snackin’ Smoothie.  You could also give a $10 itunes gift card and still spend less money overall on your lootbag.  
  3. Books – You can get reasonably priced books through book order clubs (ex: Scholastic) – a great idea, if you are organized!  Also try the Robert Munch mini books for $1.99 each.  
  4. Sticker or Activity books – There are so many neat sticker books available for both boys and girls. Superstore, Walmart and Costco usually have a variety to choose from.  
  5. Coloring books – Who doesn’t like receiving a crisp and fresh coloring book?  Pair with a fresh set of crayons and you’ll give a treasure that can be enjoyed for many days and weeks to come.  
  6. Lego pack – These are great for building and the kids actually play with them after the party.  You can find these in Chapters and Toys’R’Us.  
  7. Sidewalk chalk – This inspires creativity and can lead to more active kids (and parents).
  8. Sports balls - Great for throwing or for playing hackey sack.  
  9. Pail and shovel - Great for digging in the rocks, sand, dirt or for collecting outdoor treasures.  
  10. Puzzle – There are lots of boys and girls puzzles you can find for under $10.  
  11. Kite – These can be loads of fun and encourage kids to work off their energy (and build great appetites).
  12. Swimming pass for the local pool – This invites physical activity while not contributing to more overall waste.
  13. Clothing – Think pajamas or Angry birds t-shirts.  You can find inexpensive clothing from Costco or Wal-mart.  The kids will think it is neat to wear the same piece of clothing.  
  14. Make up and nail polish – A few moms with girls suggested this idea.  
  15. Stuffed animal – Ikea has many stuffed animals for a low price. 

One final thought – the adage less is more seems to fit well here.  Give one really good item that will get used rather than lots of loose little items. What alternatives to candy and plastic shrapnel do you have for kid’s lootbags?

Written by Calgary Dietitian, Kristyn Hall, MSc, RD, Dietitian and Director with HealthCastle Calgary.

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