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Five Birthday Party Favors For Kids That Aren't Junk

Photo: Lidya Nada (Unsplash)

Kids enjoy going home from a party with something in hand (really, who doesn’t?). But having attended my fair share of kids birthday gatherings, I’ve found that some party favors go the distance while others go straight to the trash.

It’s a delicate balance of finding something that’s economical but also appealing for a large group of kids (and their parents). Here are five party favors that I’d keep (or consume). Share your ideas in the comments.

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Call me a nerd, but I’m a big fan of book swaps in lieu of party favors. Each child brings a book to the party, and leaves it in a box. At the end of the party, the child picks out a book from the box to bring home. (The book can be wrapped, or unwrapped. There’s an element of surprise with a wrapped book, but also a better likelihood that kids will go home with a book they want if it’s unwrapped).

Since you don’t want kids to leave empty-handed (if they forgot to bring something), you can seed the box with a few books of your own. Throw in a few activity books, such as Highlights Hidden Pictures or kids magazines such as Cricket Magazine, or use it as an excuse to clear out some books from your shelf.

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Another nerdy option, but hear me out. My kids still use a wooden 12-inch ruler that a friend gave them with the inscription, “You rule!” Boxes of crayons and chalk are also practical for preschoolers, or cute, scented pencils for elementary school kids. If you’re feeling crafty, you can even melt your old crayons and mold them into something else, like Lego bricks and figurines.

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My kids are also partial to little erasers shaped like cute animals or tiny replicas of food. Not only do they actually erase, but they can also be used for imaginary play.

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Melissa & Doug On The Go Water Wow!, $22
Graphic: Chelsea Stone

Melissa & Doug Water Wow! Activity Books double as travel toys that you can easily slip into your bag, so parents of preschool-aged kids will thank you. The notebook is made of thick white paper, which turns to color when you draw over it with a water-filled marker (included).

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Sweets are pretty much a given at birthday parties, so send them home with sugar cookies shaped in the age of the birthday child. Depending on the theme of the party, you can also bake cookies in the shape of a dinosaur, things that go, or wild animals.

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Kids will find it fun to click the flashlight on and off and (annoyingly) shine the light into people’s eyes. But once the novelty wears off, a mini flashlight can come in handy—tuck it away for emergencies, camping trips, walking your dog at night, and so forth.

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About the author

Ellen Lee

Ellen Lee is a freelance writer in the San Francisco Bay Area.