6 DIY Party Favors that Warm Hearts, Not Landfills

As a mother of two young children, I attend a lot of birthday parties, which means a lot of party favors come home. And 99% of the time, they’re items my kids could do without. If the logic behind party favors is: You’re bringing my child a present and helping us celebrate, so this parting gift is our way of saying thanks, then it’s only good manners to send kids home with something worthwhile. And if the logic behind party favors is: It’s not okay to be greedy. When people give you gifts, it’s only polite to give them something too. I get that. That is, if the highlight of the party is a spirited game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey followed by cake. It seems, though, that more and more children’s birthday parties are becoming extravagant events complete with organized entertainment from live music and magic shows to bouncy castles and arcade-games.

I honestly love attending parties like this. The children are entertained, and I can either leave for a bit or actually have an adult conversation. Something feels out of whack, though, when a favor is sent home on top of the treat of participating in the party. Perhaps the “favor” in the case of the birthday spectacle should be the very invitation to attend. Sending a favor home with guests may be the right thing for hosts to do, but what about the guests? Those children are learning to be greedy. The message is that it’s not enough to just come and play.

Beyond the message that’s being sent, there’s the issue of what’s in the favor bag. Invariably it’s plastic crap you’ll remove from your children’s collection at your very first opportunity, sending Elmo, Iron Man, and miniature bubble containers to an early grave in a landfill. Then there are the obligatory tattoos, stickers, and candy. I’m not against any of those things, except that there’s just too much too often. For example, we just ate cake. Why candy now?

Here’s my suggestion. If you’re planning entertainment for your child’s party, consider skipping a favor altogether, or choose my first suggestion below. If you’re hosting a simple party at home, think about creating one of the following do-it-yourself party favors. They’re all eco-friendly, satisfying to make, and either useful or meaningful—and not one will be earmarked for the landfill by sundown on Saturday.

1. Party Favor Donation Cards

My son turns six in May and this is my plan for his party favors. When I order printed party invitations, I’ll also order a set (maybe matching) printed with the following words: Max is donating one dollar to charity for every guest at his party today. How sweet is that? Then I’ll tape a sugar-free xylitol lollipop (recommended by his dentist) to each card. We may specify a local charity or perhaps we’ll have my son send the money to our sponsor child in Ethiopia. Either way, kids get their “treat” and a conversation is started in the car on the way home about how lucky we are that we get to attend parties like that.

2. Race Car Crayons

homemade crayons

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Re-use all your broken crayons to create these molded crayons in the shape of cars. Or princesses. Or butterflies. You get the picture. Homemade By Jill shows how easy it is to melt down sad crayon parts and resurrect them using candy molds. Wrap each one in wax paper and tie with a bow. Your child will also feel very proud to have helped create his or her own parting gift.

3. Mason Jar Cups

mason jar cups

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I have a love affair going with canning jars. I defy you to find an aspect of life they can’t somehow improve! In her blog, A Bit of Sunshine, Rebekah Gough suggests making personalized Mason jar sippy cups (call them jars if your kids are older, of course), and offers step-by-step instructions for cutting and filing holes in the lids for straws, then painting the lids with each guest’s name.

4. Recycled Trinket Cracker

homemade party cracker

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Here’s an opportunity to pilfer your child’s room for trinkets he or she no longer plays with. Abduct tiny plastic dinosaurs, cupcake-shaped erasers, miniature dogs with giant bobbly heads, and matchbox cars. Swindle your trinkets and save toilet paper rolls a few months out. That way, you can be sure that you haven’t taken anything your child will miss. And you won’t be knocking on neighbors’ doors for last-minute toilet paper rolls. Mom’s Toolbox demonstrates how to wrap up the tiny toys in toilet paper rolls, and cover them with tissue paper and ribbons for a favor that looks like a classic party cracker.

5. Friendship Bracelets

friendship bracelet party favor

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On the blog, Crafted By Lindy, I found these sweet little homemade Valentine’s Day Cards that can easily be adapted to birthday party favors. Print little cards that say, “My party would knot have been the same without you.” Attach a homemade friendship bracelet to each one.

6. Craft Supplies Party Favor

art supply party favor

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On their joint blog, Bee In Our Bonnet, sisters Ashleigh and Kathryn share the sweetest theme party that’s all about making art. Check out this link for tons of great ideas, but I particularly like their craft-supply filled party favors, which include custom sketchbooks, colored pencils, crayons, and scissors.

Do you have any ideas for DIY party favors that go easy on the environment and big on creativity?

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