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Eco-savvy loot bag ideas: parents will thank you, kids will love you


I’m not sure why, but if you’re a parent you’ll know something’s happened to birthday parties. Cake is still eaten, games are played and gifts are still given—but then the loot bags come out. At the most recent party we were at, the loot bag was probably bigger than the gift Maia gave her buddy. It was definitely more costly.

Technically, a loot bag is not a requirement, but any parent will tell you, you better do it—kids expect them. The historical idea behind this gift was to give a guest something to take home that would remind them of your soirée and thank them for coming. Usually it was some knick-knack that was used during the party or a specially wrapped treat to be eaten later. Somehow, this idea morphed into a bag full of candy and useless dollar-store toys. The saddest part about the whole thing is once the kids have consumed their candy and broken their toys, the whole loot bag is forgotten.

Seriously. I asked.

Maia can remember precisely one loot bag of the several dozen she has been given. And it wasn’t even a loot bag—it was a flower. Most parents probably never intended for their child’s birthday party to become all about the gift bag. But when the expectation for the parting prize is already in place, it’s hard to know how to teach our children that what is important is the celebration—not what they get to take home. I have another few months until Maia’s birthday, but with the party season suddenly in full swing, and the giant gift bags coming fast and furious, I asked a few of my eco-savvy friends what they give out.


Eco-savvy loot bag ideas


Maybe you’ll find something in the list that works for you—and feel free to add your own ideas!


Pick a Theme:


Tea party: Collect fancy teacups and saucers from a thrift shop. At the party, let each child choose her favourite for the tea party and then take home that cup as a keepsake.

Sleepover: Provide each child with a flashlight for fun that night and later use at home or on their bike. Or have the kids decorate pillowcases with fabric paints and use them for sleeping that night.

Beach party: Provide your smaller guests with a bucket and shovel. Older ones can be given sunscreen and lip balm.

Treasure hunt: You don’t need a big chest full of goodies at the end—instead have the kids use a treasure map to find the party site. The gift can be a hand compass used to help with direction.

Bug theme: Ladybugs and lizards are popular for cakes—but rather than handing out bags that are full of the candy and paper versions, try giving out magnifying glasses or bug kits and go in search of bugs at the birthday site.

Plant a tree: Plant one tree at the party, then give out seedlings to be planted by guests and their families later on.

Pool party: For older kids, give copies of a mix CD that you and your child make for the occasion. Younger kids will enjoy a beach ball or a beach towel of their own.


Craft parties


• Have each child paint a small flowerpot, then plant some sweet pea seeds that they can watch grow at home. Alternatively, have them paint a larger pot and select and plant a bedding plant from ones you provide.

• T-shirt painting is great for most age groups. Buy bulk t-shirts and have the kids draw, stamp or stencil with fabric paint or pens. (Look for paints that are designed for kids or say they are non-toxic; or older kids might want to try making their own dyes.)

• Jewellery making is fun for a group of girls. Provide beads with letters and they can make necklaces and bracelets with their names.

• Smaller children love to make crowns and wands. Cut out paper crowns in advance and provide glitter, bits of ribbon, buttons, etc. for decorating. Wands can be made from branches that are cut to size, with a star or moon affixed to the top. Decorate with paint, glitter and ribbons. Check out Urban Source for alternative art supplies.

• Decorate frames and then take a group picture that can be sent home later. Frames can be decorated a variety of ways. Natural items such as shells and stones may need to be attached with a glue gun. Painting or stencilling can look really nice, too.