Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Party Bags

It’s Rosemary’s fourth birthday on Thursday. That is, of course, a post in itself and maybe I’ll write it on Thursday, at some point. But this post is all about party bags.

Rosemary is having a ‘Go Bananas Birthday’, which is what she has been asking for since the day after her third birthday. Go Bananas is the local soft-play place. A friend of hers had her party there recently and I was pretty impressed, having been dreading it for almost a year. The children run around and expend lots of energy for just over an hour, then they come upstairs and sit in one of the three party rooms (Rosemary chose the Woodlands room), where they get fed sandwiches and cake (I have to make the cake, by the way, which I have been told today has to be a Cinderella cake. Oh bugger.). No mess to clear up. No party games to organise. No entertainers to pay or bouncy castles to hire. Just hand over some dosh, bring a cake and let them do the rest. Fantastic.

They’ll even do the party bags for you, for a little extra. But I decided I wanted something a bit more special for the party bags. The vast majority of parties Rosemary’s been to (and there have been a fair few), the party bag has been emptied within five minutes of leaving the party and usually some of the things have been broken or lost already. What does make it home, inevitably ends up in the bin within a day or two. And the (usually plastic) bag also ends up in the bin.

Now, I’m a far cry from Karen at The Rubbish Diet (for whom I have a bucketload of admiration, by the way), but I do think about landfill and other environment issues and I didn’t want to spend money on a bunch of plastic tat that would just end up not rotting away in landfill somewhere (no offence to anyone who does go down this route – I have to say it was very tempting to just pay them to do this, as well as the rest of it).

So, I went on a search and also asked Twitter (as we do, these days, when we have a problem – hmm, must ask Twitter about the Cinderella cake) for something a bit different. And I found a few great companies, offering something more than the usual:

  • Frog in the Field has a really good selection of party bag fillers, but what really caught my eye was the print your own party bags. I would have gone for this if Rosemary hadn’t seen a different option that she preferred. And I’ll almost certainly use it in the future. You can choose from a selection of images, or you can provide your own. I was going to create a flower motif, to tie in with Rosemary’s invitations that I made myself. But… this was not to be.
  • My Funky Party also tempted me, in particular with the vintage style filled bags. I was put off, in my rather stuck-up, liberal fancy-pants way, by the separation into girls and boys, though this seems to be the case at pretty much all the outlets. I wanted gender neutral gifts, even though Rosemary would be very happy with everything pink and princess, there are boys coming to the party and, well, I hate pink and princess and gender stereotyping and so on and so on. But, the vintage bags are lovely.
  • Ethical Kidz is what we went for in the end. The fillers were all wooden and good quality – and ethically sourced. And the bags Rosemary chose were the colour your own bags. We bought 19 plain fabric bags and two boxes of fabric crayons and Rosemary is decorating them herself. You can also buy bag and crayon sets that you can then use as both an activity and the party bag – i.e. the children colour their bags and then you put their gifts into it when it’s time to go home. I was very pleased with the service and they sent the package to my mum’s address at my request, as we would be away, and sent a personal email to tell us they had done so. The fillers are very good quality. We chose a stamp, with an ink pad, a (decorated) wooden peg, a spinning top and a yoyo. All in all it worked out to about £3.50 per child, which I was very happy with. It’s definitely more than the Go Bananas option, but I think it’s worth it and that these gifts won’t be clogging up the landfills (and, even if they do, they’ll degrade).

Both Frog in the Field and My Funky Party were suggested by Twitter pals and contacted me directly with suggestions, offers of help and answers to my many queries. I would definitely recommend them, as well as Ethical Kidz, which I found during my own searches.

Here’s a picture of one of the bags and its contents, though I’m afraid the quality isn’t brilliant, what with being taken with my phone in a dark kitchen:


Hopefully they’ll go down well and the children will get some use and fun out of the items.

What sort of party bags have you done, or do you manage to avoid them? What about parties themselves? Do you do them at home or hire somewhere? Do you have any tips on how to make a Cinderella cake, or shall I just buy the one she saw in Tesco? I’m good at baking cakes, but don’t have much experience in decorating them – especially when it comes to something fancy and more challenging than a few swirls of whipped cream, some strawberries and a packet of chocolate buttons!


  1. One of the best parties my daughter had for her seven-year-old was when she hired some people who brought different animals to her back yard. They brought goats, bunnies and a little pony to ride.

  2. I forgot to mention how much I liked the party bags.

  3. I do think the bags are great - particularly the bags themselves. I said on FB I'd make them - actually I'd make an easier drawstring version!

  4. Belle: The animals sounds wonderful. What a great idea!

    MTJAM: And where would you find the time to do that? I kind of wish I had the time to do things like that, actually. Making the cake was time-consuming enough, though!

  5. I've managed to avoid this so far but this looks like a great idea, not least that its not full of the usual tat

  6. Frog in the Field: You're welcome - sorry we didn't actually buy anything from you, but definitely will in the future!

    Muddling Along Mummy: You know, I was dreading the whole thing and swore I wouldn't even do party bags, but I really enjoyed it, and also loved making the cake. Roll on next year. Don't think I can get away with party bags for Eleanor's first birthday, somehow - hmm, maybe I could make grown-up party bags for my birthday. Now that could be fun.

  7. I love this post! I'm busy planning Kyra's first on an absolute shoestring budget, but I love knowing about these! They are fab!

    As for the cake - I've had this one under my hat for a while, waiting for K to turn four or five, but I'll share it with you :)

    For my fifth birthday my mum baked a cake in a normal round salad bowl, then turned the cake upside down, and stuck a barbie - style doll in the middle. She then decorated the cake with pink icing and put little flowers all the way around it and covered the doll's naked upperbody with the same icing. It was beautiful and I've been dying to have a child so I can make one too :D

    I'm not home for a couple of days, but when I get back I'll find a photo and email it to you!

  8. What do you have planned for her first? Just close friends and family, or others her age? We just did family and friends for first, with a picnic at the park for second and small tea with just a couple of friends for third. This year has been the first 'proper' children's party, and I loved it. If I had a big enough house, I might even be tempted by doing it at home next time.

    The Barbie cake sounds (and looks) fantastic. I may have to try that one, one year. I'm sure Kyra will love it when she's old enough.

  9. For DD's 6th birthday I bought some plain white T-shirts, fabric paint, brushes and sponge 'stamps' and the girls she invited each got to decorate and then take home their own Tshirt. I also gave them a sparkly flower whirlygig/windmill that I found for a dollar apiece at a local craft store. One of the mothers complimented me on not giving the kids candy or cheap plastic rubbish that was going to break within minutes.