Party bags were originally just cheap and cheeerful receptacles for a slice of birthday cake and a novelty item or two.
They have rapidly evolved into status items, packed to the brim with small toys. They have become very costly, and there is a risk of escalation as parents strive to 'keep up with the Joneses'.
You can restore sanity by taking some very simple steps:
- Set an upper price limit for party bags and stick to it. If you are working within a budget (and it could be as little as £1) it will test your ingenuity and creativity.
- One option is to bulk buy items at a supermarket or pound shop - sweets, balloons, novelties, and then simply distribute them in party bags.
- If you're looking for something more creative, you could bake your own cakes and biscuits, and use the money to buy one - reasonable quality - wooden toy.
- Alternatively, you could find a source of unusual items that go beyond the usual supermarket clichés. An ethnic shop selling wooden toys from central Europe, embroidered bags from China, beads from India or yo-yos from South America is a good option. Most shops will give you at least a 10% discount if you're bulk buying.
- If you have a good joke shop nearby, you'll find that this is another source of cheap novelty items (especially for little boys).
- Be creative with the bags themselves. You could buy small plain paper carrier bags and decorate them yourself - maybe with your child's help. Children love it if their bag is decorated with their own names.
- Don't compete. If your child comes home with a lavish party bag packed with electronic gizmos and gadgets, console yourself that this is a very vulgar bid to impress. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you have to outdo it.
- Remember that children can be surprised and delighted by very unexpected things, and go for originality, not value.
- Alternatively, you could just eschew the whole party bag trap - it's really not obligatory, and as long as you warn your child that you're not giving out party bags (explain that you'd rather spend the money on better treats, games etc. at the party), you should be able to get away with it. Most children will, in any case, see party bags as childish by the time they reach the age of eight or nine.