Stop Giving Junk to My Kids

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8601269290_edf577f7cc_oFor some reason, an inordinate number of my children’s friends were born in late summer or early fall. In some ways this is great: our weekends are filled with celebrations and my kids get to see their friends. But there’s a pretty big drawback: along with a powerful sugar rush at these birthday parties, my kids inevitably bring home an enormous bag of crap.

Candy, plastic doodads, trading cards, and temporary tattoos fill the goodie bags clutched in my precious angels’ post-celebratory hands. Of course they are thrilled, temporarily. But within about five minutes of their arrival home, the goodie bags are forgotten, cast off to be cleaned up or thrown away by yours truly.

Lest I sound like an unforgivable curmudgeon, let me say right now that I understand — and adore — the impulse behind sending guests home with a token of appreciation. It’s sweet to thank people for joining you in celebration, and it’s fun and kind to share gifts with friends.

But people, this has gone way too far.

Party favors are being shared not out of a place of love, but from a sense of obligation. Instead of focusing on the joy of the occasion, parents are participating in a contest of one-upmanship trying to outdo each other.

Last week my oldest child attended a Pokemon party. He came home with a one-foot-diameter Pokeball filled with figurines, cards, and all types of schwag. The host spent easily at least $5 per child. It’s her prerogative to do so, of course, but I cringe when I think of the work and money that went into creating something I’m going to toss in the bin within five minutes.

And thus, I have a proposal. It may sound risky, but bear with me. Let’s all opt out of party favors if we feel like it. Let’s teach our kids that the party is its own reward and that they don’t need a cellophane bag full of garbage to feel celebrated.

It’s just common sense. Right now there are garbage patches the size of Texas floating through our oceans. These are full of plastics and other refuse. Creation of these party favors is equally problematic. Many of the cheap toys included as favors are created in countries with abhorrent labor practice and few regulations. By skipping the goodie bag, we can help short circuit an industry that pollutes our environment, harms workers, and propagates a misguided idea of consumerism.

Instead of the bag, maybe we can make a donation to charity, or just give kids a smile and a heartfelt “thank you for coming to the party.” In the long run this gives children a better set of expectations as well. I mean, as adults, how often do people just give you a bag full of thingees to reward you for your presence? And when they do, what do you do with them? Straight to the garbage can.

What do you think? Would you skip the party favors, even if it meant being looked down upon by other parents? Would you judge a mom or dad who sent your child home with just a smile on her face instead of 8,000 candy bars?




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  1. Clarity

    Bravo. As a grandmother – a fun one – I am in your corner. I would add that one of the aspects of hosting a party is to teach building friendship in an environment of delight. Gone are the days of wearing formal party clothes and minding your manners in the spirit of honoring the host with a reciprocal honoring of the guests. The clothes don’t matter, but manners and honor do. I would argue that learning to care for each other should be the primary purpose of a party for young children. This naturally grows to caring about things outside of yourself.


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