Family life

Can we just do away with loot bags?

Tracy Chappell weighs the pros and cons of giving in to her daughter's request for birthday party loot bags.

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Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005.

I’m neck-deep organizing my daughter’s eighth birthday party. Well, parties. One for her classmates and one for family and friends. While I try not to get caught up in all the where-has-the-time-gone emotion of it all, she only has one thing on her mind: loot bags.

“Don’t forget about the loot bags, Mom,” she says to me. “What are we going to put in the loot bags?” Then, because she knows me well: “Don’t leave the loot bags until the last minute!”

Read more: Birthday party archives > 

I remember, about four or five of her birthdays ago, when I was just as excited about loot bags. But that was when I had to do just a handful of them, and I was new to this whole party thing, so I’d get all creative by doing things like baking giant cookies and writing the guests names on them in icing, or giving a bowl and spoon and individual cereals at her pajama party. That was also back when the kids didn’t have grand expectations for loot at the end of the party you had just spent a zillion dollars on to fill them with food and fun for a few hours.

Read more: 10 goodie bags with a twist > 

One year, I vowed to not do them. I was determined to start a new no-loot tradition. But the devastation and disbelief in her eyes… I caved. I couldn’t go through with it, and that was the year I was scrambling around at the last minute buying up things that would delight her and her friends and not forever peg her as the kid who didn’t have cool loot bags at her party.

Why do we need loot bags? Why? Is it just tradition? Is it a sign of our constant-consumerist society? Is it just fun that I’m turning into tribulation?

Read more: Birthday party etiquette > 

Maybe I’m becoming jaded as my daughter turns eight (and that’s unfortunate for my five-year-old!). This time, I even paid to have the entertainment come to us instead of cooking up something myself. After discovering the joy of an at-home entertainer at my younger daughter’s princess party last September, I am converted. So next week, Anna is having a chocolate party (wonder who gave her that idea?). They come to our house, teach the kids about chocolate, make chocolate things with them (lava cakes and truffles!) and the kids decorate and eat them. Apparently it’s very interactive and great fun.

I admit I feel a little lazy, but I can’t wait to sit and watch and not spend the party bustling around. I could have booked the more expensive party that included loot bags, but Anna would have none of it.

“But you always make the best loot bags, Mommy!” she told me. What can I say to that? I’m defenseless. And she’s my girl. And it’s her big day. She honestly does look back on her birthdays and remembers all the little things we’ve done to make them special for her, and she shows such appreciation and joy. So I know where this must go.

I started this post with the intention of rallying us all to abandon loot bags—because we can change the world if we just band together, right? But I’m waving the white flag as I dash off to find those perfect little somethings to bundle up and hide (oh, did I tell you she makes me create a scavenger hunt for them? I know! What have I done?) to make her day complete. In the end, I know her smile will be worth every penny, and every minute of crippling stress leading up to her big day.

Have you been bold enough to abandon the loot bag tradition? If not, what kinds of things do you give to party-goers?