Birthday party goodie bags are the creative mom’s chance to show off a bit, but less inspired party planners can struggle with these party favors. Save yourself (and other moms) the headache of throwing away those dollar store plastic tchotchkes, and aim for a simpler, though no-less-appreciated takeaway gift, like music, baked good or a homemade toy. The birthday boy or girl will love being able to help, and they’ll learn that it’s just as much fun to give as receive.

Goodie #1: Wearable Art
It’s surprisingly easy, and cost-effective to make kids t-shirts. A five-pack of plain Haines t-shirts runs about $1 per shirt. Download your favorite themed stencil (or go for more of Jackson Pollack look). Use fabric paint and a firm paint brush for best results. Once the shirts are dry, throw them all into the washing machine with blue, purple or orange RIT dye to finish the look.  Other wearable art options include bandanas for a cowboy or pirate themed party, aprons for a cooking party and hats for a sports-themed party.

Goodie #2: Favorite Tunes

To give the gift of song, make a CD of your kids favorite music – or a tunes that fit on with a particular them – cowboys, star wars, the nutcracker. Personalize the CD label with a cute kid pic and a list of the song titles printed in playful cursive. Label templates are easy to download at Find great independent music for downloading at CD Baby, which has a category dedicated to Kids/Family Music, featuring everything from lullabies and storytelling to children’s pop. Partygoers will love the chance to keep on partying to your little rocker’s fave tunes.

Goodie #3: A Homemade Toy

Let’s face it, kids love getting their hands all over anything soft and messy, so you can imagine how much they’ll love helping mom make one awesome goodie bag giveaway: play dough. It’s easy to create a non-toxic variety right at home using some basic ingredients like flour, water, food coloring, and scented oils. There’s a complete recipe with instructions at

Goodie #4: Favorite Snack

You can guess where this one’s going (Hint: it’s got “chocolate chip” written all over it!). Cookies sure beat stuffing a bag with cheap candy. Homemade with love, chances are your birthday boy or girl has one or two favorites you can wrap and tie with a ribbon, to the certain glee of every little guest you invite.

Goodie #5: Bubbles

Homemade bubbles are surprisingly easy to make thanks to these simple steps.  Let the birthday boy or girl help make this fun favor and then send each kiddo home with their very own jar of bubbles. Put the solution in a mason jar or plastic container (here are some affordable options) along with a wand. You can even personalize each take-home favor with each child’s name.

Goodie #6: Sidewalk Toy

Now that it’s summer, your kids (and everyone else’s) are inevitably spending a lot of time outside. Here’s an easy recipe for homemade chalk, which you and the birthday boy or girl can whip up a few days before the big day. Wrap them in cellophane and tie off with raffia or a bow.

What are your favorite homemade goody bag gifts? Send us your favorites (descriptions and photo) to before September 1, 2012 and we’ll pick one winner to receive a Red Tricycle kiddie t-shirt.

—Renee M. Rutledge