Monday, September 16, 2013

monday musings: on birthday party lolly bags

What is it with lolly bags?! Kids love them, parents loathe them. Well most parents! Before we unpack the contents of those sweet little bags let's consider why they are given...habit? tradition? because it is expected? as a thank you? Possibly a little bit of each reason. But surely there are other ways to say thank you and if you like the lolly tradition surely the bags don't have to be so big and full. Personally I love it when no lolly bags are handed out, it is rare but it does happen.

On Sunday our boys River and Sol were invited to a fourth birthday party, the son of a close friend. My husband Pete phoned our friend and asked in his usual direct manner, "Will you be handing out bags of poison at the party today?" The answer as expected was "Yes". "I'd prefer River and Sol didn't get one, can you give them something else?" A box of sultanas was the agreed alternative.

Now this is where Pete and I disagree. Sultanas are still 'sugary', they are a concentrated form of fructose and lolly bags are the absolute only time that River and Sol ever see lollies, we never buy them. Ever. Not even their sweet loving grandparents are allowed to supply them with lollies. So, I wouldn't have actually minded if they were given the lolly bags and then I could have rationed out the contents.

River overheard the conversation Pete had with our friend. Tears ensued, "You are so mean dad. That is so unfair, all the other kids get lollies and we get sultanas". "I'm not doing it to be mean," Pete tried to explain, "I'm doing it because I care about you and don't want you to eat all that sugar". That is not how it felt to seven year old River.

The boys and I went to the party and Pete went off to photograph a wedding. I was dreading the end of the party before we had even arrived. At the party, two tables were set with chicken sandwiches, zucchini slice, fruit salad and sausage rolls - not a piece of sugary food in sight.

The children ran about and played in the sun while the adults stood by chatting. "How do you handle the lolly bag thing?" I asked one mum. "I take them off my children straight after the party, they can eat a couple of lollies and then I keep the bags in a cupboard and when they forget about them I throw them out," she told me.

Time for the pinata. It was a cleverly designed pinata, no stick and blindfold instead there was an array of ribbons hanging from the bottom looking like streamers, each child took it in turns to pull one ribbon until 'jackpot!' the bottom fell out and so did the lollies. There was a scramble as handfuls of lolly snakes, jubes, jelly babies and mini chocolate bars were grabbed and later shared with smaller children who were not as experienced being in a pinata lolly scrum.

Next up were the cakes. Yes plural. There were two birthday cakes plus cupcakes. Sol true to form ate the icing off the top and gave me the plain cake. River skipped having cake and opted to get back to running around with his friends.

Fifteen minutes before the party was due to end a friend came running up to me beaming, "Yes! I've got them out (her two children) without lolly bags we're leaving now and they haven't even asked for them. Bye!" It was as if she had achieved a minor miracle. I was uncharacteristically jealous.

We stayed for a game of pass the parcel. Our departure could not be delayed any longer. The sighting by River and Sol of other children with lolly bags was inevitable. "Mum can we have a lolly bag?" they asked. "C'mon let's go I have your lolly bags" I replied. We starting heading for the door, after a bit more asking I handed over their custom filled 'lolly' bags. Outside the party venue River asked his friend is he could see  inside his bag, his friend had lollies, River had a box of sultanas and a packet of sesame snaps (very sweet honey sesame 'biscuits). I haven't worked it out exactly but I am sure the sugar content of both bags would have been on par.

After some sulking River got in the car and we headed home. "Dad's mean", he uttered a few times. I reminded both River and Sol about the lollies they had eaten out of the pinata. Neither of them ate the sultanas, River took one bit of the sesame snap and decided he didn't like it, Sol didn't even want to try it.

I feel like banning lollies makes them more attractive and I don't really think a bag of sultanas is all that much better. Having said that, River and Sol ate lollies at the party and didn't need a bag of them to take home and didn't eat the sultanas anyway.

I'd love it if we could all take a united front and skip handing out lollies at the end of a party. One great idea I heard was a party where children were given a punnet of strawberry seedlings to take home to plant. Now that's my kind of party.

What are your thoughts? Am I being a party pooper? Or are you over the lolly fest too? Love to hear how you handle kids birthday party lolly bags in your family. Share in the comments.

23 comments:

  1. We haven't quite hit the party circuit with my 2 year-old yet, but I'm not looking forward to the negotiations involved. Given the range of ways in which people approach food choices (plus allergies, sensitivities, etc) I'm wanting to steer clear of lolly bags at his upcoming party. But is the alternative just more plastic tat (which is something we've already encountered and I really dislike the waste and clutter)? I'm thinking a little take home craft activity or seeds for a spring birthday or something...

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    1. Craft activity sounds good to me! I agree no more plastic. Thanks for getting the comments started on this topic x

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  2. I'm happy for my kids to eat a bit of birthday party junk whilst at a party (birthday parties are few and far between here anyway) but I agree....ditch the lolly bag at the end!!!!!!! My daughter had a French themed party last year so we sent everyone home with home-made play dough in red, white and blue!
    PS My birthday party plan of attack is to feed my kids a BIG healthy lunch before they go....then they hardly eat anything and spend the party time playing with their friends!!

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    1. I'm with you Michelle, feed them up before the party and pace out the party food. Home made play dough go you! Lovely idea x

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  3. At other kids parties - we watch what our kids eat from the table and let them choose 1 thing from the lolly bag and take the rest 'for later' (i.e. Dad eats them!). I don't mind some lollies, but most lolly bags are full of crappy cheap lollies and chocolate!
    At my 5 year old party recently, I did give Lolly Bags (only because at the party the year before the kids actually came up and asked for them!). But with 1 chocolate frog and 5 natural confectionary lollies, a balloon and stickers. And did no lollies or chocolate on the food table.
    I try and reach a happy medium :)

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  4. Aaahh yes-- felt myself cringing with you.
    The kids party circuit is in full swing for us and I am with you 100%. However, I have the added complication of the husband who thinks it is okay.
    My general rule of thumb as others have suggested, one or two from a bag then the rest hid until the kids forget about it.
    We have 3 parties over the next 2 w/e, and sadly these families don't have a problem with all the junk on the day and the extra lolly bags. I'll just have to be the mean parent and make sure they have a good morning/afternoon tea/lunch before they go to minimize the amount of rubbish they consume, watch them like a hawk at the party and then ration the dreaded lolly bag. I try to be philosophical that it is only now and then, but after seeing my kids behaviour and eczema after the sugar/food additives it is concerning.
    Cheers Robyn
    Sadly, I have no further advice to add. My 4 year old is turning 5 soon, and is asking for his first party. I am scouring the web for decent party food, games and the 'take home' bag which is safer/healthier and more inspired. I love the idea of the strawberry plants--perhaps might try that.

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    1. I love that you refer to your husband as 'an added complication' :) Robyn you highlight another aspect to this issue that sometimes you can be at 3 parties in one weekend which adds up to a lot of junk food! And yes it is not only the sugar but the additives too. Head on over to Natural New Age Mum for some healthier party ideas, Sonia ran a whole series on it just enter kids parties in her search box. Thanks for your comment x

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  5. I agree, the overflowing lolly bags are pretty crappy. I don't really have a tactic except to put on my PARENT VOICE and say that's enough, when I think it is. For our own kids' parties we don't put out lollies; we just have sandwiches and fruit skewers and such things, and usually we put cool things in a little treat bag at the end, like temporary tattoos and that kind of thing, plus maybe a lollypop. And we ALWAYS ask the parents first if it's ok if their child has a lollypop. The kids never look disappointed (and you can usually tell if a kid is disappointed!

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    1. I like the sound of your kids parties Nic. Why do most parents have to associate with children making themselves sick on sugar with fun?! Not fun for anyone. You make some good points thank you x

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  6. My parents raised me sugar free and I remember loving lolly bags for the sweet treats usually banned in my house and for me they held a little bit of birthday magic in them that I could savour long after the party ended. I'm sure my parents did the disappearing lolly bag trick too, but a lolly bag still holds special memories for me. I don't really like sugary foods now and favour natural healthy foods because that's what my palate is trained to enjoy.
    I raise my children with a whole food diet but making sugar the enemy of the parents undoes much of the hours caring about what you are feeding the kids. I feed my kids up with healthy food before a party and remind them before a party how eating too many sugary/junky things will make them crazy/sick. If/when the sugar/junk food crash hits, I cuddle them and gently remind them that eating too many sugary/junky foods is too much for a body to cope with and will make them feel sick (and offer water/healthy food options). Relax a bit (it's a party) and trust in all the whole food good work you do. I'm sure most of us are guilty of consuming one too many lollies/chips/drinks at at least one party in our childhood/adulthood!!

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    1. Thanks so much for your honest and grounded comment and for sharing your experience - what you have to say all makes good sense! x

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  7. Hi there, I love your blog. First time commenting: It use to make me quite upset when my son was a toddler the birthday parties were full of not just sugar but chemicals in the way of artificial additives. I usually navigate the party food and help him make better decisions. With the lolly bag I let him eat a few and take the bag off him and throw it in the bin. At his 6th birthday party all the kids kept calling it the lolly bag and I had to remind them it was a party bag with stickers, stamps, spinning tops. No lollies! There was a cake and natural confectionary lollies in the pinata - that is more than plenty for one day!

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    1. Awww thanks Zena for the feedback and for your first time comment - it seems this one is a hot topic! You are right it is the triple whammy of sugar and artificial colours and flavours that adds up to misery. Sounds like you have a balanced approach congratulations on finding a healthy and fun way to celebrate your child's birthday. They don't have to be separate things! x

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  8. I don't like the lolly bag but I don't have a problem with my 3yo having one occasionally. I usually give her a couple of the least evil looking things and bin the rest (or eat it myself depending on mood ;) ) I really believe in the 80/20 rule. I would never ask that my child not be given one. I do try to make sure that she doesn't go to a party hungry because she will just sit and eat all the fairy bread and icing she can fit in and that's going to make anyone feel crappy. At my daughter's 3rd birthday party I gave Mr Fothergills seed pot things as party favours and all the children loved them as did the parents. Last 2 parties we've been to the favour was a big bubble stick, and giant balloons. And my circle is not hardcore wholefood eating alternative or anything like that. Maybe the tide is turning :)

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    1. Thanks Pam for your grounded voice on this topic. I like your approach and yes fingers crossed the tide might be turning. Bubbles and balloons are a fun alternative. x

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  9. Hello gorgeous, wow, already a very popular post, so great. We have never done lolly bags, scott or myself usually craft a little something for the kids, in the past we have given potted plants, fabric balls, mini bunting, homemade crayons, hacky sacks and as you know a love heart hanging. Luckily we have only recently, this year, encountered a party with lolly bags, and they were full of particularly evil concoctions, more than usual. I was aghast but let Poe and Ilo chose one thing out of the bag each, i then threw the rest away and then because the lollies were so atrocious i bargained with them and let them chose something to swap it with from Kombu (our local healthfood shop), Poe chose a little piece of organic white chocolate and Ilo chose a quarter of a homemade strawberry tart, they were both very happy and enjoyed them a lot.
    Can't wait to read all the other comments, much love jay

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    1. Hi Jay, I've been totally absorbed in looking at cameras! Thanks for sharing your experience here. I think I will go back and put some links at the bottom of this post to some beautiful alternatives such as your heart mobile. I'd love a piece of homemade strawberry tart right now please! x

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  10. Great post again, and I too dislike the lolly bags! I don't give them anymore, my kids are young (5, 3 & 9 months) and I know sometimes guests expect something when they leave a party, so we have given a balloon and small bubbles to take home, or after my sons lego-themed party we gave a small packet of lego to say thank you for coming. I know it costs money, probably more, but I find these things are more likely to be used and not thrown in the bin!

    My pet hate at parties is the bowl of lollies on the table... so unfair to small children!!!

    I find it's a topic not discussed by many parents in my circle for some reason too. and why do we feel like party poopers for not giving the party bag or wanting our kids to get one! I know I did when I stopped doing them and I know another friend caved in and made one up (albeit as healthy as she could) even though she didn't want to.

    I think there are many layers to this one!

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    1. Thanks Alice. I haven't met a small child yet who doesn't love bubbles and balloons! I think there is a lot to be said for simplicity especially with young children. You are right, there are many layers to this one x

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  11. I avoid lolly bags and at my son's parties I have focussed on providing a themed craft bag (inspired by a good friend of mine who hates lolly bags too). One of my favourite party bag substitutes my kids have received was at a Lorax party where they were given a decorated terracotta pot with seeds to plant. At my son's last birthday party I did provide organic lolly pops but everything else was super healthy.

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    1. I love the sound of all you have described - themed craft bags and painted pots and seeds - creative, nature activities a better gift than lollies I reckon! Thanks for your comment x

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  12. I hate the lolly fest too and I will share with you the blog post I did for better ones. But be careful, my kids rebelled a bit about my strict approach to food and started buying it and hiding it. I have since relaxed a little. They have pretty much figured out now that too much junk makes them sick, gives them pimples and they don't bother with it so much. If they do get stuff, they ration it out.

    http://naturalnewagemum.com/healthy-and-eco-friendly-kids-party-bags/

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  13. It's funny, since becoming a mother I have really noticed the overzealous nature of some parents. Each to their own I say, but I think it is sad when the parent's actions ostracise a poor kid from their peers. Rather than make a big deal and demand no lolly bag at all, surely it is better to 'mind' the lolly bag for the child, hand out a few and stash it away for later (or until it is forgotten). I agree that too much sugar is a bad thing...but my view is that a sweet treat on occasion is not going to kill them. I came across your blog when researching ideas for lolly bags (for my son's first birthday where children attending will range from 1 year to 8 years). I think I've come up with a balanced approach: each bag contains a balloon, a jar of bubble liquid, one finger puppet animal (from Ikea in packs of ten), one healthy organic snack, one Freddo frog, and a couple of lollies. I plan to give the lolly bag to the parents so they can decide what to give to the child...I'm expecting the parents of the younger kids to keep the lollies for themselves!

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Thanks for your comments. I read every one!

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