Party Favor Etiquette

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What favors for boys at 4-year-old's co-ed fairy party?

Sept 2012

My 4-year old daughter is dead set on having a fairy themed birthday party, but the guest list is co-ed. Is it wrong to assume that most of the boys won't be into fairy wings and wands? All I can come up with is doing fairies and wizards, wizards get capes and wands for favors. Would this irritate some parents that it was so gendered? anon

I love your fairies and wizards idea! I think to ensure that all kiddos (and parents) are happy and have the freedom to be whoever they are going to be, just make it an option to both the boys and the girls as to which they want to pick: fairy or wizard? Some of the girls may want to be wizards! Some of the boys may want to be fairies (who wouldn't want to fly?!)That's all there is to it. Enjoy! PS -- as for logistics of how much of each to get: well, get about half and half and just let the chips fall where they may... first come, first serve. love your idea
Please be sure to make it an option for the kids to choose whether they want to be a fairy or wizard--don't make assumptions based on gender. Even if you have to buy extra of each, keep the receipts so you can return what wasn't used. Parent of a gender variant child
My son attended a fairy themed birthday party at about that age, and was the only boy. He and I made a dragonfly hat for him (big foam-ball eyes covered in sequins), but he didn't wear wings. He loved the party. The craft was wand making,and that's great for boys or girls. Your idea about caps is excellent. Go for it! Carolyn
My 4 year old daughter also wants a fairy themed birthday party and it will be co-ed. I hadn't quite figured out the favors part, but I was planning on doing some craft projects for the kids to make fairies out of cupcake papers. There are boy fairies too (check out the Tinkerbell movies/shows), I was thinking flower and leaves head pieces with different colors (some being more gender neutral). I wouldn't go with wizards, since that's not really related to fairies (at least not in my mind). The Dover brand books make fairy themed ones (stickers and such) so I may do those as favors as well. Good luck! Fairy Party for all
I think your daughter should have whatever kind of party she wants. I have 3 boys who are 3, 6, and 8 and they would love a fairy party! From the boys I know (and I know a lot), I think the assumption they wouldn't like it, particularly at that age, is wrong. If she were turning 11, it might be a different story, but for a 4-year old, I think it is great. Mom of boys
Hi party mom, As a parent of two boys who've had such a blast at tea parties, etc., I'm always a bit dismayed when children are informed by adults--though usually with good intentions--of the strict gender roles they're supposed to inhabit. That said, you're probably right that most or all the boys would prefer wizards to fairies. Just get a few extras of each and ask each kid which they'd prefer, from costumes to goody bags. (Don't worry if you run out. Since you're not calling one ''the girl'' bag and the other ''the boy'' bag, no one will take offense. And there are boy fairies! In my years of doing this, only one or two kids end up picking what you wouldn't expect, anyway.) You might discover a couple girl wizards. Have fun! Ava
Don't assume that boys, particularly 4 year olds, will NOT want fairy wings. I have an amazing photo of my 4 year old knee deep in the sand box, with trucks, with a huge set of pink fairy wings that he would not take off for days. He got these at a similar themed party. Many of the boys totally wanted the wings. The ones that didn't, went for the wands which were also loved universally. I would also note that my boy had tons of access to capes (superheroes have capes), but fairy wings were not in my house. So he loved having that option. Certainly you can have capes. Or you could just go with wings and wands and let the kids choose what works for them.

I found that at four, most of the kids (boys especially) had heard gendered comments but weren't really troubled by them and seemed to go with what worked for them. Besides, it was amazing how quickly the wings and wands turned into fighting wings and guns. Kids can make play out of anything. Go with what your daughter wants and let the kids work it out. Just be sure you have enough to go around. I'd be more concerned if I expected the boys to have capes and the girls to have wings and the numbers didn't work out. You may also find some of the girls would rather have capes. I'd stick to one thing and let the kids work it out. Love my fairy winged truck driving kid

My son would choose the wings and my daughter the wizardry. I suggest buying more than you need and allowing the children to choose. wizard mom
I love the idea of wizards and fairies, I would let both boys and girls choose their wizard/fairy identity! anon
I had no idea that fairies are gendered! Last time I checked fairies are male and female. A Midsummer Night's Dream had a fairy kind and queen! Fairy people include imps, elfs, dryads, merpeople...the list goes on. Go look at the art of Brian Froud or go to the library and ask the librarian for books on fairies. Or search ''types of fairies'' online. Here is just one list: I've always thought of them as earth spirits. When I've dressed up as a fairy it's been in fake ivy and green and brown tones. My guess is your daughter's version of fairy is a modified ballerina costume in pastel shades with wings, which is why you are concerned about boys not being interested. But there are plenty of other fairies that boys will want to be too. Just put some clues in your invitation so that other parents and children who might have a limited view of fairies are able to explore which type of fairy they find exciting enough to dress up as. If you decorate fairyland as a pretend woodland or throw the party in a park or backyard, the fairy world will be complete. No girly colors needed, except maybe on your fairy princess and her cake, if she so desires! fairies very co-ed friendly
Why don't you have both fairy and wizard gear and let the kids decide what they want -- some boys might want wings and some girls might want wizard hats... let the kids decide
Just make both options open for every child and you'll be fine. My son at age 4 was totally into fairies from Midsummer Nights Dream and he would have chosen to be Puck at that age, without the wings. Every kids loves wands--just have a variety of colors if you can. Sounds like a fun party! Keeping it simple
I think both boys and girls will be equally interested to dress up in fairy attire, so just offer a variety of wings, wands and sparkly things and get the camera ready! One thing you might want to prepare your daughter for - some of her guests may not want to dress up at all (both boys and girls), and she shouldn't have a meltdown if a guest doesn't want to put wings on or whatever. I have seen some little girls get very princess-like on their day - expectations can run VERY high. You don't want her screaming at someone you have to leave because you won't be a fairy - this is a party for fairies only! Not unlike Bridezilla syndrome. I know she is very young but you can still prepare her for the possibility that a guest may want to stay in the clothes s/he came in and that's OK (he can be a fairy in disguise! her fairy wings are invisible!), and at least start to introduce the concept of the gracious hostess who just wants her guests to have a good time. Party on
At that age, I would probably do this: Assume everyone will be a fairy. Have an assortment of fairy wings and wands, with some in as boy-friendly colors and styles as I could find. If a boy balks at being a fairy, I'd try to sell him on the idea by telling him a fairy is an elf with wings. If he still balks, I'd have some sort of simple (non-fairy) elf costume option waiting in the wings.
Why not let guests choose which they'd rather be when they arrive? Girls can be wizards, too. Boys can be fairies. Sounds like fun.
I think it's great that your daughter is inviting both boys and girls, and that she is sticking to her fairy theme! Maybe it could be Fairies & Wizards, or Fairies & Dragons...Throw in a bit of both; some boys like fairies, and some girls may prefer dragons! Mix it up... heidi
We did a fairies/bugs/winged-things party, and encouraged those who had wings to wear 'em! We provided a few, too, and then got a bunch of cheap headbands and different colors of pipe cleaners & poof-ball thingies, so people could make their own antennae sets to wear. That way they could be all cute & pink & ''girly'', or dark and more ''buggy''... I actually also bought glue, but we didn't wind up using it -- just twisting 2 or more pipe cleaners together, around the band, worked great! We still have a few around the house.

The cheap temporary tattoos that Dover makes are good, too -- they have butterflies and fairies and BUGS. Anyway, it seemed to work for us, and those who wanted to got all fairied-up, and others went a more woodland bug route (& of course, others did neither.) Have fun! Natasha

We did a fairy-gnome party with fairy wings and gnome hats and beards, and the kids (boys and girls) could choose what they wanted to wear and take home. I am not sure if any boys picked wings but some girls picked gnome stuff. It was a great party! Amanda
I think it's a great idea and a good opportunity to engage boys in something a little off the beaten path. Definitely involve wizards and the masculine elements of the fairy world. I would love showing boys that there is a place for them in there. My ''all boy'' son loved fairy and princess stuff at age 3-4 and I was glad for the chances he got to experience that. Now he's super into Star Wars and wanted that as his bday party theme. it gAve his ballet/princess loving girl buddies a chance to experience the fun of star wars. Kelley
I'm a mom of a very typical 5yo boy, and my advice is to go with the fairy theme. Reasons:

- you're trying to make a nice memory for your daughter,and celebrating her birthday. This will be more memorable for her than for the other kids.

- 4 year old boys just want to have fun, and some won't even notice that there is a theme. My son's question before every party is, ''will there be Cake?'' If there's cake, all is well. Including some physical activity, even just running around in the backyard is a good idea.

- its fine if you want to offer a second option (as you suggest, fairies/wizards) but know that some girls will choose wizard and there may a boy or two who is fascinated by the fairy wings. When buying supplies at a party store or Target, ask about their return policy for unused items. If favorable, pick up a few extras, just in case.

- if you indicate a fairy theme on the invitation, any family that has an objection to fairy-themed birthday parties (I think this would be rare, even in Berkeley) they will simply be busy that day, and that is ok.

My son has attended several girls parties. At one, there was a Tinkerbell pinata. When the remains were placed in the trash, he retrieved the wings and asked the host if he could have them. At another, there were only ''girl'' themed goodie bags left, and he was totally fine with this. Other boys took it in stride as well. I think you're good. Just make sure there's cake, and have fun!

Two thoughts:

--My son (now 6) has been to more than one birthday party after which he was heartbroken because his gift bag did not include the princess wand that his sister's had.

--It is, perhaps, as bold of an assumption that those 4-year-old girls will be ''into'' fairies as that they boys will not. (We seem to be okay with the notion of pressing a gendered activity onto the ''proper'' gender whether it is really their interest or not...why not the same for the other gender?)

Perhaps a little costly, but would it be possible to provide some overlap in girl and boy gifts, to allow for some cross-gendered interests to find space and approval? Better--would there be a way to not call them boy and girl gifts, but have an open basket from which they could choose, without having to proclaim ''I want the OTHER one!'' Mom with a son who loves pink

My 3.5 year old boys would love a fairy party. Who knows if this will still be true when they're 4, I guess. I think the fairy and wizard idea sounds like a good one. To make it less gendered you could have both fairy and wizard things/favors available, but not assign them to girls vs. boys, but rather let them choose which one they want?
What a delightful problem to have! It's great that your child wants boys and girls to come to the party! I host many birthday parties and I've taught preschool for many years. Unless the boys have been educated otherwise, they will still delight in being fairies. If they have already been taught that they 'should' not do that, then you can have them be gnomes, wizards, or other things they like. Here's what I would do if it was a party I was hosting: To satisfy the birthday child, call it a Fairy Party. Invite children to dress up as a fairy or other magical creature. Then both genders get to pick what they want to be. They can all make magic wands. They can play Pin the Fairy on the Flower. Put a big paper flower on the wall, and print off some fairy pictures from the internet. Put tape on the back, blindfold the children and let them place the fairy. This is, of course, non-competitive since the children are not yet old enough to appreciate the joys of competition. Just enjoy the fairies on the flower. As a teacher, I never specify activities for boys or girls. I don't even call them boys or girls. I call them all children. For most children, it might not matter - the jury's still out on that. But for quite a few children it can be downright traumatic to be constantly told who you are and what you should like when you don't even know yourself yet! Enjoy the party! It sounds like a huge day of FUN!!! Rebecah
My little boy is 3.75 and his favorite toy at our neighbor girl's house is her pink fairy wand that makes a magic noise when you wave it. Look at for lots of images of boy fairies. I think a co-ed fairy party would be fine. If you're still unsure why not have wizard capes and fairy wings and let boys AND girls choose which one they want? Or, for an easier option, just have wands for everyone? Boys can be fairies too!
Yes, you should give your daughter the fairy-themed party she wants! Please don't worry about the other parents. Little boys have vivid imaginations and are just as capable of believing in fairies. I speak from experience: I am a former children's entertainer. When I attended co-ed birthday parties as an elaborately dressed fairy, the little boys were just as enamored with me as the little girls. Sometimes even more so! And if by chance you were considering an entertainer, may I suggest my former company? I was a fairy with Happily Ever Laughter back before I had my own little elf to care for. The ''real'' fairies they send out are absolutely amazing performers. Your daughter would be thrilled to have a real fairy at her party and I'm certain the little boys (and their parents) would be convinced that fairies are awesome. Best of luck with the party! -Retired Fairy
My 4-year-old son had a great time wearing fairy wings at a birthday party last month. Why don't you just have a big pile of fairy wings, wands, and wizard capes, and let children choose what they want. If that's not practicable, just give the same thing to everyone-- wands and wings are fun for all! anon

Will I be a bad mamma if I don't hand out party favors?

March 2007

I am having my son's 8th birthday party at Pump It Up in Oakland. It is quite expensive, and customers are forced to buy their food - they have a policy of no outside food except cake. Given these expenses, I don't want to have the extra expense of the loot bags. Will I be a bad Mamma if I don't have parting gifts for the children? Any suggestions? Anonymous

Hi! I say, ''just say no'' to goody bags and to commercial pressures. I call goody bags ''land fill'' because the kids play with them for two seconds and they just get thrown away. I don't distribute goody bags and my kids' parties and no one seems to mind. It is very generous of you to have the kids at Pump It Up in the first place the kids will have a great time without the junk. Anon
The party favor thing drives me crazy. It is true the kids love getting them but I am convinced they like the idea of them more than the actual stuff. You shouldn't feel pressured to get them for an 8 year olds party. Don't feel guilty. If you feel it is so necessary bake cookies or do some small thing but it seems pretty unnecessary. In favor of no favors
Skip them! It's become way too overblown in my estimation. I didn't do party favors this year and no one even noticed! It's usually really cheap stuff that the kids break or forget about. I often donate the ones we get to homeless programs. I would like the world to be party-favor free! The kids have a great time at the party and are happy to be there. (we also ask for no presents, so it's pretty low key all the way around in that department). Have fun anon
You may just earn silent prayers of gratitude from many moms tired of the party arms race. I applaud you for even thinking of de-escalating the current hyped up state of birthday parties. There's momentary (and I mean a fleeting second) of pleasure given by that little bag of mostly cheap crap & yet it can take not only a lot of money, but a lot of time buying different stuff every year. And in our experience most ends up in the garbage. As my kids have gotten older the stuff they want to give in a favor bag gets more sophisticated and yet still more costly. Don't know about you but as a kid I got little treats in a treat cup at the table (jelly beans & nuts etc). That was the favor. That was fine! I've seen one-item favors given at parties that embarrassed me because the retail price of the favor cost the same or more than the present we brought! Enough already! Oh - by the way, I have been to a party where there was no party favor bag given out & no one died (or barely noticed). Monica
My daughter had a Pump It Up party in Concord. They had a bunch of helium balloons in the party room. We let all the kids take a couple home. That seemed to make them really happy. Check and see if the Oakland location will also have balloons.
Hi, As a parent I would be HAPPY that there were no party favors! Those little baggies of candy and choking hazards drive me nuts! If you feel you NEED to have a party favor tho, maybe just give each kid a balloon (usually less than $1/each). Anon.
What might be fun for the kids, and cheaper too (especially if you already have some supplies) is to give them a craft to make! Maybe when they're all just about done eating, and before they've dispersed to play, you can hand out supplies and show them how to do it. What they make is their favor to take home! Seems to me the only thing kids like better than getting cool things, is making cool things. Eva
Those places are a racket, you know that right? I won't even address the contents of the bags right now. So, yes I go with the kids when invited to parties like those and they do love it. We all have this incredible need to be social as parents and don't have time to clean house or cook etc... on our own turf. So, skip the bags, buy the minimal there, have fun, and remember that it is the social interaction that you facilitated that people remember. Watch too, other parents take your lead. We are all in this together! setting an example
At my daughter's request, we have celebrated her last two birthdays at Pump It Up as well. Yes, it is quite expensive and it's a bit frustrating that you can't bring your own food. However, it's a fantastic place for kids to play and that's what the party is all about. No, you don't need to feel bad for not having party favors. I'm sure that most parents will understand that such a celebration costs an arm and a leg and that the party favors are just a gesture. You ''gestured'' enough by throwing such a bash! I find that many parents in my daughter's class don't even give parties. It's just not in the budget.

But if you do feel that you are ''obligated'' to provide party favors, then you could always give something small. That's what I did. I went to Michaels and bought a couple of small things that her age group would like. That cost me $40. It was a huge hit. Personally, I don't like it when we get candy at a party, so I always make a point to just give a tiny little gift - you could even check the $1 Dollar Store. JOJ

Should I give favors to younger siblings who attend?

Feb 2002

I am having a big birthday bash for my son's third birthday this year. I am inviting 12 children. Many of which have siblings much younger than my son, therefor not really his friends (yet.) It is my nature to want to give gifts to the siblings as well, but in the interest of keeping costs down I am thinking that I should resist that desire. I am curious about what other people have done in this situation. Is it OK to only give gifts to the invited friends. Marianne

When did this business of party favors get so out of hand?! I don't even remember getting party favors as a kid, except maybe a balloon or noisemaker. My daughters have received goody-bags at birthday parties that probably cost more than what we spent on the present! That said, we do give out little things at our kids' parties. We get things from the tiny-item bins at places like Mr. Mopps, Teddy's Party Store (on Solano), etc., such as little bouncy balls, funny rubber creatures, plastic dinosaurs, fancy pencils, and so forth, which are all really cheap. I provide paper lunch bags, crayons/markers, and stickers so the party guests (invited or not!) can decorate their own goody-bag during the party. I then drop in a couple of items as they are leaving. --Debbie
Here are my birthday rules: All parties at my house, only invite who you need (invite adult relatives separate from the kid party)and have the same type of party favors for all kids present. On my invitations I ask that the invited child come with only one parent. I'm not entertaining families. My house is way too small for that. I like to have all birthday parties at home, because for me it is about letting people in and sharing my space for a meaningful, warm celebration. And how fun the small parties have been when you just have children the same age and design the party around what they like at that stage of their development! It's also special for the kids to not have their older or younger sibling there and have one parent for themselves to share the experience with (until they are old enough to be dropped off). And it's easier for the parents to only have one child to attend to. I've been to big bashes - kids barely interact with one another, it's so overwhelming to them, so much movement and pre-school noise level. I prefer small and playful parties where everyone gets 4-5 really cool party favors that have long-term play value. And the kids earn each through some kind of activity. They don't just get handed a bag. Anonymous
I think it is a lovely idea to give party favors to the siblings as well as to the children who are your son's invited guests. But it is certainly OK to not give the siblings anything special - it is really entirely up to you. If the siblings are only 1 or 2, they might not be able to have the same kinds of toys or sweets that a 3-year old could have. So you might decide to have the traditional party bags for the older guests, and just a basket at the door with (something nice), unwrapped, for any other parting gifts. Bonnie