Amazing Cheap and Thrifty Loot Bags Ideas for Kid's Party

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Loot bag t shirts
Loot bags seem to be fairly standard at children's parties but it's getting harder and harder to be original. 

Pre-made bags at party shops tend to be filled with cheap shoddy overpriced toys that are not that much fun to play with and break easily. 

Hand picking items from a dollar store can get very expensive if you have a lot of children to buy for and again the quality isn't that great. 

There are good deals at dollar stores but you need to know what to look for. You might think it's hard to  find anything nice or interesting that they haven't seen a million times before but you can make great, frugal, thrift and even cheap loot bags that kids will love and remember.

It doesn't matter if the loot is for a boy or a girl you will have to find something to put it in. You have so many options with this. Often people will use medium size gift bags that they buy from the dollar store for 50 cents to a $1 but you have options that won't cost you nearly as much.

If you buy cereal in cardboard boxes the waxy paper bags that the cereal is in makes great bags. You would have to start saving them several months ahead of time but they are free so you can't beat the price. Wipe out the insides with a dry cloth and store them until you need them. Trim the top with decorative scissors put in the loot and gather the top together with a ribbon. They will be slightly see through so the children will get a tantalizing peek of what is inside. 

Plastic bag as gift wrap
You can use clear plastic bags but only for older children, never leave young children unattended with plastic bags, be sensible. These plastic bags can be lined with tissue paper or lined with a piece of paper that says SURPRISE or LOOT! (these are from my article,Wrapping Without Wrapping Paper).

For a small loot bag with an eco theme you could just use brown paper sandwich bags which are sold in dollar stores 40 bags for a $1(about 3 cents each). You can print a label on your computer of the child's name or the theme of the birthday party (Ian's Eco Fabulous Birthday Party) and glue it on the bag with a glue stick.

Loot bag using red pailYou can use an item of the loot bag as the container. Here I used plastic buckets for a summer party. 

They cost 50 cents each at a clearance sale the previous fall. You could use storage baskets or plastic baskets, anything that could fit a few things in it that could be re use latter. 

The rest of the items were bought at a clear out at a liquidator and cost between 19 cents and 35 cents each. 

Loot boxYour loot bag does not have to be huge and here I used small sized gift boxes that were filled to overflowing and tied with a ribbon to keep everything inside. Again these items came from a liquidator and cost under 50 cents each.


If you have some  material you could make loot sacks. You would be able to sew up 6 to 8, 12 inch bags from a 1-1/3 yard of piece of fabric depending on whether it was 36 or 44 inches wide (the material would be 12 inches by 24 then folded and sewn together). The top edge would be folded over and a cord would be pulled through. The kids can draw or write on the sacks with permanent markers to personalize them. If you are making these for a pirate party you could draw a skull and cross bones on it with marker.

Making paper gift bags
You can make your own loot bags by following our instructions on Making Paper Gift Bags. These would be best for light weight items.

Surprise bagIf you have one or two small items that you don't want to get lost in a larger loot bag you could include these little prize bags that are made the same way as the paper gift bags but using a smaller form and printing the question mark on the bag first. Click here for PDF and instructions for Surprise Bag Mystery Bag Printables.

For a summer pool party theme see if you can find beach towels on clearance and roll them up with any loot in a plastic bag in the middle. If you live any where near a towel outlet then you can pick up beach towels for as little as $2 at the end of season.

It depends if you are going to give the kids their loot bag at the beginning or end of the party of what kind of items you are going to put in it. If you are going to make it part of the treasure hunt you can fill it with an activity or craft that they can do during the party.

I have never been a fan of children's parties being themed to licensed commercial cartoon characters. You will find that it is much easier to buy and pull together children's parties that have wider themes like Pirates, Princesses, Magic,  Adventure, Space Travel, Aliens, Mad Science, Made up Super Heroes, Swimming etc. You can look for crafts on line that would fit any of the themes that you chose. The loot bag could have the parts of a craft to make like a crown, a pirate patch, or a simple science experiment (baking soda and vinegar experiments are great for young children) making paper airplanes, or ribbon flowers.

You don't have to have a lot of things in a loot bag, one item with candy is enough if you are inventive.

T shirt with pocketYou could give them t-shirts that are all the same bright vivid color and customize (instructions here) them by sewing a small patch pocket on each one with the same fabric. You can pick up children's t-shirts at discount stores for about $2 and you can find them as low as $1 if you buy summer t shirts in the fall or winter. Stay away from craft stores to buy t-shirts as they tend to be terribly over priced. This is really great to do if your party is not in your home (bowling, play ground etc.) so you can instantly see each child guest by the color of the t-shirt that they are wearing.

Loot bag t shirtsOr if it is a sleep over party they can all use them as pajama tops. It is better to buy this larger than needed as they can always pull them over their clothes and children don't want to sleep in anything that is too tight. They will also grow into them. These t shirts were bought at the end of summer clearance sale.

It's not a good idea to give small children any toys at a party that they can hit each other with, while plastic baseball bats are cheap and cute they probably will just end up using them as clubs to batter each other with. Frisbees are a great toy to give and can be picked up at the dollar store. If they have a label on them you can remove it and let them decorate it with stickers or the children can decorate a round circle of adhesive paper that you can put on their Frisbee. Go one better and print out the instructions to Frisbee games that you played at your party and add this to the loot bag so they can take the fun home with them.

Flash light are great at a sleep over. Have a sticker with their name on it so they know who is whose and you can pair it with a book.

Used books in a series like the Goosebumps Series or Deltora Quest are great for children as they are well written books that they will enjoy reading. You can get these in almost perfect condition at garage sales and thrift shops for under $1. each. Look for book series that are still being published. It would be fun to find a book series that you can theme to your party.

Playing cards with a small booklet you can make up with rules for card games or depending on the age of the children card tricks. Jumbo playing cards are fun for younger children because of the size.

Give them three hacky sack balls bought from the dollar store) and the directions to a good web site that shows how to learn to juggle and a challenge to return in few months' time to show who is the best juggler. If you are doing a Knights of the Round Table or a Princess theme then this could be included as instructions from the Court Jester.

While large water guns are great but it is the small hand held one kids really enjoy because they can use them latter in sneak attacks. Buy these in bulk, separate them and place them in bag with titles like "The Super Sneaker Water Gun". These are fun during any warm weather party.   
Buy colorful frames from the $1 store or you can have decorating a plain frame as the craft that you do at the party.  Take a group photo and printed it off on our color printer on card stock so they could have it immediately. Kids don't really care about the quality of the photos, just the memories.

If you know the children well and when their birth dates are you can add a personalized Horoscope to their loot bag. This is better for older children. Look online for horoscopes and edit them so they will only give happy optimistic futures. You can print them on colored paper, roll them up and tie them with a ribbon.

You could also research their names and print that out. This you could turn into a craft if printed on card stock they could decorate the paper and then punch two holes on the top and thread a ribbon through so they can hang it up.
If it is a late summer party put in some school supplies like a giant pencil or a giant eraser.

If you are decorating cookies or cupcakes at your party send them home with a few small bags of sprinkles, a great icing recipe, the recipe for the cupcake or cookie, a cookie cutter or a dozen cupcake liners and of course one of the cookies or cupcakes that they made. (If your child has children over on a regularly then you can make baking as part of the activities that they do and send the children home with a different recipe after every visit).

If you want to give them candy then go to the bulk store and package them up in resealable treat or sandwich bags so their parents can monitor how much they get. You don't have to get children a lot of candy, one or two items that are unusual are better than a hand full of cheap stuff. Gold foil covered chocolate coins seem always to be a favorite with kids. You can also theme the candy to the party, so a pirate party, princess party or spa party could have candy necklaces and pop rings, a science party could have gummy insects and a eco party could have gummy worms.

Try to think a bit out of the box and you will be surprised at what inexpensive ideas that you will come up with and make your child's loot bags a party favorite.

If you have a favorite loot bag trick I would love to hear about it.

Have your Read:
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I am having a princess party & all the girls are receiving little princess purses with assorted stuff in it & the boys will be receiving dragons & shields :O)

That sounds so adorable, I bet it is going to be one of those parties that they will remember forever.

My son's birthday party was at a climbing gym, so the loot bag was a string backpack ($1.50 from craft store), water bottle, carabiner with flashlight or compass, two pieces of 18" rope with a hand-made 8-pg knot-tying instruction booklet, some gum and an "energy bar".

I love, love, love the hand-made knot typing instruction booklet! It all sounds like the perfect loot bag for a bunch of active kids. Thanks for sharing the ideas!

For my Grandson's 6th PIRATE THEMED Birthday Party, in lieu of loot bags I purchased $1.50 unfinished wooden chests at the $-Store. (They had rounded tops and had tin accents.)

For the boys -- I gave them a wash of acrylic craft paint so the wood grain would show through and topped them off with a Skull and Crossbone pendant that matched the tin accents. A few applications of a water-base Satin finish Polyutherane was used as a sealer. (Tip: Due to the various woods in them, staining was out of the question as it would not have been even in colour but I still treated the wood with Mini Wax Wood Prep.)

For the girls -- I removed the tin accents, gave them an opague, acrylic painted finish and decoupaged 'girly' Pirate themed lazer printed clipart on them, which I cut out and lined the interior with a co-ordinated pattern. For a sealer I used four coats of a high-gloss water-based Varnish.

Each one was filled with Pirate themed goodies. ie: Gold coins, faux jewels, sea shells, a Treasure map, compass, eyepatch, earring, bandana, tatoos, and a homemade wooden beaded necklace (on Stretch Magic Cord) with the coolest Pirate bead ever. :) The girls booty was slightly different as their necklace was a Silkie Cord and the the Skull 'n Crossbone pendant was silver plated and instead of Tatoos they got Stickers.

Both were a big hit with the kids and for a $1.50, they now have a place for their own little trinkets. No one seemed to complain that there wasn't any candy. Total cost of each amounted to about $5.20 including the supplies and contents.

Apologize for being so long-winded.

That sounds fantastic! It is wonderful that you put such effort into the treasure box that they can use it as a trinket box. Every time they use it they will have great memories. Great ideas and thank you for sharing them!

Thank you for the compliment.

It was really worth the effort. I had 18 to do. Twelve for the boys and 6 for the girls. (Some of the parents wondered where my daughter had purchased them.)
I live in Canada, so the cost would have been far cheaper if I had lived in the U.S. not to mention our tax on purchases is 16%. I also failed to mention, most were $-Store finds whereas there were a few items that I purchased from Michael crafts and a Party Store. The wooden beads for the 18" necklaces were ordered in bulk from a Canadian supplier. The Pirate Skull bead (First Mate style) ordered from 'The Crafty Bead' on Etsy. I used my Computer and photo program for the Treasure Map and Clipart projects.
Tips: In Canada (not sure about the U.S.) one can go online to Michael Crafts and print off a discount coupon for any one item on a weekly basis.
To create an illusion of an old Treasure Map: Water mark and crinkle a piece of brown paper (bag). Scan it and save it as a photo. Using plain paper, print it off on both sides, then add your image (map) to it. If brave enough, scorch/burn its perimeter. (Do it over a sink). Roll it up and use jute cord to tie it.

Fully appreciated all your great ideas (and that of others). Have printed them off for future reference.

Yay! A fellow Canadian! Thanks for the information and sources!

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