You don't have to spend too much time on an internet parenting forum until the "what to put in party bags" question comes up, and it always provokes strong, mixed reactions.
My personal pet hate is party bags jam packed with chocolate bars and sweets (normally full of e-numbers) and perhaps the cursory bit of "plastic tat" that usually ends up in the bin after 5 minutes. I'm not alone in this bugbear, as my forum friends are very vocal about their pet hates.
Always high on the agenda, along with the e-number invasion, is "plastic tat". Those with a few kids' parties under their belt will have had times when a tiny bit of plastic was deemed only good for the bin. Other much maligned party bag items are those with the potential to make a mess - modelling clay, bubbles and felt tips spring immediately to mind.
So these are the things parents seem to hate, but what do they really like? Without doubt, mothers do seem to like little board books (especially for toddlers), stationery sets, bouncy balls, and most especially wooden party bag fillers! Parents also like the idea of one item, as opposed to a bag full of stuff.
Now, seeing as I'm a purveyor of plastic toys, stationery AND wooden party bag fillers, what do I think? And more importantly, what do my customers think?
Well, judging by one excited phone call I had from a dad who'd just bought a load of plastic blow copters for his son's birthday, not everybody hates plastic. "They are great - they actually work!!" were his words to me, as well as "Can you send me some more?". So clearly, not everybody thinks plastic is tat. The same goes for our wind-up clockwork frog - it is only 50p and goes on for ages. It's very popular with big boys too - especially those in their 40's.....
I couldn't talk about "non-tat" plastic products without mentioning our best selling animal mugs. Made of plastic, they are cheaper and more durable than china mugs, and are really versatile.
Environmental issues aside, I think it's safe to say that while there IS a lot of tat about, not ALL plastic party bag fillers are complete rubbish.
What about wooden party bag fillers? Well, the cons are that they can be a lot more expensive than other options, and in some cases they can split easily, or have bits come unglued. But it has to be said, that if you can afford them, then you'd be hard pushed to upset any parent with a good quality wooden party bag filler. I particularly like wooden bracelets and necklaces for girls, and wooden mice or racing cars for boys.
Ultimately, I feel that we as parents shouldn't forget that party bags are for the children, and it's important to remember what they like too.
This blog post was prompted by an article by Sarah Ebner Times Online. It makes for interesting reading, particularly the readers' comments.
So, what do you think?