Besides pass the parcel, party bags can be the most exciting thing for kids at a party. For them, it almost feels like it’s their birthday too. And, usually, the curiosity about what’s waiting for them inside the bag is more exciting then the actual contents.

But after the initial exciting moments, disappointment follows. Plastic tat, a few sweets, and an empty bag don’t keep kids entertained for long. Yet with a little thought, and no extra money, party bags can be amazing.

We’ve done the hard part (thinking) and created this guide for you to use at your next children’s party. So forget all those terrible party bag ideas and let’s get creative.

A book

Books are a great party bag filler because kids love stories and parents love their kids to read. They’re not very expensive either: you can get a set of 35 Mr Men and Little Miss books for £20. Or a set of Thomas the Tank Engine books for a similar amount. That’s about 60p per book. And if you don’t have 35 kids coming over for a party (you’re brave if you do), then you can keep some for Christmas and birthday presents.

Books last a long time too and kids can re-read them. So for 60p they’re getting a great deal and you look like a wonderful kid’s party host!

Coloured pencil and mini notepad

Drawing and kids go hand in hand. So does writing little stories and taking notes about weird and wonderful things that us adults are too grown up to think about. And like a book, a mini notepad and pencil will last quite a while.

It encourages children to be creative too, rather than just providing them with some cheap plastic toy they’ll forget about in five minutes.

Places like Poundland and The Works have a good selection of cheap stationary that you can add to party bags.

Polaroid picture of themselves in their own party bag

Nothing is more personalised than having your own picture in your party bag. If you don’t have a polaroid camera already, this might be a bit of an expensive choice. But if you’ve got one lying around, or think you’d use one in the future, this is a wonderful way to make a party bag more exciting.

You could also make it part of the party games: “selfie time kids!”

Bag of seeds

In a time when everyone is becoming more conscious about the environment, getting kids involved with nature at any opportunity is great. It can teach them about taking care of their environment and how to look after something, too. And chucking seeds everything will be pure enjoyment for them.

Plus, they’ll also be able to see something they’ve planted grow and bloom. And let’s be honest, even as adults it’s still really satisfying to see something you’ve planted and nurtured blossom into something beautiful.

Bags of seeds are really cheap as well, not to mention the good effect they have on the bee population!

Jumping beans

If you’ve ever seen jumping beans waddle their way around a table, you know they’re good fun. These beans fascinate kids so they’re definitely a good bet for a party bag. It might be a good idea to use them when kids are a bit older though, just in case they mistake them for jelly beans!

A small chocolate or sweet

A party bag wouldn’t be complete without something sweet for the kids to nibble on after the party is finished. A single, small chocolate or bag of sweets is more than enough to satisfy their sweet cravings though. And the the less sweet things they have the more time they’ll devote to all of the other wonderful things you’ve put in their bag!

If you don’t want to give them anything with lots of manmade sugar in it, you could always put a piece of fruit like a satsuma or segments of apple in the bag.

An alternative to party bags

If you don’t like the idea of party bags or it seems like too much work when you’re already hosting a bunch of kids, you could always wrap individual gifts (like a book). You could then incorporate this into the party games as a sort of pass the parcel where everyone gets something to take home.

These are just a few ideas that you can use to make a great party bag. We’ve tried to make it easy for you to make one set of party bags that you can give to both boys and girls. No one wants to make two sets of party bags!

If you have some genius items you put into your party bags we’d love to share them with everyone, so let us know what they are.