Lolly bags: Why do we do this to each other?

What child doesn't love a lolly bag?
What child doesn't love a lolly bag? Photo: Uwe Umstatter

The humble lolly bag – or loot bag, as some refer to them – is a strange concept for parents to go along with. After all, we're the ones in charge of encouraging kids to eat green veggies and brush their teeth twice daily, rather than pushing lollies into their little hands.

We reconcile this in our collective consciousness by using words like 'sometimes'. As parents we spout off wisdom about our children having occasional treats. The food served at birthday parties certainly fits into that 'sometimes' category – lollies, cake, chips, highly processed savoury foods – and yet we struggle to contain this ideology within the definition of 'occasional'.

Children consume enough treats at parties, and I don't know any parent who wants their child coming home with a child on a sugar high and a bag ready to provide them with the next round of behavioural issues.

Why do we do this to each other?

Here's where it gets tricky: we've dug ourselves into a hole, and it's one that's quickly filling with expectation. Kids have come to expect a lolly bag as they walk out the door; when their parents say it's time to go, their first move is to hold out their hands for what could be seen as bribery for leaving without a tantrum.

The spiral continues; kids want to impress their friends with a great lolly bag and, because parents want to keep their kids happy, the whole tradition continues.

You may be getting the gist that I don't like them, but even I'm not immune to their magnetic pull. Lolly bags go against every inch of my better judgement, yet when my eight-year-old requested we compile bags filled with lollies and chocolates, I went along with it. She knew the things we could put in there that would impress her friends, and so that's what we did.

It wasn't always this way for us. When my oldest child was little I sent home bags with balloons, bubbles and a home-baked treat, and at my youngest child's recent party I sent kids home with empty hands (and disappointed faces). But this gets harder as the kids grow older and their expectations – and those of their friends – change.

And I think it comes down to some old-fashioned peer pressure.

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Yes, I think we know we shouldn't send kids home with more sugar, but we do it because everyone else does. None of us wants it to happen but who will have the guts to put an end to it?

Ultimately, not sending lolly bags home puts your child at risk of being the kid who didn't have a great treat-filled party. We'll do anything to save our children's reputations, right?

No, there isn't much I like about lolly bags – they're filled with sweets that I don't want my kids having so many of, they tend to also include little plastic junky toys that fall apart within two minutes, and I don't see a reason to reward kids for coming to their friend's party.

There are, however, two saving graces for the old lolly bag: the looks on kids' faces as they peer inside and see something to look forward to, and the ease with which they then leave the party and allow peace to be restored.

And that's why I'll (begrudgingly) continue to go along with the lolly bag trend – maybe I just need to make them a little more fun and a lot less sweet.

Any suggestions welcome.