Why I think birthday party goody bags should be banned

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 Photo: Getty Images

It was when my five-year-old son strutted into a friend's birthday party dressed like Spiderman and shouted, "Will there be goody bags?" that I decided to start a campaign against them.

Little bags or noodle boxes stuffed with loot — lollies, stickers, novelty erasers, small toys — what's not to like? I used to think goody bags were a bit of harmless fun, and if they fit the theme of the party, then all the better. My boys love them.

When my older son had a spy party to celebrate turning six, I bought pint-sized notebooks, magnifying glasses, sunglasses, pencils, stickers and chocolate frogs, and took pride in popping them all into crisp white paper bags I had decorated with each guest's name in old-style type.

I spent a small fortune on $2 shop stuff that our small guests likely lost or broke five minutes after they hopped in the car to go home.

Because I am a sucker, I also stayed up late creating "spy challenges" for the kids to complete, and making a "mystery cake" festooned with question-mark flags made from toothpicks and printer paper. I love a rowdy kids' party — they are always fun, if exhausting.

I enjoy creating memorable celebrations for my children, and so does my husband, who recently ran a bunch of pre-schoolers through a Star Wars obstacle course. We called it Jedi training and followed it up with a cake modelled on the planet Tatooine, complete with three moons. Because we are both suckers.

But goody bags don't feel like fun so much as an obligation, and when they incite your children to greed then it's time to rethink.

I know other parents feel the same. I have had many lively conversations about goody bags. Someone always mentions that when we were growing up, there were no goody bags at parties. You ate the cheerios and tomato sauce, ran around the garden, sang happy birthday and you were done.

Someone else always endorses the simplicity of a piece of birthday cake wrapped in greaseproof paper: "Thanks for coming, bye bye!"

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We feel uneasy about the etiquette of goody bags — how much to spend, and what constitutes appropriate loot — but we still seem to think we are obligated to pony up with the goods.

Other mums have actually apologised to me for not providing goody bags at their kids' parties. Like I am going to think them lazy or cheap or careless. My response is always, "You have entertained my child for two hours, fed him cake and made him feel loved. That is more than enough."

Unfortunately, small children don't always take that view. My five-year-old broke down in tears recently when he had to leave a party early and missed out on his goody bag. When his eight-year-old brother hosts a party, Mr 5 is only interested in two things: will the cake be chocolate, and what is going in the blasted goody bags.

He has become fixated on them. Every time he is invited to a party, I tell him that there may not be goody bags (which are a lovely extra, sweetheart, but not an essential part of a birthday, blah blah blah) and that he mustn't make a fuss. I emphasise the friendship that has led to his party invitation, and the fact that the birthday child is the focus, not the 30-second goody-bag presentation at the end.

But because we live in a neighbourhood where parents are as eager to please as me, there almost always are goody bags, really generous ones, so he thinks I'm just making stuff up. When he gets a bag, he shoots me a triumphant smile as if to say, "I knew it, silly Mummy!"

At the first opportunity, he pours out the contents and rates them according to how "cool" they are. Anything related to Star Wars, Pokemon or Lego is the "coolest".

It overshadows the fun of the party itself, it rewards his greedy behaviour, and I can yabber on about it as much as I like: for this kid, actions speak louder than words.

So next year, no goody bags at my sons' parties. I will endure the complaints with gritted teeth and a light heart.

Why don't you join me? Let's kill off the party bag, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.

- Stuff