To make it more special:
1. Skip the candy (parents will appreciate that), the noisemakers (ditto), and the bitty flower-shaped erasers — they just end up as clutter. Instead, give guests a clever party favor, like “My Pet Fish” soap, above ($6, spoonsisters.com.)
2. Go for quality over quantity: Classic novelties like glow sticks and yo-yos are good options. So are art supplies: colored pencils, markers, and kid-safe scissors.
3. Consider giving just one higher-ticket item: a disposable camera, card game, kaleidoscope, or colorful mini-flashlight.
4. Turn a craft or an activity that’s part of the festivities into the take-home: Along with the ideas on these pages, kids can paint photo frames, bead jewelry, or sculpt creatures out of make-and-bake clay.
5. Think outside the bag — try Chinese take-out boxes, plastic flowerpots, popcorn buckets, or mini-paint cans. Or, forgo containers entirely. “For my son’s baseball party, I bought a bat-and-ball set for each child at the ninety-nine-cent store and tied a ribbon around the end. I saved time and money, and the kids got a big, fun gift they could use,” says Tina Bryson, a San Marino, California, mom of three.