Sunday, February 6, 2011

Party favors from thrift? Get out!

Many of today's birthday parties for children seem to be on steroids. Some parties have 20 children in attendance for expensive activities like horse back riding or painting your own pottery. Ugh, we cannot afford that, but that doesn't mean our parties must be a boring flop.

I like to keep parties at home and follow the basic rule of inviting one more child than the age of the child until they are 10. For the Golightlys, March Madness translates to birthdays upon birthdays. (June must be a hot conception month.)

Little Pie turns ten this year and we will be serving a high tea for ten of her friends. I've been preparing for a year. The above assortment of tea cups will serve as party favors. I've been scanning thrift stores for months to pick just the right cup at the right price. This has been a lesson in patience and since I have the party favors set, all I really need to do is prepare the table. I acquired each teacup and saucer for around $2. Each find gave me a pleasant feeling of a small accomplishment; something we could all use these days. And, I brought each new cup and saucer home for Little Pie to see which offered her satisfaction and anticipation.

A funny thing happened near the end of my acquisition. I discovered one of the tea cups was quite valuable. (Guess now and I'll let you know at the end of the post.)

As noted in the former post, A place of possibilities, if one Dumps their retail mindset, the thrift store becomes a place of many unimagined opportunities.

If you have children or enjoy entertaining, consider the thrift store a resource. The items found there will be more fun than paper horns and tiny bubble blowers that discount retailers sell. In many cases, they'll be less expensive too and won't be so quick to become landfill fodder. To me, favors bought at party stores/discount retailers scream, "I'm not worth keeping!" Is that really what you want to give a guest?

Not only can you find the favors at thrift but you can lay a beautiful full place-setting (china, glasses, and silver-plate flatware) for under $5 from the thrift store. This is one incredible place for those who love to entertain.

Follows are a few easy ideas for party favors al a thrift. To be successful, plan ahead with patience. I promise it will take a stressful situation and make it less stressful. And, the chances that guests will actually value their favors skyrockets.

Sometimes we find things we never imagined, like these tiny clay tea pots, $3 bought all. These pots were in Little Pie's holiday stocking but easily could have been darling party favors.

All these marbles were found thrift for about $8. How about a cultural renewal on playing marbles? I do a lot of gardening about our 111-year-old home. When building out a new bed, I usually find old change like a buffalo nickel buried in the soil. I've also found several marbles.

Empty nesting dolls are easily found at thrift stores from 50 cents to a dollar. They're darling and could hold candy as a favor.

Paper parasols are another easy score in thrift stores. They run from $2-$4 each. Always check them to ensure they are not torn; there's about a 60% chance they're not. What little girl does not love a parasol?

Even small teapots can be gathered.

I purchased five pounds of old crayons thrift for $2. Little Pie and I recycled those old crayons into what we call pastel pies. We made over 250 pastel pies - that's enough favors for a classroom party!

They're really quite lovely and - if you wish - you can name your own colors.

Visit our sister blog, Mommy Golightly to learn how to make Little Pie's pastel pies.

Need more ideas? How about silk scarves, jewelry, collectible teaspoons, aprons, handkerchiefs? Or, you could host a party to make personal crowns from thrifted supplies. A few of my friends have handed out cash and cut kids lose in a thrift store. Believe it or not, teens especially love that one and usually have a fashion show afterward to see who landed the coolest score.

It doesn't end with party favors. Paper plates, napkins, paper lanterns, place-cards and invitations are easy thrift finds. I purchased Little Pie's invitations about six months ago, an unopened box of printable pink cards from Papyrus for about $2.

Try some patience and plan ahead. We all need practice on patience these days. Be open to possibilities and shop thrift. Thrift is not standard retail, think Portobello Road or a Parisian flea market with items unexpected. For example, I saw an antique rapier in the case of my neighbor thrift just this Saturday. I've seen so many exotic things, it's hard to remember them all.

As for the pastel pies, Piper and I noted something interesting in a few of them. What do you see in each pastel pie below?

Little Pie and I see a woman with a papoose on her back on the left. We see a child's face in the lower left of the middle pastel pie. A squirrel appeared to us on the right pastel pie.

Post Script: The teacup on the right with the violets was produced by James Kent, Ltd. pattern 5018. It's probably worth about 2,500% what I paid for it.


Jackie said...

These are fantastic ideas for party favors! I remember going to birthday parties as a kid...and bringing home those same cheap, plastic throwaway toys and miniature decks of Old Maid for years. It's refreshing to see someone dreaming up something new, something to be treasured. I would just love to be a kid again...and to get my own fancy tea cup as a party favor.

Barb @ A Life in Balance said...

Love the ideas, too! We've had 3 preschool parties recently with cheap favors that ended up in the trash. I really hate the ones that make noise!

I'm adding "party favors" to my thrifting list to keep my mind open to the posssibilities.

Shopping Golightly said...


You're never too old to toss your own party! One that could make up for all the tacky favors.

Beth said...

Awesome post, as usual!

I laughed when I read your comment about most party favors screaming "I'm not worth keeping!" A few years ago, I made gift bags for my birthday party, an intentional nod toward childhood, and bought crappy party favors expressly because they were crappy party favors, a kitschy little trip down memory lane.

But I've been meaning to write to let you know that you've inspired what I have decided is a great idea for hostess gifts: A few weeks ago, I popped into my local thrift store to look for a lamp and/or chair and found neither but strolled past the messy array of glassware looking for a particular glass for which my mom is on the hunt. I didn't find it, but I found so many charming one-off old glasses that I piled them up in my arms to use as votive holders and wrote a post about 'em ( ), which a friend read and commented that she wanted to use the same idea for an upcoming dinner party.

So this weekend, I popped into the thrift store again and bought many interesting glasses for a whopping $0.25 each which I will package up with a box of clear-cupped tea lights as a hostess gift for her.

And on the drive home, I thought, "I should pop in there all the time and pick up interesting glasses when I see them and keep a stash of tea lights on hand." Voila! Instant hostess gifts for last-minute invitations!

I love that I picked up an old French jam pot for a quarter and store in Chicago that trades in vintage finds sells them for $12. Each.

Maeve's Momma said...

I love the idea of teacus as a party favor - when my daughter is old enough for tea parties it'll be a go! I have some bbeautiful teacups and saucers that my grandmother gave me - one has printed on the bottom: Made in Occupied Japan - talk about history!

Jill said...

How very funny! My soon to be step-daughter (age 12) and I just went on her first trip to a thrift store, and scored a cut glass cake stand and blue ceramic teapot. I suggested to her that we plan a high tea for her birthday in July. I'm not quite sure that she is sold on the idea, but I bet the pictures you just posted may win her over. It also doesn't hurt that the mother of her best friend has also turned out to be a thrift store junkie, and we are now planning a joint venture with our girls. Between her birthday and my wedding, I plan on 80 - 90% thrift usage. How can I go wrong?

grace said...

I love these ideas! I don't have children, but the same types of things could be done for adult gatherings. So cute, so economical, and so much more interesting that plastic crap from Party Depot!

Marilyn said...

Hey--now I know why I can't find the cute cups and saucers when I go to Denver to visit my daughter. Would you please go shopping somewhere else?!! Just kidding. Better yet, offer to take me around to the places we haven't discovered yet.

I wish I could come to your daughter's party. Those are the luckiest little girls EVER! ♥♫

Shelley said...

Boy, I can tell I'm old ... back in my birthday party ideas, kids came to your party with a gift for you, to play games and to eat cake and ice cream or maybe some hot dogs off the BBQ - none of this 'bribe them to come over with party favours' stuff. BTW, Portobella Road market is in London, not Paris, but it is still fabulous fun!

Joy said...

I've long admired your thrifting creativity & this birthday party is a reason to wish I had daughters! My question is: "Will you thrift another teacup/saucer set, or give the violets away?" *breathless silence, waiting*

Van said...

LOVE this creative post. I like to host silly tea parties with friends, so I'm always looking for the best tea pots and tea cups. I'm jealous of your finds, especially the tiny clay tea pots.

When I was a kid my mom always made us pinatas and threw huge parties. There were often injuries from the blind folded kids wielding baseball bats. Ah, the good 'ole days!

Shopping Golightly said...


Ah yes. The days without car seats and secured seat belts (if the car even HAD them). The days when we'd ride on the shelf of the back window of a Chrysler that's as big as a whale and was about about to set sail!

Serena said...

Another great post. I'm not much of a teacup person myself, but your photo really hooked me in. The teacup in front is gorgeous!

In a similar vein, the thrift store is a great place to find affordable crafting supplies.

Jackie said...

You know something? You're right. I'm not too old. I'm going thrifting for tea cups and and I'm throwing a dress-up party for the ladies. It's going to be great!

Shopping Golightly said...


Too fun! Make certain you have a big layer cake with fluffy pink icing.

Daisy said...

The teacups and teapots are wonderful! As my niece gets older, I think she'll love getting special gifts like these. We gave her a small wooden horse toy on wheels for Christmas; from Goodwill. All I did was sand it smooth around the wheels, and it was ready for her.

those tricks said...

Hi ladies!
I, too, am a fellow thrifting addict.
Does your site have a blog roll that is evading my eyes?
I would love to find other fashion thrifters near my age range and you guys probably attract that type! :)))


p.s. would love it if one of you would email me back, as I'm not on blogger, so won't know if you reply to this.

Christin@Pregnant with power tools said...

Love it! and you!
Gave you a award on my site today - have a good day!

Anonymous said...

My daughter used thrifted cake plates and tea cups as favors for her wedding. Her aunts received the footed cake plates, and her cousins received the tea cups.We baked cookies which served as table decorations and dessert and the teacups were filled with rose buds. Everyone loved them.

suzieQ said...

I want to thank you for this idea. I found some cups yesterday and some saucers and did my own little date night and made some matches. I love them! I am somewhat surprised I didn't make this connection myself, but my brain must have been asleep. Now my junking addition has a new direction. Yeah!

First communion party favors said...

I had research a bunch of ideas for party favors, and this is good!

Darth Mama said...

Lovely teacups! Your daughter's party guests will have a magical time. My sister did the same tea-party-with-tea-cup-&-saucer as favor when her daughter was 10 (she is now 19 -- how did THAT happen?).

I've been keeping my eyes open for all things rainforest-y or fiesta-y (for a Diego party for my soon to be 3 year old) and all things dragon-y or knight-y or wizard-y (6 1/2 year old has not yet decided on dragon or Harry Potter theme yet for his party). Beanie babies are very easy to find, for the rainforest-y party, and will be a big hit with the three year old crowd (as well as their bigger brothers & sisters). I did find for that party a couple of "how to draw" books that raised my heart rate -- drawing is not a skill I have cultivated but I am willing to learn. Hoping to make some cool posters with my new drawing skills (and if all else fails, I'll just photocopy the pictures from the books).

I also love to give books as party favors -- something that lasts, that will be used & much healthier than a bag of candy. I tend to trade books on instead of hitting the local thrift stores, as I've found the local Goodwill does not take care of their books too well (the books are stored in a rather damp section of the store -- a pity). Plus with paperbackswap, I also achieve the goal of removing books that I've finished OUT OF THE HOUSE by sending them on to others. I love books, but they tend to pile up, and there's not that many that I will read more than once.

First communion favors said...

From all party favors I have seen this is the most unique. You are so clever!

Summer said...

I. Want. Those. TEACUPS!!!!! :D

Darth Mama said...

Along similar lines -- apart from the candy (I have yet to find thrifted chocolate!), my kid's Easter baskets will be filled with second hand and repurposed goodies. 6 year old son will be getting Lego dragons (he'll SCREAM when he sees them -- he's been wanting them for ages), handed down from his older cousins; Harry Potter books from; and a couple of Star Wars action figures stashed away from last year's yard sales. Soon-to-be 3 year old daughter will be getting a Dora pillow from the thrift shop; a stuffed bunny from the same thrift shop; a cute ducky plate from -- you guessed it -- the same thrift shop; and Diego binoculars, handed down from her cousins. Oh, and a pair of bright pink & purple crocs from that thrift shop, too. All the stores have is just plastic junk for Easter that they'll play with for 2 minutes and then abandon.

Easter outfits are coming from a clothing swap last week -- a lovely white dress with hand-painted flowers for my girl, and a nice polo shirt and new-with-tags Gap pants for my boy.

Darth Mama said...

Oops, forgot to add the repurposed part - the Easter "grass" for their baskets will be shredded wrapping paper, left over from holidays/birthdays.

Darth Mama said...

I find myself returning to this post again -- my daughter will be turning 3 this week and I have some lovely Dora gifts for her, all used. She'll be thrilled with the big dollhouse (from a clothing/toy swap), the dolls (a couple from freecycle, a couple thrifted) and the Diego animal doctor set (from Her big party will be next month when her grandparents are visiting, and I have lots of thrifted stuffed animals for party prizes.

Fashion Suits said...

At first i can say it was a Chinese figurine!.. hahaha. thumbs for the clear shot..

Janey said...

My niece loves to have tea parties, and I can just see her going crazy for a birthday party themed like that. I love the little clay pots you found! They may not be the best tea pots, but they are perfect as party favors. Your ideas were great!