Why Does Every Child Get a Prize?

Have you ever wondered, why is it at children’s Birthday parties, the Birthday child gives away goody bags? I’ve definitely wondered. Those bags and everything in them can end up costing as much as all the food at a party! They didn’t do this when I was a kid.

It’s like we’re compelled to give everyone something (other than food and a fun party) just for attending. I just don’t get it.

Now, before you panic, I’ve thrown my share of kid’s parties and we always give away goody bags. Though, for one summer water party, I gave away pool balls and a little plastic pool toy, each child got to pick their own. I had a few parents confused. Where are the bags?

And then it hit me, my 6yr old was reading me a story the other day. It’s an old Abeka 1st grade reader that I read when I was a kid, so I remembered the story the minute she started reading. It’s called “The Best Loser”. It’s about this little girl at a birthday party, who keeps losing every game. She’s told that at the end of the party there’s a prize for the best loser. She’s upset every time she loses, she loses at musical chairs, pin the tail on the donkey, and a guess what’s in the bag game. At the end of the party she expects the prize but it’s given to another child who had a good attitude about losing.

That’s how I remember parties, there would be 3 games, usually there’s a specially marked plate (which is totally NOT fair because picking the right plate is just chance there’s no skill required) and then two other party games like musical chairs or pin the tail on the donkey. The winning child for each game would receive a prize – most likely a bottle of bubbles or a jumprope from the dollar store. At the end of the party, 3 children went home with a prize and everyone else went home with nothing. No one thought this was odd or unfair. And the host parents didn’t spend a fortune on trinkets to send home with the guests.

Sometime between my childhood and having kids someone thought, “wow, this is unfair, my child is unhappy that they didn’t get a prize, at our party we’re going to give a prize to every child”. So, they gave out goody bags to every child who came. Other parents thought this was a great idea, and now it’s expected. Just try throwing a party and don’t have any goody bags to hand out at the end, and see what happens.

The strange thing is, it’s not the Birthday child handing these bags out saying “I’m so glad you came” and giving something meaningful to express their appreciation, it’s the child’s parents handing these bags out to every child at the party because it’s expected. Basically, at the end of the party all the kids go, “where are the goody bags, we’re ready to leave”. And these bags are filled with things that you, the parent, discard as soon as possible – tiny bubble bottles, stickers, pencils, tattoos, candy, etc.

When we get home my kids dig through their bags, discuss what they got, and scatter everything around the house. I have to ask a lot of questions to get a description of the party from them.

I think this is just another symptom of overprotecting our kids, we don’t want to let our kids lose or be disappointed because let me tell you, not getting the right plate so you can have a prize is just soul crushing.

I won’t be denying kids their goody bags at parties any time soon (let’s just say I would be considered a bad hostess), but I do think it’s worth considering that just maybe we’re not teaching kids to value disappointment and friendly competition. But we are teaching them to value all the junk that we get to bring home and throw away. Which one is actually going to help them in life?

5 Replies to “Why Does Every Child Get a Prize?”

  1. I see what you mean. I think it’s also a sad way to bride parents to bring their kids. I could send out 30 invitations and be lucky if even 1 shows up. So we don’t bother with “Goody Bags” and we don’t expect gifts either. We just happy to be able to have the kids get together to play and have some cake.

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