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Party Favors and Takeaways Guests Will Love

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No hostess (with the mostest) dares to throw a party without offering parting gifts to remember. But, when entertaining both friends and their kids, it can be challenging to come up with ideas people of any age will love.

Party professional Donna Pilato, who has served as the About.com guide to entertaining since 1999, has hosted her share of kids' parties for her daughters, ages 8 and 11. "They have grown to prefer home parties above all other venues for kid parties, and are always coming up with creative, themed ideas for their own special days," she says. Some Pilato family favorites include disposable cameras for each guest to record events at the party; painted flower pots with seed packets tucked inside; and "cookies in a jar" kits, complete with ingredients, cookie cutters, and a recipe card.

Personalized gifts appear to be a trend that's here to stay. Online gift site PlumDrama.com offers decorative tins filled with goodies including candy, tea, or candles custom printed with hip designs bearing party guests' names. To personalize a gift yourself, burn CDs using music related to the party's theme or featured at your party. Complete the personal touch by printing covers listing the date of the party and the names of the hosts and guests for a truly one-of-a-kind keepsake.

"Make and take" party favors are always a hit because they blend gift giving into the festivities. Ideas for make-their-own-favors include gift bags, T-shirts, journals, and picture frames (check craft stores for kits that include all supplies). "So many times those loot bags kids bring are filled with stuff that doesn't last long and that just ends up all over the floor," says Sherri Athay, author, gift consultant, and mother of three. Decorated party favors become "more meaningful to the children because they serve as a better reminder of the fun they had at the party," she says. Athay suggests tying crafty activities into the theme of the party and the age of the participants to make the favors even more relevant and memorable.

Another supereasy idea Athay frequently uses is to create a centerpiece made up of favors guests can take home, such as flowers grouped together in individual containers. "I also think it's fun to incorporate the place card into a gift," says Athay. Place a wrapped gift with the guest's name on the gift tag at each place setting; it works for guests of all ages -- who doesn't love having a little something to unwrap? Holiday ornaments, small picture frames, a single decadent truffle, or a toy or book all work well without costing too much.

Finally, Athay says connecting favors to a party's theme can be done easily and on the cheap. Everything from flashlights for sleepovers to cool shades for pool parties will work. For a holiday-themed idea, have guests decorate a special tree set up just for the party. Then have them choose an ornament as a parting gift -- they'll remember the party every year.

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