DIY Loot Bags - save money, time and waste

Loot bags present an often frustrating challenge: How do you keep costs down without buying junk from the dollar store that's going to end up in the landfill? You want to be creative and give something useful without breaking the bank.

In this video from Help! We've Got KidsTracy Wagman presents simple, quick ideas that won't put a huge dent in your wallet.

We want to hear about your ideas in the comments, so be thinking about that while you watch! :)

What are your go-to loot bag ideas for saving time, money and waste?


This post was sponsored by and originally appeared on the Help! We've Got Kids web site. Go check it out - they're in Ottawa now!

Birthday Party Planning

by Josee Celebrating the birth of our daughter is a grand occasion in our home, but not in the traditional gifts and cake sort of way.

For her 1st birthday, we decided to ask for donations to the Ottawa Food Bank. Although some guests did bring gifts (mostly second-hand—as requested) we were able to make a decent donation of non-perishable food items.

The idea was born out of a need to keep excessive amounts of “stuff” out of our little house and to teach our little one that giving is just as much fun as getting. So, we’ve decided to make this an annual event and we’ve upped the ante. Our goal this year is to “donate her weight” and, at 30 pounds, that’s no small feat! Guests will be asked to bring a donation in lieu of gifts.

Our evite reads:

Jacqueline-Eva LOVES to eat. When she learned there are people in her community who can’t afford to eat as well (or as much!) as she does, she decided to take action!

This year, in lieu of gifts, Miss Jeva is requesting guests bring non-perishable food items to be donated to the Ottawa Food Bank. Her goal is to “donate her weight”…so about 30lbs of food!

We’re hopeful that she will look back with fondness as she recalls memories of rallying together for a good cause and we look forward to making this a family tradition for years to come. Josée is a first-time mom and she is still getting a handle on finding balance with her roles as wife/mom/daughter/friend/employee… not to mention trying to keep up with the appetite of her soon-to-be two year old Jacqueline-Eva.

Secret Spy Birthday Party

by Sara In February my son, the firefighter, turned 6, and with a budget of $100, we set out to host, at the firefighters request, a secret spy party for his closest friends.

And for the first time my superstar husband organized the entire affair. If you're impressed with how it all came together, he deserves all the kudos.

Our nanny/au pair/life saver, who is with us 1-2 days a week, supervised the paper mâché. With her help the firefighter created a giant bomb shaped piñata for his party. It took several days to dry (on one of our hot air vents) and then the monkey and firefighter painted it black.


I typed/printed the text for the invitations and took the firefighters photo in his spy gear and he did the rest, creating invitations for all his friends.














While I had a busy morning of photography sessions my husband took the kids to Dollarama and Party Packagers to get all the party supplies. Here's what they bought:

Spy kits / Loot bags

10 Mini flashlights

10 pencils & notepads (and a pencil sharpener)

2 containers of glow sticks

Party activities

'Caution' tape

Red string (for a laser obstacle course)

Red ink pad (for fingerprinting)

Large bottle of black craft paint


Black cups, plates and napkins for 10

5 types of candy for the bomb piñata


Black balloons

In total the party cost us $88. My dad, who has made the boys birthday cakes every year since their 1st birthdays, created a grey bomb (at the firefighters request). Because the party was from 1-3 we didn't serve any other food/snacks, just juice and water.

When the recruits arrived (all wearing black and navy blue!) we gave them 15 minutes to play before they were called to the family room where their secret spy mission (to prove themselves as secret spies and complete the mission) was explained. Each recruit was given their spy notebook and pencil and then fingerprinted.

After the fingerprinting was complete we brought them to the studio for an obstacle course to test their physical stamina and readiness for the mission. They punched a focus pad, climbed through a laser maze, and then balanced on a course of beams. They also tried on a variety of camouflage gear and at one point we tied groups of them together with a long rope to see how quickly they could escape (very quickly!).

Before the mission began they had to collect 19 clues (pieces of green painters tape) from around the main floor of the house. They put the clues in their spy books (the tape looked blank but each piece was numbered 1-19 with yellow highlighter).

After passing the retinal scanner they went to the darkened basement with their flashlights to find the decoder. Using our UV light (aka, cat pee light) they put the 19 pieces of tape in order (the light made the highlighter numbers glow) on the decoder square which revealed the location of the hidden bomb (piñata).

Note: Even my fancy-schmancy camera has trouble taking photos when its pitch black ;)

Their mission was to defuse the the bomb (with a broomstick). My wise husband suggested we destroy the bomb in the garage to minimize the mess.


When the mission was complete we let the kids play for 20-30 minutes (as well as colour the huge piece of paper we'd laid out for their cake picnic) before it was time for the second bomb. The cake and sparkler were a huge hit!


Because we have gift free parties there wasn't any need for present opening and after two hours we sent the tired spies home. In lieu of loot bags (something else we avoid at our parties) we sent each home with their fingerprint sheet, flashlight, notepad/pencil, and the candy from the piñata.

Given the laughter, huge smiles, thundering feet, and excited shrieking, I'm going to say that a good time was had by all!

Sara is a photographer and mom to a 6-year-old ” firefighter”, 3.5-year-old “monkey”, and a third boy, "bug", due in May.  You can also find her at her blog, My Points of View.

The Cow Guys

by Eric Kiernan and I went into the darkened Mayfair theatre - not to see a movie, I explained to him, but to see the Cowguys. Not a western show, no - it would be juggling and magic.

The movie before their show had run late, but even as they setting up, they entertained the arriving audience members with melodramatic flourishes and jokes.

When the main show got underway, we were treated to a classic vaudevillian double act of straight man Brian Wilson and comic foil Nick Miller. They fooled around, performed sleight of hand, juggled pins and knives, and pulled audience members up onstage (or when they wouldn't come up, the show was brought right to their seats). Kiernan was fascinated, afterwards claiming his shrinking into the chair and hiding behind me meant that he really would have wanted to go up on stage.

For the finale, a cow-print box was rolled out and we were presented with a classic Houdini "Great Escape" act: Beautiful assistant "Nicolita", blonde wig stunningly complementing her trim goatee, was wrapped in chains and locked into the box, where -- well, I don't want to ruin it, but Kiernan told me he knew how the trick had been pulled off.

"There was probably a robot in the box and the robot turned into the other guy when they were behind the curtain." Man, if a four-year-old can see through your illusions, Cowguys, it's time to upgrade the show (or maybe just the robot).

Both Kiernan and I had a lot of fun and enjoyed the show - as well as the poster autographed by Bridini and Nicolita. Cowguys are available for private parties, and even have great birthday party packages available at They will also be performing at Ottawa's 20th annual Busker Festival which runs July 28th-August 1st.

Eric is dad to 4.5 year old Kiernan and two year old twins Quinn and Juliette.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Creating Tranquility in Children's Lives

by Amanda Integration of yoga into a child’s life allows for a sense of calmness and relaxation, coupled with environmental awareness and tools for personal stress management.  Children’s yoga classes foster a sharing and caring environment and bring honour and thankfulness for their self, family and surroundings.  Yoga classes encourage kids to move their bodies, create calmness in their little minds and allows their spirits to soar.

Here are some fun yoga postures you can do with your kids at home or at the local park!

 Downward Dog (Mommy Dog)

(Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Begin on all fours (table position) distributing equal weight in your hands while spreading the fingers. Gently lift your hips towards the sky, as your press your heels deep down into the earth.  Keep the fingers spread and hands pressed evenly into the ground as you create a V shape with your body.

Preschoolers enjoy shaking their “tail” in this position as they bark like a Mommy Dog.

Bound Angle (Butterfly)

(Baddha Konasana)

Begin in a comfortable seated position and bring your knees in close to your chest. Allow your knees to slowly drop to the side, towards the earth. Your hips should stay on the floor, with a tall spine.  Press the souls of your feet together.

Move your legs and/or arms in a fluttering motion so your butterfly can fly high in the sky!

Upward Dog (Baby Dog)

(Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

Begin on your stomach with your chin resting on the floor, bringing your hands in close to your chest. Spread your fingers and press your palms into the floor.  Pressing the feet into the floor and begin to lift your chest and shoulders off the floor.  Lengthen your arms and press the crown of your head towards the sky. Open up your chest, pressing your shoulder blades together. Toddlers and Preschoolers may want to bark and make noise like a little puppy!

Child’s Pose (Sleeping Bunny)


Begin in a kneeling position, with your buttocks on the heels of your feet.  Allow your upper body to fold forward reaching towards the earth.  Your forehead drops towards the floor, and your hips reach back towards your heels.  Lengthen the spine as your breath dances throughout your body.  Place your hands on the floor next to your body.  Another option that the children enjoy is a variation (as shown in picture) with the arms extended in front. This is a great relaxation pose. 

 Amanda is mom to Dominic, 2 months, and can be found blogging about life, product reviews & giveaways at Namaste Mommy, PTPA Panel of Moms & Tools for Schools.  When not feeding and changing diapers Amanda is busy with her company DeGrace Energetics & Little Lotus.