No Sweets? No Sweat!

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
Homemade round crayons

Some parents are opting to ditch the tradition of sending in edible treats for at-school or at-camp birthday celebrations.

Why? Food allergies are certainly one issue, but so is a dietary shift away from sugary foods and an orthodontic shift away from chewy foods. And maybe, too, the cost and time involved in baking cupcakes are just too much of a squeeze.

If edible treats aren't allowed in your child's classroom - or just aren't your thing - here are ideas for nonedible party favors.

Contact your child's teacher for guidelines on whether favors of any kind, edible or not, are approved at your school or camp. Goddard Schools, for example, have a fairly new rule that all birthday treats must be store-bought so that an ingredient list can be seen.

Another way to celebrate, courtesy of David B. Ball, spokesman for the Pickerington Local School District, is to donate books - or a board game - to the classroom. No refrigeration needed!

By making homemade gifts, your child is involved and invested in the giving process. Here's one way: Save old crayon stubs in a big bag and then recycle them into one-of-a-kind round masterpieces.

Take the paper off old crayons and break them up into smaller pieces. Spray or coat a muffin tin with vegetable oil and put some crayon pieces in each hole. You can group similar colors together, or mix them up. Place the muffin tin into an oven that has been preheated to 275 degrees. Bake for about 7 or 8 minutes. Watch closely as the crayons melt. When they look melted enough, take the tin out of the oven. You can stir them with a toothpick to swirl the colors, or leave them as is. Cool completely and pop out of the tin (tap the back of the tin to get them out). Thanks to for this idea.

Ideal for November/December parties, this no-bake recipe for a sweet gift is super simple: Combine 1/3 cup applesauce and 1/3 cup cinnamon in a sealed sandwich bag. Massage the bag between your hands until the ingredients are combined. Voila! It's dough! Roll the dough out and cut it into holiday shapes using cookie cutters. Put a hole through the top of each ornament so it can hang on a tree. Let them sit undisturbed for a few days to completely dry, then tie a red or green ribbon on each.

Consider buying a variety of fruit and/or veggie seeds for children to take home to plant. Most packets cost less than $1 apiece at hardware stores.

A quick trip to a party or bargain store can yield several items per dollar … erasers, stickers, pencils, pencil toppers, mini notebooks and what-not. Kids can have fun trading them. And the dollar bins, like those at Michael's or Target, often have magnets, pens, note cards and crafts, or even inexpensive earbuds or winter gloves.

Homemade: There are several recipes for this craft online. In one from, you mix and knead together one cup of flour, one cup of boiling water, 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar, a 1/2-cup of salt, 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, and food coloring. Once done, put each gift in a bag and tie it with a fun ribbon (it will not dry out). Store-bought:Tiny Play-Doh party-size canisters, guaranteed fun in a can, are available in a bag of 15 mixed colors for about 33 cents per can.

Have your child select a song set relevant to his or her age group and burn a specialized party mix! A spindle of 50 blank CD-Rs for recording music (up to 80 minutes) is $14.99 at Target -only 30 cents a disc. You could label each with your child's name and something like "Third-Grade Dance Mix 2015!"

Your child will need to work well enough ahead, using loom bands or embroidery floss, to create enough of these school-spirit favors for classmates and teachers.

The classic stuff is at toy stores for about $1-$2 each, or make your own. Several recipes are online, but in an easy one, you mix equal parts of three ingredients: Elmer's Glue-All multipurpose glue (not Elmer's school glue); food coloring; and Sta-Flo concentrated liquid starch (other brands may not work). Mix the glue and food coloring until the color is even; pour the starch into the mixture; and stir and let it sit for five minutes. Then pull it out of the bowl and knead it in your hands for five to 10 minutes.

A bookmark, fridge magnet and paper clip rolled into one, "i-clips" are versatile little gizmos that come in fun themes, such as animals, musical symbols, cupcakes, etc. and can be found at Barnes and Noble (and other places) for about $3 to $6 for a pack of eight. The American Library Association ( offers many varieties of old-fashioned bookmarks in new-fangled themes at $9 for a pack of 100.

For a more extravagant handout, "Smencils" are scented colored pencils made from recycled newspapers. The popular pencils are $1.99 each (at Learning Express and elsewhere). A pack of 10 for $14.99 brings the per-pencil price down.