Kids in particular love little gifts and novelties. Even something as small as a whistle (while it will eventually drive a parent crazy) can be such a fabulous little trinket to a child. For Halloween this year, we gave out candy and one novelty to every child. Almost every single time, the child was more interested in the novelty we handed them than the candy. And since we used whistles among other things, we had immediate feedback on our choice as our entire neighborhood was illuminated with the sound of little ghost whistles up and down the street. These things, particularly because they are surprises, make a kids experience that much more personal and fun.

For parties, whether they are holiday parties, birthday parties, housewarming parties, or just a get-together, we always have a few novelties on hand for the children who show up. This practice does two things. First, it lets them know that they are welcome in our home. This little icebreaker helps them relax After all, they are usually dressed in their “good” clothes, have received numerous lectures about the behavior that is expected from their parent, and are a little nervous to do the right things in someone else’s home. Breaking the ice with a novelty helps them understand that we understand they are children, and we don’t expect them to be perfect in our home, which often leads to better behavior because of their stress level plummets.

The second thing this does for them is to give them a distraction and a new way to associate with the adults around them. Adults can be terribly boring. Whether there is just one child in the mix or several, the adults are still terribly boring. But unless the other kids know each other well, it takes a little time for them to feel each other out and engage in their own activity. Younger children still need to be assured that it’s okay to play while they are at the party. Remember that behavior lecture they received? Remember when they usually get in trouble?

Using gifts and novelties as an icebreaker doesn’t have to be limited to children. However, when handing out these little gifts or novelties, keep in mind that children under the age of four may very well choke on small items and you need to make sure whatever you’re handing out either can’t fit into a little mouth or have a separate gift and novelty section for the young children.

If you’re going to enter the novelty world for adults that attend your parties, you might want to give serious consideration to what you’re handing out. Children are easy by comparison because they are truly happy with so little. Adults, on the other hand, tend to have grown past that interesting period in their life and now need something a little more exciting than a whistle to feel like they are getting something. You don’t have to go very expensive for adult novelties, but you should go creative. If you’re making a joke, make sure everyone understands the joke. For years, we had a running joke inside our family about the Budweiser Frogs. At a gathering we had later, Budweiser tee shirts were handed out. The problem was that only half of the individuals there understood the joke, so half the adults thought my parents were trying to give away beer tee shirts as a gift. It didn’t hit this particular crowd very well.

Novelties and small gifts are perfect little thank you for coming packages. If your event is particularly important, you might want to avoid humor and go for more tasteful selections. However, if you’re handing out novelties for a backyard Fourth of July barbecue, it’s okay to use humor instead. Matching the novelty with the occasion often tends to be the hardest part. People with a strong sense of humor tend to want to stay with humor, even for more formal events. This can be frustrating. People who tend to be more emotional and cater to their appreciative feelings tend to want to be more upscale in their selection, even for tee shirts and jeans events. Either way, you simply want to try to match the novelty with the event, and the crowd. Be aware of accidentally leaving anyone out of the loop, and have tons of fun with it. Once you start exploring the world of novelties, you’d be surprised how many choices you actually have.

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