Thirteen-year-olds can be curious, goofy and kind, but they can also be hard to please. Putting together goodie bags for kids hovering between childhood and high school requires careful balance. Start with a category of gifts that would appeal to most teens, then enlist your own 13-year-old to help select the specific items.
Cold, hard cash is something no 13-year-old can get too much of. While stuffing a goodie bag with dollar bills is odd, passing out lots of gift cards isn't. Luckily, kids this age don't need cards with large limits to be impressed. Research the gift card policies at the places local kids frequent.
Your area discount theater may sell gift cards in small amounts, as do popular fast food spots. For instance, Baskin-Robbins sells gift cards with amounts as low as $2, while Starbucks and McDonalds sell $5 gift cards. You might also buy affordable gift codes from online music merchants. Wrap individual cards in tissue paper and tuck a few into each goodie bag.
At 13, kids are on the edge of being high schoolers but are still young enough to have some silly kid spirit. Model the goodie bags after the ones they probably received at age 6 or 7. Include fake mustaches, play dough, aerosol string, bubbles, stickers and other dollar-store finds. Make it clear that these goodie bags are intentionally childish so the teens don't roll their eyes, perhaps by affixing labels that say something like "A blast from your past" to the bags.
Appeal to the burgeoning interests of each of your guests with a media gift. Involve your teen in choosing personalized gifts for her guests. She can help select novels, comic books, graphic novels or magazines for each of her pals based on individual interests. Stick to paperback items to help keep each goodie bag affordable.
Edible goodies are always popular with growing teens. Because guests may have a wide range of food allergies, avoid foods containing common allergens such as nuts and wheat. Buy chocolates truffles or make your own homemade chocolates with peppermint, mocha flavoring or cinnamon and chili powder. Homemade caramel corn or cheesy popcorn pleases the masses, too. Make sure every treat you distribute has an ingredient label; for homemade treats, print these yourself.
If the party has a theme, echo it in your goodie bag choices. After a dance party, give kids CDs or cheap flash drives loaded with a mix of current dance songs. Hand out decks of cards after a game party or ticket vouchers for a local minor-league sports team after a sports party. For a girls-only bash, bottles of nail polish, sparkly hair ties and lip balm make the after-party just as fun.