Open Thread: Is It OK to Give Goldfish as Party Favors?


Favors seem to be a required part of any kids’ party. I don’t love the concept of birthday party favors, but I remember being very into party favors when I was a small child, so I can see why they’re still a thing. Nobody wants to be the party where all the guests grump afterwards about not getting a plastic bag full of rubber ducks or glo-sticks, after all. So we buy the tchotchkes and bag them up for our kids’ parties, and then our kids bring back 40 of the same bags throughout the year, and in the end we all just deal with the clutter and do our part to support the global market for the random stuff that fills the bins at the dollar store.

There are some good party favors. Stickers seem cool. Glo-sticks are pretty swanky. But there are also bad party favors. Anybody who gives a four-year-old a whistle is not your friend. But even a whistle is better than getting a goldfish, but that happens.

Over on Hot Moms Club, one mother says her three-year-old¬†went to a birthday party where all the kids were surprised at the end with live goldfish in little baggies. The thrilled little girl was dropped off back at home by a babysitter, but when she went through the door, the mother was like, “Holy shit, that’s a live animal. WTF?”

This appears to be a contentious issue. Personally, I assumed this would fall under what I assumed was a universal rule that one never, ever, ever, under any circumstance gives a living creature as a gift without checking first. I assumed one would not give a goldfish as a party favor the way one would not give a turtle as a hostess gift. It’s just not OK to spring a living animal on someone without their permission. Living animals–even goldfish–require attention and care. They need a place to live, and that place needs to be cleaned. They need to be fed and cared for. If you go on vacation, care arrangements have to be made. Assuming that all that stuff doesn’t have to be done because it’s “just a goldfish” seems irresponsible and cruel to the fish.

Goldfish actually live a really long time if properly cared for. They get huge and turn into the giant decorative fish you see swimming around ponds in fancy gardens. They only die in a couple days if they’re not cared for properly, which is what most people do. Goldfish aren’t really supposed to live in little bowls, and that’s why they’re known for dying right away and basically being disposable. This doesn’t seem like a good lesson to teach kids.

Even if one does think of goldfish as basically being disposable, in a couple days it’s going to die and then you’re going to have to have a little fishy funeral for it.

Apparently this is a thing, though. Message boards are full of discussion as to whether or not a goldfish is an OK party favor, and some people think it is just fine. (I just watched a whole Facebook thread of enraged people insisting that people who don’t want their kids to receive goldfish as party favors are being “entitled snowflakes” who needed to stop getting bent out of shape about a “cute favor” and “learn to parent.” Obviously I disagree. “Snowflake” has already lost all meaning, but I think it’s a lot more entitled for a person to think they can give pets to toddlers without asking their parents’ permission.)

Personally, I think goldfish are a pretty awful party favor, but they’re not the worst favor. Some people have reported getting baby chicks, and that’s way worse. “Thanks for coming to my birthday, here’s a live chicken!”

I didn’t think you could top a goldfish, but chicks are worse. What do you think? Is it ever OK to give a goldfish as a party favor without asking the parents?

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