Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Too Much Birthday - Part I

How have birthday parties gotten so out of hand?

What ever happen to the simple birthday party? Where just being with your friends and family at your home, playing party games and eating cake and ice cream was more than enough fun?

Then there is the problem of gifts - what to give, what to do with all you've been given, and where in the world are you going to put it.

Don't get me wrong, my daughter and I look forward all year long to planning her birthday party. We also love picking out presents for her friends for their birthday parties. I just think the way children's birthday parties have evolved fosters consumerism and selfishness. I am tired of cheap toys, the Mattel logo makes me shiver. So here are my birthday lessons I have learned, and what I wish I knew back when my 1st was turning one.

It can be a challenge to come up with a good stock of birthday presents, and running out at the last minute just adds so much stress - not to mention keeping with in your means financially, while still giving a gift that will be blessing. Here is a list to simplify gift giving:

  • Get an Amazon Prime membership or ask for one as a gift. It cost about $80 per year and you get free two day shipping on a wide variety of items - including diapers! This way my child can still hand pick her friend's present and there is no hustling out on another errand. Obviously, the membership is for more than just kids birthday presents. Money wise it pays for itself. Believe me, I am a penny pinching, make my own laundry soap kind of mama.

  • Visit your local educational store. Stock up on educational toys from the clearance section. I love Lakeshore, but remember you get what you pay for, and this store is not cheap.

  • Give books, you can never have too many. Amazon and Barnes & Noble usually have free shipping if your order is over a certain amount ($25). Order a few books, and stash them in a closet. Books are great because they don't take up much room. Don't forget audio books too!

  • Go to a local non-chain toy store and support a small business. They might even wrap for free. The Christian bookstore I work part-time at wraps gifts for free. It saves the customer time and money, not to mention you are keeping me employed.

  • Give an experience. Make a ticket or certificate for a special play date. It could be bowling, ice cream and miniature golf, picnic and kite flying, a trip to the zoo or museum. This is not only a green choice, but it fosters community and relationship building. Also, if your family has a membership to a zoo or museum, you often can bring guests for free. You do need to contact the mom ahead of time to work out the details and get her permission, but I think she will love you for it - one less toy to clean up!

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