Thursday, July 16, 2009

Too Much Birthday - Part II

"Just your presences is presents enough!"

When I showed my Aunt our playroom, she stated "They have more toys, than Carter had pills." My kids have been wonderfully blessed with some great toys, but a kid can only play with so many toys. Also, we have noticed the constant and steady stream of presents creates a discontentment with what they have. I can see this setting them up for over consumption, a bad American habit. We just love those kids so much, and they are just so cute, it brings us joy to treat them. I have been guilty of that myself. However, the reality is that too many treats hurts a child. Too many gifts does not bring respect, but takes respect away.

So here is what I propose: On their birthday, the child should get a few gifts from their parents and family members. Remember quality over quantity. We love toys like: Playmobil , American Girl, Calico Critters, Melissa and Doug, wooden railroad, wooden blocks, Lego's, and the like. Not that these are the only toys our children own, but they are the best quality, most played with, and educational.

When they have their birthday party with their friends, have a simple (but not boring) party with their closest friends at your home. Don't cave into the pressure to invite their entire Kindergarten class. Play party games and do a homemade craft. But here is the real twist, ask the guests NOT to bring a gift. Instead ask for a donation for a charity your child chooses. For example, my daughter loves animals, especially dogs, so she was thrilled to collect donations to a local animal shelter. It will be a great experience for her to take the items there with me to boot.

Now, don't think my sinless child just jumped at the chance the first time I proposed such an outlandish idea. It took months of "vision casting" on my part before she finally agreed to the plan. Please keep in mind that my daughter was turning eight, which means she developmentally thinks of the world outside her self, unlike a preschooler. In the end it was her choice, I did not force her into my idea.

The vision was cast by conversations with my daughter about how we don't have room for more toys, and we have craft projects that we have not even gotten to yet. I explained that there was not anything she really wanted that was under $15. Pointing out that she has spending money, and can easily save for a $10 toy - not forgetting to mention to her that 25 Webkinzs is more than enough for one little girl. Also, I told her since we were able to spend less on the birthday party, I could buy her a more expensive present. On the side, I made sure to suggest to her aunt and uncle to chip in together to buy her an American Girl doll she really wanted. All the encouragement helped things to run smoothly at her party, and she gave no complaints about presents. For the first time in our birthday party experience, there was no post birthday meltdowns. She loved her party and had a great time with her friends.

My daughter chose a Kit Party, which is a character in the American Girl Series. So I thought of two charity ideas that matched our party theme. One was collecting food for a food bank, since the Kit series takes place during the depression (1934). If we pick this one, I would have contacted a local food bank or the food ministry at our church and find out what they needed and wanted. My second was to collect items for a local animal shelter (Kit gets a dog for her birthday because the owner could not longer afford to feed her). Online I was able to view their wish list and contact them about how to go about dropping off the donation. I proposed both ideas to my daughter and let her pick the charity. Then, I made the party invitations on our computer and typed a polite request for no presents with a list of donations ideas on the opposite page. The day of the party, I left a basket on the front steps for the items, so the giving was between that one guest, the basket and God.

Not having the guests bring presents had a profound affect on what I felt I needed to do for the party. Homemade was good enough, after all it is just a party with friends. Getting together was the main focus. There were no gift bags of tiny treasure, aka cheap junk. Each guest did receive a dog coloring book ($1) and a paper box they made as a craft. And I do not think the guests realized I spent much less this year because I was not just thrifty, but creative too - like Aunt Millie in Happy Birthday Kit.

Please post your birthday ideas that weave Biblical character in your children's lives. Do you have ideas about giving gifts? How do you handle birthday parties?

Here is a list of great birthday idea books, your library should carry them:

*The Penny Whistle Birthday Party Book by Meredith Brokaw & Annie Gilbar
*The Penny Whistle Party Planner by Meredith Brokaw & Annie Gilbar
*Hello, Cupcake by Karen Tack & Alan Richardson (not simple but thrifty, creative & lots of fun - we made the basset hound cupcake like Kit's dog)
The American Girls Party Book (AG)
Snooze-a-Palooza: More Than 100 Slumber Party Ideas (AG)
Super Slumber Parties (AG)
Kit's Friendship Fun (AG)
Kit's Cooking Studio ( AG has them for other historical character too)

*Top 3 are great for boys and girls of all ages.


  1. Great post! Our kids are still a little young for these great thoughts, but one suggestion I do have for pre-school age birthday parties--don't open presents at the party! Not opening the gifts with everyone present really de-emphasizes the gift aspect of the party. I also think limiting the number of children to the child's age is an excellent idea. There is no reason for a 4 year old to have 20 guests.

  2. I am in the midst of planning Autumn's 5th birthday party,and before I had even read your post, I was thinking about doing the "no presents" thing, mainly because of the expense for the guests. I was also thinking on ways to have a fun, yet, thrifty time. One thing I remember from my own birthday parties was make-your-own pizzas made from English muffins, sauce, cheese, and toppings. I thought it would be a fun way to serve an inexpensive meal. I definitely want to have a craft, too. Any ideas? We are going to be having a care bear theme. The last real dilema I have now is the guest list. She has two close friends and a lot of other aquaintence- type friends. Last year we just had the two friends, but this year I wanted to have more than that. Hmmm....

  3. Tell Autumn she can have so many kids at her party and let her pick. It is nice to invite someone who has invited you to their party, but this can get out of hand. Just invite the number of people you can afford, don't cave into pressure to invite them all because other moms have the same problem and it just becomes a cycle.

    Did you google "Care Bear Birthday Party?" I am sure there is a webpage for one with cute games and crafts. I always use some else's ideas or adjust them for our purpose. Oh, you could make cupcakes with those symbols on their bellies (omitting gumpy :)). I love cupcakes because they are much easier to decorate,easier to serve and inexpensive to make. That is all I can think of right now, I am a little rusty on my Care Bear.

    The pizza idea is excellant. They love that. Yeah for no presents too!

    You should do a post about it and share your ideas.