As I’ve entered the world of pre-school birthday parties, I’ve noticed something about them: They are a little out of control. Some parents spend upwards of $300 for a 4-year-old’s party. And invite 30 people. Each of whom brings a gift.
Our family hosts small, simple birthdays at our house. Today my oldest is six. And for six years, we have told guests that their presence is all we want. Neither of my children have received gifts at their birthday parties. Ever.
Of course, my husband and I get our children birthday presents. But that is enough for these small people. For one, having a lot of toys overwhelms children. The more toys they have, the more they won’t appreciate them. They don’t even remember what they have once put away — if toys ever get put away. And, two, we all know when you go to a child’s birthday, you look for the cheapest, plastic toy. So you bring junk. I don’t want junk.
And when my children are invited to a birthday party, we do not bring gifts, either. My children draw a card for the birthday girl or boy. I refuse to give you junk.
This year, we have instituted a new tradition. Every other year, my children will have a birthday party. So now the even years will just be a few best friends over for a homemade dinner. The odd years will have a small, simple party.
I think we need to ask ourselves why we are going so crazy over children’s birthday parties. It’s not that the kids really enjoy them. I’ve seen plenty cry because it was Just. Too. Much.
I would love to see a new movement of simple birthdays. What if we emphasized giving instead of getting at our children’s birthdays? What if, instead of gifts, guests brought cans of food for the Food Bank or bags of dog food for the birthday girl to donate to the local dog shelter? That would have way more meaning than opening 20 cheap, plastic toys that will break in a few week’s time. And it’s a valuable lesson for a child to appreciate what he has.
So I am challenging you for your next child’s birthday party: 1. If you are invited, have your child make a card. Think of all the money and time you will save not going out to get a gift. 2. If you are hosting, go simple and ask guests not to bring gifts. Instead bring donations. Let your child enjoy being with her friends at a fun party in the backyard. That’s what they remember anyway. I remember who came to my sleepovers, but I could not tell you what Jennifer got me.
The best part is you won’t fill up your house or your friend’s house with junk. Trust me. We all have enough.