Chances are your kid will attend dozens of birthday parties over the next few years. At even just $10 a pop, spending on gifts can really add up. Now think of all the gifts that come into your home—half of them will eventually go to a landfill or charity. Talk about a waste of money! So, I’m proposing a radical idea: the no-gift birthday party. You’ll have a lot less clean-up, and the other parents might even thank you. Here are some alternatives to traditional parties and gifts:
Have a short and simple party at your house. Play some games, then have every child decorate his own mini cake or cupcake with all the fixin’s (colored frosting, sprinkles, candied toppings).
Instead of giving your child a gift or party, give an experience: a trip to an indoor or outdoor amusement park, the zoo, a museum or water park.
To very young children, give just one fun gift from you, and ask everyone else to gift money for a savings account. As babies, my little ones were too young to care about gifts, but now they are proud of the money they already have saved for their future.
Ask guests to bring canned goods for a local food bank to the party. After cake, depending on the ages of the kids, caravan to the food bank so the kids and adults can help for a couple hours.
Cook up some fun at a place where kids can channel their inner chef. Businesses like this often offer birthday parties where kids can make their own pizza or decorate their own little cake.
Have a party at a cool place like a nature center and ask for donations. Jaime Perreca, mom of four, says: “More parents are saying ‘no gifts, please’ or are doing a donation. We went to a party last month at a nature center and were asked to donate money. Most families put in $10 to $20. The nature center was SO happy to have our donations.”
Go to a shop where the kids can paint their own pottery creation, then have cake and ice cream bars.
Throw a party with an animal theme. Mom Shari Fresorger says: “We have done two no-gift parties because my son has a December birthday. [At the first one] we made animal-themed Christmas ornaments, and gifts were donated to the local animal shelter. At the second party ... I ended up with a large SUV packed with supplies for the animal shelter. Lots of large bags of dog food, blankets, toys and even checks to be donated in my son’s name.”
Ask guests to bring an item from home or even a new book or toy for charity. Your child will feel good about taking donations to a local center that helps those in need.
If you’re brave enough, host a slumber party. The kids can watch a movie, and have some pizza, popcorn, cake and ice cream. A shaving-cream fight is always a hit during warmer months.
If you do it right, nobody will be thinking about presents at all. They’ll be too busy having fun!