"I buy presents for my friends and family on my birthday," he told me.
I stared at my co-worker without reply. His comment had caught me off-guard.
He sat quietly for a moment and then explained that, for him, birthday's were about celebrating the people you love most in the world.
Fast forward eight years and two children and this concept still brings a smile to my face.
As parents, we need to teach and show our children what is important to us in life.
My fellow Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador, Valerie of Inner Child Fun, recently shared an amazing family adventure in the article Birthday Challenge: 35 Acts of Kindness. Using these two sources of inspiration our family came up with a new party theme, the Giving-Back Birthday Alternative.
It is time to think outside of the box. Birthdays offer an opportunity for families to look beyond cupcakes, balloons, and presents and find something more.
Unique Birthday Party Alternative
Below are five simple steps for a Giving-Back Birthday Party:
1. Make the party gift-free.
It is that simple and that challenging. Despite this request, some guests will insist on bringing a gift. Respect their social courtesy and appreciate their kindness by offering a donation alternative.
2. Get your child on board with a birthday party alternative.
Worried your child is going to come unglued when they hear gift-free? Take a carefully planned approach with this conversation. Start by researching kid-friendly non-profits in your local community. Find two or three choices that you feel comfortable supporting. The Humane Society and any organization that helps local children in need are always good defaults. Have the two websites open and ready before broaching the conversation with your child.
Lead your child with questions:
- Start by asking, "Are you excited your birthday is coming soon?"
- Introduce the topic, "You're going to get presents from me and Dad, Grandma, Nana [insert any additional names here]."
- Let your child interject their excitement and eventually create a transition, "That's a lot of presents. You sure are a lucky kid."
- Use this as a spring board to say, "With all those presents you'll be receiving, I was thinking that we'll have your friends bring donations instead of gifts. Where would you prefer your birthday donations go to [option A] or [option B]?
- Chat about the two non-profits and show your child the websites to help get your little one excited. Share how the donations will help others. You being enthusiastic is the key to this conversation being successful.
3. Send invites and make it easy for party guests to donate.
Let parents know the party is gift-free, but donations on your child's behalf are welcome. Make it easy by sharing the non-profit URL in the invite. If the organization has a requested "wish list" share that too!
4. Consider giving your alternative birthday party a theme.
Get creative and tie it all together. We had adorable dog cupcakes in honor of our guests who donated to the Humane Society.
5. Teach your child the joy of giving.
Teach your child the joy of giving by having them provide each guest at the party a gift. Use the money you would normally spend on fancy party-favor bags, candy, and trinkets on a simple-useful gift. We decided to give each of our guests a pair of PJ pants. As mentioned in the post Raising a Little Fish, our girls love throwing on their PJ pants after swimming lessons.
This gift was also the perfect way to get our party guests out of the pool and ready for their parents to pick them up! Don't forget to get your child involved in the gift giving. The birthday girl picked out the Beeposh Lounge Pants styles and decorated the wrapping for each friend.
The adventure doesn't stop after the guests go home. Call you non-profit and tell them about your child's party. Many will offer a special tour when dropping off donation items if you ask ahead of time. It is a great way to let your child see first hand that their choice will make a difference.
Do you have any additional alternative birthday ideas to share?
Let's chat below.