In our age of excessive consumerism, many parents are becoming more concerned with the impact of their purchases on the environment and their children. They take part in clothing swaps and purchase gently-used clothing from consignment stores, or through apps and Facebook groups. They lend and swap toys and children’s gear with friends and family, instead of sending them to the dump. Some even consider themselves minimalists. Beyond that, many parents just want less stuff. We’ve all looked at the toy room, exasperated as we clean up the toys for what feels like the 9000th time that day, while stepping on a rogue piece of Lego.
When it comes to my kids’ stuff, I know I would rather have less, higher quality toys, than more cheap ones. And I’ve found that the less I have in the toy room, the more the kids will actually play. When the bins are overflowing with random stuffies, games, and toys, they become overwhelmed and can’t figure out where to start. This new birthday tradition will cut back on unwanted toys and clutter, teach the value of giving back, and introduce the concept of money.
As my daughter’s 3rd birthday was approaching, a colleague of mine (back in my public-school-teaching days) told me about how she handled gifts at her kids’ birthday parties; it was genius. So for my daughter’s past two birthdays, we’ve adopted this new birthday gift alternative. In lieu of gifts, we ask that guests bring two $5 bills for the birthday girl. The birthday girl keeps the first $5 from each gift and donates the second $5 to the charity of her choice. We tried this for the first time at her 4th birthday party and with 11 children, she ended up donating $55 to the Edmonton Humane Society. She kept the money in an envelope and continued adding coins she found around the house to it. She felt proud that she was going to be able to help so many animals. Then, we brought the donation in and she received a special behind-the-scenes tour of the facility to learn how her money was going to help the animals. It was amazing!
At an early age we’ve been able to instill the importance of giving back, of volunteerism, of community, and of kindness. I believe four was the perfect age for us to start this new tradition. She was able to understand that she would have money to buy her own toys or games and be able to donate money to another cause. When it came to choosing her charity, we didn’t want to overwhelm her, so we gave her two choices: the Stollery Children’s Hospital or the Edmonton Humane Society. I also suggest that you contact your child’s charity of choice before you bring in the donation, that way they can anticipate your arrival, directly thank your child, and explain how the donated money will be used.
Many of our friends have adopted this new tradition for their children’s birthday parties too! So, what do you think? Would you consider this for your child’s next birthday?