For many reasons, parents have begun considering alternatives to receiving gifts at parties. Rather than simply ask for “no birthday gifts” on the invitation, replace the gifts with something meaningful to your child. Rather than treating the absence of gifts as a sacrifice, frame it as a new and different experience and highlight what makes the birthday celebration special.
Many birthday gift alternatives center around giving to charities, such as everyone donating money or toys to Toys for Tots or a local animal shelter. Other alternatives include having a toy or book exchange, providing experiences rather than material objects or organizing guests to present a sentimental collection of memories of the guest of honor.
Birthday gift alternatives serve the same function as gifts, drawing attention to the guest of honor. In addition, these birthday experiences offer something more personalized and special than many birthday presents.
Many birthday present alternatives feature collective, meaningful experiences. For example, you might organize your guests to write letters, draw pictures or decorate scrapbook pages that describe their connections with the guest of honor. Collect these contributions into a birthday book that your child will cherish for years, or scan the pages into a digital scrapbook. During the party, interview each guest, asking for funny or meaningful anecdotes about the guest of honor, and film their responses for a birthday movie montage.
Removing birthday gifts from a party moves the attention to the celebration itself. Often, the simplest activities become the most memorable. Have guests bring toppings for sundaes, cupcakes or cookies and spend the party concocting messy desserts. Schedule fun games, such as a treasure hunt, and make the treasure a surprising treat, such as ingredients for s’mores or bowls of gummy worms in crushed chocolate cookie “dirt.”
Children between the ages of 3 and 5 may not understand the concept of no gifts. If they have attended many birthday parties centered around gifts, you may have to consider a compromise between no gifts and gifts. For example, host a book exchange in which every child brings a wrapped book and exchanges it for another wrapped book.
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