My daughter received an invitation for a birthday party for two sisters who go to her preschool/daycare. The girls were turning 2 and 4 years old and were having a princess-themed party where the kids were to come dressed in their favorite prince or princess costume. Seemed like a perfectly normal invitation, until I got down to the last sentence on the invitation â€“ â€œNo gifts pleaseâ€.Â Â My first reaction was a bit of shock as I have never gone to a birthday party and been asked not to bring a gift. Isnâ€™t that one of the most fun things about having a birthday party as a child?? The excitement and anticipation of opening up all of those wonderful wrapped goodies that your friends and family have showered you with to celebrate another year of joyous youth?
Then, I started thinking of my daughterâ€™s birthday parties we have each year. We usually have around thirty-five friends and family members at each party, which amounts to around twenty to twenty-five gifts to open since several family members often bring more than one gift (yes, Iâ€™m calling out the grandparents on that one!). Once the party is over, someone (meaning me) has to find room for ALL of these new toys and electronics and books and clothes and shoes. My daughter already has what feels like three billion toys dispersed in toy organizers throughout the house.Â Â In addition, there are the outside toys such as scooters, tricycles, toy baby strollers, and toy shopping carts in various random places throughout the yard and on our back deck.Â Â To top it off, anytime we go to any store where toys are sold, my daughter feels the need to tell me which of the toys on the shelf she doesnâ€™t have yet and why it is completely essential that she have that toy right then and there.Â Â I very rarely give in to her toy wants at the stores and as a result, I often leave the store with a very upset, whining child.
Thinking about that â€œno gifts pleaseâ€ invitation has made me realize that my daughter now expects gifts, or toys, or clothes for all holidays and parties. I donâ€™t think she actually appreciates the value of having holiday and birthday celebrations as a means to spend valuable and enjoyable time with loved ones and friends. Instead, she values these parties for the cake, candy, and the gifts she is going to receive. She doesnâ€™t stop to think that all of these people have taken time out of their busy schedules to come celebrate another year of life with her. I know she is only five, and most kids, including her, donâ€™t tend to think about the reasons behind birthday or holiday celebrations, but by having â€œno gifts pleaseâ€ parties early on in the childâ€™s life, it teaches a valuable lesson about the importance of friends and family instead of the importance of the presents they may bring.
Birthday parties are often so expensive to throw these days anyways. I know many parents spend a few hundred dollars on their childrenâ€™s birthday parties. In addition, it seems the norm these days is to invite all the kids in your childâ€™s classroom to the party (some schools actually have a policy that you can only bring in birthday invitations if you invite the whole class). Most classes have twenty to twenty-five children in them, which equates to twenty to twenty-five birthday parties a year just for classmates. If you add in birthday parties for kids on your childâ€™s sports teams or in your childâ€™s dance or gymnastics classes, plus cousins and other family members, that is a lot of gifts to have to buy over the course of a year. And many parents spend $15 to $20 per gift. That is several hundred dollars a year in birthday gifts for childrenâ€™s parties.
I am going to have to seriously consider doing this for my daughterâ€™s 6th birthday party next year. Instead of saying â€œno gifts pleaseâ€ though, I think I may encourage guests to donate $5 to a charity of my daughterâ€™s choice in lieu of gifts. Iâ€™d like my daughter to learn that giving to others can be as much or more fun than receiving from others. I know it will be a huge adjustment and change in attitude for her to make, but hopefully it will help her to see the joy in just spending time with friends and family and to appreciate the time she is given with them.