The one about kids’ birthday parties

by Decemberbaby

I’ll say it: most birthday parties drive me nuts, both coming and going.

The oncoming party brings on the deliberations: What does this kid need? Is there anything this kid doesn’t own yet? (a valid question in our circle of friends, where we seem to have the fewest toys of the people we know – and if you’ve seen our house, that’s pretty amazing) What can I give them that won’t just become clutter in a week?

I’ve solved most of these problems by trying to get gifts that are designed to be used up. A giant bucket of craft supplies, for example. Alternately, a box of washable paint, some brushes, a roll of paper, and (for the parents’ sanity) a plastic shower curtain to protect the floor. In the case of K’s montessori classmates, it’s easy: until every kid in her class has a personalized placemat for their lunchtime ritual, I’ll be making those as birthday presents. I’m not quite sure that the boys are as interested in the crafts, though, and I certainly don’t think they will be a couple of years down the road, so I’m not in the clear as gifts go.

Then the party arrives and ends, and K comes home with a loot bag. At best, it’s some kind of craft that she made during the party; at worst, it’s a bag full of Dollarama toys that K loves for a day and then promptly forgets. Inevitably, I’m driven crazy by the fact that I now have more useless crap in my house when what I really want to do is get rid of clutter.

But sometimes, parents really, REALLY get it right.

K went to a birthday party yesterday morning. The invitation came with a card requesting donations to the children’s hospital in lieu of a gift. Very nice. We made the donation, although I also made her a placemat (wouldn’t want her to be the only kid in class without a special one, right?). The party itself was a blast – a gymnastics class for all the kids followed by cake. Each child left with a balloon, a tiny container of play-doh, a few good-quality personalized sticky labels, and a card saying that the birthday girl had made a donation in honour of each of her guests. Lovely.

The labels are already at work on K’s new lunchbox and water bottle. The play-doh was heartily enjoyed yesterday and today, and may live to see another rolling pin if K remembered to put the lid back on the box. The balloon is still bouncing around here somewhere and still amuses K for ten minutes at a time.

All in all, the party was fabulous from my point of view. The people who did give the birthday girl a gift gave something they knew she really needed or would use. The guests and host had a blast, and nobody came home with clutter. The parents deserve an award for throwing a birthday party that was fun, philanthropic, and not at all excessive.

And now, I’ll throw it over to the readers: what do you give as birthday gifts for kids? What price range do you stick to for birthday presents? And what would you like to see as a take-home for small guests?

(If you’re going to comment, please do it on this blog rather than on Facebook – that way all of my readers can see and enjoy the comments.)

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5 Comments to “The one about kids’ birthday parties”

  1. bravo – agreed all around! I struggle with the same (and can’t stand junkie little toys – I have enough things to step on!) My nephew had a neat ‘treat bag’ this year – a Beta fish and a small baggie of food(and a small treat for the kid)……our boys LOVED each getting their own fish.
    Last year we asked for no gifts at R’s party – being it’s Christmas Eve and all – we asked them to bring an unwrapped toy and after the bowling we went to the firestation and donated – plus free tour of fire trucks + happy partyiers! Reece wants a superhero party (so far) this year and so I’m planning on making these

    http://www.thesoutherninstitute.com/2011/03/super-hero-cape-and-power-cuff-tutorial.html

    super hero capes out of mens tshirts. I tried it for my boys last week and it was super easy and quite a hit. Also – get’s rid of clutter in hubby’s tshirt drawer!!! For the party I’ll just wait for the cheap T’s at Michaels for $2.50.
    ok I’ll stop talking now! looking forward to other ideas!!!

  2. I almost always give books or art supplies. Our loot bags are also books, games or art supplies..

  3. Good advice for the future! I have no interest in accumulating junk.

  4. When the big kids were little, i used to routinely give hebrew-alphabet fridge magnets; most families didn’t have them, it was Jewish but also interesting to the kids.
    these days, i don’t have a standard thing, but sometimes, it does get a bit junky.
    depends on my mood; depends how much money we have.
    As for loot bags, i have been known to raid Value Village for “grab bags’ of little toys in good condition that can be divided among many loot bags, along with one or two “better” items. one year, for a kid the right age, i found a whole set of animorphs books in mint condition, so every kid took home a book.
    Like i said, it depends.
    Some parents may be creeped out by “secondhand” toys, but to me, if they’re clean and newish, it’s better than landfill, for a decent price.
    I won’t say more here, because you & your kids will probably be the recipient of more of our “treasures” someday… :-)))

  5. p.s. in terms of junky gifts, one mama – i guess she only knew other crunchy mamas – begged me for a barbie doll for her daughter, because all the other presents had come and gone and her daughter was still desperate to own a barbie. All the homemade placemats in the world can’t equal a barbie, sometimes.

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