Thursday, March 12, 2009

Birthday Fun

As we move into the second week of March, I am breathing a sigh of relief at having survived another birthday week. Despite absolutely no planning, my boys' birthdays are exactly two years and one day apart. Maybe it's because they come so close together, but in our house birthDAYs seem to turn into a marathon birthWEEK. There is the school party, the family party, the friend party...

As any parent in America can tell you, birthday parties can be one of the greatest examples of excess. I do my best to avoid it as much as possible. Here are a few tips I've learned through 9 years of kid birthdays...

1. Consider an "experience" instead of a party. This year Stephen is taking two friends to the Mariners game instead of hosting a large party.

2. Limit the invites. Of course, everyone wants to invite all 24 kids from their class, but remember that translates to 24 more toys that your child probably doesn't need (not to mention the noise that 24 kids can generate!) This year, Ryan hosted 8 friends at his martial arts studio and the size was perfect.

3. Consider no-gift parties. I am not the birthday ogre, but this really can work and we have done it successfully in past years. Encourage your child to focus on the fun and friends part of the party, not just the gifts. "No gifts, please." on the invite is sufficient. I have also seen kids collect for their favorite charities. One recent birthday party we were invited to requested cat food in lieu of gifts so the birthday girl could donate it to the local shelter.

4. Forgo the "goodie bag." All those little plastic toys are entertaining for about 2 minutes - and then its a dash to see if the parents can secretly sneak them in the garbage before the kid sends them to the four corners of the room. We usually try for one small gift instead - ZeeBeez pop-up toys from REI this year

5. Save the gift bags. I don't save wrapping paper, but I do save all those gift bags and I never have to buy them to wrap presents for other people. If I need gift wrap, I usually go with newspaper or recycled tissue paper.

6. Give practical gifts. My kids truly have all the toys they need and more. For my gift-giving, I try to focus on practical, but fun gifts. This year it was a camoflauge ski jacket for Ryan and a new floaty swimsuit for Stephen to be used on an upcoming vacation. The one gift they now always count on is my photobook summary of the last year of their life. This is definitely time-consuming (created on, but is the one gift they go back to over and over during the year.

I absolutely believe birthdays should be fun occasions, but with a little thought it can be done in a way that minimizes the excess, while still providing tons of fun for the child.

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