Guest Author - Lisa Polovin Pinkus
“Your presence and not your presents are requested” is what I write on birthday invitations. Still, people feel the need to come with a gift in hand. I know the feeling. When my children are invited to birthday parties that request “no gifts”, we usually bring one anyway. Until now.
It is so fun to open up presents. It is a great learning opportunity to write thank you notes to friends. Gifts are part of the birthday experience. And, yet, every year I realize (again) my children receive enough gifts from family alone; their needs are few and far between; and most of the gifts end up forgotten after a few weeks.
It’s really time to make giving at birthday parties more meaningful. I’m going to share some ideas to help instill the privilege of giving within your family. Hopefully, your children can embrace the value of giving to others and not feel like they are missing out on something when they do not receive tangible gifts.
My favorite this year is One World Futbol Project. One World brings and sends indestructible soccer balls to youth around the world. Your child has the opportunity to make a donation and provide a ball to a child in a disadvantaged community. Not only that - if you choose, she can buy one for herself too. Give one and get one for just under $40. I think this is a fantastic “gift” to give to a friend. One World Futbol Project allows us to do some good in the world and opens the doorway to conversation about the living conditions many people around the world live in.
If you are a parent who feels that your child should receive something at his birthday, you might be interested in Kids Can Give Too. Party invitations are sent by Kids Can Give Too. Their invitations are pretty thorough and even ask you to indicate if it is a drop off party. Once your party information is filled in, your child can select a charity he would like to make a donation to. Invitations are emailed out. You can receive paper invitations for a fee. The invite tells your guests that your child is “having a different kind of birthday party that will also help others”. Guests can send a gift online. At the end of the party, your child receives 40%, the charity receives 50% and KCGT receives 10%. It’s always nice to give a portion of what you get – a great lesson, a happy birthday, and a wonderful cause selected by your child!
Of course, your child might be completely altruistic – even at her young age. She is not attached to gifts or getting things. Your daughter wants to help others. She loves animals, so she may decide to ask her friends to pick up a simple dog toy that she can donate to the local animal hospital. Or, maybe she wants to collect cans of food, boxes of crayons, or other simple items that will make a huge difference in the life of someone else. I always wonder whether the parent or the child came up with this idea, but – no matter – it’s a great way to have a “giving” birthday party.
Family To Family is an organization I tried to work with a couple of years ago. My daughter collected small gifts from her friends – gently used items or new items – for her birthday. We added in some birthday plates, candles, cake mix, and other birthday celebration goodies. Family to Family will find a child around the same age as your child who will be able to celebrate their birthday thanks to your generous donation. Family to Family was not connected to a shelter in our area, so we ending up contacting an agency directly and bringing our birthday in a box to them. My daughter was thrilled to be able to give a birthday party to a young girl she never met and who would not have been able to have a birthday party without our help.
Kohl’s Cares is one of my long time favorite charity projects. For $5 each, you can buy a book and a stuffed animal, and the money is donated to kids’ health and education programs across the country. We have the pig and the moose from the well-known series by Laura Numeroff. If You Give a Moose a Muffin and If You Give a Pig a Pancake still sit proudly on our bookshelf. What a great way to give without spending too much. I’ve also seen Dr. Seuss, Mercer Mayer, and Eric Carle. This is a great gift to take to a birthday party.
These are gifts that really give and help our children realize that it really doesn’t take much to change the world and make it a better place.