How did children’s birthdays become the battle of extravagance? What ever happened to a good old fashioned pool party at the local park?

How did it become the norm to bring gourmet cupcakes to school? What happened to the homemade ones or at least the ones from the local grocery store. Having a summer birthday, I never even got to bring cupcakes to school. We did not have a day when all the summer birthdays were celebrated. It definitely sucked but I survived and I am pretty sure that I was not scared for life.

Let’s not even get started about goody bags. Click here for a great article: Let’s Cut the Crap and Kiss Goody Bags Goodbye.

A friend recently questioned whether it would be strange to have people donate to a charity rather than bring gifts to the birthday of her three-year old. If this seems “strange” then we need to take a look at what we are teaching our children. After all, there are reportedly over 1 million charities in the United States alone. My response was that it was an awesome idea. Children will get plenty of gifts from family and close friends, most likely they will get more than enough. This is a great opportunity to teach children, both the birthday girl/boy and their friends, about empathy, thinking of others, and giving back. And it is great to start early, to make it a birthday tradition, something that is a way of life.

Here are some ideas for your child’s birthday. Most provide the opportunity to involve your child’s friends in the giving back process and for other parents to begin such discussions with their children and it encourages a family activity of giving back post-birthday party celebration.

1. Create a donation page for a particular charity. My friend chose the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

2. Collect children’s books and then take them to a local charity. This is a fun one, as your child’s friends get the chance to pick out their favorite books to bring.

3. Have guests bring non-perishable food items and then take them to a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

4. Talk with a local animal shelter and see if there is a particular animal that is in need of funding for vet bills. “Adopt” this pet to raise money for and include their photo in your child’s birthday invitation.

5. Have guests bring a used toy or clothing. Imagine what kids will think if they not only do not get a goody bag for attending a party but are asked to bring an old item of theirs to donate!

Depending on the age of your child, allow them to be involved in choosing the charity to benefit. This will help them develop their passion for a particular volunteer activity.

It is time to stop trying to keep up with the “Joneses” birthday parties and instead celebrate your child’s birthday in a way that both celebrates them and encourages them to think of others.

Do you have other great ideas? Share them in the comments section below.

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