My son just turned 4 and this year we had a “no gift” birthday party. Not that I think there is anything wrong with gifts, but I just started to see the focus shift away from just celebrating to presents. When he was 2 he had a big party with gifts, last year we just celebrated with family, and this year I wanted to throw him a party, but I didn’t want it to be about the presents. He gets enough presents from family and doesn’t need more stuff. I felt like it was a critical point to teach him the importance of appreciation and giving.
But I know just saying “no gifts” sometimes, stresses people out. Many people don’t like coming empty handed and then others bring gifts anyway which may make others feel bad. So instead of just saying “no gifts please” we said we were teaching my son about sharing and that gifts weren’t necessary, but if you would like to bring something we will be taking unwrapped donations to Children’s Hospital.
I included my son in the whole process. He knew that people may be bringing things to help other kids. I wasn’t sure how it would all go over at first, but he was really excited to take the donations to the hospital. We brought dozens of art supplies which the hospital says benefits the most children. They were so great with him, thanked him, told him where the donations were going and even gave him a certificate. He had a great birthday party with friends and learned a valuable lesson as well. If you have organizations and charities where you would like to donate you should give them a call and see if they have a procedure for receiving donations to make it more special than just at a drop-off.
If you are considering a no gift birthday party, here is a great site I found Birthdays Without Pressure that offers alternative ideas.