Monday, March 21, 2011

Children's birthday parties - a paradigm shift

When it comes to hosting a birthday party for your child (4-11 or so), how about requesting the invitees that in lieu of a gift toy, instead bring a donation (of an equivalent dollar amount) to either the food bank or to the humane society.
You'd think that the fulfillment of this request would be a no-brainer? Well, you'd be surprised at the parents who either bring a toy or bring both a toy AND a donation. Parents mean well, i.e., they can't believe that a child willfully agrees to foregoing a toy for a donation that will go somewhere else. 
It's quite common for a child to be invited to a birthday party 3-10 times a year, depending on how sociable he/she is. The routine is as follows: 
 - invitee parent goes to a toy store to buy a reasonably-priced gift, the cost of which should be equivalent to the cost of the food, entertainment, and loot bag: $20-$30
 - not knowing the birthday child that well, invitee parent opts for a reasonably-priced gift that is gender appropriate. 
The problem with this scenario is that in this price category, the toy selection is limited; toys are of limited interest to the birthday child and will shortly thereafter be discarded. Not only is a less-than-useful toy a poor use of disposable income, disposing of this toy adds to the strain on landfill space. It should also be noted that in buying this toy (likely made overseas, probably in China), we have exported the pollution involved in its manufacturer. And guess what? Pollution in China affects us all!
So if you're a parent hosting a birthday party, firmly insist on a donation. The invitee parents who go this route almost always donate the money ahead of time to the food bank/humane society of their choice and insert the receipt/certificate  in the birthday card. It offers a chance to instill in the children not only the spirit of giving but in going without in the process of giving.
It goes without saying that the birthday child should be a very willing participant in this process.
The warm inner glow from this exercise in giving/sharing will last far more than a plastic toy in a landfill.
Or maybe not.

One would be amazed how infrequent this arrangement is... I should know... my wife and I  have 3 boys.

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