Birthday Presents: What To Do When Your Child Doesn’t Need So Many

Marsha & Mutt Make Merriment
Marsha & Mutt Make Merriment

How much stuff does one child need? No, no, I’m not asking how much that child wants. How much does he need? When I was a kid I looked forward to birthday presents as much as anyone else did. Looking back, I don’t remember much about any of the gifts I received though I’m sure I was thrilled at the time. After all, what was a special occasion without presents?

Then I had two daughters of my own. Being a children’s entertainer, of course I wasn’t going to let their birthdays go by without a party. I quickly learned that when you invite the whole preschool class, even if it’s only 8-12 kids, you end up with a lot of gifts your child really doesn’t need. A couple of years ago I met a mom with a better idea. She hired me for her daughter’s Pajamas in the Park party.

On the appointed bright sunny weekend morning I arrived at the park in my baggiest pajamas, ready to make balloon animals. The picnic tables in the pavilion were set perfectly with every kind of breakfast food imaginable: muffins, doughnuts, pancakes, cereal, fresh fruit, juice boxes. Then the guests began arriving. “Huh,” I thought. “None of them has brought a gift. And what’s with all this cereal?” This mother had wanted her child to experience generosity without greed. She had wanted her guests to have the fun of choosing a gift and presenting it, too. Each family had been instructed to choose their child’s favorite cold cereal and bring a new box of it to the party. Once the party was over, the birthday girl and her family would go to a family shelter or food pantry and present the cereal there for kids who otherwise would go without breakfast. It worked out well for everybody.

Do you have any ideas of how to handle gifts when need is not an issue? We’d love to hear them!

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