The Give-Back Birthday Party

Birthday parties are so fun!

When I had my first child I could not wait to plan her sweet little 1st birthday party. And, no one could tell me that she wouldn’t remember the perfect party I would put together to commemorate this special occasion (hindsight: Of course she doesn’t remember it).

Fast forward to the preschool years when she actually could invite friends from her school and the neighborhood. How fun! I loved putting together the goodie bags the pals would take home as favors, and the birthday girl loved opening the presents at the party.  

I recall one birthday party that my child was invited to at a very young age and the said ‘goodie bag’ the attendees received may have cost more than the gift we brought to the guest of honor. Oh, the pressure to be the parent throwing the party!

Was I just trading ‘stuff’ in the goodie bags for the gifts the friends were bringing my child?


My children are fortunate that they have grandparents, aunts/uncles, and godparents who are very generous to them at their birthdays. They don’t need more gifts. Oh, yeah! Their parents usually get them something to celebrate the big day, too.

BUT I didn’t want to rob my children of the fun of having a birthday party.  

Birthday parties are so fun!

So I started to think how to have the fun but NOT do the “goodie-bag-birthday-gift-trade.”

One thing that I have always wanted to instill in my children is a charitable spirit; to think of others’ needs — not just their own.

What if we could somehow combine the birthday party with this desire to think of our fellow man (kid)?

After talking to my eldest child about my new idea for the birthday party — we decided to give it a try. Our first foray into the “give-back” birthday party was her 5th birthday. We decided that we would ask our guests to bring a toy in lieu of a gift for the birthday girl. Good idea, right?

Well, this one was tough. My poor girl had to SEE the presents (some of which she would have actually liked to keep!) before packing them up and driving them to the local shelter. [Does she still talk about the pink, fuzzy, pretend phone someone brought to the party that she really wanted that I MADE her donate?  You can ask her. She’s 20 years old now.]

This give-back party idea needed some tweaking.

Next, we tried a mini-food drive (MUCH better idea!). It was fun to ask the pals to bring the number of cans that the birthday boy was turning (IE: 6th birthday meant the attendees each would bring six food items). This was great! The birthday child was pumped to count how many cans/food items their party had amassed and took great pride in helping deliver them to the local food pantry. We even did this for my son’s 16th birthday — and these older kids were into it!

Since then we have done lots o’ food drives, as well as a children’s book drive (which can be donated to local hospitals). And, guess what? Not once did any of my children ever declare “I didn’t get enough presents for my birthday this year!”

And, I bet some of you may be thinking “why don’t you just put on the invitation ‘no gifts, please’?” Well, I’ve tried that, too. It didn’t work for me. Someone always shows up with a gift (“it’s just a little something”) making other attendee parents feel like a real jerk. Not worth it.

Do my children praise me for this give-back-birthday party? I wish I could tell you they do. But it has given them some good memories and (bonus for them!) they love to tease me how they could NEVER get presents at their birthday parties. [Is it just me or is one of your kid’s favorite hobbies giving mom a hard time?]

I do know they appreciate the birthday parties they have had over the years. There were great memories made at a multitude of parties over the last two decades.  

Birthday parties are so fun!

And while they may not readily admit it — I know deep down they are happy they were able to give back (or at least that’s what I tell myself). 

Alicia is a born and raised Hoosier living in Badger country since 2003. She and her hubby of 20+ years, Dave, love raising their kids in the Midwest and in a college town. Alicia is the mother of a beautiful daughter, Haley, who lives and works in Madison (Mom is hardly jealous at all of her super chic apartment), and two teen age sons: Roark (a college student athlete) and high school student Cooper (who's down to being the sole kiddo living at home with what his siblings call his "elderly roommates" -- IE: Mom and Dad). Alicia likes walking their cockapoo, Laila, reading, being involved with various volunteer activities, and treasures any time her family of 5 can be together. Being a full time wife/mama, along with part time lots o' other things, provides an always entertaining, always interesting, (sometimes stressful) adventure.


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