How many times have you rushed your kid into the car to get to a birthday party when you realize you forgot to buy the birthday child a gift? Or wandered aimlessly through the aisles as you try to guess what little Johnny, whom your child just met a few weeks ago, might like for his birthday? While gift cards, or certainly cash, always seem a fairly safe bet, there are three new trends in kids’ parties that leave guests no question as to what to bring.
- Fiver Parties. Instead of a gift, everyone brings $5 for the birthday child. The idea is that it saves guests money, as oftentimes parents spend upwards of $20 on birthday gifts. Then the birthday child gets to spend the money on one large gift, something they really want, as opposed to receiving lots of small gifts they may or may not be enthused about.
- 50/50 Parties. Much like the Fiver Parties, guests bring cash, $5 or $10 for the birthday boy or girl, in lieu of a wrapped gift. Kids use half the money to buy a birthday gift for themselves and donate half to their favorite charity.
- Donation Parties. Birthday kids ask for donations, in kind or monetary, to a favorite charity in lieu of birthday gifts. Some might choose a cause related to kids, like Infant Crisis Services or Cleats for Kids in the metro, or one serving a population they care about, like the homeless served through Upward Transitions or dogs and cats served through Pet Food Pantry.
Be sure the specify on the invitation if your birthday kid would like to receive gifts in one of these manners so guests know how they can participate. If donations or cash will be collected for a charity, include the name and website if appropriate so guests can learn why the cause is important to your kid. It’s always in vogue to simply state “No gifts, please” on birthday invitations as well. For the truly community-minded, a birthday party can be a great opportunity to serve a local nonprofit organization, making hygiene kits for the homeless and delivering them to an organization like Upward Transitions or serving together at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma (for ages 8 and up, with an adult). Call ahead of time to schedule your visit.
Traditional gift parties
There’s nothing wrong with choosing to stick with a traditional gift-receiving birthday party. When birthday kids do receive gifts at their parties, it’s become more common in recent years to wait to open them until after the party.
“This gives kids more time to play and alleviates the stress, for kids and parents both, of opening gifts in front of others and worrying about kids’ reactions,” said Douglass.
Choosing a gift for a birthday kid can be a great opportunity to involve your own child in the art of gift giving. Drew recommends asking kids specific questions about the guest of honor to come up with a gift that will feel personalized, like “What subject are they really good at in school?”, “Do they play sports?” and even “What characters do they like on their backpack/lunchbox/clothing?” If kids don’t know the answers, encourage them to learn three new things about the birthday child on their next interaction.
Drew’s favorite unique kid gifts include:
- Personalized anything, from books and blankets to tableware and clothing. Kids love to see their “name in lights.”
- Interactive clothing, like those with flip sequins or hoodies that turn kids into dinosaurs. 3D hoodies are a hot new trend and can be found on Amazon.
- Pop-up tent paired with a flashlight. Drew recommends checking Walmart for good deals.
- Large stuffed animals or pet pillows, which she can often find at Tuesday Morning for $20 or less.
- Cash. But given creatively, like M&M mini containers filled with quarters. Drew’s personal favorite is “cold hard cash,” with cash or coins tucked into a Ziplock bag, then placed in a clear water bottle or plastic container, which is filled with water and frozen. Recipients can see the cash but can’t get it until the ice melts!
Our sincere thanks to our kid birthday party expert panel: Chelsey Flint of Chelsey Flint Events, Annalisa Douglass of Okie Kids Playground, Kara Chapman of Forever After Parties and Darlene Drew of Sunburst Gifts. Find more birthday party tips on themes, favors and budgeting here.