A better birthday party for kids

I'm a parent, and birthday parties stress me out.

Ironically, it's not the idea of having 10 screaming 7-year-olds in my house that gives me the most anxiety: it's the gifts.

I'm finding that the challenge of being a "North American" parent isn't putting food on the table, it's dealing with the mountains of toys that our kids get from McDonald's, family, Christmas and birthdays.  Our kids have way too much stuff.

On the other side of the coin, shopping for birthday gifts for other people's children is equally stressful.  When I was young, kids gave one GI Joe or one Ninja Turtle.  The cost was around 5 bucks.  Nowadays, at least in our area, the average gift is $20.  There also seems to be an underlying competition to see which kid can bring the most extravagant gift to a party.  Invariably, a birthday party invitation means driving to Wal-Mart, and trolling the shelves for something that you hope will "fit in."

With my 6-year-old's birthday party approaching we decided to try something different: A Sir Laurier party. Here in Canada, it is Sir Laurier who graces our $5 bill.  In the birthday invitations we invited our guests to make a creative card, and give "a Sir Laurier" instead of a gift.  Our hope was to:

  1. Teach our daughter a valuable lesson about materialism and waste
  2. Reduce stress amongst parents (so they wouldn't have to run to the store to purchase an expensive gift)
  3. Reduce stress amongst the invited kids (so they wouldn't compare each others gifts)
  4. Reduce our own stress that comes from the clutter of having to many plastic items laying around our home

It felt like a risk: we were all a bit uneasy about it.  My daughter wasn't sure it would be as much "fun."  My wife and I were worried about the kids and parents misinterpreting our intent.

Well, it was a total success: parents called to thank us, kids made the most beautiful cards, and our daughter had an amazing party.  She is now saving her "birthday money" for something (that we hope) will be of high quality and use for her.


Published on December 11th, 2009
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