Too Much Stuff! Or, why you should consider a charity birthday party.

A little while ago, my best friend mentioned that her daughter had attended a “charity” birthday party, in which the birthday child had requested donations to a charity in lieu of gifts. This struck me as brilliant. I’ve always wanted to have a big birthday party with lots of guests, but I didn’t want to get the corresponding number of gifts, both from a think-of-the-earth-and-all-those-plastic-toys point of view and also a my-kid-already-has-too-much-stuff-the-spoiled-bastard point of view.

Then a very good friend of mine told me her daughters have birthday parties in which guests bring food bank donations in lieu of gifts and I was completely inspired. (Note: I am also completely inspired by her phenomenal cake-making skills, although my arrangement of miniature plastic animals on green frosting and calling it an African savannah is was somewhat less impressive than her cake that looked exactly like a bag of movie popcorn, or the one that looked like a swimming pool, or the perfect cake-replica of Elmo.)

Seriously, she MADE these. Kind of makes my efforts look a little, um, weak?
Anyway, for Jake’s birthday, we requested guests bring food bank donations, which they did most generously. The key to a successful charity birthday party is to get agreement from your child beforehand, unless you want a resentful little birthday kid. From a young age we have instilled in the boys the idea that they are very lucky, and that there are some children who are not so lucky, and some of those children do not even have enough to eat. Telling Jake that his party would help some of those hungry children was a real selling point for him. We also assured him that he would be receiving gifts – from us, his grandparents, aunts and uncles – just not from his friends. Then we made sure to give him a few things that he really wished for – a certain Bakugan, a Ben 10 Alien, the book The Great Pie Robbery, the latter of which sent my mother on a wild goose chase to a number of book stores. He didn’t miss the gifts at all, and was excited just to have cards that were thoughtfully chosen or made.

There are so many good reasons to have a charity birthday party. Obviously, the charity benefits, but so does the child. In our society, children often have so much that they really can’t appreciate all they have – my children included. From a more selfish point of view, it is MUCH easier on the parents. How many times have you trolled the toy store aisles, wondering what an appropriate gift would be, wondering which book/Barbie/Polly Pocket/superhero/ Star Wars figurine the birthday kid does not already have, only to find out later that the birthday kid already received that exact gift but you forgot to attach a gift receipt so they can’t exchange it? Or maybe that’s just me. Buying some extra groceries is just so much easier. No gift wrap, no waste – it’s perfect.

Look at all the donations! Thank you to Jake’s friends for their wonderful generosity.


  1. This is brilliant. And the happy faces on those boys says it all. Way to go!

  2. You are such an amazing family! What a wonderful idea. You are raising some generous and caring children.

  3. I’m a proud dad.

  4. I’ve heard of charity parties. My husband would be very gung ho for one. I think they’re a great idea.

    I’ve long wanted to make a pool party cake so I really admire your friend’s talent.

  5. I love this idea! I might steal it if that is ok. What an amazing thing to teach your boys. You’re such a great Mom!

  6. Good for you and for your son. Happy Birthday.


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