non-gift birthdays? - Mothering Forums

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Old 01-21-2008, 04:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have never really minded the frenzied gift opening at birthday parties but the idea of non-gift parties intrigues me. How do your small children react to no gifts- especially after being at traditional birthday parties? What ideas have you come up with for fun, gift-free parties?
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Old 01-21-2008, 05:03 AM
 
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: Great question mumster, i'd like some ideas too.
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Old 01-21-2008, 12:03 PM
 
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My soon to be 6yo wants all her school mates at her party in a few weeks so we talked about doing a book exchange in lieu of birthday presents. Last year's party with everyone was INSANE - the gift unwrapping too so much time and it was really overwhelming. So this year, I suggested the book exchange. She was originally great with it. We talked about the fact that everyone at her friend party would bring a wrapped book and at the end of the party, everyone would get to take one home and then at her family party, we would open gifts. She was great with it until it actually came time to send out the invites. She is only 5 and the thought of no presents was hard for her. I don't think it was a materialistic thing - but the joy of opening presents was just too much for her so she changed her mind. I was fine with it. She's still little and it's hard for her to understand.

But, anyway, we were going to do the book exchange and I loved that idea. Other ideas were that everyone bring a canned good for a food pantry donation etc... But,with the book exchange, it takes care of the party favors as well which is appealing.
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Old 01-21-2008, 01:50 PM
 
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Gift opening at parties is not the norm here -- in fact I've only ever seen it once. Kids just show up with the presents and they're put to the side to open later. I really like it that way, partially because I can do a "no-gift" request, knowing that some people will ignore it but it won't be obvious who brought something and who didn't, and partially because DS is in a very socio-economically diverse school and I don't want to get into the whole "who spent the most" thing.

As to what to do, you just do other things. We live in a small apartment so we always go somewhere for the party -- the splash park, the ice skating rink, a gymnastics place, rent a picnic shelter at a park witha big playground, but you can do it at home too -- just have stuff for them to play with (when they're little it can just be having a bunch of toys out, when they're older they like something new -- one year's DS's best friend's mom took super cheap plastic table cloths and they made superhero capes with them and then spent the rest of the party running around the back yard yelling, screaming and having a grand time. If I had a backyard I could see getting a pile of sand, wetting it with a hose and then giving them baking soda and vinegar to make volcanos in the yard.
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Old 01-21-2008, 02:09 PM
 
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I got away with non-gift birthday parties until last year when my dd turned 7. What we did in the past: When she was 3 everyone made her homemade birthday cards. They were awesome & we kept each one. Other years we would just say "your presence is present enough" and reminded dd that mom, dad, grandma, aunts, uncles, etc. would still bring her gifts on her real birth-day ....so she wasn't completely giftless. Recently, dd's friend had everyone bring items for the humane society to her b-day party & she ended up with a carload of stuff and that made her happy.

However, last year we had gifts at her party because dd decided it wasn't fair.

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Old 01-21-2008, 02:30 PM
 
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We hav non-gift parties for Kailey and because my husband and daughter are Lumbee we celebrate with a traditional First Tribes party. Where we are the gift givers. We generally supply each of our attendees with a good bag with a trinket or two. We give gifts at our birthday parties to show appreciate and love to our friends.

Since we have only had one party where others brought gifts for Kailey, she is pretty used to this non-gift getting party. The one party I mentioned was held by family members who are not traditional tribal members.

We do give Kailey gifts but noy at her party. The gifts are given in the evening on the day of her birthday.

We play game, have cake, and just chat at the party.

This year she wants to have hr party at the pool or the skating rink and will invite friends from her class who have not been exposed to a non-gift giving party.

Her granny (MIL) will also be in attendance and most likely will have a cow over this type of party. My mom on the other hand loves the idea.
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Old 01-21-2008, 02:51 PM
 
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My friend does no-gift parties for her little one, born close to Christmas.
Instead of gifts, she takes donations for a charity and after she doubles the contributions. A couple weeks later, we all got an e-mail telling us where the money went. It's pretty neat.

The parties have a lot of food and crafty stuff for the little ones to play. I'm not sure that the kids notice, at the time, that there was no gift openning.

(the child does get presents from a family party on the actual birthday. it's just that with ALL the friends she invites to the party she's overwhelmed with toys!)
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Old 01-21-2008, 02:53 PM
 
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I would not even try a non gift party as it seems rude to me to dictate to others what to give or not give to someone. If presents were really an issue to me, I would just have a super small party with just family.

If someone asks what to give, it is ok to tell them on gifts or give charity ideas.
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Old 01-21-2008, 03:36 PM
 
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Let's see:
your child
your child's party
your paying for the party
your house the new gifts will be stored

hrm...sounds like it is not what makes the guest happy, but is about the family giving the party.

We have a small house, if Kailey got a gift from every person we invited to the party our house would be overrun with toys and such. HOW WOULD WE STORE IT?

Her bedroom now can accommodate her bed and the toys she has in it now (which includes her Christmas gifts.

I think it's rude of guests who are coming to a party not to be considerate of the birthday person/planners wishes.

Thankfully I don't know anyone that rude and inconsiderate.
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Old 01-21-2008, 03:38 PM
 
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And again, our parties are to celebrate friendship, not rake in the gifts.
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Old 01-22-2008, 04:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks so much for all the replies. I really would love to have a non-materialistic party but that would be my wishes- not hers. I like the idea of doing a kids party sans-gifts and just have family give gifts on her birthday. I know I will never implement this though, because she has so many cousins here and it doesn't seem fair to go to all those gifty parties and not have one for her. I love my spanish friends birthdays- everyone brings nice clothes as gifts.
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Old 01-22-2008, 05:20 AM - Thread Starter
 
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And again, our parties are to celebrate friendship, not rake in the gifts.
That is an awesome idea for a party but I also think there is nothing wrong with focusing all the celebration on the birthday child- this seems to be the point of celebrating someone's birthday. It's fun to make much of my kids one day a year with all the treats they don't normally get- a whole bunch of attention, lots of friends all together, cake, and gifts (we haven't done a lot in terms of gifts at christmas so this makes me feel a little better about birthday gifts).
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Old 01-22-2008, 10:18 AM
 
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And again, our parties are to celebrate friendship, not rake in the gifts.
This. We focus on sharing the day with friends. People have brought presents, yes, but we don't all stand around watching her open them and set apart a special time at the party to do so.
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Old 01-22-2008, 12:25 PM
 
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And again, our parties are to celebrate friendship, not rake in the gifts.
I don't think parents have birthday parties to rake in gifts for our children. But, giving gifts at birthday parties is a cultural norm. Kids know it. It's fun to feel special and celebrated one day of the year and if that includes gifts, so be it. I too hate all the materialism and we really don't need more stuff in our house. But, kids are kids. They go to birthday parties and they understand that gifts are generally given. To try to do something different at their birthday can be tough. We tried with my DD this year and while she really wanted to do it, understood that she doesn't need all the presents, it was still really hard for her to do something different than what she's used to and what all her friends are doing.

I think doing non present parties is much easier for a younger child and I wish we had done it then. Because once they are in school and attending other parties, they understand that for the majority of people, gifts are the norm and I don't think it's unusual that children will have a desire for that.

That being said, we will open presents after the party and we will donate anything that doesn't meet with out family values. We will also let her pick a few toys and then put some up for later and will go through all her current toys to donate what she no longer uses prior to her party.
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Old 01-22-2008, 12:33 PM
 
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We do no-gift parties. Actually, my twins are about to turn five (in February), so we have one coming up. It's not a big deal where we live, at least 50% of the parties we go to are no-gift parties. I showed my kids the video, "The Story of Stuff." We talked about the polar bears and the ice caps melting. They understand and are fine with the fact that they'll each be getting one gift from us for their birthday (something homemade by me). I find that the fewer toys my kids have, the more special each one is.

As for the party, this year we are going with a puppet theme. I'm going to put on a puppet show, the kids are going to each make their own puppet (out of socks), and then we're going to have a treasure hunt (not puppet related, but we always do one, lol) with clues and the treasures at the end are special rocks that the boys have been collecting all year round. We'll also have a cake (I'm thinking of making an ice cream cake this year since my boys don't like regular cake).

We can't invite everyone because it's an indoor party (too cold to be outside), but we'll probably have 8-10 other kids over.

HTH!

Lex

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Old 01-22-2008, 12:38 PM
 
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I don't think parents have birthday parties to rake in gifts for our children. But, giving gifts at birthday parties is a cultural norm.
It is the norm., but that doesn't mean it's a good thing. Certainly it hasn't *always* been the norm. I'm sure it's not the norm in the majority of cultures. We can make change happen. It's not going to be easy, but there's no reason to go along with a cultural norm that doesn't resonate with us. And it *can't* resonate with us. We simply cannot continue to use resources the way that we have been. Really. We. Have. To. Stop. Buying. Things. We have to be the ones to make this change happen.

www.storyofstuff.com

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Old 01-22-2008, 12:49 PM
 
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I absolutely respect your opinion and your right to do what you feel is best for your family. I took execption with the statement implying that parents who allow gifts at parties do so to "rake in gifts" as opposed to simply "celebrating friendship". I get that there are issues that go way beyond just the gift giving. I just wanted to clarify that parents who do allow gifts are not generally doing so to rake in gifts for their children. At least for us, the party is about celebrating with friends and family, gifts are a side note.
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Old 01-22-2008, 01:08 PM
 
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I just wanted to clarify that parents who do allow gifts are not generally doing so to rake in gifts for their children. At least for us, the party is about celebrating with friends and family, gifts are a side note.
Yes, I agree that I don't think most families have parties simply to get presents (though some kids may feel that way, lol). For our twins first birthday, we didn't say "no gifts please" simply because I thought it would be rude to say that. I really enjoy making gifts for other children, and I thought that if I were going to the party, I'd be disappointed to not be able to bring a gift. But I just think it goes way beyond rude and disappointment at this point. We have to teach our kids that this craziness must end. We need to put a stop to the over consumption of resources, even if it's at the expense of being rude and causing disappointment (for our kids and/or our guests).

If you just can't bear to write "no gifts please" on the invitation, then I'd suggest you at least write, "recycled/homemade gifts only, please," and point your guests towards ebay, where used toys abound.

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Old 01-22-2008, 01:21 PM
 
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Yeah, again, I totally respect your right to do with your family as you please but, I just don't think I personally would be comfortable making people buy used gifts. I don't really think I'm comfortable dictating what type of gifts people buy. For us, we would either do the book exchange or no gifts but not dictate what type of presents someone must buy for our child. To me, that puts the focus on the gift as opposed to just the pleasure of their presence. But, when people ask what she "needs", I alway say that she loves books or a puzzle so I do try to steer people to inexpensive, usable gifts.
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Old 01-22-2008, 03:09 PM
 
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We've just had really informal parties, more of a glorified play-date, to get away from all of the gifts. In the last year, we've celebrated birthdays by hosting playdates at our house. I'll make cupcakes for the kids, and we have some special games available, and that's about it. My DD's birthday is coming up, and she's been BEGGING for a party at Chuck E Cheese. So I'm going to ask our playgroup families to join us there at our regular playgroup time. I'm planning to buy some pizza and tokens, I'll bring some cupcakes, and call it good enought.

FWIW, we do have a family birthday party for each of our kids- we invite their grandparent and aunts/uncles/cousins. They do get presents, but it's not as many as it would be if we had a formal friend party also.

I know of other families that celebrate birthdays by doing something fun with their kids rather than having a big party. For example, allowing the child to choose one friend to take to an indoor amusement park. Another friend of mine plans a big birthday day for their child- morning at the children's museum, out for a special lunch, to a movie in the afternoon, then to the park and the child's favorite meal for dinner.

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Old 01-22-2008, 04:05 PM
 
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I just don't think I personally would be comfortable making people buy used gifts. I don't really think I'm comfortable dictating what type of gifts people buy.
I agree completely! It's totally uncomfortable to have to bring this subject up at all, especially with people who you don't necessarily know well. But if we don't bring it up, who will? If WE don't stop this cycle, it will just continue until . . . what? Until we've used up ALL of our resources.

I also often felt uncomfortable tandem nursing my twin toddlers in public, but it was something that just had to happen sometimes. Instead of losing myself in how uncomfortable I felt, I'd try to think about how I was educating people all around me about breastfeeding and showing them that some people do nurse their big toddlers--at the same time! I think it's a similar sort of thing with this gift issue. I'd rather not say anything to anyone about what gifts they buy or don't buy for my kids. But I *have* to say something because I can't just sit back and watch us destroy our earth. I just have to think about it from the perspective of "I'm opening their minds to this really big issue of over-consumption." Someone has to be the first person to say it, but then others will surely follow suit, and before we know it, we will have made change.

I definitely think that the best solution is just to say, "no gifts please," or "your presence is gift enough!" and perhaps a little blurb about why you are making this choice. But if you really don't want to deny your child the experience of receiving many gifts (which, IMO is a separate issue), or you don't want to deprive your guests of the experience of giving something to your child, then I think suggesting that they buy used or make something by hand is a fine second option (like, for instance, my mom just can't imagine not giving her grandchildren gifts for their birthday. That's fine. She can make them each something).

It is not a happy, joyful thing to be doing what we are to our earth. It's uncomfortable. It's easier to pretend that it isn't happening. But that doesn't mean that we can just keep on like this. In my opinion, it's really not a matter of "what works for my family" anymore. It's what we all HAVE to do. Anyone can choose to ignore the issues, or they can choose to have some awkward conversations and make change.

Lex

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Old 01-22-2008, 04:18 PM
 
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wow Lex I totally agree. It does feel bigger than just something for each of us to decide, we are all impacted.
We have for the past few birthdays done a homemade or recycled gifts please and friends/family have really appreciated it, even the grandparents that "have to buy something" !
The homemade giftgivers are so proud and my sons are so overwhelmed by their pals creativity and effort, its such a joy.
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Old 01-22-2008, 06:50 PM
 
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I was just being flip. I didn't literally mean parents were in it to rake in the gifts.

For us, it is a matter of preserving our earth and making as little footprint as possible.

But we have always done " no-gift" parties and Kailey loves them because she doesn't have to worry about gifts but can just have fun and celebrate with her friends. She is the princess of the party of course and we all know it

Perhaps you can explore why you are so uncomfortable with the idea of expressing what you are comfortable with in your own home.

If you were against formula feeding would you allow someone to feed your child a bottle of formula simply because you would feel uncomfortable telling another what they can and cannot feed your child?

Before you say it isn't the same because formula/breastmilk impact a child's health. I say it is the same. Increasing the demand for more plastics and paper goods buy enabling their purchase does affect the lives of our children and in fact the lives of their children's children.
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Old 01-22-2008, 09:14 PM
 
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at our preschool (kids are 2-4), the understanding for birthday parties is that kids can choose something from their own toys, or make something as a gift, or not bring one at all. this focuses attention on the celebration or activity, and (a little) away from the gifts, while at the same time really giving the kids a chance to TRULY give something.

hazel even took it upon herself this year to choose things from her toys to give to her cousins when they visited for christmas--it was great, i think it was the thing that helped her "get" christmas more than any other (she's 3), and both cousins really loved what she chose! i agree that you have to know your audience, though--the preschool agreement came as the result of some conversations between like-minded parents; if you think your guests would be offended by a "no gifts are necessary" note on an invitation (or, conversely, by a used toy at their kid's party), then that's a different matter.

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Old 01-22-2008, 11:45 PM
 
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The parties around here are either regular gift parties or "no gifts please" on the invitation. I have never seen a child upset about no gifts but the opening gift frenzy brothers me. On the other hand its the favorite part of most of the kids. Actually the only time I saw a child get upset was when mom put no gifts please on the invitation and did not tell her son. She also did not warn the other moms. So there I am with the kid saying "you already gave my present to my mom right? She said I would open them at home." And me not thinking fast enough was like "uh no present on the invitation, um oh, yeah, sure, I gave it to your mom......????" For my DS's party he had gifts but we did not open them at the party. I feel that if someone wants to bring him something thats wonderful. But I want him to focus on playing with his friends and not focus on presents. I have not been to a party where a particular type of present was asked for. I know others have mentioned book swaps which sound great. My DS's birthday is coming up soon and we have not decided on a party but he is begging for one. I do know families that have just refused parties at all because of the present thing. We have not decided what to do yet. I am keeping an eye on this thread and looking over past ones for ideas.
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Old 01-22-2008, 11:59 PM
 
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And again, our parties are to celebrate friendship, not rake in the gifts.
I appreciate the sentiment here but it is rude to tell people what to do with regards to gift giving. If you are having a birthday party, people think gifts. If we were really close friends (we adults), I could see talking about non gift giving from the point of view of being more ecofriendly and using less waste, etc. But, if your child were in my child's preschool and sent an invitation to her about a party and that invitation said "no gifts" it would make me really uncomfortable inviting your child to my child's party, where gifts are wanted. Or, if you specify "homemade gifts only" and my child is uncomfortable making things or has a reason why she cannot make something, then what are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to pass on the party or should I make something for her to bring? That just makes me really anxious even to think about.

Do you see what I mean? It is rude to make someone feel uncomfortable by your actions in the process of inviting them to a party. So, if you want to have a no presents party or if you want only a certain type of present, please be sure to invite only people who you are really close friends with. Do not invite your child's friends from school whose parents you do not know. You are not going to do anyone any favors by imposing your expectations. You are going to make them really uncomfortable.

My child looks forward to birthdays and likes to ask the person what they want. She then decides for herself what she wants to do for a present. Sometimes it is homemade and sometimes it is natural (like a plant) and sometimes it is a plastic crap toy from the megamart. But it is not up to me to completely dictate to her what she can and cannot bring to her friends for their birthday. That would just create resentment in her. She would grow up thinking "my mom never let me bring the present I wanted to bring" instead of "my mom helped me to enjoy my friend's bdays." All I do is set a budget and help her stick to it.

Don't try to impose your values on others. And, to use that one example, if you don't like formula feeding, by all means, please do not invite anyone who FFs over to your house. To invite them over and then tell them they cannot FF is beyond rude.

If you really want to teach people about materialism and if you really do not want to be wasteful, there are plenty of ways to limit your carbon footprint while throwing a party that are happier and more joyful than telling people what kind of present they should bring.
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Old 01-23-2008, 12:41 AM
 
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It may be rude, it may make people uncomfortable, but it's what has to happen. We have to stop buying things. We have to. Do you have some sort of alternative idea about how this is all going to work out otherwise? Have you seen The Story of Stuff? Please watch it. We literally cannot continue living the way we have been. We have to start making different choices.

I think your dd would rather look back at your parenting choices and think, "I'm glad my mom was working towards a sustainable way to keep our earth around for me and my kids," and she wouldn't care at all about whether or not she had gotten to choose what to give her friends for their birthdays. Because as huge as these issues are for US right now, they are going to be even more enormous for our kids. And I can't remember a single store-bought present that I gave my friends for their birthdays (though I do remember the blanket I wove for my bestfriend when I was 11).

What do you want your child to value more? Presents? Plastic toys? Or our earth?

Lex

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Old 01-23-2008, 12:56 AM
 
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What do you want your child to value more? Presents? Plastic toys? Or our earth?

Lex

It matters to me. So I have small parties. We do not do a lot of favors or plastic crap at the party. I would never have a party at chuckie cheeses, for example. We always have our parties at home, just a few friends, organic food. We do not do theme parties or all that bday crappy trinkets.

Let me give a good example, although this is a wedding. The invites were sent out on recycled paper impregnated with native seeds. Only close friends and family were invited. The wedding was outdoors. It was catered. There was a green bin for recycling the food and paper waste, including paper plates and the "plastic" cups made from corn. There was a recycle bin for bottles and cans. All food was finger food, so no utensils were needed. For the cake, metal utensils were provided by the caterer. It was served on paper plates that could be composted in the green bin. If anyone asked, the couple had registered for a healthy mattress but if someone wanted to bring a gift of their own, there was a small table set aside for that. No one was made to feel uncomfortable for choosing to bring a gift rather than use the registry to contribute to the couples dream of owning a new, healthy mattress. There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen. The friends helped set up and clean up. It was a green event, it was low waste, and yet no one was made to feel that someone else's values were imposed on them. If they wondered why there were not many presents, they were told about the registry for a green mattress. Everyone who came pretty much knows this couple is very, very into living ecofriendly and in a manner that is low impact.

For birthday parties, we have only small affairs with a healthy cake and a few friends. There is no reason to dictate what they can and cannot give to our child. And, I do not see the need to impose strict gift giving regulations on my child. We shop local, we buy healthy toys. We do our part.


We make the choice to be low impact in our own actions, not by dictating to others what they can and cannot do.
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Old 01-23-2008, 01:11 AM
 
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Originally Posted by delphiniumpansy View Post
For birthday parties, we have only small affairs with a healthy cake and a few friends. There is no reason to dicate what they can and cannot give to our child.
For me, the reason is the message that it gives to my kids. I don't want them to think their special birthday means new stuff, presents, more things. We have small parties too (have to because they're inside our house in the winter time), and I'm sure if our friends did bring gifts they would all be nice, wooden, lovely gifts. But I *know* that no matter how much we downplayed the significance of those gifts, they would be a huge part of the experience for my kids. And I want them to grow up knowing that you can have a really excellent party, a super fun time, and that you don't need to have presents for it to be special.

Another reason is that I hope that our "dictation" of "please no gifts" on the invitation, along with an explanation and link to www.storyofstuff.com will help to make change happen. I hope that the other families we've invited will also choose to have no gift parties, and to start buying less stuff in general.

I really hope you choose to watch the movie someday, delphiniumpansy. It really changed my life.

Lex

Mindfully mothering SIX kids (ages 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 & 11) in a small house with a lot of love.
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Old 01-23-2008, 01:29 AM
 
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I am sorry but nothing is going to ever make me dictate to others how to live their lives.
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