Ideas for Parents
We have been collecting ideas about the following topics from parents who are working to have birthdays without pressure. These ideas have worked for others but may not be right for your family. See which ones might work for you.
- Ideas for Reducing Pressure around Gifts
- Ideas for Simple Party Games
- Ideas for Family Birthday Rituals
Many parents have expressed concern about their children receiving too many gifts, not having places to store the gifts they receive, and gifts being too much of a focus at birthday parties. The following ideas were suggested by other parents as helpful in keeping gifts from getting out of control. Each idea has worked for actual families. See which ones might work for you
- Explain to the birthday child that they will already be receiving plenty of gifts from family members, but that the friend party is just for fun. Write on the party invitation “presence/no presents.”
- Ask the invitees to bring something to donate rather than a gift. On the invitation you may write that “gifts are by no means necessary, but that any gifts will be gratefully received on behalf of ____ charity.” Options for places to donate include: a community outreach program, day care for mentally challenged children, children's hospital, pet shelter, etc.
- Ask the invitees to bring their favorite new or used book to donate to a local library or shelter or have all the invitees exchange books at the party.
- Ask grandparents and family members to give no more than 1 gift. If they feel they need to give more ask them to donate $10 to the birthday child's 529 account.
- Ask for no gifts and suggest that invitees bring a canned food item to give to the local food pantry.
- Give your child one nice present instead of several. Explain that the party itself is part of the present.
- Ask the invitees to bring a smile, themselves, and their favorite birthday wish song.
- In lieu of a gift, ask invitees to bring a favorite memory that they share with the birthday child. They may choose to draw a picture that reminds them of the memory and bring it.
- Put gives that are duplicates or not age appropriate at the time of the birthday into a large box in the basement. At the end of the year, donate all of the stored toys.
- Have the birthday child write thank you notes before playing with any of the newly received gifts.
- Make a fancy homemade certificate giving the birthday child the gift of a special outing with a parent such as to a museum, science center, sledding, beach day, camping, etc.
- Ask invitees to bring something small and creative in lieu of a toy like seeds for a garden, or cool photos for a scrapbook.
Many parents have expressed the need for more examples of fun and simple party games so they don't have to hire others to provide entertainment during parties. The following ideas were suggested by other parents. Each idea has worked for actual families. See which ones might work for you.
- 3-legged race
- Sack race
- Pin the tail on the donkey
- Pin the carrot, piece of coal, hat, scarf, etc., on the snowman
- Relay race: Each person on the relay team carries the egg on a spoon across the yard. The game ends when each member on a team has successfully carried the egg across without dropping it.
- Relay race: Each person on the relay team carries a spoon full of water from a full cup to an empty cup. The game ends when a team has filled up their empty cup with water.
- Outside play: Have the invitees play outside with bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and .50 cent inflatable beach balls.
- Night time treasure hunt: Give each child a flashlight and have them look for the hidden treasure outside.
- Hide and Seek
- Put an old white sheet on the table with lots of permanent markers, and let the invitees draw all over the sheet and sign their name and ages. Pull the sheet out again at future parties.
- Balloon catcher: Blow up a bunch of balloons. Work together to keep all of the balloons up in the air.
- Cardboard box maze: Tape various shaped cardboard boxes into a tunnel and then freely paint the boxes with washable paint.
- Feed your favorite pet: Have invitees bring their favorite stuffed animal along with a can of vegetables, fruit or meat for the homeless. Play “make believe” and feed all of the pet animals.
- Musical chairs
- Bobbing for apples
- Cake drawing: Have each invitee draw a birthday cake with their eyes closed. Have the birthday child pick their favorite cake.
Many parents have provided ideas about simple things they do in their families to make birthday celebrations meaningful and family-centered without being high-pressured. Each idea has worked for actual families. See which ones might work for you.
- Most years a family-only party, occasionally an extra party with friends.
- Family guests and just a couple of genuinely close friends.
- Birthday child selects the menu for family birthday dinner at home.
- Birthday child selects the restaurant for the family meal celebration.