My son has a birthday party coming up, and I’m dreading the influx of new toys and stuff that is soon headed for our house. With a new baby, we’re already bursting at the seams in our Los Angeles apartment. I read somewhere that the new trend is to ask parents to donate to a cause or charity in lieu of gifts. Is this a ridiculous request or a great alternative to typical gift giving? Signed, Overwhelmed and Overcrowded
Hold on, I have to move this pile of cheap plastic toys out of my way to reach my keyboard so I can give you an answer. In other words, Girlfriend, I feel your pain. No matter how often I de-clutter, my sweet cherub children seem to amass hoards of toys and doodads that are fun for a while, but are ultimately just space hogs.
You are wise to contemplate alternatives to the increase of your toy hoard, but I recognize that changing up the birthday party tradition feels awkward. Traditional etiquette teaches us that it is never polite to dictate a gift type to your invited guests (including, believe it or not, wedding and bridal shower registries, but obviously that is a much-ignored rule). But left to their own devices, well-meaning family and friends will show up at your son’s birthday party with bags and boxes of toys that will soon end up in the closet or the yard sale pile.
A charity donation drive is a great idea! The solution to your particular quandary is to think about this not as a request, but as giving people a choice. If your invitation encourages people to help your son’s efforts to assist people in need by bringing donations instead of gifts, they are more likely to choose that option. They can still bring a gift, or make a donation, or both! There are many charity groups and giving websites that make this process easy for you to choose a cause and track cash donations – there are even services that allow guests to donate a portion of their gift to charity and a portion to your son.
The solution to your particular quandary is to think about this not as a request, but as giving people a choice.
Better yet, why not pick a donation type that people can experience? Collect physical donations of non-perishable food, gently used children’s clothing or coats, or disposable diapers that can be donated to a local shelter. That way, people can actually see their donations piling up and they will feel even better about the gift they bring to your child’s party. It might seem like more work for you but if you include your child in the project, he will get a valuable lesson in helping others.
Your son may still get toys or clothing from people who want to give him something tangible that will make him happy, but chances are that family and friends will get on board with his charity project because they want to support his efforts. Karma points for them, a teaching moment for your child, and some closet space for you. Everybody wins!
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