Once your kids reach a certain age, they start going to a lot of birthday parties. Birthday parties with loot bags and presents and all manner of sugary, awesome, Unicorned wonderment. In general, I find saying 'No Presents' for our own kiddos' parties has worked pretty well. They honestly don't seem much bothered. They get a handful of presents from family and friends and are quite happy with the homemade cards their friends lavish upon them on party day. Loot bags are another story. Kids will often (sweetly) ask me for a loot bag upon departure. It's just a thing they assume all parties have. And I hate to crush an adorable five year-old's sugar buzz, but I just can't buy ANY MORE CRAP FROM THE DOLLAR STORE. So I've come up with a few little takeaways so the looters don't go home empty handed.
LOOT BAG ALTERNATIVES:
1. I make a giant flower bouquet for my kids' parties. As each kid departs, I let them pick a flower to take home with them. They're usually pretty excited to do so. I usually pair this with a balloon from the party decorations. What more do you need in life than a flower, a balloon and a cupcake? (An elephant. A million dollars. World peace.)
2. Thank you card with a tiny bit of candy. A simple thanks for coming to my party with a piece of candy is a sweet way to literally say 'thanks for coming to my party.' This is also a fun project for you kid. Until they get tired halfway through and moan dramatically about how hard life is. True. Life is hard.
3. Just faint dramatically when anyone tiny asks you for a loot bag.
Presents are a whole other can of plastic. I want to give great things to my children's friends. I (usually) like these friends quite a lot. And of course I also want my kids to be pleased with the things they are presenting to their friends. But, as previously articulated. I just can't buy more landfill crap. It's a delicate balance. Herewith, what we've given and how it has worked:
PRESENTS THAT ARE NOT TOO OVER-PACKAGED OR GROSS OR MADE OF CANCER:
1. One of our most popular gifts has been a DIY Terrarium set. I get fishbowls or glass goblets at my local Value Village, and a few succulents at my local florist. My daughter and I also paint some rocks, because who doesn't love painting rocks? We add brown bags with soil, moss, etc..and we make a little sign that explains what it is.
2. Books about the neighbourhood. I've given pretty much every kid on our street this book...because it's about our neighbourhood! Our local fruit seller is rendered so accurately that my kids recognized her instantly.
3. My friend Iris made this beautiful girl power colouring book. Colouring books can somehow feel a little too colour in the lines (a tautology, I know), so I love how this one lets kids create their own superwoman.
4. I haven't tried this yet, but I am seriously thinking about a gift certificate to our local sundae shop. It's a cliché but...experiences! over! stuff!
HOW TO PULL THIS ALL OFF WITHOUT SEEMING LIKE A SMUG PRIG:
I just try to do what I need to do with as little fuss as possible. And I try to be mindful of the fact that other people need to do what they need to do. Somewhere in the middle there is cake. And cake brings everyone together. Unless people start arguing over frosting, in which case the buttercream enthusiasts win and everyone else can go away.
Happy Giving and Receiving!
Photo by the lovely Christina Gapic.