Donating Money/Toys to Charity in Lieu of a Birthday Presents for Kids

This Times article is all about the newest kid trend.

I think it’s a little disturbing and Mommy Dearest-ish. For one thing, I don’t think you should be able to dictate to party guests where to donate to. Saying no gifts is one thing, but telling them where they should donate money to is quite another.

Hrm. I can appreciate the motivations–teaching altruism, avoiding yet more toys–but I don’t think this is a very good way to do it. I agree with the Miss Manners quotation.

Around here, to my relief, a lot of parents only do birthday parties every other year and have a treat the alternate year (usually one friend spending the night, pizza etc.). And the parties tend to be kind of low-key. So this year we did the sleepover thing, it was a huge success, and at the beginning of the summer we threw an ice-cream social/water-balloon fight for all the kids we know, which didn’t involve any presents.

So I think there are other solutions to the problem–small parties, other occasions, all sorts of things–and no need to turn a kid’s birthday party into a charity ball. There are also zillions of ways to teach altruism that don’t involve taking away your birthday party.

Load of rubbish. If the parents want to do it on their birthdays, fine, do it by example, don’t pretend you’re teaching the kid when you’re trying to control him. $200 isn’t going to buy the FD a new truck, why lie to the kid?

Hmm. When my son turned 9, he asked if, instead of presents for him, the guests at his birthday party would instead bring cat food that he could give to the local cat shelter. I thought it was very sweet of him, and that’s what everyone did.

That’s a slightly different, albeit related, situation than the one in the OP. Do any of the posters think we should have nixed my son’s plan? Or was it okay, because it was HIS choice, not his parents? Not to mention, the poor little kid in the OP is 4 – hardly the age of reason – whereas my son was turning 9.

Well, your kid did decide of his own accord. It’s not like you even brought it up to them. A lot of parents seemed to be “deciding” for their kids–i.e., everyone else is doing it, and so, “Come on, sweetie, don’t you want to be unselfish, too?” Guilting them into doing it is a bad idea because most kids aren’t going to want to do it, and I don’t think they should be made to feel bad because they want presents. If you can’t get a buttload of gifts when you’re a little kid, when can you?

Why the assumption that thekid is being “guilted” into charity? as a kid I never particularly cared about presents - the party was the fun part. Ditto for giving gifts as an adult.

Well, a lot of kids do like presents. I would assume most kids, well…most people, like receiving presents. If your kid comes up with it all on his/her own, as CairoCarol’s kid did, then that’s great, but otherwise it conjures up images of “Mommie Dearest” with the girl having to choose just one gift and agonizing over which one.

And I feel that if the parents are the ones who care so much about philanthropy, why don’t they donate their own stuff/money?

I think it would be a better practice to have the kids donate the toys they’ve outgrown each year to some worthy cause, like a children’s hospital or homeless shelter. Making sure the toys are in good shape and have wear left, of course. That way the child can take the toys and directly see the benefits of their philanthropy.

As for fire departments, my niece and nephew and I used to bake homemade cookies and take them to the firestation. The firefighters always loved the kids visiting and the kids loved it, too.


44 guests at a 4 year old’s party? Even if that’s kids AND adults, not just kids, I can’t imagine the chaos. Four year olds are not capable of much abstract thought…the idea of giving money to a friend to give to a charity just isn’t gonna teach them about giving. Four year olds can barely understand giving at all. And while it’s great that the birthday boy is not getting smothered with gifts, I think that having a much smaller guest list (somewhere between two and five friends) would be a more appropriate solution.

I took my kids to one of these a few years ago, to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. It wasn’t so bad. We were under no obligation to attend, after all.

We were invited to bring a donation, and a minimum amount was suggested, in exchange for which your kid would get a St. Jude’s t-shirt. One of the party activities involved making Christmas ornaments for the St. Jude’s patients. There was also cake and an indoor playground available, so the kids enjoyed it. The birthday boy (who was turning 6 or 7 as I recall) seemed fine about the whole thing, and I assumed he did get some birthday presents, just not at this party.

There were a lot of people there, more than you’d see at a normal birthday party. I suspect that in addition to school friends they invited every kid at their church in the appropriate age range.

My kids were frankly astonished, and impressed, that the birthday boy had agreed to forego presents.

Your kid was turning 9, it was his idea. This kid is turning 4, it’s his parents’ idea. It seems like they’re trying to pass off their progressivism as his. I don’t know how it is with kids nowadays, but birthdays, birthday parties, and christmas are pretty dull unless you’re between 3 and 10.

Don’t forget, in large families or especially “blended” families, the bulk of the guests could be relatives. My goddaughter’s family is huge, each parent has 3 siblings and both sets of grandparents were divorced and remarried (and one had a second set of kids the same age as the goddaughter!) Just having aunts, uncles, first cousins and grandparents totals nearly sixty people for this child, add in the odd godmother and neighbor and friends from school and you’re looking at seventy-five must-invites for each special event.

To me the weird part is taking up donations for the fire department. I mean, unless the party was in some second rate banana republic, shouldn’t there be a budget, planning, and tax revenue regarding the fire department?

Are they going to give money to the water works next year?

I dislike the idea. If the kid brought it up, that’s one thing, but the article makes it look like it’s the parents deciding for the child.

I agree with the Ms. Manners comment. This tactic isn’t going to make children more likely to give to charity. It makes charity into something done at the child’s expense by some third party, rather than voluntary act of giving for a good cause.

If the parents don’t want their house cluttered with gifts, I would think that the first logical step would be to have a party with fewer than 44 guests.