What We Do Instead of Birthday Gifts


What we do Instead of Birthday Gifts

We don’t do birthday presents for my children’s birthday parties. I know this sounds awful to some people, but hear me out. They get PLENTY of birthday presents from the entire family, trust me! And with three kiddos, my home has way too many toys on a continuous basis. I feel like I am in constant unclutter and purge mode. Instead, my children pick a cause that is important to them and we ask guests to donate to that cause if they would like to.

Don’t get me wrong; in our family, we do birthdays in a BIG WAY. We take very big adventures and usually make the birthday celebration last more than one day. You can read about our son’s fourth birthday in Chattanooga on my personal blog, A Birthday Weekend for Children in Chattanooga.

From the beginning however, I knew I wanted my children to grow up knowing that we would do something altruistic every year for their birthday.

I wanted them to be aware of how blessed they are and to know that it is our job as Christians to give back and to do what we can to be a positive influence. I wanted them to learn that there is a lot going on in our world and it is important to care about these things. I wanted them to figure out that it is not just about getting, but also giving back.

So I nixed birthday presents during birthday parties.

My children didn’t need all that stuff and I wanted them to see that the party is more about spending time with people they love! Instead, we ask guests to donate to a cause that is important to my child. Obviously, my children couldn’t always pick the cause because of their age, but I have watched my two oldest grow and evolve with this tradition and each year they gain more independence with it. When they are younger, I pick a cause that I think fits their interest. This year, for my youngest child’s first birthday, I donated to diabetes research since I struggled with Type 2 Diabetes during my pregnancy.

As I said though, the older my children are, the more in control they have become in our tradition. For the first time, my son for his fourth birthday told me what cause he wanted to donate to and my daughter came to me with a specific organization. It made me so proud!

I don’t want this tradition to be “Mommy and Daddy writes a check.” 

In order for this tradition to be effective it needs to be hands on. They need to be involved as much as they can in the picking and choosing of the cause. They need to decide how they want to give back (whether it is money, time or items). They decide how they would like to collect these items. They are involved in the delivery of the donations. The more involved our children are in the process, the more it remains with them.

Here is a list of causes that we have donated to in the past:

A food drive for a pet shelter.

Donations to local animal rescue farms and a visit to the farm to see how the money or items will be used. I specifically chose a horse rescue farm for my daughter’s third birthday when she was obsessed with horses.

Little Ponderosa Zoo to help with recovery from the fire back in 2017.

Donations for turtle rescue along the beach.

We have visited the zoo in the past and had my son pick an animal that he wanted to sponsor.

When my children’s Nana was battling cancer, my daughter decided that she wanted to have a lemonade stand to raise money for research for pediatric cancer. We got a kit from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

We have done book drives for Children’s Hospitals and Compassion Closet. Compassion Closet is a local Knoxville Organization that provides clothing and goods to foster children and their foster families.

Last year, my oldest learned that some animal shelters euthanize pets when the shelter is at capacity. This devastated her and she was adamant that she wanted to do something to contribute in making our local shelter Young Williams, a No-Kill Shelter (they just recently reached that status). So together we researched what we could do to help. In the end, she decided to do another Lemonade Stand to raise money and to take one of the shelter dogs out for a doggy day trip on her birthday. Below is a picture of the sweet dog we took out for a doggy day trip from Young Williams last year — her name is Lady and we absolutely loved her!  

Doggy Day Trip

Finally, last month my daughter asked to donate to a very specific organization for her birthday this July. After learning about the damage plastic causes to our planet, both my children have decided they wanted to do what they can to become plastic free. So my daughter decided she wanted all her birthday guests to buy bracelets from 4ocean to contribute to ocean and shore cleanup.  

So no, we don’t do birthday presents for my children’s birthdays. Sometimes, it shocks birthday guests that we ask them to not bring any gifts. “But my children want to give them SOMETHING!” And that’s fine…we’ve received plenty of hand made gifts from friends during birthdays and my children treasure them.

But this tradition gives my children so much more. They have learned to care. They have learned that they can make a difference. They have even seen first hand how that difference has been made. They have learned that we have a duty to give back and they have experienced the joy that it gives them to do so.  


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