This month we had a birthday party for my son who was turning 6.
I’d been knocked pretty flat with a virus the week leading up to his party and was still crook on the day. So I knew that by necessity it was going to be a pretty casual affair.
The various salads and menu items I was planning (mainly for the benefit of the grown ups!) were replaced with a garden salad and pasta, some free range sausages and bread rolls. We drank water and apple juice. Luckily it was only his cousins and a close friend attending anyway so I knew these people wouldn’t be offended if the party was a casual affair.
Whilst I was in the kitchen fixing up the salad I realised that there was not a single lolly in the house for the birthday party. And it occurred to me that it was actually quite liberating having a much simpler (and healthier) birthday party.
What was really great though was the kids did not miss having junk food around at all and never once asked for it. Neither did anyone ask for a lolly bag to take home (not that we had any!). They also had a great time without any entertainment – jumping on the trampoline and playing with lego were the two favourite activities.
Our birthday parties have always been fairly simple, but it got me thinking about the expectations that have built up around kids’ parties. It seems like it is the norm to have copious decorations and party/lolly bags, and more and more parents are buying in entertainment or outsourcing birthday parties to play centres and the like.
My son had just two expectations for his birthday party that we absolutely had to deliver on.
#1 – There had to be a cake with icing on it.
# 2 – There must be balloons around the letter box.
Hopefully we can keep his expectations at this sort of a level in years to come!
Another really nice thing came out of his birthday for me – a bit of reflection on presents and being a bit more mindful of the consumerism that is encouraged around kids’ birthdays.
Too often we buy presents because it is just what you have to do. You go to a party, you bring a present.
Often the birthday boy or girl ends up with a whole bunch of toys that are beyond the quantity needed for any kid, and quickly break apart anyway. Of course our culture (and kids expectations!) is set up that you need to give a present. Plus it’s also a healthy exercise in getting kids to think about what others would like or need, and the art of selecting a gift.
So what are some solutions to make birthday parties less consumerist?
For our party, my brother was going to be selling some wooden Thomas the Tank Engine toys and track on ebay because his son had outgrown them. My son is still into Thomas however, and I suggested instead of a new present that they give my son a few bits from their set that he didn’t have.
My son didn’t notice that the present didn’t have any packaging. All he noticed was it was a really cool toy he’d enjoy playing with.
Other nice ideas are handmade presents for kids like this personalised pencil case.
There are some great ideas around for having greener birthday parties. A friend of mine has made some party hats and bunting out of fabric that she reuses for all the celebrations in their family.
We can also rethink the necessity for party/lolly bags or at least get some better contents in them! My sister-in-law stuck a new tooth brush for every kid in a party bag once which I thought was a nice idea if you’re going to have them.
What are your ideas for greener parties, and showing our kids simpler and less consumerist ways?
Image taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/staunchthrowback/3700525338/ with thanks to Staunch Throwback.