Our son’s birthday was quickly approaching and it was about time to send out the birthday invitations. We feared what any person moving towards downsizing would fear…the gifts. I mean…only so many toys will fit in a tiny house.
We’ve been cleaning out our son’s room for months hugely downsizing his toy collection but still it is nowhere near where it needs to be for “tiny living.” We’ve got a nice collection of toys to rotate in and out but what would happen when the birthday came and we were back to the stressful time we’d been at before, what to keep and what to get rid of! Our son knows the rule that if one thing comes in, at least one item goes out but it seemed just wrong to get rid of toy after toy because birthdays are for celebrating and at that point it would seem like a punishment for getting presents since it wasn’t really a choice he was making.
I’ve seen a great idea where instead of guests getting toys for the child they bring toys that will be donated or they can make monetary donations to a charity, etc. Service and giving back is a huge priority to our family but I felt that is a decision that should be made by the birthday child and I just didn’t feel my 3 almost 4 year old was ready to make that sacrifice or make that decision on his own…just as much as I didn’t feel it was my “right” to “take away” him getting gifts when he was going to so many parties around the same time seeing friends opening present after present.
I decided to turn to one of my minimalist facebook groups for ideas regarding this situation. After some great suggestions this is what it said in small print on his invite “Gifts are not necessary, but if you insist, in lieu of toys please gift experiences (play or museum passes, gift cards, movies, science materials, etc).” My son is like any other child in that he gets excited when he sees a bright, shiny, new toy but he’s not really a “toy kid.” He prefers to be around people, be outdoors or if at home cutting, painting or creating some sort of science experiment. We felt the suggested items gave the guests an idea towards what he liked but also left it open for creative ideas.
We weren’t sure how everyone would react…or how our son would react for that matter because lets be real it’s not nearly as fun to open up a gift card as it is a big, loud toy. We were quite surprised how it went though.
The gifts came in all varieties. He got a Visa gift card (which we’ve thought would be great to go towards a zoo or science center membership), a restaurant gift card, several gift cards for stores (where he will be given choices to pick out what he wants, likely some sort of craft materials), movie passes (he mentioned he will be spending it on popcorn too!) and Chuck E. Cheese gift cards, which he is so very excited about! He also got some great things to experience at home including 1 new movie, 1 new game, 1 science experiment, 1 craft project and 2 outdoor toys. He was also given a yummy, healthy treat with the recipe included so we could make the snack together! Per the request of us, the parents, he also got a new bike from his grandparents, the one thing we had on his birthday “could really use” list. I was very impressed with all of the gifts but one really stood out. My son’s good friend gave him a day pass (and living social deal) to spend the day out with him and his parents at a local sports center. Yes he would get to spend a day with his best bud mini golfing, at batting cages and race cars! What a wonderful experience and celebration of their friendship!
Overall we were so impressed with our friends and families amazing ideas for experience/toy-less gift giving. I had warned my son that his presents might not look like what he’d seen at some other parties; that there wouldn’t be very many toys. He didn’t even seem to notice, or at the very least care, when he declared “I love all my presents!” We love that for his birthday he was given items that are fun, useful and will bring us closer together, experiencing things as a family!