The Truth: Birthday Gift Bags are a Total Waste
Parents, I’ve got a little secret to share. You know all of those trinkets, toys, and tchotchkes that you toss into your kids’ birthday party gift bags? The yo-yos, notepads, fake slimy toads that stick to the wall, candy, little soccer balls, and Hello Kitty key chains? I think it’s time I told you the truth. With a few exceptions here and there, my family throws it all away. Gone, trashed, bye-bye.
Actually, that’s not quite accurate. My kid plays with the contents of the gift bag for a few minutes. Then she breaks, gets bored with, or loses most of the items you’ve carefully chosen. And then all of your kindness and generosity get tossed down a garbage chute and shipped off to some overcrowded landfill. It’s time to be honest, moms and dads. Birthday gift bags are a big waste of time and money.
No way, you say. Gifts bags are a tradition. They’re fun and festive and show the birthday child that a celebration is about giving as well receiving. If you put a little thought into them, the toys provide our kids with hours of fun while symbolizing the real meaning of birthday parties: good times with great friends. I’m sorry to have to say this, but you are wrong.
I know that sounds harsh, and I don’t mean to be a meanie. Please know this: I adore traditions, I rejoice in seeing my daughter with her friends, and I am so grateful she has pals with generous parents who are kind enough to invite her to their birthday parties. I even feel lucky for these birthday parties on a personal level, because in the last few years I’ve become close with many of her friends’ parents.
But let’s get real here. Your kid, my kid, and most of the other kids attending these parties don’t need more stuff in their lives. They don’t need another pencil that will never get sharpened. They don’t need a bag of jellybeans that they’ll probably never open, and they certainly don’t need us wasting all of the paper, plastic, and energy that goes into making all of those mostly junky, bottom-of-the-line items. So let’s stop the madness and stop giving these bags out at our kids’ parties.
What would happen if we stopped buying and handing out trinkets that our kids are likely to never miss? Or how about this: what if families were able to opt out and tell the parents throwing the parties to not include our kids before they go shopping? That would be super cool. If you’re a stickler for tradition or you just want to prove me wrong, take a gift bag. If not, you could politely decline.
I’m going to be even more obnoxious here and put forth another option. I typically spend about $150 on gift bags. This year, for my daughter’s sixth birthday, we will donate that money to a charity of her choice instead. No plastic, no cute paper bags that go straight to the garbage, and no excessive waste. This year, I’d like to show her what it means to give to people who really, sometimes quite desperately, need it.
Since I know she may not want her friends to leave her birthday party empty-handed, we’ll get creative. She can draw special pictures for each of her friends or hand out “coupons” with cute offerings, such as play dates or sleepovers, for the upcoming year. Maybe we’ll even allow her buddies to pick the charity the donation goes to by providing their families with a list beforehand.
Will parents think I’m a crazy person for doing this? Will my kid be pegged as the daughter of the wack-a-doodle mama who thinks too much about the environment and potentially negative messages we’re sending to our kids about possessions, friendship, and entitlement?
Who knows. When it comes to parenting, at least half the time I have no idea if I’m on the right track. But in this case I can no longer squander money and our planet’s precious resources by filling up bags that will never effectively symbolize the depth and value of friendship. A cleaner earth and a semi-random act of kindness combined with a healthy dose of reality: now that sounds like the perfect gift to me.
~By Wendy Widom, Families in the Loop
The pic comes from HeckofaBunch.