I’m a Family Editor and This Is the Only Birthday Present I'm Gifting This Year

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We can all agree that kids' birthday parties have gotten out of hand, yes? Between the extravagant venues, the live entertainment, the Pinterest-worthy cake, the 30-person guest list and the themed decorations, it’s clear that we as a society have lost our damn minds. And before you protest that there’s no harm in kids having fun, take a moment to consider if a bunch of 5-year-olds really need a sand artist and a komodo dragon exhibit? Exactly. 

But look, I’m not here to bemoan the childrens’ birthday party industry that now rivals weddings in terms of time, effort and cost. If someone wants to throw their kid an elaborate Frozen-themed fete, complete with a backyard ice skating rink and a snow cone food truck, then that’s their business. What I do want to encourage parents to do, however, is reconsider the gifting portion of the birthday bonanza.  

I know that I speak for all parents when I say that I do not need yet another toy (or 20) cluttering up my house. Not to mention the fact that a giant pile of wrapped presents is practically guaranteed to end up as a meltdown (if not the birthday kid then the poor parent who has to keep track of who gave what and where the hell to put all the stuff). But I get it—no one likes to show up empty handed. That’s why I’m embracing this genius gift idea that a friend brought to my son’s third birthday party last year. 

Gift a book from your own kid’s collection. 

Hear me out: Before heading to Johnny’s birthday party on Saturday, ask your kid to go through their (probably overflowing) library of books and pick one or maybe two to give to the birthday boy. You may need to do some coaxing here if your child picks up a tattered copy of Lllama Llama Red Pajama that’s missing a page, but hopefully your kid will think about what read their friend might enjoy and get a sweet lesson in thoughtful gift-giving. Even better: You get to clear out some clutter and save money while you’re at it. (Reminder: You do not need to spend a paycheck on birthday party gifts for kids.) Oh, and did we mention that recycling books is good for the planet? 

Meanwhile, Johnny’s parents will likely be thrilled to get a gift that takes up minimal space and adds a new read into the rotation (that’s certainly how I felt). Would little Johnny prefer a new radio controlled car over a copy of Dragons Love Tacos? Maybe. But then again, maybe it’s not such a bad idea for Johnny to get a couple of less flashy gifts amongst the sea of new and shiny toys. How can we teach our kids that it’s the thought that counts when the presents just get bigger and more expensive every year? 

And I’m not saying I’m planning on showing up with used books to all my kids' birthday parties or that I don’t appreciate the other gifts that they may get. But this year, with a recession looming and while my kids are still small, I’m happy to scale things back. So long as I get to go home with my very own snow cone, of course. 

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...