5 themes for charitable (no gift) birthday parties


My daughter quickly becomes overwhelmed by birthday party gifts. There are usually several craft sets, clothes that may or may not be her size, dolls with lots of tiny accessories, and stinky body sprays. She appreciates that her friends and family care enough about her to come to her celebration and bring a gift, but the items are rarely used and often contribute to clutter.

Last year she was very passionate about chimpanzees after a rescue organization visited her school, so she wanted a monkey-themed party in their honor. I saw a wish list on the rescue’s website and suggested she invite her guests to bring donations for the chimps instead of gifts for her.

She was instantly enthusiastic about the idea — especially once she learned Mom and Dad would still buy her a birthday gift as usual. This way she had a good chance of getting something she really wanted and was still able to help the chimps at the same time. She enclosed the wish list and her request in the invitations.

At her party, she ended up collecting a big box of peanut butter, raisins, dried fruit and stuffed animals for the chimpanzees. She felt great, and her guests did, too.

In fact, she has asked for it to be an annual tradition. It’s a great way to shift the focus from “What am I getting?” to “What am I giving?”

Here are five ideas for charitable birthday parties:

Back-to-school bash

This is a great theme for late summer and early fall birthdays. Ask guests to bring school supplies, backpacks or lunchboxes. Donate those items to a local nonprofit or to your child’s school to pass on to children who need them.

Get cooking

Do you have aspiring chef? Invite guests to join you in the kitchen for make-your-own pizza or cupcakes. Ask for donations of nonperishable food for your local food bank or soup kitchen.

Pet parade

Have your animal-lover encourage friends to bring a favorite stuffed animal as their guest to the party. Collect donations of pet food, toys, towels and kitty litter for the animal shelter.

Wacky tacky

Decorate in funky, vibrant patterns and colors. Encourage guests to wear their wildest clothes. Have a contest to see who can bring the most colorful socks. Donate them to a local foster care agency or homeless shelter.

Literary madness

Is your child obsessed with a book series, such as “Harry Potter,” “Percy Jackson,” “Junie B. Jones,” “Berenstain Bears” or “Hunger Games”? Theme the party around that and asks guest to bring their favorite book. Donate the books to a children’s hospital, shelter or school.

Rachael Moshman is a mom and freelance writer. Learn more at rachaelmoshman.com.

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