For me, summers have always meant birthdays. I have such fond memories of big summer backyard birthday parties with kids from all over the neighbourhood, timeless themes (Rock n’ Roll Dance Party! Care Bears! Casino!), and elaborate cakes that my mom would spend hours decorating. Now with my own little ones celebrating their birthdays in the summer and fall, these traditions live on. I too will be up until the wee hours of the morning preparing crafts, decorating, and perfecting a birthday cake that will be devoured within seconds (check back for pics - it will be epic!) But just like at Christmastime with My Kindness Advent Calendar, it’s become important for me to add one more layer to our birthday celebrations. And no, I don’t mean one more layer of chocolate cake, but a layer of kindness, so my kids can experience balance between giving and receiving on their most special day of the year.
There are so many great and easy ways to incorporate kindness into your kids’ birthday celebrations - kindness to charity, to your guests, and to the planet. Here are some of my favourite ways to focus on kindness for your next birthday celebration, many of which we’ll be incorporating into our celebrations this week!
Start a tradition of giving - kid’s choice!
In our house, we love birthday presents. I love hunting for unique and personal gifts that will surprise and delight, and my loved ones love receiving them. But when my kids were born, I wanted to focus on more than the physical gifts and decided to start an annual tradition of giving on their birthdays. To teach them that giving back is a gift in and of itself, and that when you do something for others and can offer a helping hand, you win as well. So every year on their birthdays, one of their gifts is money to donate to a charity of their choice. While older kids would more obviously know where to direct a donation, based on their passions and interests, younger kids can do this too with a little help. Since my kids are still young, I will gift them a card with some cash and three “suggestions” of ways they can help. Do you want to help kids? Animals? The environment? And from there, a choice is made and a conversation gets underway. Last year, my daughter wanted to help cats and kittens (we are cat people) and sick people, so we ended up finding an organization that uses cats as therapy animals for the elderly and sick children. I save her donation receipts or thank you cards each year in our memory box, and know we’ll look back on them one day as a great tradition of birthday giving that will hopefully inspire a lifetime of giving back.
Group charity gifts
If you don’t care for the idea of lots of birthday presents, consider asking party goers to participate in a group and charity gift. There are amazing platforms - like ECHOage and Wish and Give - that are a one stop shop for the family who wants to give back and keep incoming stuff to a minimum. You can send party invites through their platforms, where guests can donate to a charity of your choice and contribute towards a group gift for the birthday boy or girl. We absolutely love Wish and Give for Canadians for a few reasons, including their fundraising compatibilities with over 86,000 small charities and how they keep their transactions fees low, giving as much of the money possible to the charities who need it.
A new take on loot bags
To loot bag or not to loot bag… that is the question! Loot bags are the bain of many a parent’s existence - environmental nightmares full of disposable trinkets or a sugary epilogue following cake and ice cream. But I love loot bags! Though maybe not in that format. Giving back and saying thank you to the people who gave their time, company and maybe a gift to celebrate with your little one is super kind, and a loot bag is a perfect way for your kiddos to show kindness in return. Get your kids involved in planning, preparing and handing out the loot bags so that they are participating in the act of kindness, and the teachable moment sticks. Each year, we make cards, decorate bags or do some other personalized element so that my daughter can be an active player and really think about what her friends would like. And as for the content of the loot bag itself, there are so many creative options to be kind to the environment with less disposable choices. We always try to include things that will actually be used or enjoyed in more than a temporary way. For a farm party, we gave seeds and gardening tools. For a monkey party, we gave bananas and banana chips. And for this year’s Barbie party, each guest is getting their own full-sized Barbie doll (instead of a handful of trinkets), which will hopefully be played with longer and create less waste. There are other great options like gift cards to a local small business or a book for each child. Get creative and get giving! Such a fun way to practice saying thank you!
Think about your waste
For one final act of kindness for your kids' birthday parties this year, be kind to the planet and think about the environmental impact and waste that will be created at the end of the party. I am by no means a no-waste parent, but I do my best to take simple and gradual steps to cut down on disposables, and if we all did the same and invited Mother Earth to the party, we’d all be better off. Simple steps can make a difference. For both of my kids’ first birthdays, I made reusable burlap banners as decorations which ended up as decor on their walls instead of garbage in the can. I always save gift bags and reuse for future presents, and when purchasing wrapping paper, make sure it’s recyclable (paper with foil or glitter is not). I try to save and wash disposable cutlery and if I do buy disposable plates and cups (consider - can you just use your own?), make sure they're recyclable too. And we’ve said no to extra plastics that we’ve used in the past (balloon sticks, extra straws etc.) since trying to deliberately make less waste per party. All of these small steps - and so many more - can be talked about with kids so they understand why the choices are being made, and every little bit helps!