Why Your Next Birthday Focus Shouldn’t Be About Presents


Whilst many children, consider receiving gifts as the most important part of their birthday, many parents can find it to be a source of frustration. From a parent’s perspective, a child’s birthday is an important event because they are milestones in their ‘little one’s’ life journey, they want to celebrate it and want to share with others. While gifts are not a bad thing per se, the purpose of a birthday is to celebrate a child’s journey, all the wonderful things that have happened and are yet to happen. However, our society has made birthday presents the be all and end all of some birthday parties. In some cases it has been turned into a competition to see who can outdo each other with the biggest or most expensive gift. Making the focus about presents takes away from some of the other positives that birthday parties bring to a child’s life.


Do you remember all your childhood birthday presents? It’s a simple question, but the answer is probably no for most of us. Why? Because outside of a few truly treasured items that helped affect a child’s memories, most presents (even ones that children themselves ask for) are quickly forgotten, many are ‘must haves’ at that moment in time, but are quickly forgotten when the next trend hits.


Birthday’s are a celebration of time passing, the gifts received in many cases are quickly forgotten but the memories created during these special times can last a life time. This can only happen though if the focus is on the special time spent with family and close friends. If the focus remains on gifts, what tends to happen is the child’s expectations get bigger and bigger as they get older and older, as expectations rise, the pressure falls on parents to meet these over inflated expectations and at some point disappointment raises it’s ugly head.  This means that we have to start early with a slightly different approach to our children’s birthday parties. One that doesn’t focus on gifts or the gift opening.


So how can we change a child’s birthday celebration from one focused on gifts to one focused on the child? How can you make your child’s next birthday memorable and fun? Here are a few suggestions.


Planning! Yes we are all super busy, but a bit of forethought and planning can make each of your child’s birthdays a treasured memory. Sure, if you can afford a bouncy castle in the back yard, go for it. The time they all spend on it together is far more precious than an arbitrary gift.


Involve your child in the planning process. Does your child like playing sports or games? Make it a party with games where everyone can participate (adults and children). Have something for everyone. Often, friends and family agonise over picking gifts and they forget their very presence is a gift. Make sure they realise this. Value your guests’ time. It really is our most precious gift to give.


How about science fiction or art? Use costumes. Use face paint, but don’t have people get ready before hand, turn the ‘dressing up’ into part of the party. Is your child a video game fan? Then for their birthday indulge them but make it about playing together as a group. Make it about doing things together, not about getting things.


Plan your party but there is no need to go overboard. A party can have a few elements that can give it a structure based on things your child likes to do. If they’re old enough to make suggestions, take those suggestions seriously. Giving your child the freedom to choose their “special day” will make it memorable and fulfilling.


Are you ready to change the next birthday party? When you send your invites out, write in “no gifts please!” Surprise friends and family. Let them call and ask why. Tell them that they’re invited because their presence is valued. Tell them that they’re invited because they are part of your child’s life. Make your child’s birthday about your child’s birthday. And make memories that will last a lifetime.

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