How to avoid toddler present envy on the kid-party treadmill

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK
Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK 

OPINION: If you asked me what I did last weekend, I would probably reply that I did what I also did the weekend before, and probably the weekend before that, too.

It didn't involve a sleep in, brunch out somewhere nice, or any type of alcohol (Almost three months without a drink, thankyouverymuch).

No, my weekends – and it really does feel like every weekend – are planned around the staple of any parent's calendar: birthday parties.

This past weekend, we attended two, and don't get me wrong, kids' parties are great.

Firstly, they act as a brilliant reminder for the week before the party for the kids to be on their best behaviour. 

A simple reminder that the weekend coming up heralds plans for – insert name's – birthday acts as a positive acumen for my two little ones.

The thought of missing out on the toddler social event of the week is disastrous for many pre-schoolers.

Kids' parties are also a great excuse for catching up with friends and family, many of whom you only get the chance to see at these types of events.

My friends and I have often joked about how if these parties didn't take place, we'd never see each other at all, so I guess in a way children's birthday parties could be seen as play dates for adults as well.

Advertisement

So they're definitely not all bad.

But sometimes they require some co-ordination. There can be clashes of timings with other events, travel involved, and just general party admin like sending back RSVPs and buying an appropriate gift.

Ahh, the presents.

Kids love presents. They love receiving presents and other kids (usually) love watching the birthday child opening up their usually large mountain of gifts.

As an adult, it's easy to get swept up in to the excitement of ripping in to a bunch of gifts, but there's always an aftermath.

Usually, if the child is still really young, the packaging and wrapping is more exciting than the intended present anyway.

My children have been incredibly spoilt over the years with thoughtful, amazing gifts.

But after every party, I marvel at the sheer mountain of "stuff" that come from birthdays and have always wondered if there's a different way of doing things.

That's when I found out about fiver parties.

Basically, instead of having to manage an incredible amount of gifts of varying quality and interest, guests are asked – if they would like to – to contribute a small amount of money so the child can save up and pay towards something that they have chosen.

One of the parties we attended at the weekend had a similar premise, asking guests if they wished to include a gold coin in a card so the child's piggy bank could get more funds.

I loved this idea. The birthday kid gets the thrill of seeing precious physical money and then the ability to put it towards something that they want.

With a special fifth birthday looming in our family this year, we're going to ask something similar of guests – gifts will be welcome of course, but our preference will be for those coming to donate a "fiver" for our boy to put towards a bigger gift or event of his choice.

Hopefully, this prevents those invited from fretting over what gift to buy, is cost-effective, and means our house won't be overloaded with mountains of overwhelming toys.

It'll also teach our little ones about what items cost, how to save for something they want and what physical money even looks like.

The constant weekly birthday party invites can get expensive so I love the thought of freeing guests from what can be quite a burden.

Another idea we utilised this past weekend at a family member's first birthday was honouring the parents' statement about the 1-year-old having a lot of toys already, so instead we celebrated the parents.

Given the baby would probably only be entertained by the wrapping paper, we instead bought a voucher for the parents to have lunch out, and a babysitting voucher for them to drop their little one with us and enjoy and celebrate their first year of parenthood.

The little one won't remember that we didn't buy him a present, and hopefully the parents will appreciate the acknowledgement of what can be a difficult first year adjusting to being someone's parent. 

- Stuff