“I am planning a birthday party for my preschool aged son, and I am thinking about party favors. Typically, I receive a bag, with tissue paper, and some tchotchkes in it. Either the favors last for a week or so, or I put them away, or I throw them away. What type of favor can I give my guests to say thank you for coming, but that won’t be so tchotchke? At one child’s birthday party recently, my child received seeds to plant at home.”
(**Please note, this is a shorter version of my previous post. For more detail, see post below.)
I received the above inquiry from a blog reader. Although I have not yet lived through the birthday party circuit as a parent, I agree with my reader that favors have a tendency to be little trinkets that offer a short term high or rush, but rarely offer real joy in the long run. The childhood equivalent of a “Swag Bag.” From a quick google search of “sustainable party favors,” I surmise that many Moms are also frustrated with “dollar store trash” that either breaks or becomes more clutter to add to their child’s already busting collection.
I would urge party planners to consider why they are giving a favor in the first place? Hopefully they find that it enhances the party in some way, gets the birthday boy or girl more excited about the occasion, and increases the enjoyment of guests at the party. Parents such as this reader want to be hospitable and teach generosity to their child. With all of these good motivations to give a party favor, why does the execution so frequently lead to more plastic trash?
Unfortunately, I fear that many favors are not Intentionally thought out, and are motivated by a need to conform, or by some attachment to etiquette as not giving a party favor, “just isn’t done.” I would encourage my readers who do not have an Intentional motivation behind giving the favor to consider abandoning the favor all together. Lessons of hospitality and generosity can be taught through other aspects of the party, such as greeting guests when they come and go.
If I were to take some time to think outside the box on this one, maybe parents need to ban together and decide that materialistic party favors aren’t a necessary part of birthday parties. Can we challenge ourselves as parents to teach our children to get this type of joy or rush from non-material things? Can we emphasize gratitude about the opportunity to host or attend a fun birthday party instead?
All it takes is one or two parents to be brave enough to suggest a different way of doing things. What if at the beginning of the school year, all the parents agreed to give a donation to mark occasions in lieu of party favors? Or, if at every party, every kid brought back a used toy, and then picked a new used toy out of a grab-bag? Every party could have a used toy exchange instead of a new toy. If the kid wasn’t happy with what they picked, they could just bring it back to the next birthday party favor grab-bag. This still ignites the curiosity, excitement and feeling of gaining something in the little guests, without all the excess.
For those that feel like forgoing favors all together would be too radical and are guided by an Intentionally Abundant motivation, here are some suggestions to make favors meaningful, thoughtful and to reduce their environmental impact.
- Make a donation on behalf of the guests. You can print out small cards with the name of the charity and decorate them with your child. You can even pick a charity that goes with the theme of the party. For instance, if your party is located in a local park, a donation to Trust for Public Land, supports conservation of wildlands as well as creation of local parks.
- Prioritize experiential gifts over a material gifts. Are there any local arcades where you can buy a gift certificate for a certain number of tokens? What about giving each guest an iTunes gift card to download X# of songs? One note here is that these gifts may burden the parent. For instance, the parent still needs to take the kid to the arcade, and inevitably, the trip may wind of costing more than then the gift certificate. However, similar to you throwing away tchotchkes that you don’t want, other parents can figure out how to manage your gift.
- Try to think of a gift with a sustainable use. For instance, a reusable snack container with a fun character on it. Guests can use it for lunch or snacks on the go, and its better than using a plastic bag.
- Give a gift that’s practical and consumable. Soap in the shape of a favorite character. Bake some healthy cookies.
- Activity based favors. For instance, a coloring book, activity book, deck of cards, or small puzzle. These are also experience based rather than just a material good.
- No matter what you chose to give, think about the material it is made out of and the packaging required. A cardboard toy is easier to recycle than a plastic toy. Instead of a gift bag, a colorful ribbon could do the trick.
My goal of Intentional Abundance is to evaluate consumerist and therefore environmental decisions in light of my values; sustainability, enjoyment, convenience, etc, then make a decision that allows me to move forward guilt free. The important thing is to consider your reasons for giving out a favor, then make sure that whatever you decide to do aligns with your values. If you think giving a party favor is a critical part of hospitality, go for it. If you prioritize sustainability, then its OK to forgo the party favor all together or to provide something experiential or charitable. If you otherwise run a tight ship, but want to allow for some birthday indulgence, feel free. Whatever you decide, be honest and intentional with yourself about living and demonstrating your values and don’t feel pressure or judgment by others to just do things a certain way.
Thank you for your inquiry! I hope that some of my readers will share their thoughts or suggestions too. In addition, here are some other bloggers who support alternative or no party favors.
Photo Credit: DIY Birdhouse photo taken from: http://themindfulhome.blogspot.com/2015/10/eco-friendly-birthday-party-favors-and.html
Happy Birthday to your son!