Friday, July 27, 2007

For Your Birthday, We're Going to Give to Charity

The NYTimes today had an interesting article about a children's birthday party trend. It seems that in the New Jersey and New York area that the authors were looking at, parents are setting up collection boxes instead of stacking up the presents by the cake. They are doing this,

"In part to teach philanthropy and altruism, and in part as a defense against swarms of random plastic objects destined to clutter every square foot of their living space"

Both of which are very good reasons. It seems all too quickly that children have more toys than they know what to do with. I have a friend who hid toys after her kids got sick of them, only to bring them out 4 months later as "new toys". Clever idea, that works two-fold keep the stuff they don't play with out of way so there is less clutter, and cycle toys so that they have something fresh and aren't begging for more.

Overall I think donations for a cause over plastic battery powered toys is a smart move, and one I might have to try in the future. Although the key question is what age is it appropriate for? What age can children really understand philanthropy and altruism? When they are 1, they have no idea what birthdays are and mean, but they they are 4 they certainly do. Maturity of the child may also play a role in whether or not it would be a good idea. If they aren't quite old enough to understand, they may think they aren't getting presents because they don't deserve them- similar to the Christmas-Santa deal, bad kids get coal, good kids get presents. The message may be confusing to them if sprung on them to early.

1 comment:

Nan P. said...

This past April, my husband and I were invited to a fourth birthday party for a child of close friends. Unbeknownst to us, his parents had requested food pantry items rather than gifts. We got the birthday boy a Curious George anthology, knowing he would outgrow a normal toy, while his "same-age-friends" brought in an array of canned goods and other consumables.

Even if Jack had realized the presents were missing, I highly doubt he would have minded - there was far to much going on that day to notice that the time usually dedicated to gift opening was missing. After the party, dinner was served to family and close friends, at which time Jack received clothing and a few toys just enough to know he'd been well celebrated. The balance was absolutely perfect.