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" There are ways for parents to avoid the financial and emotional traps birthday parties bring. Stowers Innovations, Inc., publisher of the Yes, You Can... series of books, suggests the following 10 tips to increase the meaning and decrease the cost of birthday gift giving and celebrations.
1. Set a pre-determined budget – Determine a specific budget in advance for gifts and parties to avoid a financial crunch each year. Share this budget with your children to avoid unrealistic expectations.
2. Limit the number of guests – Keep parties manageable by limiting the number of guests your child is allowed to invite. A good rule of thumb is one guest for every year. So a five year old could invite five friends. Children cannot connect with very many people at one time and often connect most with family. By limiting the number of guests, you create an environment in which your child can form more meaningful connections.
3. Involve your child in the planning process – Give your child a major role in organizing the party. Talk about what is important about this party and how the money budgeted for the celebration will be used. Help them pick out games, food and decorations. Sit down with them to write party invitations. Years from now, when your child remembers his or her birthday, they’ll remember the experience, not just the party.
4. Team up – Share the cost of birthday parties by joining with other parents whose children have a similar birth date. This allows children to have parties that feel extravagant without straining your budget. If teaming up isn’t an option, consider throwing a big birthday party every other year for your child.
5. Keep it simple – Plan a party around a simple and inexpensive activity your child and their friends enjoy, such as baking and decorating cookies, hosting a talent show or playing dress-up. If your child is interested in dancing, host a dance party and allow your child to create a dance for everyone to learn. Or create a play based on their special interests and have party guests put on a show.
6. Build connections – Create activities that build connections and allow enough time for the activity to be meaningful. Young children have shorter attention spans and an hour and a half party would allow them enough time for a meaningful experience without loosing interest. Older children, however, may find a longer activity more meaningful. Consider allowing your older teen to invite a friend on a weekend family trip, or to a concert or theme park.
7. Celebrate family birthday traditions – Invite children to take part in a family birthday tradition. Serve breakfast in bed or allow children to choose the dinner menu on their birthday. Bake special treats the child can share with the class at school. There are many ways to build traditions, which make the day extra special.
8. Consider alternatives to traditional birthday gifts – Give your child a non-material gift, such as an experience or new privilege. Take the day off from work to go to a museum together or recognize the importance of getting older by extending a curfew or allowing young children to stay up later.
9. Teach the art of giving – Incorporate giving into your child’s birthday celebration. Instead of bringing gifts to the party, ask guests to bring something that can be donated—books, money, new toys or clothing—to a charity your child chooses. Send thank you notes to guests giving them specifics on the total contribution to the charity.
10. Make gift giving and receiving more meaningful – Set aside enough time during the party to allow the gift exchange to be a special experience. Let each child explain why he or she chose their gift and allow time for the recipient to open it. Many parents set up chairs for the gift giver and recipient, so they can sit next to each other while the present is being opened.
“Including your child in all aspects of the birthday experience, from planning to creating a scrap book after the event, helps create a party both you and your child will remember for a lifetime,” said Sheelagh Manheim, Ph.D., co-author of Yes, You Can… Find More Meaning in Your Life. “A great party is not about the money spent, but about the connections formed and the memories made.”
The books Yes, You Can... Afford to Raise a Family and Yes, You Can... Find More Meaning in Your Life are available by calling 1-800-234-3445 or online at www.stowers-innovations.com."