I was reading about birthday parties for kids that are getting out of hand. I’m talking about the extravagance and the expense of putting on huge parties for young kids. And a lot of it is pressure from other parents who are doing the same thing for their kids, so you feel you have to do it for yours.

We don’t see too much of it around here, but there are some people who rent limos – to pick up the guests for a princess-themed birthday party at a banquet hall. The parents wear formal gowns and tuxedos and sip on champagne while they listen to a live band. Then a few weeks later another family tries to top it. And we’re talking about four year olds.

And if you try to scale it back the kid feels let down. So you’re not only competing with other parents – you’re competing with yourself to top what you did the year before.

A University of Minnesota research study has some suggestions on how to scale back the trend for insanely expensive and extravagant birthday parties.

First – put the focus on the family. Concentrate on grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and a few close friends. You’ve got to start somewhere. Somebody has to be first and it can be you by reducing the scope of the party and whittling down the guest list.

If you really want to put the focus on the party and the celebration, tell the guests not to bring a gift. Instead bring a food item to be donated to the local food pantry or a book to be donated to the library.

For parties where gifts are given, have the child write a thank-you note before they play with or use any gift. You’re teaching them manners and values at the same time.

Don’t give out any goodie bags to the guests. Most of the time they’re things the kids won’t use and their parents don’t want them to bring home.

Gifts from parents should concentrate on family-type activities likes a trip to the zoo or a museum, a day at the beach, or skiing or camping. Sometimes those kinds of kinds of gifts are far more memorable than the latest toy.


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