For Anya's first birthday party, which was on a fairy theme, I went berserk buying return gifts /party favors. I tried to buy age-gender-theme-appropriate trinkets which were budget-friendly too. And so I ended up buying fairy wings, crowns, jewelry, stickers, badges, balls, photo frames, pencil boxes, card games, bubbles and whatnot. In addition, I bought birthday caps, face masks and party poppers. As pinãta fillers, I got pencils, erasers, small toys, hairpins and candies.
|Goody bags mostly come filled with stuff we don't really need|
At the end of my shopping spree, looking at the mountain of stuff, I felt guilty about the whole affair. Was I giving meaningful gifts or was I just trashing the planet? While keeping so many other criteria in mind, the green quotient had taken a beating. I silently vowed to be more eco-conscious from the next birthday onwards.
Anya is nearing her third birthday now. I have been to many more birthday parties since she turned one and have emerged wiser, I must say. Frankly speaking, return gifts are not the greatest idea, either for the environment or for kids. Kids these days have got enough and more. It would really not matter to them if they got one more lunch box, pencil box or a little toy. They, however, love to open gifts. They play with new toys for a while and then these get dumped in a pile of unused toys.
Now that return gifts have become de rigeur, one can't avoid them. I have read of moms who are courageous enough to refuse return gifts. Maybe when Anya grows a little older, we can talk about it and decide on a course of action. As of now, she just wants whatever her friends have. I am also not brave enough to stop giving return gifts. The most prudent course of action now is to switch to environment-friendly meaningful gifts which are also fun.
A few things that come to my mind are:
Books - Books can always be found to suit different ages and themes. Activity books would keep kids engrossed for a while.
Plants - Kids can decorate a pot as a part of activity at the party and then carry a plant in it. Taking care of a plant, watering it daily, would bring kids closer to nature.
Homemade crafts - If you are a crafty mom, you can make kid-appropriate handicrafts like photo frames, finger puppets, kid's nameplates etc. A dear friend of mine is one such creative mom and she made nameplates for all the little guests.
|A home-crafted name-plate received as a return gift which I absolutely treasure|
Birthday Activity - Kids can decorate cookies or an ice cream stick picture frame. That would not only provide an activity during the party, kids can take something handmade home. For a chef themed party, a friend let kids write their names on their aprons. For a bookworm themed birthday party, they can decorate a bookmark and for a Harry Potter themed birthday, the natural choice is a wand :)
Can green and fun go together? I am looking for more ideas. If you have any suggestions, do let me know.