How the humble fiver is revolutionising kids' birthday parties


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What was once a happy celebration of a child's birthday has morphed into a stressful event. Birthday parties were once uncommon.

If a child had a birthday party, it was rare and special, and then only a handful of friends were invited. But over the years, birthday parties are occurring with increasing frequency (yearly) and it is now common for the entire class to be invited.

This has created a post-party stress for the birthday child's parents - managing the influx of toys.

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Do we allow the birthday child to open up all the toys? Do we stash some away for later use? Do we re-gift? Donate? Sell? On the flipside, it is also stressful for parents of guests. With so many invitations to birthday parties each year, it has become an expensive exercise for parents to buy birthday presents, not to mention the stress of finding time to go out and find the perfect gift.

There is a solution to all this madness.

Introducing: the "fiver party".

The idea is that guests are asked to bring only $5 as a gift for the birthday child to put towards a larger item.

Fiver parties do have their upsides:

  • It takes the stress out of working out what presents to buy. It is easy and there is no need to find time to go shopping.
  • The birthday child gets to choose a present they really want.
  • It takes the stress out of the party for the birthday child's parents by eliminating the influx of toys and other gifts.
  • One toy is better for the environment - there are fewer toys to eventually discard.
  • The birthday child gets to choose what they do with the money - either spend or save.
  • It is an opportunity to teach invited guests to save up their money to gift to their friends.

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But is it all positive?

  • It doesn't encourage guests to find out about the birthday child's interests. We want to teach our children that "it is the thought that counts" rather than the amount spent on the gift. This is only true if our children are encouraged to give thoughtful gifts. Giving a fiver removes this opportunity to be thoughtful.
  • It removes the surprise for the birthday child. Yes, the child gets to go shopping post-birthday to buy the toy that he or she wants, but this is not the same as a surprise gift.
  • Some people don't like to give money as gifts.
  • Regardless of good intentions, kids will always want to buy more than one toy and so the post-birthday shopping expedition could become stressful for the birthday child's parents.

I've done something similar for my own children's birthday parties but with a twist. We call these "Fiver Plus" parties.

For my children's Fiver Plus parties, I have asked for no gifts.

Knowing this is not likely to be honoured (not many parents feel comfortable turning up empty-handed to parties) I also present other options:

  • A fiver: rather than ask for a fiver flat-out, I explained what my child is saving up for and that the fiver he/she receives will be put towards that goal.
  • Pre-loved gifts: Guests can bring something they've owned and loved, such as a favourite book or toy.
  • Favourite snacks: Guests can bring their favourite snacks to share with the birthday child. My children do not have any allergies, so this is a nice way for them to try out different snacks that I would not otherwise buy. This could become another lunchbox treat.

Through Fiver Plus Parties, my children have discovered a new book series from a pre-loved book, gifted snacks have become long-time favourites, and they have more in common with their guests.

Hosting children's birthday parties should be about celebrating a special day without any accompanying stress of toy management. Attending a child's birthday party should be about celebrating a special friend's birthday without the stress of buying the perfect present. The next time you plan your child's birthday party, give Fiver Plus a go!

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Amy Koit is founder of and mum of three.

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