Ask Amy: Should we skip presents at my son’s birthday party?
Here: At your son’s age, giving and receiving gifts is important, not because of the things you receive, but because of the social exchange – that of generosity and gratitude – that children demonstrate when celebrating birthdays.
One way to balance out your son’s toy count is to have him choose an older toy to put in a basket for each new toy he gets.
You will then recycle these “basket toys” (eventually) by donating them to another family member, donating them to a local charity or shelter, or hosting a garage sale. (June 2012)
dear Amy: I agree with you that gift exchanges are important for young children. A friend of mine handled this by asking all of her little guests to bring food, a toy, etc., for a dog – and they donated all of those gifts to their local shelter. It was great fun and the kids enjoyed it too.
Faithful: It’s a good idea. (July 2012)
dear Amy: We solved this problem in our house by asking guests to bring their favorite book. The birthday boy opened them at the party, thanked the guests, read them, and then we gave them to our local book reader.
Work: I love the idea of a book party. Thank you. (September 2012)
dear Amy: My daughter will be 5 next month and she has asked for a big party with her friends.
We are concerned about gifts. Specifically, we’re concerned that people will give away Barbies or worse, those Bratz or Monster High dolls. We don’t have Barbies in the house for all the usual reasons, and the Bratz/Monster High dolls are just plain disturbing. At a recent party for one of her friends (also 5 years old), almost every present was a Barbie, Bratz or other “fashion” doll.
What? Girls don’t like books, nature, space, coloring, DIY, puzzles? Is there a way to let people know that we don’t want “fashion” dolls in the house?
You could say no gifts at all, but here people still bring gifts. If we don’t do anything, most of his presents will be Barbies – or worse. We won’t allow him to keep them, and that’s not a good result either. So our choices seem to be either 1) cancel the party, or 2) be “inappropriate” and include a little note on the invitation saying, “No fashion dolls, please.”
What do you think we should do?
Concerning: You can try to control the gifts that come into your home by having a “themed” party, asking parents to help their children donate a “space” related book or toy, or bringing something related to bugs, horses or NASCAR. However, in the end, you can’t control the other parents (or children). And so you have to do the hard work of educating your daughter about the messages conveyed by these fashion dolls and your own values towards them. (October 2012)
dear Amy: I grew up playing with these dolls and am now an avid reader, expecting to graduate near the top of my class and have a very healthy self image.
Better: Please point out that these dolls may not be as “dangerous” as this mother thinks.
dear Amy: When I was little, I loved my Barbies. I lined them up and we played at school. I taught them what I learned in class. I helped them solve little girl problems. For a child, a Barbie is much more than its appearance.
This mom should relax and let her child’s imagination take over.
Fan: I am okay. In my experience as a parent, the worst thing about Barbies was trying to get their shoes to stay on those pointy little feet.
©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency