By Guest Blogger Stefanie Moore

My kids are like a lot of kids, they want for nothing. They have toys in the playroom and in their bedrooms and in the living room. Every toy bin is overflowing. They are fortunate to have everything they need and more.

Every year our house is bombarded with new toys and gifts for each birthday and Christmas. Whenever we had birthday parties for our kids we would arrive home with a carload full of stuff. Half of the toys wouldn’t even get played with because they would get shoved to the back of the closet or the bottom of the toy box. It all seems so excessive. That’s why my husband and I made a decision a few years ago. We decided to start asking our kid’s birthday party guests NOT to bring gifts to their parties.

Instead we choose a local charity to collect donations for. Then we enclose instructions and sometimes a wish list for the charity with the invitation. We’ve used the saying, “Your presence is present enough.”

At first this was met with a little skeptism from our kids, but now they have gotten used to it. It has become a birthday tradition. And don’t worry, my kids aren’t going without! We’ve told them that they’ll always get presents from us and other family members. (Moms always know what our kids really want anyway!) And this is our way of doing something nice for other people who aren’t as fortunate as we are.

I’ve taken my girls with me the past couple of times we went to drop off our donations. I always tell them where we are taking our donations and why there is a need for them. It’s hard to explain hunger or homelessness to a child. As preschoolers they don’t always understand. How could it be that someone couldn’t afford to go to Chick-fil-A? Or make cookies or cupcakes whenever they wanted? Or have a nice house to go home to?

One day they will understand. And when they do, I hope they will be caring and compassionate enough to want to help in other ways. My girls are also getting old enough to help select the charity. When I’ve asked my five-year-old who she would like to help in the past she usually says “the sick children” or “the hungry people” and then I guide her to a specific charity.

There are an abundance of charities in our area that need help. This past year we gave to the Ronald McDonald House and the Make A Wish Foundation. We just recently dropped off our Make A Wish donations. We were able to give a big bag full of miscellaneous items as well as around $250 in gift cards and checks. Needless to say they were thrilled.

I’m always surprised by how many donations we receive. It’s good to remind parents that most donations are tax deductible. A lot of charities will mail individuals who write a check a receipt for tax purposes. If you’re considering doing this for your child’s next birthday you are going to have a hard time choosing a charity. If you look online you will be able to find countless charities in need. There are also toy drives around the holidays. (But if you think your child may have a hard time seeing toys given away, a charity like this may not be for you!)

Happy giving everyone!

If you are looking for charities to support, TMoM has a great directory you can search HERE!

What do you think of this “no gift” idea, and can you add to Stefanie’s list of charities?