A New Twist On Birthday Gifts


My daughter LOVES toys. And clothes. And sparkly things. And Target – you name it, she probably wants it. The problem is that she is only four years old. Part of it is probably my fault and part of it comes from modern-day consumerism being at an all time high – that and Disney Junior commercials! I love shopping for my kids and get immense joy out of giving them gifts (as most parents likely do!)

The thing is, not only does she LOVE ‘things’, but she also has a huge heart with an enormous love for animals and people (I truly wish I could bottle up age four and keep her this sweet and innocent forever… I’ll do my best!) That’s why this year for her birthday we decided to treat the gift giving a little differently. We combined her love of receiving with her love of animals.

This year for her birthday party – when her friends asked what she wanted, we asked that instead of purchasing a gift that they instead give a small donation (whatever amount they would like) for our daughter to donate to the local animal shelter. I was a little skeptical at first because I wanted to make sure she understood and was on board, but it ended up going seamlessly for all involved and I would recommend this idea to anyone with a little one at home who may have tons of ‘wants’ but very few ‘needs’! And to be perfectly honest, I don’t expect our friends to bring anything – their presence is present enough – but this was great for those who do want to bring a gift!

Why I LOVED This For Our Daughter...

1. THE JOY OF GIVING: It teaches her that giving can be fun. When we took the money, she got a tour of the facility and she got to see some of the animals up for adoption. She loved seeing the cats, dogs & rabbits and was oohing and awing over their sweetness.  And we turned it into an extra fun outing by treating her to some frozen yogurt on the drive back!

2. SIMPLICITY: It’s so much easier for the gift giver. We have some generous friends and they always love on our kids SO much. But sometimes buying a gift for a kid’s birthday can end up feeling like another item on a forever long to-do list. This made it easy for them and they were creative by including stickers & chap sticks and even one homemade necklace from her four-year-old bestie!

3. LESS THINGS: Less ‘things’ in our home. We aren’t exactly minimalists. I’ve read about it, I’ve dreamed about it… But we aren’t there yet. We have quite a bit of space in our home and it has felt like it was quickly being overcome by kid’s toys! This is beyond overwhelming to me and we have been working on quality over quantity to reduce the overall number of ‘things’.

4. GRANDPARENTS: Between Grandpa & Grandma and Aunts & Uncles (and myself and my husband), she already got SO many great presents! By the time she had finished opening all of her other gifts I’m pretty sure it had escaped her that there could possibly be MORE! So when it was time to open the envelopes from the friends she was 110% on board!!

My daughter LOVES toys. And clothes. And sparkly things. And Target – you name it, she probably wants it. The problem is that she is only four years old. Part of it is probably my fault and part of it comes from modern-day consumerism being at an all time high – that and Disney Junior commercials!

Make It Fun

To make it fun for your child, think of what it is that THEY love. For my daughter – her love for animals (we have a dog in our family) is obvious and it was a no-brainer to help the animals. There are so many wonderful non-profits who could use the help (and would LOVE the help!) In our case we started referring to the animals at the shelter as “Peaches’ friends” (Peaches is our dog!) and that helped her wrap her brain about what she was doing. Don’t force it – but make it fun. Teaching kids the joy of giving early on helps them recognize just how fortunate they are and instills gratitude. And this year it made my heart pretty happy to see the joy our four year old felt in giving her birthday money to some deserving animals (we have some pretty generous friends!) – it’s just a good thing that we didn’t come home with 4 or 5 new animals that day (that was the biggest challenge!)  

Who else has put a twist on the birthday gift-giving traditions? Any tips to share?

Contributing Sister Site and Author

About {Alisa}

Alisa was born and raised in Iowa before attending Arizona State University. She then lived in Chicago, Georgia and Florida before settling in Madison. From her nomadic lifestyle grew a love for the beach, as well as a fondness for spicy food, sushi, white wine, southern charm, Diamondbacks baseball and idyllic ocean sunsets. Alisa and her husband, Joe, are parents to Ava Mae (August 2012) and twins, Nora & Jacob (March 2014). Alisa is a work-from-home mompreneur with a passion for business, fashion, fitness, community and all things mom. When she’s not enjoying time at home with her family, you can find her sweating it out on the tennis court, training for the next big race, pinning her heart out on Pinterest and exploring Madison with her little ones (and sweet Boston Terrier, Peaches) in tow.


  1. Yes! Thank you for this! I love the animal shelter experience idea! We have done donations for birthday parities for all these reasons! We’ve often done something that fits the theme of the party. Like collecting socks for a party at a dance studio, toothpaste and toothbrushes for a shark party, and school supplies for an art party. All items can be donated to shelters or used in an Operation Christmas Child packing event. For first birthdays, we did baby bath items for a pregnancy shelter because my little one loved baths. For another first birthday, we asked for toys for Toys for Tots. We’ve also asked for books and donated them to a low income clinic that gives out books at well child checks. There are so many ways to help and it’s not like they don’t get PLENTY of gifts from family. 🙂 Thanks again!

  2. I love this idea. We always did a donation birthday/holidays growing up. Now I work in non-profit and see the true difference it can make. I also would suggest finding out what organizations need and do a drive for them. For example, my organization: A Precious Child in Broomfield, CO offers a program called Birthday Bags. The program is super popular for children to have the ability to give back on birthdays. Children put together a gift bag that has a cake mix, frosting, candles, small gift (age appropriate) and a book. Then these bags are handed out to the children we serve in 8 counties. When children are living in poverty, a birthday is sometimes the first thing to go when expenses are tight.
    No matter what, being fortunate and being able to give back is the best!


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