General ramblings

Enough?

February 2, 2015

BigSmall had the 1st of three birthday parties to attend this weekend.
And so the issue of a present raised it’s head again.

I really struggle with this.
When I drop him off at parties, especially ones where the whole class in invited, and I put the present down on the specially designated present table, I can’t help feeling mildly revulsed at the sheer excess of it all.
There are sometimes 20 or 25 presents there.
How can one child need another 20 or 25 toys to play with (on top of the presents that have probably also received from their family)?
Where are they going to put it all?

During My Make Do and Mend Year, I went to the effort of making all the gifts for all the birthday parties.
But I now find myself with less time, and somehow, I think, less inclination, to put the time and effort into making a present for a child I don’t really know, and that might not even be appreciated.
Does that make me a Bad Person?

I’ve been putting quite a lot of thought into this, and into what I could make, that wouldn’t take too much time, and that would be construed as ‘enough’.

My attempt this weekend, was these fudgy chocolate 6’s:

Chocolate 6-edit 2

I combined 200g white chocolate, with 50g condensed milk and 30g butter, in a heatproof bowl, and heated it over a saucepan of boiling water.
Once it was melted and combined, I poured it into a lined cake tin, and liberally ‘applied’ sprinkles!

Chocolate 6-edit

I left it at room temperature and when it had set, I used a cookie cutter to cut out some 6’s.
I made a paper gift bag, and put 6 of them into the bag, ready for the birthday boy.

Chocolate 6-edit3

At the last minute, I lost my nerve though, and dug a lego book out of the present stash (I siphon off some of the boy’s presents and put them in a drawer!) to go with it 🙁

What do you think-would they have been ‘enough’ on their own?
How do you all approach kids parties, and make a stand on the excess of ‘stuff’ without appearing mean?

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  • Reply Nutella Swirls | March 16, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    […] was making some biscuits for another birthday party. This time I was brave (see my “Enough?” post if you’re not sure what on earth I’m on about), and just gave the biscuits-still […]

  • Reply Natalie March 13, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    Hi Jen only just seen this post as having a catch up on reading blogs. When my daughter started reception in Sept one of the mums (with older children at school) put a note in the bookbags saying there would be a “birthday pennies” fund, each time there is a party she collects £5 if you want to opt in and puts it all in one card so the birthday boy/girl can buy something they want, kind of like the Myleene thing (its not obligatory if you wish to buy a gift instead). I was very grateful my daughter did not to get 7 extra presents on her birthday (with the best will in the world you can’t buy much for £5 or even £10 these days) – we also have the added double whammy of a November birthday then Christmas, she got so much stuff she didn’t even notice the money has gone into her savings account and not bought more toys!

    Regarding party bags most children do expect them, and my daughter loves the plastic tat that I can’t stand, this year we had great fun making frozen themed sweetie cones and in the past I have gone to the local market and bought books to give out as a lasting gift.

    It’s very hard as you don’t want your child being singled out for your choices but equally it is quite excessive/wasteful. Regarding the biscuits I’m sure your son was OK with it, boys don’t seem to be bothered by that sort of thing…….at that age, not sure how long you’ll get that answer ;o)

    • Reply Jen March 17, 2015 at 9:32 pm

      Hi Natalie

      Thanks for these ideas-it’s so hard isn’t it?!

  • Reply Nutella Swirls | My Make Do and Mend Year February 26, 2015 at 11:25 am

    […] was making some biscuits for another birthday party. This time I was brave (see my “Enough?” post if you’re not sure what on earth I’m on about), and just gave the biscuits-still […]

  • Reply Hannah February 18, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Late reply here but this has been on my mind so much as my daughter is starting to enter this phase. She has her 2nd birthday party this weekend and I have asked for no presents as she is too young to understand, we have a small house so no where to put a lot of toys and I can not stand the impact on the planet. I however always buy presents for her friends and don’t feel confident enough at the moment to make things for her friends…..I must get braver.

    • Reply Jen February 20, 2015 at 10:31 am

      I got brave last weekend and just took a bag of ‘6’ biscuits..! But it is hard-I’m still not sure how well received they were!

  • Reply OmniRunner February 13, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    My kids are grown now but I recall the days. All of those gifts, most of which barely got touched. Many we are still tossing out to this day.
    But how do you send your kid to a party with just a card or a box of cookies, when everyone is expecting some awesome plastic thing in each package?
    Is a kid satisfied with a box of homemade cookies? Would they think your child is strange or poor? Childhood is tough enough without being ostracized over birthday gifts.
    I understand your point and witnessed these scenes many times over. I’m just not sure how to change the practice without causing issues for the kids.

    • Reply Jen February 14, 2015 at 8:15 pm

      BigSmall had ANOTHER party this weekend, and I baked and iced some ‘6’ biscuits. We had a chat about whether he felt ok just taking those, and he said ‘yes’ so off he went…!

  • Reply Chloe T February 5, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Hi Jen,
    I love seeing my daughter enjoying her friends company at parties and absolutely hate the present/party bag thing. I would love you if you gave my child the 6s because of this. She would too (but she’s only 3). I Think the values you are instilling in your children will be really valued by them as they get older but it’s really hard at parties because it’s supposed to be enjoyment right now, not what’s good for you, right? Party bags are very useful for getting the party to end. I used your snail racing kit in a party bag too!

    • Reply Jen February 6, 2015 at 9:26 am

      Hi Chloe
      So pleased you used the snail racing kit!
      Yes, I have to confess that the last party I took SmallSmall to (he is 3), the only way I could get him to leave was to bribe him with the party bag (bad mummy!)

  • Reply KathrynH February 5, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    Just to prove you’re ahead of the curve on this one, Jen, just listened to a piece on Radio 4’s PM programme tonight
    about Mylene Klass’s child being invited a to party and being asked to contribute money towards a Kindle for the birthday child!!

    • Reply Jen February 6, 2015 at 9:27 am

      Haha! In a way though, I reckon that money towards something that the child really wants, or will use (like a Kindle) is far better than £5-10 spent on yet more tat?

  • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:02 am

    Hi Heather
    I did ask BigSmall how he would feel if someone gave them to him, and he said he would be pleased. But then I think that even at the tender age of 6, he knows what his mummy wants to hear…!

    • Reply Heather Allen February 7, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Yes I know that feeling. Certainly my oldest Will often say what he thinks I want to hear!

  • Reply Georgine February 4, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    Maybe you can start a trend. I would love for my kid to get fudge! Simple, thoughtful gifts are beautiful. I love handmade cards that kids make.

    For my girls, I put a note into the invite saying that if you are considering bringing a gift, please think about a donation for HELP (our local animal rescue relying totally on donations/volunteers/foster homes). Most kids do bring a donation- kids like giving and really it is a good lesson that others (animals included) are less fortunate. My kids are passionate about animals and know they themselves are lucky, fortunate kids (and I don’t have to worry about excess, which really, kids need less). A few other parents have also picked up this idea. Food pantries always need replenishing, as do other local organizations that aid children. And I quit goody bags. I don’t give anything for my older daughters parties (I hate that kids expect them, the stuff is cheap and breaks or gets thrown away) and this year I did an iced cookie for each girl at my little one’s party.

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 10:58 am

      Sounds like you have it sussed Georgine-some great ideas, thankyou!

  • Reply Jacky Page February 4, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    The sixes look great, Jen, and you shouldn’t worry about giving such gifts – at the end of the day, the “birthday boy” will enjoy remembering which mates he got to spend an afternoon tearing around with, not who got what from whom. I struggle similarly with baby showers – which I am invited to more and more these days. The amount of “stuff” given at these events is quite mind-boggling. I cannot afford to match some of the baby gifts given, so I tend to take a modest bunch of flowers for the mum-to-be, which I think is something slightly different amongst a sea of babygros. Luckily they have always been well-received and I have never felt like a cheapskate – and surely the important thing is to celebrate the imminent new arrival??

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 10:58 am

      It is Jacky, you are quite right!

  • Reply sandyfaithking February 4, 2015 at 10:23 am

    My children go to school where many children are too poor to afford birthday parties. Not long ago we had a very successful birthday party for my teenage son with five guests, two of whom were adult friends. There were three child guests, plus our three, including three with special needs. My son has autism, which leads to even more complications around birthdays. We had homemade popcorn and hotdogs (I bought the sausages and the bread rolls) and watched a movie downloaded from blinkbox (which I have decided is more eco-friendly than DVDs). Do I think the party could have been more eco-friendly? Yes, but it’s a step in the right direction. Perfectionism only makes me procrastinate, and then I don’t get anything done, so I try to just do my best and not beat myself up about it.

    I have to say I think your sixes were a lovely idea! So thoughtful 🙂

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 10:59 am

      Thanks Sandy! The party sounds great 🙂

  • Reply jane February 4, 2015 at 4:56 am

    They’re perfectly lovely!

    Since my 12 year old started having to pay for gifts herself, her gift-giving had become awesome. She’s more thoughtful, and often crafts a pretty bracelet or hair bows or something. She’ll also save some of her received gifts for re -gifting, if she gets a double or something that just isn’t her. Today she went to a party with a girl who could use more time with friends. She is gifting her an afternoon outing to share ice cream and hang out!

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 10:59 am

      That’s so lovely Jane! I hope my kids are that thoughtful when they reach that age..!

  • Reply Nora@Home February 3, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    What a relief…I thought I was the only one who felt like this about parties, presents…..I now feel quite normal (well, as normal as I usually get!)

    I made a Sofia and an Elsa crown for one of Littlies friends, I didn’t get so much as eye contact in the playground the next week! And I did think why bother!

    I think I might lead by example and specifically say no presents on the invite, give out no party bags and see what happens!

    She had her first party last year (aged 5) and some of the kids were so rude about the pass the parcel and were so badly mannered when eating, we did wonder if we’d ever do it again!

    We did a traditional party at home… no magician, no entertainer, no £200 disco, no bouncy castle, no pony rides…HELLO…THEY ARE 5 AND 6 YEARS OLD!!!!

    I wonder if year on year people struggle to come up with something better than last year…mugs!

    I love Megs little treasures idea and the $2 idea and your 6s are lovely…I’d have been more pleased with those than anything you could have thoughtlessly tossed in a shopping basket.

    Sorry Jen…rant over! x

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:00 am

      I hear you Nora!

      • Reply Antonia February 7, 2015 at 8:42 am

        Me too. Good for you. I very clearly recall one child being handed his party bag, taking a look inside and saying “that’s a rubbish party bag!” How flipping rude! The ungrateful little so and so was very loudly told by me he was jolly lucky to get one at all.

      • Reply Heather Allen February 7, 2015 at 10:11 am

        Ha ha that’s happened to me too with party bags! One year I gave out homemade Easter nests with a small book for a party bag. A couple of the children (aged 6 at the time) scoffed the chocolate in 2 seconds and proceeded to throw the books around whilst waiting for their parents. My son was horrified and actually went up to the boys and said “I’ll take those off you if you can’t look after them”! The boys then said they didn’t like books & didn’t want them. By the time the parents arrived I was glad to see the back of them & didn’t care that it didn’t look like I’d given them anything!

  • Reply julie February 3, 2015 at 11:07 am

    my daughter is going to a party this weekend and as she is only 3 years and doesn’t even know the party child well I am letting her choose a book or something to make or colour and will not be spending more than 4 pound . I have older boys and have seen many parties and have seen cards being opened with ten pound notes in and some huge expensive toys and think it is one big competition . I have always sent mine with a book or art type gift costing no more than 3 to 4 pounds. When my brother who is much younger than me went to a party going back about 10 years I stayed to help and some one gave the party child who was about 5 a gift of a plastic colourful picnic set I a bag I thought it a lovely idea but the parents were giggling and saying it was a silly gift to give a child , I could see the idea behind it though. I don’t think I will ever forget the face on the parent who gave it . I have only hosted two parties as I preferred the one good friend to tea with some fun games now my boys are older we have a family day out , not sure about my daughter I guess it will be the one friend to tea . I also liked your sixes idea .

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:00 am

      Thanks Julie. Wow, £10 notes-that’s crazy!

  • Reply unionhomestead February 3, 2015 at 12:10 am

    I, too, think the 6’s were more than enough, but I totally understand your last minute back-track. After years of trying to find something that ticks the boxes but doesn’t compromise my values, I have settled on either seed/potting mix/pots or a posy of flowers from our local florist, but in honesty we try to avoid most party invitations; they’re not a celebration, they’re a greed fest and one we received recently even had the desired lego catalogue numbers included.

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:01 am

      Oh my goodness-that’s awful! Love the idea of seeds and potting mix though-thankyou 🙂

  • Reply Meg February 2, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    I don’t envy you having to deal with this! How the world has changed since I was a child in the 70s!

    I know you need to think of your children’s ‘social status’ but maybe you can think of it as starting a trend. Next time, offer homemade sweets or gingerbread… And maybe your children can join in and make/find/scavenge a little present too. I remember we used to collect and scavenge pretty things: shells, marbles, feathers, ribbons, beads, buttons, nice pencils… – mostly shiny or soft stuff) for our ‘treasure boxes’ – usually an old cigar box or biscuit tin. When we went to a party mum made us take one of our treasures and turn it into a gift for the friend. Shell, buttons and beans got turned into necklaces or we would crochet a little drawstring bag to offer pencils or marbles. It may sound ‘naff’ today but it taught us that it is more noble to something you treasure than just arbitrarily buy something.

    Maybe you can use your own children’s birthday party to introduce a different approach to gifts: e.g. indicate homemade presents only on the invitation.

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:03 am

      Hi Meg
      Yes, I think I will discuss with them how they would feel about putting no presents on the invite-as you say, it might make people stop and think a bit, and might even start a trend!

  • Reply Jen February 2, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    I’ve read on a blog somewhere about a Canadian trend called a “Toonie Party” where parents are encouraged not to buy gifts, just to give a $2 coin so the birthday Small can buy something he or she really wants. Average class size in the UK about 30? So the Small would have about £60 to either buy the toy or toys they want, or to maybe save a little. I don’t have kids yet, but when I do, this is the trend I’m going to try setting in my village!

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:03 am

      I love this idea Jen, thankyou!

  • Reply Heather Barber February 2, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    I’m another one who dislikes the plastic tat, fortunately once the children got past about 8yrs old, we used to give a cinema voucher as gift, with maybe a bar of chocolate. When it’s a full class party, I’d stick to small gifts as they get so much.
    The chocolate 6s look lovely!

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:03 am

      Thanks Heather!

  • Reply ashworth.linda1@gmail.com February 2, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    Well we have just “done” ie helped with our 5 year old’s birthday party on Saturday. We knew about the excess of presents and their cost from our daughter. I have helped out with making little patchwork tote bags with the child’s name appliquéd on the front for GD to take as gifts for the little girls’s parties. But we were overwhelmed by the number and the cost of the gifts our GD received. Because she has attended SO many parties during the year 40 children were invited ( about 35 came). Great party,all children well behaved etc. The amount of presents ( some parcels had 3 or 4 gifts inside) and one was so obviously expensive I Googled it and found the RRP was £19.95! So what to do, up the price our DD sets at £5/6 unless Granny’s tote bag will suffice? Perhaps Granny’s tote bag with your great biscuits inside? What a silly world we live in!

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:04 am

      It is totally crazy isn’t it Linda?

  • Reply livingpearl February 2, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    My daughter started primary school this year and so has had lots of parties to go to. I’ve bought the same thing for every child, a Waterstones gift card. I know this doesn’t fit with your making of birthday gifts but I like the waterstones gift card as it means they can go pick something themselves, whenever suits them and I am a big lover of books. My daughter has only ever had 1 proper birthday party for her 4th birthday and I was mortified at the amount of presents she got. Obviously you take a gift when you go to a party but like you say, it was the amount of ‘toys’ she got that surprised me the most. So although a book to jem isn’t the most exciting present its the dirt of present I’d appreciate as a parent I think.

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:04 am

      Yes, I think books always make good presents!

  • Reply Alison February 2, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    I struggle with this as well and hate the amount of stuff that kids get at their parties and wish there was another way. I try and buy durable good quality presents like lego or a book that hopefully will be well used and passed on rather than thrown away when finished with. At my daughters last birthday party (it was frozen-themed) we did some craft (albeit using bought bits and pieces) and the finished items plus a piece of cake went in the party bags instead of plastic tat! I like your sixes though!

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:05 am

      Thanks Alison! Yes, party nags are a whole other kettle of fish..!

  • Reply Mary Dawson February 2, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    What do your children think? Personally I’m with you – the present thing is way out of hand and your sixes look wonderful to me. However, how do your children feel?

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:06 am

      I did ask BigSmall how he would feel if someone gave them to him, and he said he would be pleased. BUT I’m not sure if he’s just saying what he thinks I want to hear! It’s so hard for them-it seems to be almost some kind of instinct to want ‘stuff’ all the time, and I genuinely think that half the appeal of having a party is the thought of all the presents 🙁

      • Reply lesleygcooper February 5, 2015 at 1:27 pm

        I have just finished reading a book on how manufacturers persuade us to buy manufactured food with lots of fat, salt and sugar. In a nutshell, it’s advertising. It is quite horrifying how susceptible we all are to advertising, in all fields. I like to think I am not influenced by it, but have to acknowledge that I am. I only have to walk round a supermarket to feel the pull of desire for all sorts of things that I didn’t want before I went in.
        Quite what we can do about it with reference to parties, I don’t know. Partly because it isn’t us that is affected the most

        • Reply Jen February 6, 2015 at 9:29 am

          It is quite scary when you stop and notice it, just how all pervasive advertising is. And how powerful it is too 🙁

      • Reply Heather Allen February 7, 2015 at 10:04 am

        That sounds interesting Lesley. Can I ask for which book it was that you’ve read? I’ve read a few on this subject but like to read more to to help keep in the forefront of my mind why I do what I do. If that makes sense!

      • Reply lesleygcooper February 7, 2015 at 10:18 am

        Heather, it was Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the food giants hooked us, by Michael Moss. The ruthlessness and cynicism is what shocked me the most

  • Reply joelleharris February 2, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    It is a really tough one, I like you have often lost my nerve at the last minute. I no longer have to deal with kids parties and it seems to have got a lot ‘worse’ since my boys were young (or maybe they weren’t that popular…lol)
    How do we show the world that they don’t have to keep doing this, without people thinking we are just cheapskate or plain weird? No easy answers, but I guess we have to keep doing what we know is right for us and our families and wait for the world to catch up.
    I love the chocolate 6’s!

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:07 am

      Thanks Joelle!
      Yes, I think I should have the courage of my convictions. I just don’t want it to impact negatively on the kids though.

  • Reply Coleen February 2, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    I think your 6’s were a very cute idea, but with all the food allergies these days….maybe not a good gift. I do feel that B-day parties are out of control. Not sure what the answer is…….

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:07 am

      Gosh, I hadn’t even thought about food allergies!

  • Reply Pam February 2, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    I think you were thoughtful, creative and gave something fun – good for you! And I think they would have been enough on their own. What other people think is their responsibility/problem, not yours.

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:08 am

      Thanks Pam!

  • Reply Antonia February 2, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Don’t get me started on children’s birthday parties! I equally can’t bear the wretched things AND have given in and gone totally over the top. The only answer is to set an age limit for parties. My Big Small’s last ‘friends’ party was age 7. Now we have ‘family’ parties. Much easier and no need to produce a dreaded party bag…

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:09 am

      Hi Antonia!
      That sounds like a possible solution-I’m assuming he’s not bereft at the lack of a party?

      • Reply Antonia February 7, 2015 at 8:32 am

        Remarkably not bothered which is interesting I think. We did go out on a high though. Big Small’s last party was a den building one in the woods with campfire, marshmallows and mess tins full of sweets instead of party bags…

        • Reply Jen February 10, 2015 at 7:56 pm

          The den building party does sound fab..!

  • Reply cherisong February 2, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    I think it would have been “enough”. What a thoughtful, unique. present. You should have faith in your beliefs and that old saying fits here “those that matter dont mind, those that mind dont matter”

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:09 am

      Thankyou!

  • Reply KathrynH February 2, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    I think the ‘sixes’ were a lovely idea and I’m sure the child – and parents – would have really appreciated them. I know what you mean about losing your nerve though. I sometimes worry that people will think I’m a cheapskate. Even after all these years of not giving out party bags at my children’s parties I still worry kids/parents will go home thinking we’re tight – which isn’t the point at all as you know.

    • Reply Jen February 5, 2015 at 11:10 am

      Oooh, do you not do party bags? Well done you! I keep struggling with zero waste party bags-maybe I should just say no!

      • Reply KathrynH February 5, 2015 at 4:33 pm

        Yes I stopped doing party bags a few years ago but try to incorporate a craft activity during the party that the guests take home eg bug house, decorated cakes. Last year my daughter had a beach themed party at the beginning of the school hols and I found loads of second-hand spades to give out (with sweets). https://secondhandtales.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/second-hand-birthday-party
        Other times I’m just mean and give out cake!

        • Reply Jen February 6, 2015 at 9:28 am

          THe spades looked fab Kathryn-what a great idea!

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