Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Owen's Geo Birthday Party, with gifts? or no gifts? 2

Owen is obsessed with gems, minerals, diamonds, and anything that sparkles. It must be the age, because a lot of his friends are into them too.   If it's library day, he's checking out books about emeralds.  If he's in the backyard, he's searching for "gems" under the deck.  For Christmas, Casey even got him a small pickaxe, so he can break rocks open and search for geodes.
It's a good thing his Grandpa is a geologist.  He's got all the expert info he needs.

So for Owen's 8th birthday, I asked if he wanted to have a GEO party with his friends---something based on geology, geometry, and geodes.
SURE!!
He was totally into it.


And it was such an easy party to throw.
I guess because I like to keep birthday parties simple...just a few games/activities, a few treats, and plenty of time for the kids to play.


I also like to keep the groups smaller, about 8 kids or less, so it's almost like a play date.  Cause I just feel like some of the kids get lost in the large group, including the birthday kid.


To prep for the party, I gathered some simple treasures that I knew Owen and the other kids would like--fake diamonds, fake gold pieces, rock candy, chocolate coins, and plastic coins.  My original idea was to hide gems and gold in the dirt and let the kids go digging for them, like a geologist.   But then Casey thought it would be more exciting to have an actual treasure hunt.   So while the party was happening, he and Lucy came up with riddles and clues, and hid packages of treasure in different spots around the yard.  Then I had little gold buckets for each child to hold their treasures as they found them---which became their party favors to take home!


For the geometry part of the party I covered the table with brown painter's paper, and as the kids arrived at our house, they could draw shapes and pictures all over the table while eating snacks and pizza.

Then we did something I've always wanted to do!


The classic toothpicks + marshmallows thing!  Haha. Does it have a sophisticated name?  It's been floating around Pinterest for years.  And before Pinterest, I'm sure it was floating somewhere else.
And you know what....it was so fun!  Why have I waited so long to do it??


After the party Casey and I even sat at the table and made shapes for about an hour.  Simple pleasures.  And the kids were so proud of their creations.  I think one of these was a space craft??


After geometry fun, we played some other simple games, had the treasure hunt---which the kids LOVED and went crazy over.  We had the famous:
Chocolate Marshmallow Cake.
Yummmm.
I could eat it every day.
And that was pretty much the party...in a short 2 hours!

Because, aside from diamonds and marshmallows, here comes the slightly more serious part of the post....
Well, it's not serious.  But it's something I've been thinking about for a while and I'd love to know your thoughts.

Instead of opening birthday gifts, we opted to write "no gifts please" on the invitation...and I discussed it with Owen before doing it and he was totally fine with it.  In fact at the end of the party he said "For my whole life, I'm never EVER going to forget that party! And the treasure hunt!" (even though his friend's ended up with most of the treasure) Oh man, heart-bursting.  Those words made it all worth it.



So, we've gone both ways with gift-giving at our house.  Some years people have brought gifts; and other years I've written "no gifts please".  I guess I'm just testing out all the waters; trying to see where we all feel comfortable.  And I'm not sure what the answer is.

But sometimes--and I don't mean to offend here---I think gift-giving at kids' parties is a bit excessive.  It just seems that when I show up to a party and there's a giant mound of gifts piled on the fireplace, which sometimes aren't even opened till after the guests have gone home...well, it just feels unnecessary.  And I don't mean to be a downer about it.  I know giving gifts is fun!  I love finding that perfect gift for someone I care about--something I know they'll love.  But I also know that it can be hard to find a birthday gift, when you feel obligated to bring one, or when you're not really sure what the child's interests are, or when you're trying to stay within a budget.

Do you guys feel that too?
Am I alone here?
You can just call me Scrooge.  It's okay.

But before we go there, let me share a cool idea that really got me thinking, outside of the box....outside of the wrapping paper box?  Eh?  Eh?
A company called Sow (not to be confused with Sew. Haah) contacted me and asked if I'd share an idea with you.



And you know that I only partner with brands that I feel are worthwhile and clever.
And this is a really great idea---it's such a smarter way to give gifts.

On Sow, you give goals to someone, instead of giving gifts.
Meaning, instead of giving a somewhat random gift, you can give a monetary donation to help a sower reach all types of goals like a college fund, a special trip to Grandma's house, baseball camp, a new bike....whatever that Sower is working towards.  And anyone can sow, at any age, and for any reason.  It's so awesome!  I'd love to put $10 towards my niece's Sow project, rather than buying some random princess toy that she might not even like (and which will probably end up in the thrift store pile in a few months...cause that's what happens at our house)

The funny thing is, Casey and I have been doing a very similar thing over the years for his parents, with birthday and Christmas gifts.  We just didn't know there was a website for it.  Well, there wasn't. But now there is!  In lieu of gifts for his parents, we've been putting some money in their bank account to be used JUST for fun trips and travel.  But the Sow site makes all of that even easier. 
And it's easy to open an account--it's free. Yay!

So for a child's birthday party, or for grandparents that don't know what to get for the grand kids, or for that special graduation gift, etc. this would be a really fun way to give and support a goal for someone; something that has a really big payoff.
It's pretty genius.  And I love the video explaining how mom Tanya came up with the idea.

What do you guys think?  About gift-giving in general and about Sow?
I'd love to know your honest thoughts.
Because Sow sounds like the new way of giving.  A way to give with a purpose, that is.
I guess I should make my inlaws a sign that says "i sow....for travel...."

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