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I have a confession, I don't love birthday parties. I do, however, love my kids and want to celebrate them on the day they were born. It creates quite an internal battle every year as I struggle to come up with a celebration ritual that meets all of our desires. This year Grayson has been obsessed with robots, so that part was easy to figure out. The harder issue was deciding what to do about the gifts.

My kids just don't need any more toys. I hate to be that mean mom and say no presents (especially after he's seen all of his little friends have parties and receive them), so instead, we decided to do a 50/50 party this year. It was a new concept to me, but I'm really thrilled with how it turned out!

The kids had a great time playing in our robot themed stations. Upstairs we had a "Tinker Lab" where they could build with K’nex, Zoob, and other STEM building sets. As well as a "Robot Creation Station" where parents could help kids build robots out of boxes and other recycled materials. Downstairs in our toy room was a free play zone where weary little robot builders could unwind without a structured activity. It was, of course, the most popular area!

While the kids snacked on Axles (pretzel sticks), batteries (apple wedges), wires (licorice), and memory cells (popcorn), the adults had plenty of rocket fuel (coffee and muffins) of our own. It provided a nice atmosphere of brunching and conversation while overseeing the kiddos. It's always one of my goals that parents have just as much fun as their kids at any birthday party I throw, so I try to make things as relaxing as possible!

Finally it was time for cake! I made Gray a fancy fondant cake this year because I figured a robot cake would be pretty easy to do. The body is just foil covered tubes and boxes, the head is completely edible though. The kids were pretty excited to eat their very first piece of artificial intelligence!

After cake, we had those that wanted to gather around for present opening. I'm never sure if it's a good idea to do this at the party or after guests have gone home. I've seen it done both ways, and there are pros and cons with both. There weren't a lot to open this year, because I sent out a request in his invitation explaining that I wanted to do things a bit differently this year… Instead of gifts, we asked for money.

Taboo, I know! I explained the concept of the 50/50 gift giving and asked those that wanted to participate to give Gray whatever amount they would like to. He would then spend half on a present he really wanted, and would choose a charity to give the other half to. Those that didn't want to give a cash gift could chose not to give a gift or give a toy if that was what they wanted to do. There were no restrictions, just an idea, let's try this and see if it works.

And, I really think it did! Three or four people gave Grayson toys, which he had fun opening and got that instant gratification that four year olds love, and the rest gave cards. Some contained single dollar bills, and others twenty dollar bills, but when it all added up, he had just the right amount to spend half on a set of Hexbugs that he had been eying for awhile.

The other half was given to Heifer International to buy honey bees and a flock of chickens for a third world family. Grayson was given a choice between two charities, but I think the pictures of cute animals in the Heifer gift catalog swayed him over. I can't blame him, those goat and human kids together are adorable!

I'm calling this party a success! I think everyone had fun (adults included!), Grayson was loved and celebrated, and even got a couple of pretty rad toys. Parents got to relax and skip the frantic, night before gift shopping ritual. And most importantly, Grayson got to learn about giving and a family in Africa or India or somewhere else far away was blessed with a source of sustainable food and income.


from Life Lesson Plans and The Gossamer Girl

Brigette was born and raised in Nebraska, but ever since her husband joined the Air Force, she has traveled around the world with him and their two young kids. First living in Hawaii, and then in Germany, their family has soaked up all sorts of cultural experiences that she loves to weave in to her writing. She and the kids are now back home and are rediscovering their roots. Recently, Brigette started writing a personal blog called The Gossamer Girl where she shares lifestyle stories about h ...

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