*COVID-19 UPDATE–-Some of these projects may not work due to the pandemic.
Celebrating birthdays is such an important ritual for children. They love to gather with family and friends, eat party food, play games, open presents and blow out the candles on their birthday cake. Some families are choosing to transition the theme of their child’s birthday from one of GETTING to one of GIVING.
Some families are asking for donations in lieu of birthday gifts for their children’s party. The child then delivers the items collected to the food pantry or animal shelter. This is a wonderful concept but can be difficult for many children. You may want to ease in to this concept with having a service project be an activity at the party or asking folks to bring a smaller gift and a donation from their cabinets for the local food pantry.
Here are some ideas that you and your child may incorporate for their next birthday gathering to spread a little love and kindness in honor of their special day.
For All Ages
Donate Items to Goodwill or a Local Shelter (one for each year)–Every birthday and Christmas, my children donate one item for each year they have been on this planet. This practice of cleaning out their spaces and donating their gently used toys, books and games is so important as we teach them to let go of things that are no longer serving them. My husband and I join in on this activity and since we are a bit older we include paper purging (catalogs, magazines and old bills) into our number.
Recycled Party--My son once had a birthday of all wrapped hand-me downs. People brought gently used toys, games and clothing items as gifts. Zach loved his “new to him” gifts and nobody had to spend any money. It was a great lesson in reusing and reducing waste.
Food Pantry Party or Animal Shelter Party–Food pantries and Animal Shelters are always looking for non-perishable donations. Asking guests to bring donations in lieu of gifts or a canned good with a small present is a great way to organize this party. Make a collection spot where everyone can see the items. Have the children count the donated items at the end of the party and have the birthday child thank everyone and share where the donations will be going. Make a big deal of the Donation Day for your child and make sure to take a picture of them donating the items to the pantry or shelter (send it to email@example.com for them to be featured on our website).
Birthday Box Party–Not every child in our country has the chance to celebrate their birthday. Consider asking party goers to bring the contents to make a birthday box in lieu of a gift. During the party, the group can work to assemble the birthday boxes and your child can go and donate them to the local food pantry. Check out our post on birthday boxes for more information.
Party with Seniors--Who doesn’t love a party? Many residents at your local nursing home would LOVE to celebrate a birthday with your child. Contact your local nursing home and see if this is a possibility and if there are any food restrictions. Invite some of your children’s friends, bring some balloons, games to play (they LOVE bingo with prizes) and bring some treats to share. This is a great way to spread some love and kindness.
Book and Pajama Drive–Have each party guest bring their favorite children’s book and/or a pair of new pajamas and donate them to the Pajama Program. For this party you could have everyone dress in their PJ’s, bring a stuffed friend (if they are young) and read your child’s favorite story to all of them. Older kids can enjoy a sleepover party with this theme.
For Older Children
Sole Hope Shoe Cutting Party–Sole Hope is a wonderful organization that helps to make shoes out of old jeans for children in Uganda. These shoes prevent the children from getting painful jiggers in their feet. Jiggers make it difficult to walk and thus the children can’t perform their daily chores, walk to school or play with friends. Organizing a shoe cutting party is a great birthday alternative. Order the kit here, have everyone bring a $10 donation toward the shoe cutting kit cost and a pair or two of old jeans (no holes) . Put on some music, chat while you work and think about all of the children you will be helping on the other side of the world.
Make Dignity Bags or Homeless Bags–Being a homeless has many challenges and homeless bags can make life a little easier. These bags contain hygiene items, snacks, uplifting messages and so much more. Dignity bags can make life a little easier for homeless women. Consider organizing a Homeless Bag party where everyone brings items to contribute and then you assemble them together. Check out our post about Homeless and Dignity Bags here.
Blanket Party—Project Linus is always looking for blankets for children in crisis. Making no-sew fleece blankets is a great project for a birthday party. As host, you can provide the blanket materials or in lieu of gifts have each child bring the supplies they need to make a blanket. This would be a great slumber party idea!
Other Service Project Activity Ideas
Paint Kindness Rocks
Make placemats for Meals on Wheels
Paint pictures for Hospice