Family Life: No More Birthday Presents



No More Birthday Presents

by Rachel Schmoyer

The birthday celebrations in the Schmoyer family house are mostly traditional. Cake. Candles. Singing the Happy Birthday song. What is noticeably absent from our birthdays are the presents. My husband and I do not give any presents to our kids on their birthday.

Although our kids still open presents from other family members, about four years ago, my husband and I decided to give our kids birthday experiences.


Birthday experiences are activities, events, or parties that our child helps to choose and plan as a way to celebrate their birthday.

We’ve found many benefits to doing birthday experiences. Here are a few:

  1. Less stuff in our house. As you can imagine, with four children, stuff accumulates quickly. Not doing birthday presents gives us less stuff to care for, clean up, and tidy up.

  2. Personal celebrations. Before we did birthday experiences, I found myself at a loss of what to buy as a present. Sometimes I would be swayed by what is popular as opposed to what my child would be interested in. Other times I just had no ideas and I would guess wrong about what they would like. I distinctly remember a Bop It that was greeted with far less enthusiasm than I expected. But since each child has a say in their experience, we all know it is something they will actually enjoy.

  3. Creative celebrations. One of our introverted kids once picked a day with unlimited screen time for the whole family and unlimited sugary cereal. One of our other kids, one who likes the predictable, picks the same camping trip at the same state park every year. And she loves it! Another kid picked a painting birthday party with friends. These experiences will be remembered for a lifetime. None of them are things I could wrap in fancy paper. To make the planning go smoothly, set the dollar amount for the experience ahead of time. Be upfront about how much things cost. Don’t be afraid to say that a particular idea is too expensive. If your kids are in preschool or early elementary school, you may want to choose two possibilities ahead of time and let the child choose between the two. More choices than that may be too overwhelming.

  4. Less time spent shopping. This is totally selfish. I do not like to shop. Not even online. No presents means no shopping.

  5. Make spouse gift-giving easier. After the first year, my husband and I decided to choose birthday experiences, too. Since we both love history, we usually pick a day trip for sight-seeing. So far we picked destinations like the Smithsonian museums, Grover Cleveland’s birthplace, and a local pioneer days celebration. Birthday experiences forces us to turn the “one of these days we should…” into realities.

How does your family celebrate birthdays? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author


Rachel Schmoyer is a pastor’s wife and mom of four. She blogs about finding simple truths in complex passages of Scripture at Read the Hard Parts.

She also writes about parenting and other adventures at Rachel Schmoyer Writes. If she is not writing, she is probably reading, most likely a biography of one of the First Ladies of the United States.

You can connect with Rachel online on Twitter.

You can read Rachel’s “Family Life” column on the 4th Monday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.


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