The “gift fund” envelope for children's birthdays (and say no to consumerism)

Carlotta Cerri

I’ve never been a gift fanatic. I like birthdays, I like giving a gift if I know it’s just perfect, I like the detail of a candle to celebrate a special day together, I really like the Montessori birthday where children hold a globe and walk around a candle that represents the sun as many times as the number of their years.

I like the meaning. I think that’s the real gift.

After Oliver’s second birthday, when we had a simple party in the park and received so many gifts that we unwrapped packages for months (because I put them away and gave them to him little by little), I decided that this gift business is not for me. I don’t find it healthy for the children or correct for parents, and I think it takes away the attention from what really matters: getting together to celebrate a special day.

My personal solution was the "gift fund" envelope

In the last two years, in the birthday invitation message I asked people NOT to come with gifts, explaining that I will provide an envelope at the party where whoever wants can put a small (anonymous) contribution towards a single gift.

What’s funny is that the other moms at Oliver’s Montessori school (who share our same values) loved the idea so much that since then I haven’t bought a single birthday gift: the “gift fund” envelope has become a must at birthday parties!

It’s less consumeristic, more eco-friendly because you avoid wrapping paper, children concentrate on the occasion and the company instead of the gifts… it’s a healthier message altogether. And I like that it “maximizes” the memory: when you turned three your friends gave you a teepee, when you turned four your friends gave you your first Legos…

Examples of request for the "gift fund"

  • This is what I wrote this year for Oliver’s fourth birthday.

“Every year, we do just one gift for Oliver’s birthday: Alex and I buy it and give it to Oliver at his party on behalf of all his friends. That’s why we kindly ask you to come without gifts: each family can decide to chip in the group gift with a small contribution (I’ll have an envelope ready at the party), but it’s really not necessary.

This year, when we asked Oliver what he’d like, he said a Mickey Mouse hat :-) So that’s what we’re getting him as a family present in the morning.

For the group gift, we thought long and hard to find a suitable present for traveling (as you might already know, we’re leaving in June to travel the world) and as Oliver (and Emily) loves Duplos, we decided to upgrade him to LEGOs: Duplos have been a life savior in every travel so far, and the LEGO size will be a lot more travel-friendly. We’re sure he’ll love it, and he’ll be able to take his friends’ gift with him 💕 Hope you all like the idea”.

  • Another mom wrote a simpler version.

“We would like her to have only one gift from his friends to avoid overload. The gift will be X. There is no need to pay anything, but if you like to contribute, you can of course. Thank you for your understanding”.

  • Another mom wrote an even simpler version, just a sentence in the message.

“No 🎁 please. If you want, you can chip in to buy him a wooden house for the garden”.

What do you think? How do you handle birthday gifts in your house?

Some photos from Oliver’s day

We celebrated his birthday at Bubble Marbella, which was just perfect as the kids had outdoor and indoor areas, they played, they danced, they cooked (the cooking class is one of Oliver’s favorite so we had that on his birthday and all the children made cookies to then bring home as party favors!), they blew candles! And Oliver got his first Legos… which he loved, as you can see from his face in the picture!

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