O(5) asked her friends to bring donations for a local children's home rather than gifts to her birthday party this year. We are so proud of her for making this decision, and she was very proud, too. After gathering the donations together, we went shopping so that O could choose some things for the children herself. After our shopping trip, we went to the children's home to deliver the donations. This trip made the donation process much more real and relevant to O since she was able to see the children and their home.
I started talking with O about the possiblity of asking for donations before her 4th birthday party last year. She wavered back and forth between deciding to get donations or gifts, and she finally decided that she'd rather have gifts. She had lots of fun opening her gifts at her 4th bday party, and I remember thinking that she would never consider asking for donations since she enjoyed the gifts so much. So, I was surprised a couple of months ago when I asked her if she wanted donations or gifts for her 5th bday party. She immediately said that she'd like to get donations, and she wanted the donations to be for children (last year we talked about donating to the local animal shelter). I asked if she'd like to donate to the children's home, and she loved that idea. I assured her that if she asked for donations, she would still get gifts from us, her grandparents, and my sister (so don't worry...she was not at all deprived of the fun of opening and receiving gifts!).
I love that O asked for donations for her birthday, but I love even more the fact that it was her decision to do this. I'm sure she knew that I preferred for her to get donations, but I did my best to not influence her decision. I asked her several times if she was sure this was the best decision for her. I told her that once I called the children's home and sent out the invitations, she would not be able to change her mind. She was sure (although at 11pm on the night before her party, she was questioning her decision :). She said that next year she's going to get gifts and then she'll get donations the year after that, so she'll just alternate between gifts and donations...works for me!