Monday, March 12, 2012

Canadians: Not all Loonies - They Have a Great Idea with Toonie Parties

Last week, I was talking about my desperate move to deal with the toy clutter. In response, a friend of mine, who lives in Canada, shared the greatest idea, which I now want to shout from the rooftops -- or at least from our little blog.

First: A super-quick primer on Canadian currency. In Canada, they have $1 coins nicknamed Loonies and $2 coins, nicknamed Toonies.

Okay, back to the Greatest Idea... She said that Toonie Parties are really popular in Canada. The premise is that, in lieu of a gift, guests bring the birthday child a Toonie coin. The birthday kid then donates $1 of that coin to a charity and uses the other $1 to buy themselves a special gift. So, if 20 kids come to a party, the birthday kid gets $40 - $20 for charity and $20 for one, new present.

Instilling a sense of gratitude and appreciation in my kids has been on my mind a lot over the past several months, and I think this approach to parties is a great step in doing that.

I've heard of kids asking for donations to charity instead of gifts for their birthdays, that's nothing new. But, this spin is new (at least to me). The kid still gets the excitement of a new present on their birthday, which, let's be honest is a pretty big deal. I actually think that when you get fewer gifts, they have more value. Sometimes, the sheer quantity of toys and presents kids get can make all of them seem less special. Yes, there's a certain thrill, having a huge stack of gifts to plow through, but that quickly fades.

The other great thing about this approach is that it reminds kids to think of those less fortunate than themselves. We have a local charity for babies and kids near us, so I think that, at first, we'll give the birthday donations to that charity. That way, my kids (2 and 4 years old) can physically go in there and hand over some cash to someone in person. This will make it more tangible and meaningful to them. At their age, plugging a donation into a website won't mean anything. But, doing it in person will help give them a better sense of understanding.

The last wonderful aspect of this party concept is for the guests. Think about the stress it reduces. Rather than having to run to Target, find a toy, hope the kid doesn't have it already, run home, wrap it, find a card to go with it, etc., they get to pull $2 out of their wallet and call it a day. Most moms I know run themselves ragged with all of their commitments, anything we can do to simplify things for each other is A-OK in my book. Plus, it saves guests money. I'd say that people usually spend about $15 on birthday presents. When you're in the midst of birthday party season, this can start to add up, quickly.

Now, the only question I have is what to call these parties. Since we don't have Toonies here in America, will the Toonie Party name resonate?

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