Alternatives to Pricey Kids' Birthday Parties

A new movement to return to simpler traditions is gaining ground.

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5. Give back. That search for meaningful family rituals is what drove Meredith Alexander to found her nonprofit organization, Milk and Bookies, which helps parents plan birthday parties focused around collecting, inscribing, and donating books for children to a charity. "I was looking for something where my young child would understand that this is something that we do—we help others," she says. She started by inviting her son's friends to a local bookstore to pick out their favorite books, draw on bookplates to personalize them, and then arrange to give them to children who need them.

Today, Milk and Bookies has helped donate more than 20,000 books to charity with birthday party events all over the country. On the nonprofit's website,, parents can get tips for organizing the parties and order supplies, including bookplates. "They feel like they've made somebody's life better," Alexander says of how children feel after participating in a book giveaway. And parents, she adds, are happy not to collect more toys than their child could ever need or appreciate.

In other words, just because the last five parties you attended involved a professional clown and custom gift bags, doesn't mean your child's party has to. In fact, the other parents might thank you for taking a different approach.

Twitter: @alphaconsumer