Thursday, April 30, 2009

Birthday Party Book Swap

JessTrev writes note to self about the nitty gritty of a successful party trick.

Since my daughter's an avid reader at the moment, it was fitting that we once again gently asked for no gifts at her birthday celebration and suggested that party-goers bring books for a book swap. The result was fewer non-book gifts (and all of those that came in were intensely personal - it's like the bookswap frees people up to give quirky, small, wonderful, heart's desires!). This was our second stab at a book swap in lieu of presents. Other years we tried an outright present ban, which had mixed results. People generally like to show up at a small person's party with something in hand. The book swap? Helps with that desire, since every kid gets to help select a book and bring it along. Plus? Every kid gets to go home with a new book, which makes the birthday girl genuinely feel like she's celebrating all the people we love.

I thought I'd pass along our tips in case anyone's planning a party (and for reference for next year!).

Nitty Gritty of a Book Swap:

  • Ask participants to bring a gently used or new book, unwrapped.
  • Be aware that you can't count on attendees to bring books (too risky).
  • Be aware that some attendees will bring special books they really want to give to the birthday child. It's ok. Honor their wishes.
  • Secure a larger number of books than attendees per above notes (I went with attendees x 3). Remember that children like to have choices. Plus, it is exciting to be able to pick more than one!
  • Procure books that match a wide range of reading levels and interests (match to your group).
  • Provide structure, order, and direction (kids like all of 'em).
  • Make a display of books (we set them out in rows on a picnic table in about 3 minutes).
  • Let the birthday child(ren) go first. Line everyone else up behind them.
  • Each child picks one book, then lines up again.
  • After each child has picked two books, decide what you want to do with the rest: donate to your local school or family shelter, allow kids to pick more books if they're excited, you name it.
Honestly, I was unbelievably lucky and found a church rummage sale the morning of the party (last year I just nabbed books out of our bookshelves). Because I was so spoiled with happenstance, now I want to be able to recreate the score in future years. I'd highly recommend starting to look for used books about a month out.

Happy book swapping!

*The picture above is of our cherry tree - which obligingly blooms every year to provide my daughter's birthday confetti....


knutty knitter said...

This one I'm definitely doing. Would probably work at an adult party too - must suggest it to my sis who loves books but not permanently.

viv in nz

Lisa, F is for Fischer said...

I saw this great idea on your personal blog last year (I think) and shared it with a friend. It worked wonderfully for her childrens' birthday party. She was celebrating 3 kids birthdays in one party, so it made it very easy for the guests to bring one gift/book, instead of three! Big success!

Brenna said...

I love this idea and I think I will be trying it next year. We toyed with a no-gift party for this year, but nobody wanted to oblige, especially the birthday boys and grandparents!

Green Bean said...

Love this idea. My sister and her circle of friends does something similar. Two years ago, they did a dress up clothing swap and last year was a musical instrument swap. I've not gotten the guts to do it yet but you never know. There is always next year. :)

JessTrev said...

knutty knitter - would definitely work at an adult party! even with a theme, maybe.

Lisa - great idea to join kids' birthdays, too! fun for all the kids and less hassle/cost for the parents.

Brenna - no-gift parties are tricky. My cousin did a toy swap (with previously loved toys) that was successful. I'd say pick some category of things your bday boys already love.

GreenBean - I so totally want to do an adult clothing swap! And hmmm... musical instruments. That could totally work on a kid level thanks!

Envelope Printing said...

A book swap birthday party, now that's a marvelous idea! Excellent way to encourage book reading in children and teens alike. Will definitely keep this in mind for a future birthday party, thanks!

skymring said...

Love the idea! I won't be trying it, though, as we have a different bithday gift system in my kids' school, which is also great so I thought I'd share:
Instead of every child bringing gifts that will just add to the pile of plastic toys that breake, or at leat clutter your house, and pollute the earth while doing so, the kids make a personal card for the birthday child. All this while the parents of the birthday child buy him/her a gift on behalf of the classmates. This way the child will get one gift that he/she probably actually desires, there will be alot less polluting production/clutter/stuff, and you don't have to get any of that stuff for every party your own child attends throughout school. Plus - you get to decide what to give and thus choose enviro friendly gifts.


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