What's a fiver party? All about this kids' birthday party trend

Editor's Note: This story was first published on June 11, 2018.

If your kid has expensive items on their birthday wish list, you may want to consider throwing them a fiver party.

Canadian mom-of-three Sarah Schultz first heard of the growing trend two years ago, when her oldest son, Braden, now 8, brought home a few birthday invitations requesting that in lieu of material gifts, party guests bring $5 in a card.

"I was an instant fan," Schultz, who wrote about the trend on her blog, Nurse Loves Farmer , told TODAY. "Birthday parties can be so expensive — spending $20 on a gift — which really limits the amount of birthday parties I let our kids attend."

When planning her own son's birthday, Schultz decided to hold a fiver party to help Braden save up for a unique pet he wanted.

"He's my little saver and saved all of his Christmas money and birthday money to buy a pet hedgehog — which was completely his idea," said Schultz. "Braden was very happy with his fiver party and it was a wonderful lesson to teach him about saving money instead of spending money as soon as you get it."

Sarah Schultz says her son, Braden, loves having fiver parties to celebrate his birthdays.

Sarah Schultz/Nurse Loves Farmer

Florida mom Rachel Horan held a similar party for her daughter, Michaela, this year.

Abide by the three rules of homework. Number one: "Eat the frog," says Ted Theodorou, a middle-school social studies teacher in Fairfax County, Virginia. That's shorthand for "Do the hardest thing first." Rule number two: Put away the phone. Homework time can't be totally tech-free (computers, alas, are often a necessary evil), but it can at least be free of text messages. Rule number three: As soon as assignments are finished, load up the backpack for tomorrow and place it by the door. This is a clear three-step process that kids can internalize, so there's less nagging from you. (Yes!)

"She'd been wanting a zoo pass and we've been trying to put a bigger emphasis on experiences versus things," Horan explained. "So when people asked, we just said if they’d like to contribute to a zoo pass it would very appreciated but that we would never expect anyone to feel obligated to bring a gift."

The party was a success.

"She ended up getting enough gift cards and cash to get her zoo pass plus an additional summer camp, and also received gift cards to the movies and a local play center," said Horan. "It was so wonderful and is creating many more memories than a toy could. So many parents said they wish they had thought of it with their own kids but were never sure how to word it."

In lieu of presents, Rachel Horan asked for contributions toward a pass to her local zoo for her daughter Michaela's birthday this year.

Rachel Horan

Amy McCready, author of "The Me, Me, Me Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World," admits when she first heard about fiver parties, she thought they were a bit tacky and awkward.

However, after learning how and why parents are using the parties, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions ' feelings have changed.

"Our kids often get so inundated with 'stuff' on their birthday that each gift becomes less special," said McCready. "With fiver parties, parents and close relatives can still give the child a few gifts, and friends can help contribute to a larger coveted item or experience."

Create tech-free zones. Keep family mealtimes, other family and social gatherings, and children's bedrooms screen free. Turn off televisions that you aren't watching, because background TV can get in the way of face-to-face time with kids. Recharge devices overnight—outside your child's bedroom to help him or her avoid the temptation to use them when they should be sleeping. These changes encourage more family time, healthier eating habits, and better sleep.

According to McCready, other benefits of fiver parties include an emphasis on celebrating a milestone with friends for the birthday child and relief for parents of party attendees, who often tire of spending money on gifts for every birthday party their child is invited to.

Still, McCready warns as with anything in life, presentation matters.

"Fiver parties can go from ick to incredible with proper positioning," said McCready, who suggested this wording for fiver party invites:

We're trying to help (NAME) focus on the joy of celebrating this special occasion with his cherished friends rather than on receiving gifts.

To that end — we hope you'll consider NO GIFTS. For those who feel uncomfortable with that, we ask you consider NO MORE THAN a $5 gift card or cash that he can put towards something special he's saving for.

Thanks for understanding and celebrating with us.

Schultz says she knows some people think that fiver parties are tacky. But as long as her sons are enjoying the idea, she plans to continue.

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"I think it's most important the fiver party is approved by the birthday kid," said Schultz. "If they want a bunch of little gifts or books or toys then a fiver wouldn't be necessary."

Know the value of face-to-face communication. Very young children learn best through two-way communication. Engaging in back-and-forth "talk time" is critical for language development. Conversations can be face-to-face or, if necessary, by video chat with a traveling parent or far-away grandparent. Research has shown that it's that "back-and-forth conversation" that improves language skills—much more so than "passive" listening or one-way interaction with a screen.

"To those people (who disagree with fiver parties) I share my insight of being able to have more friends attend, keep the party an affordable event for those kids and keep those useless gifts that get pushed aside away," she continued. "I also don't think it's any more tacky than saying your child has a wish list for their birthday and to buy certain gifts for them."

The entire 4th hour toasts to Hoda Kotb's birthday, shares a glittery rainbow cake!