“Your presence is a present.” It’s the verbage we’re seeing more and more on kids birthday party invites. With square footage at a premium (especially in the DMV) people don’t want more “things” (aka toys) for birthdays. Despite invites stating that you shouldn’t bring a gift, for some it still feels strange to show up empty handed. So, how do we make everyone happy? Below are some alternatives to space-stealing gifts that will put a smile on everyone’s face.

Photo: Matthais Appel via flickr

Adopt a…Red Panda
Honestly, who DOESN”T want a red panda? Starting at $50, the National Zoo has a program where you can adopt a beautiful and engaging, red panda. Which, by the way, are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. With fewer than 2,500 adult red pandas living in the wild today, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo has been at the leading the way for red panda conservation for decades. Help a red panda out and also make someone a proud panda parent. It’s a win-win all around!

Online: nationalzoo.si.edu

Photo: vicki watkins via flickr

Gitty Up!
Did you know Rock Creek Park has a horse center? Yep, right smack in the middle of D.C. there’s a horse center and you can give someone the gift of riding. Hook up the younger set with supervised pony rides. And for friends and family ages 12 and up, you can gift a trail ride that takes riders through a popular scenic guided trail. No
experience? No problem.

5100 Glover Rd. (Rock Creek Park)
Online: rockcreekhorsecenter.com

Photo: Chiot’s Run via flickr

Get Active
Give the gift of fun! ActiveMONTGOMERY has a ton of motivating classes and activities perfect for folks all ages! From skating to tennis, art class to swimming, there truly is something for everyone! You can use these cards towards summer camps and lets face it, everyone could use a little extra financial boost when it comes to paying for camps in the DMV! Need a gift for energetic grandparents? You can even purchase a gift card seniors can use towards trips and tours. The gift card can be used for products and services provided by Montgomery Parks, Montgomery County Recreation and the Community Use of Public Facilities.

Online: apm.activecommunities.com

Photo: Guiomar Ochoa

Give Them Something to Give
(Mary) Abigail
Huke, a 4th generation Washingtonian hailing from Potomac, Maryland and mother of four little ones recently launched a business called MaryMaking Designs to share a “spark of joy” with the world around her. MaryMaking was inspired by Abby’s grandmother (also a “Mary”) who was an interior designer, teacher, baker and artist and her own experience in the field of Social Work where she learned how meaningful moments of happiness truly are. MaryMaking offers seasonal holiday décor, floral and tablescape designs, and cute homemade crafts. Abby’s specialty is whimsical watercolor portrait illustrations made custom for your family that can be used as stationery/gift tags/framed pictures, etc. Her hand painted, watercolor gift tags make a lovely alternative present to toys and are so practical and pretty.

Online: @MaryMakingDesign

Photo: Philippe Put via flickr

Make a Donation
There are so many organizations in the DMV that need financial help and volunteers. If you get invited to a special event and don’t want to take a physical gift, show the person being celebrated how much you care about them by making a donation to their favorite organization in their name. You might think $20 is not a lot but for a struggling non-profit organization, it can go a long way. Extra bonus: YOU get a tax deduction. Find out what the birthday kid is passionate about and give a little cash to a related organization.

Do you have any ideas of alternative birthday gifts for kids? Tell us in the comments.

—Guiomar Ochoa

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