Would you throw a birthday party with no presents?

Lilina was invited to her very first little friend birthday party last week. I was surprised at the bottom on the invitation it said “No presents necessary.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of the request. I don’t know the family very well so I’m not sure if they are just opposed to consumerism or if in such bad economic times they didn’t want friends to feel pressure to spend.

Later that week, a mom friend who lives in New York, posted on her Facebook status an item about her daughter’s little buddy requesting no presents just drawings on 8.5 by 11 paper.

There was a big debate following her posting and apparently lots of families in New York City are making that same request. It makes sense up there because space is so limited in apartments.

My feeling in general is I’m not showing up to any child’s birthday party without a present in hand. We picked up Lilina’s favorite book “Go Dog Go” (about $8) to share with her friend and a Dora coloring book ($2), and the little girl was thrilled with her present.

As it turned out, I think everyone brought a gift so I would have looked like an idiot and felt terrible if I hadn’t brought something.

What do you think? With today’s economic hardship should families request no presents? Is it a reaction to over-consumerism? Is it fair to the kids who don’t get birthday presents? How do you like the alternative idea of drawing pictures as presents? What are other alternative ideas to presents?

106 comments Add your comment

mom2alex&max

October 8th, 2009
7:06 am

I’m of two minds on this one. On one hand, my kids (and most kids I know) certainly do not need ANY more stuff. At all. On the other hand, kids really enjoy this aspect of their birthday. Seems wrong to take it away.

Vork

October 8th, 2009
7:16 am

Here’s the deal if they put on the invite no presents neccessary they are relieving you of the obligation of having to bring a gift. If you feel guilty and want to bring a gift, fine, do so, if not you don’t have to, and ideally you don’t have to be made to feel guilty because they asked you not to bring any gifts. Why this is even a topic for discussion is beyond me……sigh.

Candler Park

October 8th, 2009
7:16 am

Theresa, if we invited your child to our house and indicated no presents and your brought one you would be doing us a big disservice. And I’d either send you home with it, or just donate it to charity.

My son is 8 and since he was born we’ve stressed that he should only expect presents from us (Mom and Dad) and grandparents. He’s been raised to understand that birthday parties, for him, are all about hanging out with friends and having a good time.

For you to show up with a present ANYWAY undermines the value system we’re trying to instill. Of course, for you to show up with a present anyway doesn’t ruin things. It would be a teachable moment for our son – he’d get to pick out which charity the gift goes to.

Vork

October 8th, 2009
7:23 am

I pose a question for you Theresa, oh ruler of the mundane topics, what if you had been the only one to bring a gift? What would you have done then?

deidre_NC

October 8th, 2009
7:40 am

it is so instilled in us to bring a gift to birthday parties it would be hard not to. i think i would honor the request…maybe make a donation to a charity in the childs name (something child appropriate like an animal charity or a childrens charity) a child that age, tho, really wouldnt appreciate that i think. and if you dont bring one and everyone else does then you feel stupid…i think if i had a party like that i would make a separate call and say i REALLY mean DO NOT bring a gift!! people really arent sure these days….if i sent invites that said that i would mean it…but im sure some parents wouldnt think i did…touchy thing..

maybe these parents are trying to start off this kids life trying to make her not expect gifts from everyone all the time..i think thats great…kids (most) get way too much stuff…and ive always wondered why a kid should expect gifts for being born…where did that come from anyway…ive never liked that concept (altho i did like getting presents when i was little lol) i still say the mom should get the gifts on the kids bd :)

Meme

October 8th, 2009
7:51 am

I have never run into this problem with a child. I think I would have to respect the wishes of the parents.

Miss Spider

October 8th, 2009
7:52 am

Happy Hatchday! Even Miss Spider’s kids get gifts.

KMM

October 8th, 2009
7:57 am

Good topic. We said no presents necessary on our 2 year old’s bday party invites, but only 1 other kid was coming – it was mostly our single friends from work. We didn’t want them to feel obligated. So the neighbor boy who came brought a small gift. Then when his bday rolled around – his invite said NO GIFTS. Stronger language. I should have gotten something anyway since they got something for ours, but I didn’t and we were the only ones who didn’t bring a gift. I felt terrible!

I think the whole idea needs to be thrown out, unless you mean it and plan to hide the presents you do get and not let anyone else see who brought something.

deidre_NC

October 8th, 2009
8:04 am

ok..maybe parents who really mean no gifts (and why else would you say it?)…should have a large box at the door with DONATIONS TO ********* whatever charity they will donate the gifts to…that way they really show the parents that they meant it…you could take the box of gifts to any number of charities–save them for christmas kids charity orgs..whatever..just put on the box where the presents will be going…thats one way to solve the problem and not let your child have to gifts if thats what you want…

deidre_NC

October 8th, 2009
8:06 am

and dont forget the thank you notes…saying thank you for the donation to so and so charity…maybe thats why the new no gifts thing…parents dont want to write or make their kids write the thankyou notes lol

FCM

October 8th, 2009
8:09 am

I agree with this portion of Vork’s comment: “Here’s the deal if they put on the invite no presents necessary they are relieving you of the obligation of having to bring a gift. If you feel guilty and want to bring a gift, fine, do so, if not you don’t have to, and ideally you don’t have to be made to feel guilty because they asked you not to bring any gifts.”

@ Candler Park: If you do not want her to bring a gift you state that in less ambiguous terms that “not necessary” or “optional”. Although, I checked several online sites and it says telling the guest what to bring (like the drawings in NY) or not to bring anything is a serious breach of etiquette. What you could do is say thank you to the gifts and then do what you wish with them.

What we do in our house is clean the toybox near any gift possible times. We toss old broken ones, and get rid of the less loved. I have 2 boxes of truly loved but no longer used Little People that I was asked by the child to keep for her children one day. But if you want to give the new stuff to charity go ahead, just don’t tell your guests.

Last year one child was not going to come to one of my children’s birthdays because (unknown to me) the family had suffered multiple jobloss. When a mutual friend found out — the parent had not RSVP’d either way and the friend offered to carpool–she called to tell me. I told her not to worry it was not about gifts to send the child anyway. So she did get to go.

Heeledoutmom

October 8th, 2009
8:25 am

Theresa you did what most would have done…Most folks are conditioned to have a gift for the guest of honor when attending birthday parties…even if it’s just a card…most folks feel compelled to get something to say “here’s something special for you, on your special day!”

I also like the alternative ideas as well (donations to charity, etc)…it seems this family noted “no gifts” because they didn’t want the guests to feel obligated to get a gift…which was very thoughtful.

lmnop

October 8th, 2009
8:32 am

This Spring I intend to throw a very large party for my child. I will invite his tee ball team, his entire class, all of his friends, and a lot of mine. We will be having this party at a large pavillion. Our house is already bursting at the seams with toys that never get touched. The last thing that I was for my child is MORE toys. Since the invitation list will include about 50 children, I think gifts would be crazy. So I will have to include the strong language of “NO GIFTS”.

I will say that your choice of purchasing a book instead of a toy was a good idea. Last year we had a small party and when asked by other parents what to bring we said, “Nothing is necessary, but if you feel you must, you could bring a book”. Books are always fine. Big plastic things are NOT ok.

KC

October 8th, 2009
8:38 am

Theresa, I think that you need to get used to this and honor what the invitation/parents request. We have received invitations both ways, one that requested canned food donations that would go to a food bank and several others that specifically said “no gifts please”. While it was uncomfortable at first because I’m as conditioned as everyone else to bring something to a party, the bottom line is to HONOR WHAT THE INVITOR REQUESTS. It is more rude to bring something when they specifically said not to!

For one of the parties, when I RSVP’d, I asked about the “no gift” request and the mom responded that he gets enough gifts from family and they really don’t need any more and the boy just wanted to have a party with his friends. So, we didn’t bring anything except for a card that my child made, which if the situations were reversed, we would have treasured much more than a toy that isn’t played with after a month.

Seriously, while it’s not for my children (at their request), if others don’t want you to bring gifts, for whatever reason, don’t do it!!

Becky

October 8th, 2009
8:38 am

I’ve never had this happen either..As others said though, I would try to find out if the child had a savings account or college fund in place already and maybe try to donate to that..I didn’t see the age of this child, but if shes Lilinas age, maybe she has a zillion toys already..I know that my two (7) have more than they play with or need..So, I would honor the parents wish..

Abby

October 8th, 2009
8:38 am

Theresa, did you RSVP to the invite? If so, couldn’t you have RSVP’d by phone and asked again about the gift; I really feel you were only concerned with your feelings (as Liliana could give a toss whether or not ye showed up with a gift!), and didn’t stop to think about the parents of the birthday child and why they would have made such a request to begin with. Who cares if you would have looked like an idiot – you would have been simply honoring the parents’ requests!

JJ

October 8th, 2009
8:40 am

I have a question. How many of you do not celebrate your child’s birthday on their birthday, but wait until the family gets together?

My brother does this with his kids. He doesn’t give them presents on their birthday. His daughter’s birthday was about two weeks ago, but our family could not get together until this week. So she didn’t get any presents until two weeks AFTER her birthday.

I always make sure they get cards with money in them, on their birthdays. They LOVE getting cards in the mail and of course the cash too.

I never understood holding back presents. I’ve always given my daughter presents on her actual birth DATE….then we do the family thing.

Mike Smith

October 8th, 2009
8:40 am

If not bringing gifts is important enough to have it printed on the invitation, then you shouldn’t bring one. If you ignore the parents’ request, you are basically saying, “I disagree with your parenting skills and I know better than you.”

HB

October 8th, 2009
8:41 am

A popular option in my area is a birthday book swap. I worked for a nature museum that hosted bday parties and several families did this a few summers ago. One mom said they felt their kids just had too much stuff and were so inundated with commercialism that they just wanted to try to counter that with a less material practice. They said the kids still got presents from grandparents, aunts, uncles, mom and dad and just didn’t need gifts from their 15 little friends too. They tried “no gifts please” the year before and no one complied, so the next year they asked everyone to bring a book, swapped them around, and every child took a book home. I think donations to a charity picked by the child are great too.

gpkbsin

October 8th, 2009
8:43 am

Can we talk about something exactly opposite? My kid was invited to a b’day party for a 4 year old recently who had a wish list on kids r us. That was the talk of the town. The gifts were anywhere from 15 dollars to 50. What if some people cannot afford to buy that kind of gifts?

Personally, I like the idea of having no gifts at a b’day party. My kid doesn’t need any more toys than he has.. one toy box full.. thats it. We even had “no gifts” policy at our wedding.

JJ

October 8th, 2009
8:58 am

I like the book swap idea.

MsBulldawg

October 8th, 2009
9:02 am

When my sons we younger, we specified on birthday invitation that all gifts would be donated to Toys for Tots. The gifts were packed away until December when the boys & I would carry them to a local drop off. The boys looked forward to the drop off day more than they did their own birthdays. I am proud to say this annual event fostered a sense of giving in each of my sons that continues today.

YUKI

October 8th, 2009
9:06 am

I have seen this on adults birthday part invites (such as an informal get together with friends) but never on a kids invitation. I think I would have honored the parents wishes but I think bringing a small book was better than a large toy. Growing up, it was exciting to get presents at my birthday parties, and shallow as it may seem that was a big part of it. I can’t imagine having had birthday parties where I didn’t receive any gifts! But I also understand if the child already has tons of toys and the parents feel he/she doesn’t need anything else. I like the idea of a box in the front if it was specifically requested for NO GIFTS, then they could be donated to charity. It just would feel strange not bringing anything, though. I always feel as a guest I should have something to contribute!

YUKI

October 8th, 2009
9:07 am

oh, and a wish list at toys r us for a birthday party? TACKY!!

DA

October 8th, 2009
9:12 am

I’ve seen that for adult parties but not for kids parties. I’ve seen people request books for shelters or schools and even food for pets for shelters. I would also honor the parents request and maybe just have Lilina draw a nice picture for the birthday child.

Presents..yes

October 8th, 2009
9:15 am

Anytime anyone goes to any child or teen ager birthday party they should bring a gift!

Now what I think is tacky is for people that are getting married to expect their guests to pay for their wedding….that is down right tacky!

It really does not take much to please a small child…how on earth can anyone go to a child’s birthday party and not bring a gift? That is just W-R-O-N-G TO THE NTH POWER! :-(

Toys' r us???tacky

October 8th, 2009
9:22 am

I think that it is VERY TACKY for people to invite you to any party and tell you where they are registered for gifts….for a parent to put on an invitation that their child is registered at toys r us and EXPECT you to actually purchase a toy from there is just wrong too! It shouldn’t matter where a person purchases a child’s toy…now I can understand if you request for no one to purchase your child a toy knife or a toy gun or a toy weapon…but to TELL grown people where to purchase your childs’ chosen toy is just down right tacky!!! Those are just REALLY cheap parents who can’t afford to purchase their child(ren) toys from toys r us so they figure if they can provide a cheap behind cake and some ice cream that YOU should purchase expensive toys for their children….N-O-T!!!!!!!!! :-)

Jesse's Girl

October 8th, 2009
9:25 am

Interesting…..oddly enough…we have a b-day party rule in our family. With the exception of grandparents…cause they don’t listen anyway…gifts are a no-no…. from friends and extended family. We have wonderfully fun parties. But since their births, we have always asked for letters to be written to the kids. I have a huge scrap book that I put them in and they can go through them and read them. Now…Jesse and I give a gift in private. But its very silly to have cheap gifts floating around that are forgotten about in a few days. The letters serve as a reminder of how blessed they truly are…..we also only give 3 gifts per kid, not exceed $200, at Christmas. Thats just how we roll:)

lmno

October 8th, 2009
9:25 am

I have never bought anything off of any registry ever. Weddings = cash. Kids parties = books.

Uconn

October 8th, 2009
9:26 am

Why is it ok to expect gifts for a child at their birthday party, but not for a wedding? Same thing, is it not? A party where the host provides food and drink … Hmmm…. Interesting… Could it be because no one wants to hurt a child’s feelings and its ok for the adults not to get gifts? Why do we as a society place less importance on adults (the veterns of childhood) and more on children? When you give, give, give to kids, won’t that make them expect to get gifts at their wedding? I am getting married in Feb, do I expect people to get me a gift? No. Do most people brings gifts? Yes. I think that is why most people come to EXPECT gifts at a wedding. The thing that gets me about weddings is when people RSVP yes and then don’t show up. THAT makes me want to call them and ask for their meal cost… Don’t make me spend the money if you have no intention on showing up! Emergencies I understand … Now I will sit back and wait for the mud to be slung *smiles*

Cammi317

October 8th, 2009
9:27 am

I always do this because I know at various times people are struggling and I do not want parents to feel obligated to purchase items for my daughter. Most of the time, everyone brings something anyway.

pws

October 8th, 2009
9:31 am

Hey Theresa, Off topic, but you mentioning that her favorite book brought back a lot of memories. My daughter is now 20, and I can still read that particular book by heart, because we had to read it every night before she went to bed from the time she was about 18 months old until she was old enough to read it herself! When a friend of hers had a baby, she gave him a copy of that book for his first birthday. His dad told her later that he has to read that book every night to his son… A classic is always a classic!

Jesse's Girl

October 8th, 2009
9:32 am

UCONN…you are absolutely right about the wedding. We were scheduled to got one last weekend and couldn’t make it due to 2/3rds of our children coming down with the ickiness. So….as part of my gift, I am including a little extra cash to make up for the 4 seats we reserved. Its only right….Having planned and paid for a huge wedding myself…I know how insane prices are.

New Stepmom

October 8th, 2009
9:33 am

Wow…b-day parties have changed since I was a kid. I took my step daughter to a party last fall and they brought gifts and had them beautifully displayed, but did not open them at the party. I thought that was a shame since my step daughter was very thoughtful in picking out the gift and would have loved to see the birthday girl open it.

I am like Theresa, I would have brought a small gift and I always do books instead of toys for the under 5 crowd. It is kind of like I always take a bottle of wine to a dinner partt, I would feel weird showing up to any kind of party completely empty handed.

JJ, I am with you, give the kids the gifts on their day. If there is a family event it just spreads the joy a little longer.

I am a stickler for thank you notes, so I think that if parents are requesting no gifts to avoid thank you notes as one suggested then that is awful. I hope it is an avoidance of consumerism and too much stuff.

mom in decatur

October 8th, 2009
9:35 am

I have a two year old and he recently was invited yo a party where they requested us to bring items for the local Shelter instead of gifts. They worded it wonderfully stating that their son already had plenty of toys and would rather support people in need. They included a list of food items that were needed. I thought it was a great idea. I went out and got several items on the list and they took them to the Woman’s Shelter. Living where we do in mostly small 50’s ranches we are all short on space in our homes and our children really do have everything they need and a lot of wants met. I am thinking I will do the same thing for my son’s third Birthday and my daughter’s first this year. I think it will be even more perfect for a one year old since she already has all of her brother’s hand me downs to play with.

New Stepmom

October 8th, 2009
9:38 am

Uconn, you are right. I missed a wedding due to an emergency several years ago and offered to pay for our meals. The bride and groom declined, but it was the right thing to do.

Citizen of the World

October 8th, 2009
9:40 am

When my kids were young and we were struggling, it just about broke me having to buy birthday presents practically every month for one or more kids. And to me the issue wasn’t the gift so much as it was, why did every kid have a big birthday party every year? It got so out of hand that I decided to “be the change I wanted to see in the world” and let my children have birthday parties on what I thought of as “milestone” years — like 6, 10, 13, 16. The rest of the time we had family celebrations. They thought I was some sort of grinch for this, but the deprivation was character building. They learned that the fact of their birth was not an occasion for the world to stop and lavish gifts on them.

Presents, No Party

October 8th, 2009
9:43 am

I think I’m going to send out the following announcement for my daughter:
Katherine is turning 5!
There is no party but presents are welcome.
Please drop them off on our porch Saturday between noon and 4PM.
Thanks in advance!

Cammi317

October 8th, 2009
9:49 am

LOL @ “Presents, No Party” Thanks for the morning giggle.

Diane

October 8th, 2009
9:49 am

A lot of times I will buy a book and give a little money for the “college fund”. It’s hard for a small child to understand not giving or getting a gift at a party. When my daughter is older, we will most likely do a charity donation instead of gifts at her parties, but for now, I hold back some of her gifts and dole them out throughout the year (her birthday is in February, so I save gifts as surprises when she’s bored during the summer. I also try to clean out her toys every couple of months.

cookie19

October 8th, 2009
9:51 am

A lot of times children are happy just to get a cake and have friends over. Some parents go all out for parties becuase it means more if they are able to do so. It is up to the parents not to request gifts as long as they expalin their reasoning beforehand and it is still a joyous and memorable occasion.

Kathy

October 8th, 2009
9:53 am

I took Little E to a b’day party one year and the mom would not let her son open the gifts until after everyone had left, like the party new stepmom went to. Several of the moms at the party were very upset with this mother because we had helped our children pick out the gift and even let the kids help wrap the gift and then not to see the child open the gift……I think it is just plain rude to do that . I think if you invite a child to a party, it is only right to open their gift and thank them (and their parent) for it right then.

Glad I'm Not Diane's Kid

October 8th, 2009
9:56 am

“but for now, I hold back some of her gifts and dole them out throughout the year” – You are so cruel! I was wondering how anyone could be so thoughtless but then your other line helped me understand: ” When my daughter is older, we will most likely do a charity donation instead of gifts” – now it’s clear that you’re a Kum-ba-ya singing, save-the-world, ‘co-exist’-bumper-sticker, liberal who cares SO much about the world but neglects her own family. Pitiful.

Theresa Giarrusso

October 8th, 2009
10:11 am

Kathy — that is really common — and I used to think it was very rude but now I just expect it. I think the main reason for waiting to open to the presents is it just gets tooo wild and you can’t write down what was given. Also the kids immediately start playing with everything which is not really fair to the birthday child that they don’t get first dibs on their present.

Stookie

October 8th, 2009
10:15 am

@ Glad I’m Not Diane’s Kid, great job making this a political thing, but I do agree with you on a certain level. My son just turned 7 and I loved seeing his face when he opened a present. He was so happy with the gifts he got and I would never want to take that away from him, no matter where the money would have gone.

HB

October 8th, 2009
10:18 am

Wow. Encouraging a child to celebrate her birthday by picking a charity and giving to others is “neglecting her own family”. I know lots of families who do this and the kids get really excited about how much money they raise or how many cans of food they have to drop off.

I also think it’s interesting that some people find it rude when presents are not opened at the party because I think the intent is just the opposite. Rather than have children sit around watching the birthday child open gifts for 15 minutes, they are focusing on entertaining their guests. I think that is especially common at parties held at a special site with planned activities. For example, the museum where I worked had an activity-packed hour and a half with crafts, animal demos, a nature hike, sci demo, etc, and left just 10-15 minutes at the end for cake. Gifts were bagged up and taken home to be opened. I’ve also known families who didn’t open gifts at home parties, though, especially if there were a lot of guests, like one family that some years had one large, joint pool/cookout party for their two sons whose birthdays were a couple of weeks apart.

meme's mommy

October 8th, 2009
10:19 am

It’s funny this is today’s topic. I’m actually having a party for my daughter at the end of the month and instead of presents I’ve asked our friends to bring something to donate to the Atlanta Children’s Shelter. Even though she’s turning two, it’s important that she realize that every little girl and boy doesn’t have it as well as she does (note: we are by no means wealthy but she’s an only child/grandchild..ya’ll get the picture!)I checked with the shelter and the volunteer coordinator mentioned they needed things like diapers and wipes that parents were having a hard time affording. My hope is this is something we can turn into a tradition…maybe if I start early enough she’ll look forward to donating time/efforts to those less fortunate.

Uconn

October 8th, 2009
10:24 am

I hope I did not come off as rude, but as I said its the people who say “oh yes I will be there” and they don’t come because they forgot their favorite TV show was on or something like that … Sickness and the like is unavoidable…

motherjanegoose

October 8th, 2009
10:24 am

Off to a meeting here in Wisconsin and I did not have time to to read all the comments. My thoughts are ( if anyone cares….haha) that sometimes it becomes a competition over who brings the coolest gift and maybe there are some ( invited) whose parents are in a bit of a crunch. I would never throw a party for my small child and ask for no gifts but I do think you can get something suitable for $15 tops.

Is there any way you could tastefully suggest a limited amount? Like when you have a gift swap for a holiday party…I am not sure.

Many parents make everything a contest and try to one up each other.

My guests at my 50th surprise birthday dinner party brought me gifts.
Of course, I had nothing to do with it but it was so much fun to open things that folks who knew me thought I would enjoy. It was not that I needed anything but I was delighted in the thoughtful gestures.

@lmnop:

YOU ARE FREE TO DO WHATEVER YOU WANT BUT IMHO…this sentence makes me thing YOU are heading for a very hectic day! If you can pull off a birthday party with 50 children and foot the bill, MY HAT IS OFF TO YOU! Keep us posted, if you are still standing.

Since the invitation list will include about 50 children, I think gifts would be crazy.

New Stepmom

October 8th, 2009
10:27 am

Kathy, I am glad that I am not the only one that thought that the gift opening post-party was unfortunate. Like I said, I feel like I have a lot to learn.

As far as kid’s party registries go-TACKY! We did register for our wedding, because that is what you do in the south, but I did not let any shower hostesses print the places on any shower invites (my grandmother would have rolled over) and only those who asked were told the 2 stores where we did a registry. It was fun to do the registry, but we did not expect gifts from anyone and those who did give a gift got a well thought out personal thank you note from me.

If you guys think Diane is cruel, my mom would not let us play with our Christmas toys from others until out Thank you notes were written (at the age of 34 I am very thankful for that). I think Diane’s philosophy is great and it does ensure each thoughful gift gets proper play time.