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


December 1st, 2009
12:24 am

We do not allow gifts. We type the directions in bold and discuss it again when people RSVP. The kids understand and have been focused each time on just enjoying their friends’ company.

We do do presents as a family.

I encourage parents to make the leap. I would say take it farther– drawings– cards– all of it needs to go by the wayside. Parties should be all about being together and celebrating.


December 22nd, 2009
4:11 pm

This past weekend, my son attended a b-day party. On the invite, it stated…..No Gifts, Please….Instead, donate to The Children’s Hospital. So, that’s exactly what I did.
We were the 1st one’s to arrive at the party & I watched guest after guest, bring in a gift. It seems that we were the only one’s that followed the request. I strongly believe that people do things for a reason & others should follow the request. Try explaining to a 5 year old, why he was one of the only one’s that didn’t bring a b-day gift……When all I was doing was following instructions.


January 1st, 2010
1:41 pm

Most of our children’s birthdays have been without presents. They don’t even miss it, seriously. We ask for a food donation to the food bank in lieu of gifts, then they don’t feeel empty handed when they show up to the party. We also get to take our food (and cheque) donations to the food bank and they give you a wonderful tour and thank your child personally and with a lovely letter in the mail. obviously there is age appropriate-ness involved here. I wouldn’t drag my 2 year old around the food bank, but my 7 year old thought it was really neat. My son was so proud of himself that this is what is chooses to do. We do not tell him he has to do this. With 3 kids and aunts and uncles, and grandparents my house is already overflowing with too much stuff and too many families are struggling to make ends meet every month. Just seems logical to pass the benefit on to others. A nice present from family should be more than enough.


January 1st, 2010
1:45 pm

I should add that I assure and re-assure people NO PRESENTS when they RSVP. It can’t be whisy-washy, otherwise pepople get scared they will be the only one without. Be decisive, but also don’t be rude about it.

madre of 3

January 14th, 2010
3:11 pm

Our family received a birthday party invitation for a 2 year old, stating the child has lots of toys and clothes and would rather have contributions towards their vacation. Sorry… the only people I’m “Contributing” towards to go on a vacation is my OWN family. I thought it was incredibly tacky. I’m sure the parents meant well when they put that on the invitation-but come on. If you are asking for money, something a 2 year old has zero interest in, you might as well ask for no gifts. People always include gift receipts nowadays-they could return the gifts at will and “collect” for their little vacation.


May 2nd, 2010
9:50 pm

Hi, after reading the tons of replies ( all very interesting ) i agree and disagree with some parts but i am not posting to argue or to say your opinion is wrong.
I live in australia and this idea of no presents is just comming in over here. We do ask no presents for the adult birthdays but in lue we ask nicely for every one to pay for their own meals at a resteraunt of our choice, we all ways try to find something within our price range ( small to medium) with great quality of food and some where for the children included to play. Some people still bring presents ( in our families case they are normally handmade presents) which is fine as that is their choice to do this. I agree with the comments about how many toys do children need, but instead of asking for no presents ( to me the party is the company and presesnts for childrens parties) we ask every one to put in like $5 or so ( more if they like) to an envelope and one friend or family member collects all the envelopes and picks out on decent good value present to the amount provided. This is a great way to get your children items for outside play you would normally overlook or not be able to afford. We also offer the option of books as i am a big believer in myself and my children reading books.