The first time I got an invitation for a child’s birthday party that said “no gifts” I was torn, but also relieved. One less gift to buy – yay! But when my daughter and I arrived at that little girl’s party, lo and behold, there was a table FULL of birthday presents! Uh oh.
First, let me say, that I am rather old-fashioned and think a magical part of childhood is when friends bring presents to your birthday party. Unless they are having a really big party, I rarely say “no gifts” on my girls’ invitations for that very reason. And not because I want my girls to have more stuff, but because I want them to learn to be gracious and say thank you when a child hands them a present and then later when writing them a thank you note.
I think the “no gifts” bandwagon is an (understandable) cultural backlash to people going way overboard with classmate gift-giving. After all, most children in America don’t need 20 brand new toys on their birthday (on top of what their parents and grandparents give them!).
If I had it my way, the solution would be for everyone to tone down their gift budget. I think a $5-15 gift is perfectly acceptable for a child. One princess tiara instead of five. A set of colored pencils, instead of two coloring books, markers, and stickers. Books are always great and affordable. This crayon case is one of my go-to gifts and only $12 – and includes the crayons!
But back to the question! Here is how I would handle the situation graciously and thoughtfully:
1. If an invitation says “no gifts,” honor that request. If a family has invited the entire class to the party, they are probably requesting “no gifts” to avoid having to find a place for 22 new toys in their house! They also don’t want to have to persuade/bribe/threaten their child to write 22 thank you notes to their friends! I get that. So if they request no gifts, don’t bring one. But you can bring a card made or signed by your child. This gives your child something to hold when he arrives at the party and shows his thoughtfulness toward his friend.
2. If you absolutely must give the birthday girl or boy a nice gift, consider dropping it on their porch before or after the party. Having a table full of gifts at a “no gift” party makes the non-gift givers feel bad. And I’m sure that’s the last thing the host or hostess want their guests to feel.
3. If your child really feels like she needs to bring something, consider bringing a small – and I mean so small it’s more like a favor – gift. Tie a big lollipop or stickers to the card you are bringing. Doing this allows your child to feel good about bringing a present to his/her friend, but it’s also small enough that a thank you note is not warranted.
If you are a mom who is contemplating a “no gifts” party, consider having guests bring a book or toy to donate to a local hospital or Ronald McDonald house. This satisfies those who have a hard time showing up empty-handed at parties and, more importantly, channels those gifts to children in need.
How do you handle gift-giving to children in your life? Would love to hear some more tips!