No Presents Please

“No presents please!” is a phrase I’m seeing more often than not on the many birthday party invitations flooding my son’s social calendar. With most schools now requiring inclusion for such events, the number of presents being purchased adds up. I find it daunting, however, to arrive at any event empty-handed. It feels particularly daunting considering birthdays have become increasingly over the top, often including high rental fees, meals, and favors. 

That said, I’ve written it myself on our last two party invitations. Not because I was adamantly against presents, but because I didn’t want our guests to feel required to bring anything. We also don’t have a ton of space for toys. Alas, many people brought them anyway, which was fine since I actually like presents. How confusing is that! 

With no idea how to proceed for future parties, I decided to conduct some research. I hope it provides some clarity in case you, too, are struggling with the age-old dilemma of to gift, or not to gift…that is the question!

Recipient Perspective

  • Why do you not want your child to receive presents at their birthday party? 
    • This is the biggest determining factor in how to proceed. The interviewees responses ranged in reasoning from a simple lack of space, to disliking the awkward pause in events required to open gifts, to maintaining focus on the fun experience of having a party, which might be thwarted by a pileup of presents in the corner. Finally, some hosts just didn’t want their guests to feel obligated to bring a gift, preferring their presence to their presents.
  • Are you offended when people ignore your request? And is there a particular present that you don’t mind receiving? 
    • Nobody was particularly upset when their direction was ignored, noting the changing dynamics of children’s birthday parties and close friends and relatives truly enjoy treating the birthday boy or girl. If one feels inclined to bring a gift, a book or experience are great options. They offer education and memories with little clutter.

From the giver’s perspective, feelings can range from not wanting to arrive empty-handed to not being able to afford a gift for every kid in the class. At my son’s last birthday party a friend told me she didn’t believe in the no presents please policy for kids. It got me thinking about the future of birthdays once our children are older and actually notice the gifts at their event. I cringe to think it will ever be more about the toys than the time with friends. If you, as a host parent, are also wary of this, you might try requesting a gift to be donated. Make sure to follow through with your child to teach them the value of charity and let them enjoy the process of giving to those less fortunate.

In conclusion, if you can gauge the motivation behind the host’s request, then you can determine if straying outside the guidelines is more hurtful than helpful. If you do decide to bring a gift, be considerate of the size and don’t expect to see it opened or to receive a thank you note for your efforts. A fun musical card with a gift card to a nearby doughnut shop or activity is a treat for both the child and the parents and isn’t obvious to other guests who might not have brought anything. If you can’t gauge the host’s motivation, it’s probably best to take heed and enjoy being off the hook this time! 

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