19 answers

Gifts for a Three-year-old's Birthday Party

Hello, Mamas!
I have a question about gifts for my son's birthday party next month. Long story short, we'd like to invite various friends who either didn't invite us to parties this year, but have in the past or never have (that's not the issue; all of that is cool) or have invited us to their parties and requested "no gifts." I'm in a quandry about whether or not to put "no gifts" on our invitations. We certainly have toys to play with, but to me, part of a birthday party is opening gifts, (Hope that doesn't sound selfish.) and I must admit it's nice to see your son's face when he opens something he didn't expect. I've thought about putting "no gifts" and maybe suggesting a small, like one to two dollar donation for a children's museum, farm, etc. that we'd take and give the next time we go there. (Not sure if that's tacky, to ask for money, or not.) But then I think about our families, whom I know will get him something regardless. I don't want the other guests to feel awkward if he opens family gifts in front of everyone, but I guess we could wait and do that later (problem being family will all leave a different times.) Bottom line is I don't want to seem selfish by asking for gifts, especially from people for whom we did not buy a gift when we were or were not invited to their parties. At the same time, I want to take our families in consideration. I'm sure I'm making this too complicated, as usual, but could really use some advice.
Thanks, Mamas!

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So What Happened?™

Thanks, Mamas! I received a lot of great responses and found, as I thought, that I was worrying way too much about the "gifts" vs. "no gifts" thing. Also received some good ideas for possible alternatives in the future. I ended up not putting anything on the invitations and will advise people accordingly if they ask about a gift. Thanks again!

Featured Answers

I think you can look like an unselfish saint by putting "No gifts, please" on the invite and still rake in the gifts. I haven't met anyone yet who paid any attention to the request for no gifts. Everyone brings gifts anyway -- unless maybe it's an activity party outside or something. But it sounds like you want gifts anyway, so just leave it off and have a standard birthday party.

I say just send them an invitation, and don't put anything about gifts on it. When people are invited to birthday parties, you just KNOW you buy a gift. I think a 'no gifts' birthday party is weird! And if the people who you guys went to their party and didn't buy a gift, because they requested no gifts, we'll I guess you can just show them how much fun it is!! They probably felt the same way you are too. And I wouldn't write anything down about money at all, that is tacky. Some people may call you and ask you for gift ideas, that is when you can say it's not necessary, or don't spend too much, etc. Hope you have a great time!!!!

More Answers

As someone who has done "no present" parties... We ABSOLUTELY bring (and love bringing) gifts to other's parties.

Our "no present" parties are a practical, not moral, judgement. Kiddo gets *at least* 20 gifts for every Bday just from family. So if we're inviting more than 4-5 kids, WE DON'T WANT ANYMORE!!! We already space out his bday presents so it's not an embarrassment of riches. Even if we're having a small party, one year I knew all his *close* friends' parents, like us, were struggling. So we had a "favorite book" exchange. We make it very, very, clear in the invite that there will be at least 30 kids at the party, and that he already receives gifts from family... so we are not saying "no gifts" to be polite, or spartan, but because we really really just want the ring of laughter, and the joy of their presence, and siblings are welcome since it's going to be a wild romp... the more the merrier.

Last year, and this year, have been "normal" (as in I didn't mention gifts), because kiddo chose to have small parties.

But seriously, we've had a party at a pool with over 30 kids, and at a bounce gym with over 50. There is No. Way. On. Earth. we want presents under such circumstances. The "present" we/he gets is the absolute joy kiddo gets from being around so many people (unlike myself, he's a social butterfly, and a GREAT host). He started debating 9 months BEFORE his birthday this year as to whether or not to have a "big" party or a "small" party, and didn't decide until his deadline of 1 month ahead of time, and chose small. <grinning> MOSTLY, because he wants to open presents. But caveated it with a "Next year, at the beach, bonfire, & fireworks, and everyone I've ever met... since it will be outdoors. Or the bounce house with however many they allow. Or my gymnastics place with 36, you can have up to 36. I checked."

Again, we LOVE giving gifts. It's just that GETTING them isn't always practical.

PS... I persoanally think that the advent of the "no gift" trend is in part due to the "large party" trend PLUS the "if you're going to send out invitations in class, there has to be one for everybody" policies that are in most elementary school. When I was growing up, all bdays were held at homes. Which naturally limited size, unless you were wealthy or lived in an apartment with a cabana. Also, you only invited close friends (not your whole class). "Party Places" are also a new "thing"... and many are dirt cheap. The bouncy place $ for parties is through the roof ($300) in our area UNLESS you're on their mailing list, and then it's $70. OMG... NOT have to CLEAN MY HOUSE??? So, so, so worth $70.

2 moms found this helpful

I don't think you need to tell them anything, this is the day of do what you want anyway! Send your invites to whomever yo wish-no matter what happened in the past-it is after all your party for your child. If they choose not to being something that is ok and if they do-make sure you know who did and it is nice to send a thank you-maybe from you and have your son include a picture or something that reflects his appreciation of that gift. (Even if he really has not played with it)-how would they know unless they come over every day and then you know they would bring something he really would like! Thank you's are very important! Even a call to family and friends that helped with the activities. One thing I see happening now is the lack of caring people have for each other even to thank yous-you can teach him how to be a caring person by a simple act of thanks-go for it and enjoy your party (um his).

1 mom found this helpful

Kids love giving and that is a good quality to have. Before I had kids, one of my students handed me a huge box at Christmas. When I picked it up I could tell whatever it was was broken to bits. She was so excited to give me a gift so I went ahead and opened it. It was (or used to be) a vase. Still beaming she told me she dropped it on the way to school but I could just glue it back together later. She was so happy to give me a gift she really didn't care what was inside.
So now, as a mom, I always have my kids hand the gift to the recipient...to all bday parties (even the ones requesting no gifts), to their teachers (even when I contribute to the group gift), to our neighbors at the holidays. It doesn't have to cost much. For me, it is about teaching them to love giving.
AND... getting gifts allows kids to learn to be graceful at receiving gifts.

1 mom found this helpful

I COMPLETELY understand! We are in the exact same boat, and our DD's 3-yr-old party is Saturday. I never decided what to do, so I did nothing, which in essence means she'll be getting gifts. I LOVE Joanna C's idea - will have to do that next year!

1 mom found this helpful

We have WAY too many toys, so for my 4yo's party, I plan on asking people to bring a wrapped book that is in good condition. Then we'll play musical chairs and when someone is "out" they get to pick a wrapped book from the pile and open it. That way, we don't get any more toys, there will be plenty of unwrapping gifts and everyone gets to take home a new book. Plus, I'll have little goodie bags for everyone. So plenty of gift exchanging, but not more un-needed toys. I imagine your 3yo won't care too much about getting gifts-- it will be more about having fun with his friends (and cake & ice cream :-)

1 mom found this helpful

Once upon a time, people just sent out invitations to birthday parties with no mention either way of gifts. The idea was that people who were so moved would bring a gift, those who weren't wouldn't, or wouldn't attend, and the person who issued the invitation would focus on making a party the guests would enjoy. It was considered tacky to mention gifts on an invitation.
I'm really not sure why we've stopped doing that, so my suggestion is not to mention it on the invitation, leave it up to guests to bring a gift if they want, and to bring what they choose and can afford. Just invite people to a party and focus on making the party a nice occasion.

1 mom found this helpful

I think you can look like an unselfish saint by putting "No gifts, please" on the invite and still rake in the gifts. I haven't met anyone yet who paid any attention to the request for no gifts. Everyone brings gifts anyway -- unless maybe it's an activity party outside or something. But it sounds like you want gifts anyway, so just leave it off and have a standard birthday party.

The party and day is about your friends and family recognizing a special day for your son. It is not selfish for a young child to expect presents for his birthday (a cultural norm in our society). I think putting "no gifts" on an invitation is fine, but I always bring something anyway. That's the way I want to do it. Whether or not he was invited to their party is irrelevant. I suggest leaving off the "no gifts" statement and let people do what they like. That is the best way to allow them to acknowledge his birthday: the way they want.

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