30 answers

Opening Presents at Birthday Parties?

I was wondering if it is customary to not open presents at birthday parties? We went to a birthday party for my son's friend (both are three years old) and they did not open gifts. The party was held at McDonalds. I thought it was a little strange at first, but afterwards I realized there was a lot of wisdom in that. It seems it would be difficult to hold the kids' attention... since it doesn't seem like three year olds are necessarily interested in watching present opening and would rather play on the playground. Plus, it'd be messy with all the paper wrapping, etc, and the seating arrangement there isn't all that conducive to letting all the kids watch the present opening...Maybe present opening would be better done at home? My 3rd old son is having his birthday party also at McDonalds soon and I honestly don't really care either way, but I just want to do the right thing. Any thoughts/advice would be so appreciated! :)

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

After reading all the helpful responses, I had completely planned to not open presents at the party, but I would still ask the guests we could open their child's gift if they felt their child wanted to see my child do so. So, we were at the party and it got close to the end, and I felt like we needed to open gifts! It just didn't seem right to not do so and my mother-in-law suggested that we do so during the cake and ice cream. Well, it turned out beautifully!! My husband first brought the child who brought whichever gift we were opening up at the time and set him/her next to my son. Then I opened the gift for my son while he ate his cake and ice cream. Then, held up the gift and my husband took a picture of gift, son, and gift-giver (it helped to keep track of who gave what gift as I wrote thank you cards). A lot of the kids gathered around, and many would point to the gift excitedly and say, "I brought that one!" It was perfect. Wrote all the thank you cards that same evening. So glad for all your suggestions, and this turned out just the right way! :)

Featured Answers

In my area/life its common to open gifts at parties. I'm one of those people who actually enjoy watching the gift receiver open the gift. I like to see for myself whether they are really enthused about it since I put a lot of thought into picking it out for them. I think my oldest daughter is much like me as she is only 5 and she thoroughly enjoys the gift opening part too. She even gets excited when its the gift we brought.

4 moms found this helpful

I know that my kids (even at 3) liked to see the guest of honor open what they gave him. It's thrilling to see him excited about it.
To me, it just seems a bit rude to not open presents in front of the givers (only time that might be different is a wedding reception). And definitely they should send out thankyou notes!

4 moms found this helpful

I find that with very young kids, or birthdays held outside of the home, it is typical to not open presents at the party. As the kids get older and are more interested in seeing their friends open gifts and understand that the presents are not "mine!" then you see more opening at the party. The places that you book for a child's party will usually guide you in this and not allow present opening on-site because it's such a pain to clean up the mess. The staff will provide bags to put the presents in so that you can take them home.

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I posted this question on FB awhile back and got a uproar of comments. I myself get upset when my gift is not opened. My child has been known to spend up to 30 min picking out just the right gift for the friend and have gotten really upset when they didnt get to see if the friend liked it.
I also sense it as rude, and I know thats not the intention its just me.

I agree with the other poster that age does make a difference. At 3 you probably can get away with not opening, but I suggest to the parents that you announce you will not be opening gifts due to wanting to let the kids play more, but then offer a "if you would like us to open yours please let me know and I'll pull my son to the side with you to do so.

And I think where I get upset over this is when a gift is taken home to open, we never get a thank you card or a phone call letting us know they know what we got them and that they liked it. Really thats all I want is to know it was appreciated. So if you do take home gifts, please send out thank you cards. SOmetimes seeing the smile on the childs lips is awesome.

6 moms found this helpful

This is one of those topics that is so frustrating, because I am reading all about how the kids can't handle watching someone else open presents, they might get bored, they'd rather play...well, what about kids learning that sometimes it's all about SOMEONE ELSE and not ME! I think the presents should be opened, because someone picked it out...another good lesson, it's better to GIVE than to receive. People want to see the gift they bought opened. Also, someone mentioned that the toys might get opened and pieces lost....again, is there no control or expectations of the kids. someone can put the toys away after the wrapping is gone. when we have low expectations for our kids to learn these social lessons, they will meet them.

4 moms found this helpful

In my area/life its common to open gifts at parties. I'm one of those people who actually enjoy watching the gift receiver open the gift. I like to see for myself whether they are really enthused about it since I put a lot of thought into picking it out for them. I think my oldest daughter is much like me as she is only 5 and she thoroughly enjoys the gift opening part too. She even gets excited when its the gift we brought.

4 moms found this helpful

I know that my kids (even at 3) liked to see the guest of honor open what they gave him. It's thrilling to see him excited about it.
To me, it just seems a bit rude to not open presents in front of the givers (only time that might be different is a wedding reception). And definitely they should send out thankyou notes!

4 moms found this helpful

I find that with very young kids, or birthdays held outside of the home, it is typical to not open presents at the party. As the kids get older and are more interested in seeing their friends open gifts and understand that the presents are not "mine!" then you see more opening at the party. The places that you book for a child's party will usually guide you in this and not allow present opening on-site because it's such a pain to clean up the mess. The staff will provide bags to put the presents in so that you can take them home.

3 moms found this helpful

I personally would have my child open the gift in front of the guests. But that is just me.......

3 moms found this helpful

In my experience there seems to be lots of reasons why this occurs:

1: Parents are only allowed an alotted time frame at the venue.
2: Takes too long and kids would rather play.
3: Fights may occur depending on the age group.
4: Out of respect for kids who may not have as much.
5: Parents may feel mortified if their child opens a gift and is rude about it because it's something they don't want.
6: Toys may end up being opened and pieces lost before they even get home.

I personally don't mind if presents are opened or not. If the child does, great, if not, no biggie as long as a "thank you" note is sent:)

3 moms found this helpful

It's the "new thing" but we do parties at home not at places so we open them there ... if we were to have one at another place ... mmmmmmm (thinking hard) ... yep! Still opening gifts! I may hold off on the family member gifts and open them at the family party at gma's house. We have 11 bdays in the same month as my son's (two on the same date) so we always do a big family party sometime during the month and the kids get their own individual parties w/ friends and family is not expected to be invited. I find it rude myself but I am also not "miss manners" in all aspects.

Add ... ok, so from a lot of the comments of others who are not in favor along with myslef here are some ideas.
One, you can take the givers and the bday kiddo aside and do a small to do! about opening/reciving the gift make it more one on one, that could be nice. Also, if you choose to do the gift thing from home you can take photos of your munchkin while opening and have them developed or email them to the giver along with the thank you card, note, email.

2 moms found this helpful

UUUMMM years ago brides and grooms opened their wedding gifts at the reception. It was the norm at the time and I think it's still really nice to see the person I gave a gift to open it. To me it's rude not to, I don't care what the occasion is.

2 moms found this helpful

I'm going to disagree with a lot of the moms here by saying I really hate it when we go to a party and the presents aren't opened there. DD is 4, and we have ALWAYS made a deal of giving presents--she goes to the store, picks out what she thinks her friend will like. We tell her the budget--usually $10-15--and if she picks out something too expensive, we tell her so, or if its not age appropriate. We see this as an important TEACHING opportunity for DD, showing her how to give gifts, think of others, etc. She gets REALLY excited about giving the gift to her friend, and has been really disappointed at parties where she doesn't get to see her friend open it. She interprets that as her friend not being interested in the gift--"why did she not open my present, mommy?" We try to explain, but I do feel like it is being ungrateful to deny the giver the pleasure of seeing their gift opened--particularly at such a young age, when we are trying to teach about generosity, sharing, etc.

I agree with the mom below that we need to set expectations for our kids, and help them to meet them. At DD's 4th b-day party, the gift opening was a little chaotic, but DH and I were in the midst, helping kids take turns giving gifts, making sure DD said "thank you" after each one, etc. The kids were all REALLY excited to actually GIVE their gift to DD--as DD is when she goes to their parties. Again, this is all a teaching moment for our kids.

Honestly, DD doesn't need more toys. B-day present giving is NOT about getting stuff, nor should it be. It's about the experience of giving and receiving, learning how to do that thoughtfully and gratefully. All of that is learned through actually giving and opening the gifts, not through packing everything in the trunk to take home for later.

And on a further note, this can start WAY EARLY. We started at DD's 2nd Christmas, when she was 20 mos old. She already "got" it--she made ornaments for family members, physically gave them to the recipients, watched them open them, then helped put them on the tree. You could see how proud she was to participate in the gift exchanging. Another important lesson--Christmas is about GIVING, not receiving. And also not about competition--a handmade ornament gets as much excitement as a $50 toy. Really, it's all about what we want to teach our kids, and what birthday parties are supposed to really be about.

2 moms found this helpful

it's 50/50 for me...

when we had our parties at Chuck E. Cheese - it depended on the kids - most of the time the answer is NO, we did not - not because we didn't want to - but because the kids had been playing and our time ran out...

I've had the kids over to the house after the party - for about 1 hour - to open presents, but not all can come over due to other plans..

When we have the party at Laser Nation - no, we don't - they are busy with their games and laser tag - we take the gifts home.

When my kids were younger - no, we didn't - not to be rude but because everyone wanted to play with THAT one...it was a mess!!

2 moms found this helpful

Honestly, I get why people don't open them--but as a frequent gift-giver, I really enjoy watching the little kids' faces light up when they open their gift. When I go to a party where they just bring the gifts to the back of the room and open them later, it is annoying to me. I think any kid can get over themselves enough to enjoy watching someone else open a gift!!! Its part of learning and growing up. So, my opinion--completely stupid to not open them at the party.

M

2 moms found this helpful

My daughter is 5 and the only party we've been to where presents were opened were for a 6 year old with only 5 kids in attendance. Oop - actually went to one for a 2 year old where he opened presents and a 3 of the kids there started crying b/c they wanted their gift back.. which is exactly why you don't open presents in front of a bunch of other little kids!! They're still too little to understand it's not about them!

1 mom found this helpful

I didn't have the kids open presents when friends were still there until the kids were about 5 or so. Then they all start to get the whole gratified feeling of having gotten the birthday kid something. Younger then that and the younger kids just want the present back or want to start playing with the bday kid's new toys - all of which cause any number of unpleasantness.

Just my experience. best of luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Do it later at home.

1 mom found this helpful

I like small parties for this reason, it's nice to open the presents but you can't do taht if you have amilllion of your childs very best friends in the world running all around.

1 mom found this helpful

majority of the time I have seen people open the presents. But, in cases when there are a whole lot of attendees and a whole lot of gifts, it gets to be a whoopin. If it's a small gethering, I want to see the look on the kids face. If it's a big party with a lot of presents, I think watching them open thier presents becomes tedious and so time consuiming. It's almost like gluttony. After a while you're thinking, dang, I should've given a toy to a charity instead, this kid doesn't need any more toys!

1 mom found this helpful

for my kid's 3rd birthday we waited to open the presents. then i took pictures of my child with each present and sent the picture to the person who gave him that gift. anything older than 3 i think can handle the opening of gifts and i save the treat bag for right after so they get a little gift too:) hope your party is great!

1 mom found this helpful

I have seen it done both ways. Here is what we have done with my daughter's parties:

--1st birthday, after nap which nap ment party done, opened gifts but only family satyed which was plenty to watch. Sent out thank yous to all.
--2nd birthday was just family (daughters uncles, aunts, grandparents & parents) and we opened gifts at home after lunch at a resturant. Once again thank you still sent.
--3rd birthday party again only with family similar to the 2nd birthday party. As always thank you notes sent even if it is just family.
--4th birthday party she only invited 3 families who had kids her age to her park party in addition to our families stated above, I said no gifts on the invites but they brought something little anyway, we opened those 3 gifts there. At home we opened the gifts from uncles, aunts, grandparents and us. Thank you notes sent.
--For her 5th birthday the plan is have it at home, with a few of her friends & their families (hubby hates to be responisble for others kids) and our families. At this one we will open gifts if attention span is there, which at this age I think should be ok. Thank you notes again will be sent.

Here is a great article that I just read, made me feel a lot better and by more open about the etiquette that modern birthdays have.

http://www.babyzone.com/toddler_preschooler_fun/birthdays...

added: I really like the picture of child opening the gift that can be sent with thank you note, I did do that for my daughter's 4th birthday even if they were there to see the gift opened along with out photos of their kids enjoying the day.

1 mom found this helpful

We're having my son's 3rd birthday party this Saturday, and we won't be opening gifts there. I think it's hard for kids that age to sit still while that happens, and some of them struggle with not getting their own gifts.

So I'm saving everyone from having to sit through it!

1 mom found this helpful

When the guests and guest of honor are all young children, I think it's kinder to put the presents out of sight and open them later. Kids that young very often can't handle that only one kid gets to open them, touch them, etc. It's nicer, in my opinion, if the host gives a small present bag to all the kids that's the same for all, at the end, while you're leaving. It's a good way to get everyone to leave on a high note too.

1 mom found this helpful

I think the way it's done these days is that the presents are not opened until everyone leaves. When we held my son's birthday party, we didn't open the presents until later either.

1 mom found this helpful

I agree with this, especially for 3-year old and at a venue. Open presents later at home alone and send thank-you's. If the party is at home at there is less than 10 kids, OK to open presents.

My son is 6 and we have only been to one party where the presents were not opened and that was b/c they ran out of time. When we received the thank you card it had a picture of the birthday boy with our present - I thought that was kind of cool since we didn't get to see him open it.

I have done it both ways. The bigger the party and depending on the event or location, I understand why you would not open the gift in front of the guest. However, the one time I did not open the gift in front of the guest, we took a picture of the child opening the gift and holding the gift and included the picture with the Thank You card. My one pet pieve is Thank You cards. Especially if you do not open the gift in front of the giver, then you need to make sure that you send a Thank You card. The rule has always been in our house, that the children are not allowed to play with a gift until the Thank You card has been written. At 3, my children could only write their names, so I wrote the Thank You and my children signed every card.
Good Luck with your party and decission.

My kids really like to see their friend open the present we brought. My kids are a little older, but at my kids' party, one of the things we do is when it is present time, I ask each child to get the present they brought. (Anyone that didn't bring one, or if two siblings brought one together, the other child will hold a present that I had bought). Then each guest gets to personally give the gift to the birthday girl and sit next to her while she opens it, then they take a picture together. I use the pictures for thank you cards, and I know exactly who brought what! It also helps my kids give their guest a heartfelt thank you and hug for the gift at the time it is opened.
We have done the open presents after the party before, and it is nice that the birthday child can take her time opening and look at and play with each one as she opens it, but she never really connected that her friend got that gift for her, and she never got to verbally say thank you.

I have a 4 year old and we have been to a lot of age 4 and under parties since we are in a mom's group. I can't tell you how much I love it when we don't have to sit through present opening! I hate it! It is so hard to control so many kids and keep them from running around or trying to "help" the birthday kid open his/her presents. It's just exhausting. Not opening the gifts at the party gives the kids more time to play and easier on all the adults. It also helps spare any hurt feelings from "I already have this" or "I don't like this" since kids always say what they think. If you open the presents at home, you can take your time, take pictures easier, and ensure that you make a good list of who gave what so you can send thank you notes. One great idea someone did was take a picture of the kid with the gift or with their new outfit on and include that with a thank you note. Very thoughtful and much less stressful. I have done it both ways, and I learned the hard way that until the kids are older, there will be no more gift openings at our parties. :-)

Hi Lucy,

We preform cake decorating P. so we see all present opening situations. I suggest opening the presents at the party. Have fun!

www.scribblecakes.com

I've been to tons of parties, mostly little ones, where they don't open the presents. If you are at a place, you waste time and yes, it's hard to hold the kids' attentions. If you are at home, it's hard to keep the kids from wanting to open up all the presents that were just received and you risk losing pieces. So, under 5, I think it's fine to not open presents. If you don't open presents there, it is even MORE important that your child (meaning YOU) write a thank you note to the person. I've done this several ways...one, you can take a picture of your child opening the present at home and send it with the thank you or incorporate it into a thank you (most places will allow you to add text to a picture before you print it, so add "THANK YOU AUNT JANE" on the picture somewhere. You can also take a picture of the child wearing it (if it's clothes) or playing with it (if it's a toy). Another idea is to get the cards that already have most of the writing done they are pre printed with "Dear ___________, thank you for the ____________. I love it. Love, _" That's another way to make the thank you's quick for the little one and maybe let them color on the card or something to make it special.

Now a days, you could even video the child opening presents at home and post it on youtube for the guests to watch.

I haven't read all the answers but I thought i'd respond first, personally I think it is important that kids learn to be gracious receiving gifts and they can't do that if they are never given the chance. it's just one of those skills in life that we all should learn. so I have always felt it was best to open the gifts in front of the gift giver. when my kids were little and I didn't think they would behave properly then I didn't allow them to be in that situation... why should gift giving be any different, if my son couldn't accept gifts graciously then he could have a small family only party. ( and yes even my kids on occasion made a mistake with responding appropriately to a received gift but we used that as a teachable moment) But overall I keep my parties small, to include only kids we already socialize with out side of school/preschool, and with that guest list I know that everyone is going to be understanding of teachable moments.

As for us, we will open gifts at the party. my only exception to this, is the new trend among my kids friends to have all gifts be a donation to something important to that child... we took a bag of dog food to our last birthday party invite. it went to a local animal shelter that the birthday girl helped out at. and we have had several others that have done similar donation gifts, I loved the idea! so no the birthday girl didn't open all the pet donations that were brought.

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