Birthday Party Etiquette - Collegeville,PA

Updated on June 09, 2011
K.N. asks from Collegeville, PA
15 answers

Hi - So I have a two part question. My son turned 3 a few months ago and since then he has been invited to 3 birthday parties for kids that he goes to daycare with. I don't know these kids well or their parents other than a friendly 'hi, how are you' when dropping off or picking up. My first question is, what is an appropriate amount to spend on a gift for kid's party? I'm asking because this past weekend I went to the store to pick up a gift and I saw another daycare mom there and we both picking our cards for this kid having the party and we chatted a bit and I happened to notice the gift she had in her hand it and I knew that it was way more expensive than what I was planning to spend. I thought $15-$20 was a good amount. I have 2 nephews and only spend between $20-$30 on them and that's what aunts/uncles spend on my kids so I don't feel right spending more on some kid I don't know than my own nephews. I'm not sure what other people bought for these kids having the parties because at all the parties we've been too they did not open the presents. Which brings me to my second question - is that normal to not open presents at the party? I remember having birthday parties as kid and always opening the presents at the party. We've only had small family parties for my son and have had him open the presents in front of the people (usually only 3-5 gifts to open). Now I'm not complaining about this because I think this can be very time consuming and 3 year olds are not particualrly gracious in those types of situations but I was just curious. My son is already telling me what friends he wants to come to his next birthday party so I'll need to be prepared for next year. Thanks in advance!

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So What Happened?

Thanks for the input everyone! Most people said $10-$15 which is what I had orginally thought and then after talking to my cousin (who does not live in the area) she thought $20 was a good amount. In fact her 'go-to' gift is Crayola arts and crafts stuff and some store always has buy one get one free so she said she spends $20 and gets $40 worth of stuff. Personally, I would spent $10 and get $20 worth of stuff but that's me and it sounds like my thinking is that far off from most people.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I think the right amount to spend is what you can afford!
If you can afford $10-15--that's fine.
This is only the start of the birthday party madness! LOL

as for the not opening gifts, I've heard it's done but all of the parties my 8 yo has been to (except O.) have been gift-opening parties.

The kids really like to see their friend's reaction to their gift...

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from New York on

I think 15-25 dollars is fine depending on how well you know the kid and you budget.

Also, wait to open the gifts at home (or when everyone leaves). That's what most folks do these days.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

There must be a ton of summer bdays ... I have seen simmilar posts all over ... so, 10-15 bucks is a good solid gift for a day care mate and for whatever reason it's no longer acceptable to open gifts at a bday party for kids ... Whatever! My son will have the joy of seeing what he was given and the givers the joy of seeing his reaction. In fact, thinking back on his last bday had we not opened gifts then and there his Gma's Cousin (almost sisters) would not have had the joy of seeing him open the exact gift he had been asking me for ALL week and somehow she knew and got it for him! Sadly, she suddenly passed away 3weeks later I would be dissapointed had that bonding moment between them not been there esp with her sudden passing.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

For kids that we don't know - I spend about $10 - I spend more if it is a family friend, and usually even a little more if it is a relative. Maybe the woman you ran into was a family friend of that family. And if not, maybe she just has money to burn??? Either way, I wouldn't let what someone else is doing dictate what you feel comfortable with.

As far as opening the presents goes, I have seen it posted on here before about people not opening the gifts at the party, but I personally have never been to a party where the presents weren't opened, nor have I ever done that. Seems strange to me. If you are not going to open presents at the party I think that you should tell people that presents are not required and will not be opened until after everyone leaves in the invitation, but that is just my opinion.....

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

My daughter went to a fairly uppety little daycare, and believe it or not-the gifts were CHEAP!!!! Thank god. When I was a newbie, I toiled and picked out a pretty nice $10 gift for some little kid I didn't know (had 4 parties to attend that month including helping with one I was sharing for my daughter) and to my relief and surprise at the party, everyone (with older kids who had been through this a million times) had the $5 ones I had toiled through and 99 cent Store type stuff.

There are literally toys in the Target and Wal Mart toy sections that are priced under $5, and I believe they are specifically for these parties. It's INSANE to spend $20 at this age. Remember, your not just paying for that gift, you're paying for 15 to 20 gifts in a year. The kids do NOT CARE what kind of toys are in the huge mountain of toys. When I was writing thank yous to the kids at my daughter's party, the kid who gave the dollar store toy got just as big of a thanks as the kids who brought "big fancy gifts" ($9 sidewalk chalk was pretty fancy but could have been on sale for all I know with the clearance sticker remnants all over it-hope it was on sale!)

Now. If you will feel bad around the other parents, that's one thing, but I see you're in PA, not CA, so I think you're fine to do the cheap route until the kids are older and have real friends.

Oh, and the parties we went to, the kids opened the gifts there. Except one that was outdoors and a wind storm started.



answers from Houston on

3 yrs old? If I hardly know the parents, I always give a $5 gift card to McDonalds. tbh, unless you know the child very well for years and years, you won't ever get a gift he's always wanted. Usually the parents/grands give those gifts. So a generic gift has worked for us.

But don't feel like you have to go to all of them. There were 12 birthdays in my son's preschool class this school year and not all the kids who were invited went to every party. There are 2 kids who didn't go to any of the parties. And not everyone was invited to every party either.

Some parties the kids open the presents during the party. I think its fun to see what the bday kid gets - the look on their faces and watching the chaos of the parents make him/her thank each giver after every present is open is hilarious. Etiquette sort of flies out the window when the bday child opens presents - I say "let 'er rip!". Thats why thank you notes were invited. But, if it helps, I had 25 kids at my son's last bday and there was no way we had time to open each present, so we didn't



answers from Los Angeles on

I had 8 kids and couldn't afford to spend much for birthday party gifts. What I did to reduce the cost was to buy almost all my birthday party gifts between Christmas and New Years. Whether the child is three or 3 and a half, the toys they sell at a discount after Christmas will do fine. Or add years to 6 and 6 and a half. I figured out about how many birthday parties my kids would be invited to and had enough presents to go around.

Neither the gift nor the giver is dimished by the fact that the gift was purchased on sale.

Good luck to you and yours.


answers from Austin on

A 3 year old, I would think the parents would stay for the party with their child. Be sure to ask.

I think $15 to $20 for a friend is a perfect amount for a gift.

I do special events and The gift opening of the party is usually based on how the party is going.. If the kids are having a blast, sometimes parents will continue to just let them play. The kids love being all together out of the normal school situation, so this is a great way for them to spend time together. If there seems to be a need for an activity, then gift opening is great.


answers from Los Angeles on

$10-$15 is perfectly fine for a non-relative child's gift. I think there are no hard and fast rules in regards to gift opening any more. When we were kids, birthday parties were generally at their house, thus, super easy to do gift-opening. Nowadays, many parties are at indoor bounce house places, etc. with a time limit. When our daughter turned 3 we had a party at a park and her preschool classmates were invited. The covered cabana area that we reserved was for a relatively short span of time and then the next party moved in. Based on that and the age of the party goers (3 yo) we didn't open gifts at the park. Since then we've had parties at our house and gifts were opened.



answers from Dallas on

I think not opening gifts at parties is a new trend. The parties I have thrown,we open presents but we don't read the cards. Instead we collect them and read the cards instead of a bedtime story that night. I think my kids appreciate them more when it's calm. During opening the presents they don't seem to pay attention to the cards. But we make sure to explain that to everyone, so they don't think we are being rude or ungrateful. Skipping the card reading also speeds up the process for the kids watching. And we pass out lollipops for the kids to eat while they watch the presents being opened. Most kids WANT to see their present opened. So although I considered it, I am glad we didn't skip opening the gifts.

As far as how much to spend I try to spend around $10. At my son's parties he has liked the $5 gifts as much as the $20 gifts. I don't think the kids care really. I usually try to find a "go to" gift for each age. Something gender neutral that we get for all the parties. And something that most parents can agree with. At 2, it was shake and go cars. We just got a character or color we thought the child would like. At three we got everyone bubble blowers. At four everyone got board games (but that was because I stocked up during a Christmas sale). Now at 5 everyone gets a Light Brite ($11 at Toys R us).


answers from Pittsburgh on

I would give them $5 gc from Chik Fil A and a homemade card on construction paper (I write something and my son colors/draws on it), because that's what we can afford.

For the gifts, it all depends. We were at a 1yo bday party with over 120 guests and it would've been rude (IMO) to make everyone sit through opening them all. For my son's 1yo party, it was just grandparents/aunts/uncles and a pajama/book fundraiser, so it was no big deal to open gifts. For my son's 2yo and 3yo, we did pajama/book fundraisers with his friends, so there wasn't much to open, and he didn't have the patience for it anyway. Other moms don't do the gifts because they have 3hrs of entertainment and everyone would be gone by the time they got around to opening the gifts. Some moms don't do the gifts because the party is for toddlers who don't understand what's going on, the kids invited think the gifts are for them, and it can cause meltdowns. Whichever a family chooses, to open or not, is fine by me.

Good luck!



answers from Pittsburgh on

We usually do gifts in the $15-$20 range. We're mostly going to age 3-5 parties right now, so something from Melissa and Doug is our standard gift. If I know the mom, I just ask what would be best. I would say that at least half the parties we go to (and the ones we have) are no-gift parties. Who really needs more stuff? Some of the parties we've been going to recently are benefit parties where the family has asked for a donation to a cause the kid cares about in lieu of presents, which I think is really nice.

I would say that fewer than a quarter of the parties that have presents now open them while we are there. In the first place, it is hard for a 3 year old to sit that long, or to be very interested in what others are getting. Also, I think it helps to skim off the presents that Mom and Dad don't think are appropriate (for what ever reason) and lessen the embarrassment of duplicate gifts, etc. When they are older, they can learn the social graces of present giving, but 3 is too young, IMHO.



answers from Minneapolis on




answers from Pittsburgh on

"thought $15-$20 was a good amount" - I agree $15 or $20 max is a good limit. If both my kids are invited, I may spend a little more, as this typically occurs because it is a party for a family friend or because the host is being very kind in inviting my other child (my kids are 3 1/2 years apart in age and go to different schools/ daycare).

As far as opening presents at the party - I prefer opening the presents at the party because usually the kids help pick out something for their friends and so they want to see the kid open it, but I understand that this is not always optimal at really big or really busy parties.



answers from Philadelphia on

Gift cost -
the other woman either could afford more or she may have known the child better, or maybe she feels she should spend more on birthday gifts. That's her choice. For a 3 year old, I wouldn't spend more than $10. You can find a lot of toys for little kids for $5-10 EASY. And many times kids like the smaller, less expensive toys better half the time anyway. It's the gesture. Do not feel intimidated to spend more! I usually don't even buy cards, lol. Either the kids make them themselves or I just put a tag on the package with their name because kids really don't care about the cards so much unless there's money in them, lol.

To open or not open gifts -
This is the family's preference, of course, but I'm one who likes having my kids open their gifts right there and I'm one who likes to see the kids open their gifts at other parties as well! One of my triplets, age 6, just went to a party on Sunday. My son spent a lot of time picking out a girl gift and we expected to watch her open her gift to see her expression. We expected her to be excited and like it and wanted to see her face when she opened it. Nope. Didn't open a thing and didn't even announce to guests that they were saving the gifts for home when they had more time (or something) and didn't thank people in advance for the gifts. I'm hoping my son gets a thank you note but as of yesterday he did not. My other two triplets spent time making her a card each as well (they're in different classes but ride the same bus) and they were hoping to find out how she liked the cards they made for her. Haven't heard a thing yet. To me, I think gifts should be opened in front of everyone. It can be time consuming but I keep things moving along and remind my kids to always keep a smile on their face and yell out thank you. I mean, what gift could be so horrible that they'd be nasty after opening it, right? And we usually have music going on in another room and let everyone know that they don't have to watch all the gifts being opened. We usually have enough adults around where we can have someone watch those children who would rather go off and play, especially after their gift has been open, or they can go get some more snacks and drinks during this time. I don't see the bother of it all. I've seen some parents who opened gifts at home later but took a photo of their child with the gift and sent it along with the thank you note. But now I have to ask my son to ask the girl how she liked the gift he bought for her and probably remind her which one was from him. They even ride the bus together and none of us know how she liked anything.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets

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