Gift Giving at Kids Parties

Updated on August 18, 2014
J.H. asks from Seattle, WA
27 answers

My child is turning 2 & we are requesting no gifts at the birthday party we are hosting and paying for. Simply stated in the invite: "Please no gifts... your presence is your present. "

Last year we requested the same thing and honestly rec'd gifts in poor taste, obviously a last minute gift or something that appeared regifted. We were taken by surprise but realize that most of our guests do not have young kids or children at all. Also, many gifts did not have gift receipts - so we couldn't exchange it. We ended up donating most.

Thoughts on changing the invite wording? Or should we simply state "Please consider a donation to Seattle Children's hospital in lieu of a gift." Thought of asking for books instead and will just donate any that we may already have.

Your two cents?

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answers from Washington DC on

i'd quit being so micromanagey about what gifts you get, or don't get. it's nice to ask for no gifts, but a quick riffle though MP's archives will educate you that many, many people are not happy showing up at a little kid's birthday without a gift.
so you smile and say thank you and accept it.
even you didn't want her to get gifts, i'm a little taken aback at you accepting them and judging them 'in poor taste' and making assumptions about them. what, were they crotchless panties or something? if you end up donating them, so what?
if you must have a big expensive party for a toddler, where adults are attending, accept what they bring graciously, even if it's not what YOU want.

17 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I saw a party that asked in leu of gifts to bring a canned good for the birthday girl to take to a donation bank.

It was cute to see the photos of her pulling a wagon of canned goods in the parking lot of the donation bank.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I honestly don't like it when an invite to a child's birthday says no gifts, and I feel rude arriving without one. I have been to parties where guests were asked to bring their favorite childhood book and that was fun and a nice twist.

7 moms found this helpful

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answers from Reading on

People are going to bring gifts if they wish to and you are rude to try to dictate it. You're also ungrateful for criticizing the gifts as "in poor taste" and "obviously last minute." Micromanage much?

Maybe you should just be honest and tell them you don't appreciate their generosity - I'm sure they won't bother you again.

ETA: I don't respond to private messages and I don't need to be told what to say and how to respond to posts on this forum, where I've been a member for years. Like I said, micromanage much?

21 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My .02? Since you asked...
NEVER dictate gifts at a party--Veruca is correct. It's in extremely poor taste.
If people ASK, tell them gifts are not necessary.

Quickly and QUIETLY donate any gifts that don't meet your standards.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

Yup, Miss Manners is very specific about this. It is not acceptable to mention gifts at all in an invitation. AT ALL. It shows there is an assumption of gifts, which is very bad etiquette.
It is, however, your call on how to deal with those gifts after they have been given to you (or your child). But to call a gift in poor taste is rude, it's not your place to say so.

Am I the only person left on Earth with a copy of Emily Post's book? Here, it's less that $20...

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

I usually put "your presence it present enough" and leave it at that. If someone wants to purchase a gift, that is their choice. My kids have loved the heck out of some pretty strange gifts...

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

If you don't want gifts don't have a party. Kids deserve gifts on their birthday from everyone who comes to celebrate. You can't order people to not give your child gifts. You can't tell them what they want, you can't stop them if you invite them.

So, your child is turning 2. Have a cake, don't invite anyone, and stay home with just hubby, wife, and kiddo...well, whomever lives in your home that is immediate family.

If extended family wants to give a gift they simply invite you guys over and give the gift.

Whenever I see this on an invitation I feel sorry for the kid. The ONE DAY per year they get to have stuff and their parents are ruining the whole thing for them.

It also sounds..pompous. Like you think your child is above receiving a gift, that they don't want anything from the lower lifeforms. I know, but that's what I see in my mind when I read that sort of statement.

Your child is a child and they should get a day full of gifts and fun. Then when it's all worn off you'll see what they play with and what they don't like. Put the stuff they don't like into a bin then throw it away because if it's not good enough to keep and let her switch out and use then it's obviously trash and belongs there.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I don't think you should tell guest what to give or not to give. Do what you want after the party, ie donate etc. but don't tell your guest in advance what to give unless asked. Honestly, who would go to a kid birthday party and not bring a gift.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My kids go to a school with many kids who come from wealthy families. It is very common to see things like, "Our kids are very fortunate and have more toys and clothes than they need, but if you would feel so inclined, they will be accepting gifts on behalf of (INSERT CHARITABLE CAUSE)." One family (they have twins who were micro-preemies) collects gifts for NICU families--preemie clothes, scrapbooking materials, NICU-friendly (meaning can be sanitized and not breakable) toys/mirrors/crib mobiles & music boxes, gift cards for restaurants near the hospital, etc. Another family asks for canned goods for the food shelf; another for Toys for Tots (winter Birthday).

Books are a great idea, but I wouldn't specify that you want to receive those for YOUR child. If you do want to donate books, just specify that the books will be donated (and to who) so the gift-giver knows that up front.

ETA: Wow, never realized that a "no gift" request would rub so many people the wrong way. For me, I don't have space to keep a bunch of new toys, and I genuinely believe my kids have way too much stuff.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

The "official etiquette" on invitations is no mention of gifts, at all, ever. So even saying "no gifts" or "in lieu of gifts" is rude. I personally would never attend a party or event at someone's home without bringing something. For parties that say "no gift" (in poor taste), I will bring a card and an acknowledgement of a small donation made to a charity that I think relates. Either an animal rescue if they are animal people, our local crisis nursery or children's hospital, something like that. Honestly, it always stresses me out when it says "no gift," because it just feels wrong. I have found the card/donation combo to be my personal happy medium.

We had an anniversary party several years ago and wanted to take the opportunity to give to our local animal shelter. We created an insert for the invitation that said we were collecting old blankets and towels (in some cute little rhyme, I can't remember it now), and we would love it if our guests had any that they wanted to be rid of. It said nothing about gifts. Most people brought a donation of some kind in lieu of a gift, a handful of people brought a donation and a small gift. Since it worked out for us, I would suggest something similar for you.

Any gifts that my kids receive that are duplicates, not age-appropriate, etc, we thank the givers just like everyone else and save them up for holiday toy drives. With two fall babies, it works out well! And re-gifting never bothers me- we got a gift once that still had the gift receipt and the name of another child on it! I just laughed- my boys both loved it, who cares if it was passed along? With all the parties through preschool and early elementary, it's pretty much a big ol' 5-year-long gift exchange!!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Toledo on

People want to give your child a gift at the birthday party. Why not just let it go and let them bring a gift?

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

The only "no gift" party I attended asked each guest to bring a book (preferably a Caldecott winner). At the end, each child took home a book they didn't bring.

Your child doesn't need to open the gifts at the event. It can be done later, and thank yous should be sent, even if it's not something that is your cup of tea. That is what regifting, donating to a charity or ebay can be for.

I generally don't put anything on the invite about gifts, but talk to people if they ask.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

If the guests are family and personal friends they know your preference. If they are not family and personal friends why are you inviting them to a baby's birthday party? If the birthday is an excuse to have a party just call it a party; not a birthday party. You can say something like "we're having cake and ice cream to celebrate son's birth. Then let your guests decide what they want to do. This gives them the opportunity to ask and you can say you're celebrating without gifts.

Personally, I'd feel cheated if an invitation said no gifts. Giving a gift makes me happy. Let guests do what they want to do. Accept their gifts graciously, knowing that they have given them in love.

I have received some unusual gifts in my long life. I appreciated each one. Some I came to enjoy. Others not so much but I'd never pass judgment on the gift or giver. Perhaps you didn't mean to sound so critical.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Part of the fun and excitement of a birthday party, especially a child's is choosing a gift. It is also a teaching moment of giving for our own children when they are invited to a party for them to help choose a gift.

It sounds like you are bent out of shape because people don't follow your rule and then you determine that gifts that were brought were "gifts of poor taste" or "regifted". So what... someone thought enough of you and your child to bring a gift... be gracious and move on.

It feels awkward to go to a party for a child and not bring a gift. I don't go to someone's home as a guest without some sort of hostess gift in hand. It is how a lot of us are brought up.

Why is it that most of your guest don't have children or young children? If you want a social event, then plan a social event with the "birthday" being attached to it but you will probably get a hostess gift if you go that route.

If you choose to donate everything given that is fine, I know someone out there would be thankful and use the gifts that are not up to par as far as you are concerned.

Instead of being so strict with rules and controlling your guests, just relax a bit and allow people to come enjoy your presence. It is not fun to go to a party when someone is dictating everything to you.

I would not put anything on the invitations and if someone wanted to bring a little something for my child, I would be gracious, thank them for their thoughtfulness and for coming to the party and then enjoy the party with my guests with a smile on my face.

Your child is turning 2... he/she has no clue what is going on and won't understand birthday parties until about age 3. You are making this all about you.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I have always thought it was a little odd to request no gifts at birthdays. Growing up for me, we always received gifts and I always gave a gift. My daughter got invited to a party for next weekend that says no gifts. I just feel so akward showing up with no gift so we are going to get her a card and get her a pack of stickers to put in it. It's not much and I wish I could give more but I don't want to offend them either.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

What confuses people is the term 'birthday party'.
They just expect that you bring a gift to a birthday party.
It's automatic - they don't think about it - and asking for no gifts just confuses them.
Call it a 'pot luck' or 'barbeque' or 'picnic' and no one will bring gifts.
Do NOT give any hints that the gathering has ANYTHING to do with a birthday.
You'll simply surprise them as you bring out a birthday cake towards the end.

'No gift' doesn't irritate me in the way that 'please donate to <insert charity> in lieu of bringing a present' irritates me.
It's presumptuous to pull a bait and switch - it plays on peoples generosity towards gifting the birthday child and then switching it to give to some cause de jour which I may or may not give a darn about.

I delete hate mail so don't bother.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Truthfully, you just cannot dictate what people give as gifts, or whether they give at all. You said you didn't want gifts, but then people did it anyway and you were annoyed that they were inappropriate and came without gift receipts. So were you hoping no one would give gifts, or were you hoping you would get stuff you could return for cash? I'm not clear. It seems like you wanted it both ways.

The assumption with all gifts is that they will be appropriate and you will enjoy, appreciate and keep them. I know that's unrealistic sometimes, but that's what a "gift" is. A gift is not the price of admission to a party, and it's not a quid pro quo for food and drinks (and in the case of kids, a goodie bag). A gift receipt is really an extra that should occur rarely, not something that is assumed. It makes sense for people who are choosing clothing but don't know the child that well and could guess wrong (although truly well thought out gifts will just be in a larger size so the child grows into it). But we really have to get past the idea of being annoyed that the gifts were inappropriate or regifted when we didn't want any to begin with, and we can't get irritated that they were so bad we had to give them away.

I believe in small parties so there is less likelihood of duplicate gifts, and a greater chance that you can manage to write thank you notes. I really despised older kids' parties with 25 kids, 25 gifts that get put in another room, with no chance for the recipient to thank the givers and the givers to see the recipient's joy on opening them. We never, ever had huge parties. We never told people what to do about gifts. We just felt it was important to leave it up to the guests, for our child to learn to express gratitude and to write thank you notes (by age 4, he was dictating a comment or two which we wrote down and mailed with a few added sentences of our own). As he got older, he learned that he didn't play with the gift or cash the check or redeem the gift card until the thank-you was written. And if he didn't want to write it, we told him he had to send the gift back to the giver with a note about why he didn't want it - so either way, he was writing a note about something! Of course he chose the thank you.

You just can't ask people to give to a charity for regular gifts. I think you CAN ask for donations you are collecting for a cause, but that's more effective with an older child. We see a lot of kids collecting used items (towels and blankets) or food for the local animal shelter in lieu of birthday gifts. But for now, I think you just don't put anything on the invitation. Close friends or relatives might ask you the child's size or preferences, in which case you can say, "Oh my, a gift really isn't necessary." Then they insist, and you reply "Well, he really likes Thomas the Tank Engine" or "I think he would enjoy a puzzle." That's it. If they don't inquire privately, then I think you leave off the "no gifts" wording, the request for cash donations, or a targeted request such as the one for books. No matter what you get, if you can't use it, there's always a charity that can use it. Just tuck it away and donate it in November to a charity collecting a variety of gifts for needy kids at Christmas.

As a side note, the wedding invitations have become huge envelopes with gift registry info, bride & groom websites, an RSVP card/envelope (stamped) and a list of hotels - it's pretty easy to miss the actual invitation, and we've forgotten that we're supposed to have good enough manners to actually reply without a yes/no card, a deadline and a stamp provided for us!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I can certainly understand requesting "no gifts" as most of us are lucky enough to have kids with more than they need as it is.
But it's a child's birthday party, people ENJOY picking out presents for children, and I would just smile and accept the gifts that are bound to happen graciously. You can always donate them later.
As far as the "poor taste" comment? Well, I assume these are your close friends and family, people you love and admire, so I suppose you accept the fact they have poor taste and don't dwell on it.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Why are gifts so offensive? It is fun to buy presents for little kids. I, and many of my friends, hate going empty handed to things! Let them bring a present.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

Perhaps you could hold off on birthday parties until the kid gets to be 6 or 7 and then do one. Little kids 4 and under really don't understand the concept of birthdays. I went to a 2 year old this weekend and she was not into all the hippe but mom was. There was also an older sister who did not quite understand that the day was for baby sister and not her for all the gifts or toys.

So this is a different slant on things. Having a few friends over for a cake and ice cream is about it. Save the money for the bounce house or whatever at that time.

the other Suzane

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

I always provide a gift even if it says not to bring a gift and it's not always a toy. For a child this age, I generally give clothes or pajamas. I think you can state that on the invite again, but please don't be ungrateful if people do bring a gift. Some people just like to do so. Remember it is considered rude to go to a bday party and not bring a little something. If you end up donating, then that's great, too. Someone will appreciate your donation.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Omaha on

I think asking people to not bring gifts is tacky. I think you are taking the fun out of a child's birthday when you do that. I know birthdays shouldn't be about gifts but i sure love watching children open something they really wanted and seeing the joy on their little face. Just invite the guests and leave it at that. Honestly if I got an invite that said no gifts or please donate "insert charity here" I would still bring a gift. That's just me.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I wish more parents were like you! We do not want gifts either!! Who really wants 10-15 new toys--some of which you may already have and some of which you probably don't want!!

We always collect for the Ronald McDonald House. We stayed there several times with my middle and it is such an amazing charity. We ask guests to bring consumable items like toilet paper, paper towels, detergent, cleaning products, etc. Our friends LOVE this idea. They spend less time & money and it's all for a good cause.

My kids love taking our donations to the RMH. They find real joy in giving to others. And, they still get gifts from us and grandparents.

Here is the website for RMH Seattle:

And, here is their wish list (on the website):

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I wouldn't say no gifts.. just do a regular invite, and leave that off.. those who bring em, fine.. those who don't, that is fine too... don't waste your energy on if someone brings a crappy gift or not.. OR if they didn't follow your rules, which may be what is making you more upset.. just gather the gifts, send out your thank yous... and donate if need be.. believe me, your child is still young, there will be more crappy to come from people.. :):) and USED ones.. it's how some people work..

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

Love both those ideas, the donation and the books. Great ideas. I think people just want to bring something. I know I do.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

When I was invited to parties in the past that said your presence is tge present others brought gifts leaving me feeling like a heel during the gift opening. Thankfully I haven't recieved any in a long time.
There are many charities that have wish lists-in the future you could let guests know that your child has chosen to share his good fortune with the children's hospital, or animal shelter. You could even work in activities like making no sew cat beds at the party or no sew superhero capes.
Some guests may still give gifts. Let them have ther regifting or shopping
Or have a party and ask everyone to bring their (or their family's) signature dish. Saves on costs and you get a good variety of food.

2 moms found this helpful
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