No Gifts/second Hand Gifts for Birthday

Updated on March 29, 2014
S.F. asks from West Palm Beach, FL
26 answers

my dd is going to turn 2 soon. she has enough "stuff" as it is. i need a polite way to say either no gifts or second hand gifts are always welcome. most of her clothes and many toys were given to us as hand me downs or i purchased at a thrift store. thoughts?

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answers from Norfolk on

Don't say anything one way or the other.
If gifts come, then down size some of the things/clothes she already has - things she doesn't like as much or doesn't play with anymore or has outgrown.
Specifying that people should give to some other charity for a birthday never rubbed me the right way.
It's ok if new things come in.
You just have to balance it with things that have to go out.
The sooner you get use to doing this, the better handle you'll have on not letting things accumulate.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

My youngest granddaughter has a ton of stuff so my daughter sent an invite that asked for food to donate to the food bank instead of gifts. Everyone had a great time at the party and the food bank got a nice donation. I've also seen people ask for pet food or pet supplies to donate to the animal shelter.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

gifts are really up to the person. But, one cute ideas I have seen have been asking everyone to bring their favorite book rather then a toy.

5 moms found this helpful

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answers from Honolulu on

Ditto "B" below.

Even if you request and get, 2nd hand gifts, it is still, gifts. It is still gifts... that take up room in your home/closets/floors etc.

Your daughter is going to be 2. At every birthday or holiday time, you will have the same "problem" of feeling that she has enough, stuff and that you don't want new stuff for her.
So instead of, controlling what others give her for whatever reason, you need to, get used to getting rid of stuff, too. Because your daughter is now 2. From being an infant until now, there is surely things, you can get rid of or donate elsewhere and things she has simply outgrown etc.
And clearing things out and getting rid of stuff, and going through all that "stuff" is something you need to do. On a regular basis.

As your child gets older, she will be more aware... of special occasion gifts and whatnot. That is childhood. Special occasions, are special. But at least for me, if the rule was "no gifts" or "only 2nd hand gifts" for my child, I would feel sad for her/him. And a 2nd hand gift... what is the difference between that and a "new" gift? In terms of how much "stuff" your daughter has? It is still, "stuff."

ETA: I went to a b-day party once, for a 3 year old child, who was turning 4. Per the Mom who made the invitations, there was to be no gifts. And instead, guests were asked to bring food donations for a local charity organization. The child did not have a say in this. It was the parents decision, about their child's b-day party. It was making a statement. However, once we were at the party, the child of course was excited there was a party, but then I noticed her being withdrawn and sad. The party was not about her or her birthday, it was about "donations" and whatever people brought was put aside and she was told it was for her birthday... to give things to people who don't have anything etc. and that she was not to expect "gifts" and that gifts are not needed. It is about helping others. So then, even my daughter said this, WHY even have a "birthday" party, for your child, when the party is just about asking for donations???? The parents could have done that anytime. Not using their child's birthday "party" to make a donation party, for themselves.
Even my daughter, said the girl was sad. It did not seem like a party "for" her. Even if the room was decorated and the birthday cake had her name on it. It was all just a sad, "birthday" party. But the parents felt all proud. They were making a social statement. And inferring that their child is not hung up on "gifts." Even if she is not anyway.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

You can always include a simple, "The only gift we request is your company." Some people will still disregard your request and bring something, but you'll reduce the number of gifts.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Are you having a party? if so then you could put something on the invite about stocking her library so that she gets books. but remember that people enjoy buying for little ones. and they may think that a new gift as opposed to one you picked up at a thrift store might be something they want to do. I know my god daughter is the 5th child in a family that has 4 girls and 1 boy. I love to buy her things occasionally that are new for her. that have not already been worn by the other 3 girls til the seams are pulling and the material is pilling. I enjoy it. so I do it. the parents have a tight budget. the other godparents do the same for their respective godchild. the oldest always has new stuff the youngers not so much so I enjoy doing it. don't take that joy away from anyone who wants to purchase a gift.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

It's just so sad to go to a birthday party and see a kid not get anything. People are just not going to do that to a child. The ONLY way to eliminate gifts is to not have a party. Just do a simple dinner and cake with hubby and kiddo.

I think you need to re-examine your thoughts about the stuff your child has. Why would you want thrift store items instead of new gifts that your child could enjoy for perhaps years?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

For whatever reason, any mention of gifts is considered bad forum. That said, I do it anyways. You will have to decide if you want to intentionally break this rule as well. I have done a simple "no gifts please" at the bottom in small print. Or consider this great option: A book exchange. I say, "in liu of gifts, bring a gently used or new book for a book exchange. Bring one take one home!" As for requesting hand me downs instead of new, I say skip it. Its odd and no one will feel right doing it anyhow. ehhh, yay, don't do it.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Let it go, it is not polite to make this request. People like to buy stuff for 2 year olds. The good news is that most people include gift receipts, so if your DD doesn't immediately fall in love with the item/rip it open, then you can quietly return it later and get something she needs.

And if she DOES fall in love with a few particular things when she opens them, is it really such a big deal to let her get some new stuff? It is her birthday.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

I don't think there's anything wrong with requesting no gifts, but don't really get how second hand gifts are any different than newly purchased gifts as far as too much "stuff" is concerned. I agree with some of the other posters that for an older child, this request could ruin a party for a kid that's used to going to parties with piles of gifts for other kids, but for a 2 year old they don't really get what a birthday is anyways and are generally just happy enough for cake. When my son turned 2 last year, I hand delivered the invites for our friends and just told them that their presence was gift enough and that the family had already covered gifts for little one. I got nothing but positive responses from everyone, and while some still did bring gifts, they were small and things that were usable (art supplies, Play Doh, etc). My son turns 3 in a few weeks and all he says he wants for his birthday is "a big cake!"

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I like Diane D suggestion, but some people like giving something, consider books. A child can never have enough books.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

People will bring gifts no matter what, but you are perfectly fine saying "Recycled gifts welcome!!!" on your invite. Some will bring new ones no matter what, but one set of sisters brought second hand gifts to my daughter's party because I specified it was welcome and it was great!! My daughter loved their gifts and the mom was like, "Thanks so much we needed to purge!"

As for any holiday, etc, you can slyly shift a bunch of the gifts straight to donation and your child will never notice (especially at 2). It is VERY hard to keep things clutter free and zen with all the gifts coming in I KNOW!!!! Just purge as you're able, and don't be afraid to tell people they can give hand-me-downs. And don't be offended if they bring new stuff, just donate it when the coast is clear.

My relatives do ALL hand-me-downs to ALL kids at every birthday!! Everyone is relieved to not spend money and to get rid of stuff and not offended when the stuff is given right back out at a different party or to a thrift store or charity...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I guess my first thought is that you are having a birthday party. My second thought is, if you don't want gifts, why have a birthday party for a child this age? She won't know what it's about, and most toddlers are completely overwhelmed when they're the center of attention, there are people everywhere, it's loud, it's their naptime, and they're full of sugar. At this age, I really think you're way better off just having a nice, quiet lunch or dinner with your close family, if you feel the need to have any hoopla at all. With my kids, we just had cupcakes at home, took a picture of the birthday child in a birthday hat for their scrapbook, and called it a day. Neither one of them had a "real" birthday party until they were 4 or 5. And, therefore, they did not receive a deluge of toys/clothes they didn't need. Anyhow, I know that wasn't exactly your question, but those are just my thoughts on how to avoid lots of unwanted gifts. :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

"No gifts please. Your presence is present enough."

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Don't mention that it is a birthday party. Just invite people over for a cookout/dinner/what-have-you. If you mention birthday, people will bring a gift.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I just don't think there's any way to successfully pull that off. She's 2. She deserves a few gifts.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I think "your presence is gift enough" should get the point across.

I find that most of the people will ask for gift suggestions when they RSVP to the party, and when they do I will usually suggest a gift card, iTunes, movie passes, tickets to an amusement park, etc. That cuts down on the amount of stuff we get.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

If she has enough stuff, why would secondhand items be welcome, but not nice, new items?

And I agree with others on here, party = gifts. It's just part of the deal. Especially for kids. If you don't want more gifts, you can have a smaller party. If it's just family, at least one person will ask and you can verbally spread the word that smaller is better, or you need books/art supplies, new pajamas, what have you.

Personally, I am in favor of gifts at kids birthday parties. Giving and Receiving are important social constructs for kids to learn, and birthday parties are the perfect place to develop those skills. In Giving gifts, they learn thoughtfulness, acceptance of when it's someone else's turn to receive, the joy of seeing other's joy. In Receiving they learn graciousness, gratefulness, politeness, even the skill of faking these things when you receive something you are not so excited about.

My advice, as another person who feels totally overwhelmed by "stuff" and receives TONS of hand-me-downs for my kids (I have 5 sisters and countless helpful cousins): You need to purge regularly. I put out bags to the goodwill probably once a month, no joke (I have 3 kids). You can't stop people from giving your kids gifts. You just can't. And that's a good thing! So welcome the new and send out some of the old. This is also a good lesson for your daughter! My kids know all about "donating" and are very helpful in deciding what it's time to donate and what is not ready. And believe me, a lot goes out that they don't even know about ;)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

My kids are older but frankly, I remember all the "stuff" they had at that age. This is the time you need to get in the habit of downsizing. I learned this lesson too late but did start about 5 years ago (my kids are 14 and 11). Before their birthday and Christmas, I would downsize their toys and clothes and organize their rooms. Maybe you can start to do this too so when her birthday comes around, you can be ready for her to get new things and not have to feel like you want to turn them down.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Just put "no gifts please" on her invitation. If people brings gifts anyway (which they always do) just donate some of your child's older toys, or pack them up and rotate them out later.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

How about just not saying anything and allowing people to bring whatever they want? Then, you can go to the local homeless shelter or children's hospital to donate those toys to a child who'd love to have a new gift. You can also store the gifts and then donate them during the holidays to Toys for Tots. If this is too awkward, then you can just forgo the birthday party altogether and just have a movie party, for example. That way she gets to see her friends and the parents of the friends won't know it's actually a birthday party in disguise, so they won't know to bring gifts, which is your whole intention.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

No gifts please. Then I am sure grandparents will bring anyway, which is fine. Don't ask for second hand things.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Everyone thought I was mean, but I kept asking for & finally they got it--$. Then go open up a custodial savings account for your girl. Every time you get a present check or green cash for your daughter, deposit it. As our girls have grown up, I would deposit their checks/cash & if there was something that they WANTED, not needed, we would talk it over & I would take them to buy that item. As they got older it has usually been clothes. One girl saved for a year & we bought her ipod. And although I never told them, I would really be using our $ for the item.

I really want them to have some $ for themselves when the time comes. And before we go out to buy their special present, we would talk about if they really NEEDED something, or just WANTED it? Because it was THEIR $ to spend & once it was gone, oh well. And 2 is not too early to start explaining that. One of my daughters, around 6 or 7 HAD to have some electronic Hello Kitty thing--HAD to have it, so & so had it, etc. She pooled her birthday $, I took her to buy it, she brought it home, used it for a day & came to me crying because it wasn't all that & a bag of chips! And she wanted her $ back. No way, Jose. Lesson learned. And she is the BEST saver, planner, $ spending decision maker of my girls now.

She's 15 & currently her account has WAY more $ in it than her older sister's, because she isn't as impulsive about wanting stuff. Older sister is hard on electronics & I've actually used some of her $ to pay for the replacement of broken ipods, netbook, laptop & over usage of cell data.

IF family/friends HAVE to bring a gift, because they want to see her open up the packages, make a list of crafts, books, crayons, that sort of thing that will be used for a while, but aren't too expensive. But send/bring bulk of the present in $. Is this crass? Yeah, probably. BUT if you explain to family/close friends your strategy, most understand it. And this way everyone gets the joy of the gift opening.

And in 15 years or so, your daughter will have a nice little nest egg ready to buy a car, rent an apartment, college expenses, etc.

My girls get it, especially now, when they see that all of their life gifts are in the CR waiting for them to use responsibly. Or not. And that they have been given & then passed on to friends or Goodwill many, many more gifts, so many that they can't even remember them. The $, they remember! And are grateful for! Good Luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Put a note in the evite that says, "Suggestion: gift cards to McDonald's, Burger King, or Jack in the Box".

She's got to eat. And the whole family can appreciate that.



answers from Orlando on

There are many ways to handle this.
Pick a charity & ask people to donate there in lieu of gifts. I've done this before. Ask that they limit the gift to $5 b/c people are going to bring something.
Let people bring gifts & stash them to be used to re-gift.
Ask people to bring gifts geared more toward your older daughter since you have plenty of stuff for a 2yo.
Return most things (Walmart is always good for this), & put it towards something bigger.



answers from Tampa on

It is a great way to teach your child to get rid of things they no longer play with or don't need, or have outgrown. After the birthday party, for every gift received, have her find a gift she can donate. The more they learn it as children, the less stuff they keep as teens and as they get older.

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