Well Mannered: What Do I Do If a Birthday Invite Says No Gifts?

Well Mannered: What Do I Do If a Birthday Invite Says No Gifts?

As some of you may know, I’m a mama of two little ones, including a preschooler. And ever since my older daughter started school last year, it feels like almost every weekend includes a birthday party in the forecast. Overall, it’s been a fun chance to socialize with other parents, and a great way to keep the kids entertained. But unlike weddings, showers, and adult birthday parties, it’s all new to me. So when it comes to matters of etiquette, I’ve had a few questions come up. For instance, what do I do if a party invite specifies “no gifts?” Do I still bring a little something or respect the parents’ wishes? In light of this month’s Motherhood May theme, I wanted to address that and some other related questions. If you have little ones yourself (or even nieces and nephews), you will want to continue reading…

What If the invitation says, “no gifts?” Is it really okay to show up empty handed?

Within my social circles, I’ve seen a huge increase lately in the number of parents specifying “no gifts” on their children’s’ birthday party invitations. We even made a similar request for my own daughter’s most recent birthday (“no gifts necessary, books appreciated”). Still, every time I am in this situation I find myself wondering if it’s really appropriate to show up empty handed. The short answer is yes. If a parent goes to the trouble to say “no gifts,” they 100% do not expect anyone to bring a gift. In fact, they will probably be happy that you were attentive to their request. Whether it’s an issue of limited storage space for toys, teaching their children to value experiences over things, or any other reasoning, it’s never a bad idea to respect a parent’s wishes when it comes to no presents.

That said, it’s certainly more comfortable to arrive at a party with a gift in hand. It shows the hosts that you are grateful to them for including you in the celebration. You also don’t want the birthday boy or girl to wonder why your kid was the one who didn’t get them a present if some other children still do. So if you do opt to bring a gift anyway, choose something that does not cost a lot or take up a lot of space. Books are one of those gifts that everyone always seems to appreciate no matter what. Stickers or temporary tattoos can also be a good option since they are small and disposable. You could also encourage your child to make some sort of handmade present, like a beaded necklace or a sculpture out of clay. But if you don’t bring a gift at all, that is perfectly fine. Instead, you can bring a card (especially a handmade one decorated by your child) to show your love and gratitude.

Should I let my kid open their gifts at the party?

When I was growing up, it was common for the birthday boy or girl to open up all of their gifts during the party. On one hand, it’s nice for everyone to see the child’s excitement when they open up the present they got them. However, I’m so glad to see that this tradition has mostly fallen by the wayside. For one thing, kids often have trouble hiding if they are less than excited about a certain present, and that could hurt the gift giver’s feelings. It also leaves the children who are guests wishing they were receiving all the same toys and games as their friend. This may be a tradition that still works in a room full of adults (like a baby or bridal shower), but I personally believe that it has no place at children’s birthday parties.

Should I make my child write thank you notes to everyone?

Should you send out thank you notes to everyone who was kind enough to come celebrate or bring a gift? Yes. Should you make your child write all of them him or herself? Maybe. I think it’s wonderful to teach your kids the importance of sending thank you notes from a young age. But as any parent knows, the process of getting a two- or three-year-old to decorate dozens of cards is long and arduous, and they often lose interest several minutes in. If waiting for your young child to decorate every last card delays the thank you notes longer than a month after the party, you can speed up the process by simply writing some yourself. You don’t want to wait so long that you leave your party guests wondering if you received their gift or if it got lost in the pile of presents.

But if you’re truly a firm believer in teaching your child the value of thank you notes, I have a couple tricks I use to make sure they still get done in a timely manner. One trick is to set up the thank you note station assembly line style, and then have your kiddo stamp, sticker, or color on multiple cards at once. My other trick is to make a rule that they only get to open another present once they’ve written the thank you note for the last gift they opened. This spreads out the opening of presents over several days after the party, but I don’t see that as a bad thing either. I love the practice of taking time to appreciate each and every gift instead of tearing through them all at once.

Would you agree with these rules of etiquette?

Let me know your own thoughts below!

xo Ilana
Team LC

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