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The No-Gifts Birthday Party

The No-Gifts Birthday Party

By Amalah

Hi Amy!

Whenever I run into a parenting problem, I usually search through your glorious advice smackdown columns and can find an answer to my issue (like WHY??!! won’t my toddler poop in the dang potty? – answer: deal with it). But I’m having a dilemma I can’t find an answer to. Basically, am I allowed to request no gifts for my soon-to-be-three year old’s birthday party?

The issue is, my daughter’s party is in about 6 weeks and I’m due with baby number 2 in about two weeks. This is the first “real” friends (aka daycare kids) party I’m throwing for my daughter and a big reason I wanted to do it this year was to give her a special day after turning her world upside down with a sibling. Although, I’m not crazy. I am forking over a small ransom to a kids party place so all I have to do is show up with a cake. I know a lot of family and (our grown up) friends will probably buy her a “big sister” present when the baby gets here and then again for her birthday, so it’s not like this kid is not getting a fair share of new stuff. We have a small house and she already has a ton of toys, coloring books, etc. I really don’t want to deal with presents from her daycare friends as well. But, whenever we talk to her about her party, she mentions presents. Somehow, it’s ingrained in their little psyches that parties=presents and I don’t want her to be disappointed. So, can I ask daycare friends to not bring presents (and if so, how do I word on invitations) or should I suck it up and deal with more onslaught of toys in order to avoid disappointment (especially after I have shelled out so much cash for a party, I don’t want the only thing she remembers is that she didn’t get presents)?

Save me from the mountain of stuff!

You are ABSOLUTELY allowed to stipulate “no presents” for a child’s birthday party. It’s a perfectly acceptable, commonly done thing for all the reasons you mention and there’s no need to overthink the invitations. Simply put “No gifts please!” somewhere in there and be done with it.

As for your daughter and warding off any potential disappointment, you’ll be super extra mega-grateful for that small ransom you paid to the party place, because presents aren’t be on the agenda at all. Typically these places offer a bin or some designated place for guests to drop off presents, which is then quickly whisked away and out of sight once the party begins. Presents aren’t the point or focal point of the party, and I personally dig that. I am also a fan of parties that I do not have to clean up after. Money well spent.

You should give your venue the heads up that you requested “no gifts” however, so they don’t put whatever gift receptacle they use all front-and-center where guests who followed your instructions will see it and get confused. But be prepared that there will inevitably be a few rule-breakers (or people who didn’t read the invitation that closely), so the party hosts should also be on hand to collect and quickly store/hide any gifts that show up. I imagine every professional party place has handled a “no gifts” kind of party…I’d say a good quarter of the parties we’ve attended over the years have made that request.

So. When you talk to your daughter about her party, explain that she won’t be opening her presents AT the party. Which she wouldn’t do ANYWAY, since they’ll just load anything she gets into your car at the end. She’ll open her presents AFTER the party, at home. Where you can then give her whatever gifts came from grown-up friends and family, or just something small from you.

And at home, I promise you she won’t care if there aren’t a million things to open. As long as she gets something, she’ll be perfectly happy. (And you know she’ll get something, even if you hired a skywriter to broadcast the NO GIFTS PLEASE!! request.)


Published August 24, 2015. Last updated August 24, 2015.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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