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A “No Toys” Baby Shower?

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

After reading basically everything you have ever written for years now, I am so excited finally to have something to ask you!!! You always always always give the best advice! So, it’s another baby shower etiquette question. I am currently pregnant with our first baby, and I have already had offers to host a shower for me. I have read your recent columns about the etiquette issued related to baby showers and registries and gift-giving and all that. So I already know that you have issues with including baby registry information inside the invitation, but as you said yourself it is getting to the point where it is an accepted, even an expected practice. Now I definitely don’t want to give any kind of impression that I EXPECT anyone to give me anything. That is not the case at all! Nevertheless, if my wedding showers were any indication, people are going to give me gifts. And, frankly, as my husband and I are both poor graduate students, I am more than happy and grateful to allow them to do so.

Here’s the issue – my husband and I both feel very strongly about keeping toys to a minimum for the new baby, and the toys that we do have we would like to be made of natural materials as much as possible. I am not much of a stickler about many things, but we have a small house and are notoriously bad house-keepers, and then there’s the environment and blah blah blah, you get the picture. A plethora of noise-making plastic rattles and toys are just not what I am hoping for. I know that I can keep toys off the baby gift registry, but as we all know, people often stray from registries. When talking this over with a friend, she suggested including a note that said something like “no toys please” with the registry information. That sounds like a perfect solution to me, and I know that I personally would not be offended to receive such a note. On the contrary, I am always grateful for information that helps me get someone a gift they actually want. But then again I am not easily offended! I have no desire or intention to give people a negative impression, nor to squash anyone’s fun in gift-giving. My friend also suggested doing themed showers, like a book-only shower, a clothes-only shower, etc. That seems like a good option too, although I hesitate to take away the option for people to get us practical things like baby monitors or bottles.

So, is there some way to respectfully guide people in their gift-giving (beyond just a registry that a lot of people will ignore anyway), or do I just have to take what I get and hope for return receipts?

Thanks SO much!!

So…here’s the thing. There are always two answers to these sorts of questions. The By The Book answer, and the…other one. The more laid-back, “go ahead and do what you want and if someone gets offended then pfft on them” answer.

Is putting “no toys, please” on a baby shower invitation the rudest thing ever? HARDLY. For all the reasons you said: gifts are at this point, pretty inevitable, most people appreciate the guidance and really do want to give you something you’ll use and love and not return. And toys at a baby shower are rarely the top choice — I’m thinking back to my showers and am pretty sure I only got two or three small toys. (Though gift cards attached to stuffed animals are popular. I’ve always just donated the teddy bear or whatever to a children’s charity.) Clothes and gear are by far the more commonly-gifted things. You would not quash anyone’s gift-giving joy. (There’s also the point that someone who decides to ignore the registry might also ignore the fine print about toys, too.)

But. The fact remains that putting ANYTHING on a shower invitation that specifically invites or dictates gifts is a technical breach of “by the book” etiquette. Sorry. IT IS. Shower invites are “supposed” to contain the who, the what, the where and the when. Guests then contact the hostess with their RSVP info and IF THEY CHOOSE TO, inquire about the baby gift registry info at that time. That’s the “proper” way to do it.

But nobody does it that way anymore!” I know! And I don’t think it’s a big deal either! The friends who hosted my showers totally put my registry info on the invites and I cringed but nobody cared! I put my first Amazon baby registry on a sidebar ON MY WEBSITE because people wouldn’t stop asking for it and it felt less awkward than responding to emails about it and exactly ONE person kicked up an offended fuss! And I haven’t been asked to host a baby shower in…uh…ever, so I’ve never even personally had to make the invite call! But…you know. You ask me to put on my etiquette cap, I’m going to have to give you the straight etiquette answer.

And now back to the real-world answer: I would not really have a problem seeing “no toys” on a shower invite. (I would have a problem seeing something like “cash gifts only” or “please buy from our registry only,” though, and I’d bet other people would too. A friend of mine was recently invited to a “Money Shower” for a bride, where there would be a “Money Tree” for guests to attach checks and cash to…and simply opted not to attend because GROSS.) I would both understand and admire your noble effort to keep the toys to a minimum, then laugh at your naiveté because OH HONEY. CHRISTMAS AND BIRTHDAYS. GOOD LUCK. But then I would absolutely 100% obey your wishes and happily get you something non-toy related, complete with a receipt regardless of whether I got it off the registry or not.

(If I may insert one little tangent in defense of non-registry gift-givers: We aren’t all willfully determined to deny you your chosen items. We’re likely just moms who have had babies recently and just really, really want to give you the things that worked best for us. The stuff that fell into the “lifesavers” category as opposed to another pack of bibs or onesies. Like, if I see that you didn’t register for a Miracle Blanket but instead went with a pack of cheaper blankets that I KNOW are too small for swaddling, I’m going to buy you a Miracle Blanket. Or the Ergo instead of the Bjorn. Presumptuous and know-it-all-ish? Probably. BUT SRSLY. I CANNOT ALLOW YOU TO HAVE A BABY WITHOUT AT LEAST TRYING THE MIRACLE BLANKET. IT’S LIKE GOING TO WAR WITHOUT A HELMET ON.)

Whew. What was I talking about? Right. I think it’s highly, highly unlikely that you will offend anyone too deeply by putting “no toys, please” in fine print somewhere. But we can conduct an informal poll, right here. Readers? What say you about getting shower invites that include caveats about gifts?


If you’re looking for ideas and recommendations for a baby registry, don’t miss our Baby Registry Checklist.

If you’re considering an online baby registry, we recommend our affiliate Amazon’s Baby Registry, which offers free 90-day returns on baby store purchases. You can even add items from other websites onto to your baby registry.

Amazon Baby Registry 1

Published April 2, 2010. Last updated March 27, 2018.
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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