Parenting

Hosting a no-gift birthday party

Jennifer defends her "no gifts" policy at her children's birthday parties.

We focus on the fun and the cake, not the gifts.

This weekend we are hosting my son Isaac’s sixth birthday party (his birthday is on Christmas Eve, so a party on the actual day is out of the question). Each year we pick a theme and I try to go over the top with cakes, loot bags and games. But the one thing that I’ve insisted on since he was born is that his party guests do not bring gifts.

That’s right. No birthday presents for the birthday boy.

“Not even something small?” asked the mom of one guest. “Or a gift card?” asked another.

I always politely say no thank you. And while it might seem kind of unusual — maybe cruel, especially to a young boy — to have a birthday party without presents, it’s a decision that we put thought into.

  • It’s very hard to buy a gift for a child you don’t know.
  • Christmas is an expensive time of year for many families. I’d much rather parents spend money on their own children.
  • I’ve been at parties where a child opens a gift that they don’t like, or a gift gets pushed aside for something bigger and shinier. The gift giver is invariably upset.
  • I want the focus of the party to be on the fun. I remember nearly all of my childhood birthday parties and cakes, but not any of the gifts.

Mind you, it doesn’t always go smoothly. Last year, at his fifth birthday party, Isaac threw a 30-second tantrum when I reminded him that his friends didn’t bring presents, but as soon as I brought out the homemade old-school piñata, his disappointment evaporated. He gets a loot bag and candy from the piñata, so it isn’t like he ends the day empty-handed.

In a society that suffers from excess and over-consumption, having a no-gifts birthday party for our son isn’t something that I feel guilty about.

Do you have no-gift birthday parties for your children?