Q&A: Does “no gifts” really mean no gifts?

Danielle writes:

“Now that my daughter is 18 months old, shehas had the opportunity to attend birthday parties of other kids in her age
range.  One aspect of this that my husband and I are unsure of how to
handle is the gift.  All invitations we have received indicate something
along the lines of “no present please, just your presence,” or plainly put, “no
gifts please.”  However, when we show up at the party with no gift, we
always find a big pile of gifts and end up feeling very cheap.  So, the
next birthday we go to, we end up getting a gift, just so we don’t feel guilty
of committing some sort of faux pas.  But I wonder, is the “no gifts”
indication truly a wish – because like us, most people probably have more than
enough toys lying around, and don’t really want to write thank-you notes – or is
it just a polite saying meant to be ignored?”

This super-annoys me. If you write “no gifts, please,” it’s because you either a) don’t want gifts, or b) don’t want people to feel compelled to bring a gift just for the sake of bringing a gift.


The Golden Rule should apply to this situation as it does to all
others: Gift unto others as you want them to gift to you. So, for
example, if you found the perfect thing that reminded you of a child or
the parents, or something awesomely personalized, or something else
really thoughtful, then please give it! But, if the invitation said “no gifts, please,” the other people won’t be bringing gifts
and you don’t want to make them feel bad by being conspicuous. So don’t
bring it and leave it on a table. Instead, give it to the parents
quietly when you arrive, making sure they know that you understand the “no gifts” request but just couldn’t pass this up because it reminded you so much of their child.

On the other hand, those of us with kids older than age 3 have undoubtedly been the recipients of gifts
that were bought just to have something to give. And that’s annoying.
I’d rather just enjoy having a child at the party and see how happy my
child is with his presence than know that the parent ran out to buy
something that isn’t something my kid’s really going to like. Not only did it add some stress to the parent’s life to have to buy something, but my child probably won’t really enjoy it (or won’t enjoy it for long). If you
wouldn’t want it in your house (which rules out most bleepy toys,
Bratz, and anything that makes a noise when you sit on it), then don’t
give it to someone else.

If the invitation says “no gifts,
please,” then it’s absolutely correct not to bring one. And not to
apologize or feel bad about it! If you really feel like you should
bring something, bring a bottle of wine for the parents, maybe
with some jokey card about “wine for the whiney stage,” or something
like that. If they don’t drink, maybe the Ames & Ilg book for that
year, or a coupon for a kids-only playdate at your house so they can
have some free time.

At a certain point, most kids figure out that birthdays usually mean presents, so you can’t get away with a “no gifts” request. So take advantage of it while you can, and request “no gifts” if you don’t want them, and don’t bring one if someone else says “no gifts.” You can always contribute to the economy in other ways.

For those years when you’re going to have to go to lots of parties with gifts (once your kid hits elementary school), pick one present for the age, buy a dozen of them, and give them to every kid whose party your child goes to. Books are great for this, of course. Any other suggestions?

0 thoughts on “Q&A: Does “no gifts” really mean no gifts?”

  1. We’ve been invited to a couple bday parties for which we were requested to bring non-cash donations to a particular charity — dry goods for the local food pantry, a book for the hospital’s pediatric dept., children’s clothing for the women’s shelter, etc. This works as a middle ground for not bringing a gift, but not arriving empty-handed.Like several above, I’m a thank-you note fiend, too. I have written some for occasions for which the recipient didn’t get a single other note (dinner party). Appalling.

  2. What really chafes me would be to go to a “no gifts” party and see gifts DISPLAYED. That, I think, is the worst part of Danielle’s predicament.

  3. This riles me too, especially as I always seem to find myself on the wrong side of birthday party etiquette. Unless the parents truly are anti-consumerist, then I would always assume that the “no gifts” thing was just an attempt to appear modest or to bypass the inevitable embarrassing “And what would Junior like..?” questions.My total cop-out way of dealing with the situation? Conceal a small gift in my very large purse, ready to pull out with a flourish if – and only if – put on the spot. For example, if the birthday child comes bounding up to mine asking “where’s my present? where’s my present?”
    (And yes, this has happened to me. And the parents didn’t back me up).

  4. Just as an aside on thank-you notes…I understand completely that they are ideal, but in the spirit if giving another side to the story: we are terrible at thank-you notes, esp. baby ones. Honestly, we have the best intentions but life can be overwhelming. So many times here we talk about giving moms some slack–if what I have been capable is a bare minimum of care and hygiene for my family, thank-yous are not top of my priority list. Add to that cultural stuff–my parents are immigrants, and we never did thank-you notes growing up, it just wasn’t part of the culture-you say thank-you, or next time you speak mention the gift, but no more. So honestly, even though I have guilt about our terrible thank-you skills, it makes me sad for other people to be so vicious about it. To me, if you care enough to give sone a gift, you should care enough to give them the benefit of the doubt. I would rather get no gift (and don’t make birthday parties), then get a gift with strings attached.

  5. @JJ, I always assume that the gifts displayed when no gifts was specified is an ‘in-laws’ problem (I almost always see this happen when the grandparents are there, and seldom when it is a ‘kids party only’ – granted, kids party only tend to be gifts-welcome events, too). I’ve seen a few moms look a bit uncomfortable with the huge stack-o-gifts thing, whether gifts were welcome or not – but fighting with MIL over it (or one’s own mom) in front of guests is perhaps worse. So I tend to send the mom a ‘what can you do?’ shrug-smile, and carry on. And we talk about it with our kids on the drive home, too.Fortunately, in our area, the competition for ‘best gift’ is neatly squashed by the tendency to open in private, not public. That also makes thank-yous MANDATORY. It also removes the issues with kids comparing their friends’ gifts to doting grandma’s extravagences (at least for some families – there’s one family we knew who had money, and their extended family had money, and they had the kid open the huge stack of pricey merchandise from family along with the friends-from-school gifts, and there is no way that is going to feel comfortable for most of the kids. WHY? Why do this? Does grandma need to see the other kids faces full of envy for the things they’ll never afford? Does grandma need to see the other kids wistful hope that their friend will treasure the thing they could afford in comparison to the $200 sneakers and the stereo and the new game system and 20 new games to go with it? WTF? Okay, rant over. Phew. Give me the ‘open separately’ as if it was wedding gifts and Miss Manners was in attendance thing any day. Thank you notes with photos of the joyful child opening your gift are a nice touch, too. We get a lot of those, under these conditions.)

  6. My son is three, and up until now I have thought the whole “no gifts” thing was great and the way I would go.But at this point I am pretty much agreeing with pnuts mama, that it was a mistaken control impulse on my part. First, I don’t know which toys/books/supplies are going to light my son’s fire. Second, that is part of his relationship to other people – relatives, his friends, etc., and a part of his cultural experience. Including the unwanted gifts, the need to declutter… whatever.
    Anyways that’s my little rant.
    For the dilemma, I myself go to the no gift parties with a wrapped book in my purse. If it turns out to be one of these fake no-gift parties, then I whip it out. If it turns out to be genuine then I subtly give it to the parents afterwards and say I just had to share it (and it is always a good one :)) and that they can put it away for a sick day or give it whenever.
    For thank you notes… I hasten to point out that some of us were taught that if a gift is opened in front of the giver and the thank you is given in person, no note is required. So if someone’s out judging me, they should get out Peggy Post.

  7. @Anon, I’m natively terrible with thank-you’s, too. I value them, but especially when the PPD is raging, they fall off the list of priorities. I’ve had better luck with my kids being in charge of the TY’s, really. Or my mom. My mom realized that she totally failed to teach us the skills for thank-you notes (even though she MADE us do TYs), and so has been working more on the philosophical underpinnings with the grandkids, and the grandkids are much more facile with TYs than I am (or any of my sibs, for that matter). I still highly value doing them, and getting them, and can’t always do it myself – but I also have begged forgiveness, and recieved it, from other parents. For just exactly the reasons you state – sometimes you just have to cut the other parents some slack. And I while I value GETTING them, I also do not Anti-value not getting them. I’m not into being pissed off at the other parents (even for delayed RSVPs, I tend to just call everyone and let it go – it isn’t like I haven’t lost an invitation myself!). If my child wonders if the other child liked the gift (which is valuable information for level-setting for the child’s sense of gift-giving), they ask, or I ask. And I know that the answer is still likely to be more on the ‘we appreciate your thought and effort’ than the ‘that was perfect’ side. Who is going to say ‘oh, he hated it’, anyway?And on the MANDATORY TYs, with the separate opening of gifts thing – I’ve missed on even that one. (Hence the begging for forgiveness – BUT, I’ve also been able to remember what was given even if not by whom, and check in with the other parents, and can tell them how that toy is doing in circulation, because THAT part, I remember easily!) We work it out.

  8. Would it be terrible of me to say that I am thrilled that my daughter missed more than half of the birthday parties she was invited to this year? (She just turned four.)I always give books–and ironically I feel uncomfortable doing that when I know the child is into toys/princess stuff/whatever. When we are close friends with the child’s parents I ask, and they invariably say books over toys, so…
    My daughter’s birthday party was very small–I decided I could not handle her whole preschool class (as everyone else did), and from her 3 invited friends she got several books and a dress up outfit from her friend/neighbor (with whom she always dresses up). It was really perfect.
    But no gifts specified? I wouldn’t bring one. Or if you were close to the family maybe I’d consider making a donation to a nice charity that sends an acknowledgement in the child’s name, as kind of a non-gift-gift. We did that when the assistant rabbi of our synagogue had children–we were not close enough friends to send a real gift, but it’s kind of a community event and they are also neighbors.
    Our family also stopped going to an “open house” birthday event for a child we know. We had been good friends with the parents before they had a baby/moved away. We went to the first two, bringing gifts and adding them to a huge pile, but never received a thank you note. We almost never speak to this couple any more, but received an invite to the child’s 3rd birthday “open house” last fall. I flatly refused to go. Ironically, this family is very well to do–they both have very high paying jobs! It gives me the creeps.

  9. last question first- this time of year is great to stock up on nice consumable art supplies (i’m talking cr*yola, not the cheapy crayon alternatives that when you melt the nubs down to make new crayons in candy molds they are mostly clear) that are super cheap right now and give those away with big pads of paper and a homemade smock from etsy, etc.also, handmade toys, books etc from etsy or fair trade sites are awesome as well. i was taught it’s rude to go to someone’s party empty handed, so i like the bottle of wine or homemade treat idea. to be honest, in the nyc area most people are killing themselves to compete over who got the coolest/biggest/most expensive gift, so this really isn’t a problem. plus, when the kids are so little, it’s been nice to have other folks buy the ‘next developmental stage’ toys to keep them busy for 3.1 seconds. most people ask me ‘what is she into’ for guidance, anyway, and i’m happy to tell them.
    i think the ‘no gifts’ thing is a bit of a trap, and here’s why (bear with me, i’m sleep deprived and cranky)- in my life right now i know of only one couple who request ‘no gifts’ and mean it- and they mean it b/c they are seriously anti-consumers who are pro-social justice and pro-environment.
    the rest of folks who i know who say ‘no gifts’ are more like me- they’d rather not give up the control they have over deciding what kind of stuff their kids have/wear/play with. and i will admit that that is pretty obnoxious of me- to try and thwart the well- meaned intentions of my friends and family members who are kind and generous enough to want to give my children anything, for any reason. to tell someone ‘no gifts’ because i think their gift will be crappy (in my eyes) is just plain rude, and may end up backfiring. when the kid is that little, you take the stuff that was the wrong size/ugly/made noise/had questionable paint content and try and return/exchange it or give it away/donate it. we’ve all done it and it’s been done to us and i don’t see anything wrong with it. take the $ and get your kid something they need or would enjoy more. write a thank you and be done with it.
    if you’re saying ‘no gifts’ b/c you really don’t have the space for more crap (like my sister, who has 3 boys who have received everything from their giant family) then i’d suggest an alternative to the giver- savings bonds, or a few choices for activities that the kids can do through the year, like music or swim lessons, etc. or a worthy charity they can donate to in your child’s name. but if your family is anything like mine they will look at you like your nuts and get your kid that littlest pet shop crap anyway- so smile big, be gracious, teach your child to do the same, and be grateful that someone cares enough about you and your kid to give them something for their bday. cause by the time you get to be my age that list has gotten pretty short.
    oh, am i tired. sorry if this was mean. let’s discuss.

  10. you’re nuts- ARGH!! pet peeve!!also, like kate, i don’t compromise my values when i give a gift- if the kid is into dressing up like a princess i get her a tutu from etsy or something instead of a cpc one…

  11. We almost never get ‘no gifts’ invites. Those that are ‘no gifts’ are usually close friends, and we usually do the ‘slip them a gift that is right for the child’ (though that gets harder with books – if it was perfect for their child, odds are they already HAVE it!). I may go to the wine option, instead!We tend to consider gift-giving an educational opportunity for OUR child, as soon as they are at all able to think in terms of what the other child might like. As a result (I think), our kids tend to be pretty decent with the selections, and they don’t tend to be always ‘what *I* would want’ – G, for example, selected an adorable crystal bunny for the girl who has a crush on him (even though he does not have a crush on her, that I know of). But he thought seriously about what kinds of things she enjoys, what her style is, and then looked for what fit inside the budget (which is minimal). Not only has she thanked him for it several times, but she told *me* that she loved it, many months after the fact (okay, so it probably feeds the crush, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good social behavior anyway).
    the other thing we’ve been known to do on ‘no gift’ occasions is to take what we’d have spent on budget (if we feel comfortable with our budget – if times are really lean, this can still be skipped) and donate it, and give them a note saying that we have done so, and to whom. Again, we involve the child who was invited in the process of choosing.

  12. I’m a huge fan of art kits, target has a pretty wide selection in a range of ages, and yes, I do usually wind up giving the same gift to an entire class over the course of a year. also, I am really careful to always include a gift reciept, that way if they don’t want it, they can get something else, this is also true for baby gifts, which I get a target, so if they don’t want it they can get diapers or toilet paper.if I got an invite that said no gifts, I’d be thrilled, one less thing to deal with.
    kate, I have often been accused of being a control freak b/c I am super quick to send thank yous. but I really believe that not sending one is a huge slap in the face. at least partly it is to let the giver know the gift was recieved, what if it got stolen from that large pile? I would also not go to the party.

  13. With regard to what @pnuts mama said, could I just point out that it’s incredibly bad manners to start telling someone what you do or don’t want for a gift unless they specifically ask? Of course, you may well be thinking of the situation where they do specifically ask, but that wasn’t the situation brought up in the original query to Moxie, and, if it’s a case of what goes on the invitations, it’s completely out of line to start saying that you want people to get your child one thing rather than another. The reason for that is that, no matter how you phrase it, it inevitably carries at least some implication of “I am assuming people are going to get me something, and I consider myself to have the right to lay down terms as to what.” Both parts of that look greedy and demanding. (To some extent, this applies even to the ‘no gifts’ request, and that’s technically bad manners as well. The correct attitude is meant to be just not even to mention gifts at all until and unless someone else does, and then to act all pleased and surprised at the thought.)And, if a parent says no gifts, I’m not going to bring gifts. I’m not going to get myself tied in knots over second-guessing games as to whether they really meant it. And I’m most certainly not going to get all up in arms about the assumption that they’re only saying it because they don’t like my taste in gifts and then criticise them for their rudeness in holding this opinion that in fact for all I know they may not hold at all outside of my imagination.

  14. @Sarah V, I think that’s what pnuts mama said – that she started there, but then realized it was tacky and wrong and all about control and not about manners or social process or kindness or anything else, so she stopped. (that’s what I read, am I missing something?)Even asking for charitable donations is iffy. Miss Manners doesn’t like No Gifts statements, as I recall, because it should not be up to the host/ess to decide whether someone else feels moved to give, or not. It’s on the wrong side of the ‘me and thee’ line. Making it socially clear that one is the kind of person for whom your presence is gift enough is allowable (in ongoing conversation and getting-to-know one-another, in social commentary indicating that truly, it wasn’t necessary but we are grateful that you thought of us nonetheless, etc.). It can sound kind of 1950’s-ish, but it really is the process that functions in our culture. It is tacky to indicate even that one has THOUGHT about whether someone might bring a gift, though you can find in Miss Manners gentle ways of indicating that ‘suzie is excited about X charity’ rather than telling people where to put their money. I don’t mind that level of social grace at all. And I find it charming that G says and genuinely means ‘coming to my party is the best gift you could give – nothing more is at all expected or required’. He’s not socially crafty enough to fake that, and he knows too much about kids who don’t make it to the party, for any reason, and how he feels about missing their presence, to be faking it anyway. (One of the good reasons to not protect kids from their feelings, IMHO – his genuine sense of loss when a friend moved away attuned him to enjoying his friends whenever he can. This is not a bad thing – not that I’d set it up, but that when it happens, allowing it to be real and integrated into life is useful over the long run.)

  15. I don’t know how to tie my thoughts into a cohesive paragraph, so I’ll just bullet-point it:-If they say “no gifts,” you cannot possibly feel bad for not bringing one. And trust me, I’m a person who feels bad about a LOT of things.
    -I’m personally not going to ever specify “no gifts,” or make my kid have a “give to charity” policy, just because of the awkward situations it presents. Better to just get a bunch of toys from Target and return the ones we don’t want. I know that is wrong, I KNOW we have too much crap as it is while other people have nothing, but it’s just not worth the hassle. We’ll donate the old toys to charity.
    -Thank-you notes: pre-kid, I was a TY note champion. I sent them out for every possible gift-receiving occasion. Now, I don’t send any. I’m sorry, I’m a bad person.

  16. To me, “no gifts” on the invitation means no gifts. I don’t care why they put it there, it is not up to me to decode the “true” meaning. I have enough on my plate already without worrying about that. If other people bring gifts, I will make myself feel better by telling myself that THEY’RE the rude ones.When all the kids in my moms’ group turned one, we made a no-presents pact. This let us enjoy the parties without having to deal with presents every other weekend (because all the birthdays were in the space of two months), and let’s face it, does a 1-year-old have any clue whether they got gifts or not? I hope we can do this for two and maybe even three too, until the kids figure it out. We have many, many, many years of gift-buying ahead of us, so I will take any opportunity I can get to NOT have to spend that money.
    re: thank-you notes, I’m generally a stickler for them myself but I definitely cut other parents lots of slack in that department.

  17. Yikes… at first I thought this q was a simple, easy one, but now realize it has so many deep issues wrapped up in it.Pnuts Mama – I could have written the same thing. It is hard to really explain all the feelings behind the “no gifts pls” on invites or verbal… The only thing I have ever done was invite a few people over for dinner and at the last minute I brought out a cake and we sang happy bday. But that instead made them feel uncomfortable despite my earnest statements that I just wanted their company and really don’t need anything.
    In my life, I have tried hard to work on the issue of “say what you mean” in adult conversations and requests. (This is especially true having grown up in a home where a parent would insist help wasn’t needed but then got mad when help wasn’t offered.)
    When it comes to no gifts… I have wanted to write that on invitations but decided against it in the off chance that someone would find something next on developmental radar that wasn’t on my radar, which does happen. But when I get the beeping toy or other item I don’t want in our home, I do freecycle it or return if gift receipt provided. I have yet to receive a “no gift” invite but I do notice that I purchase on the lower price-point, (about $10), to keep within a budget and am working to not feel guilty about that. I don’t buy cheap things, usually art supplies or one, perhaps two good books with gift receipts, a large ball or two, or, my favorite, Wiki stix (like pipe cleaners but with waxy coating so can be used over-and-over, awesome for car trips). Some people go really over the top and I work hard not to internally compete.
    I have been mired in the day-to-day and forgotten thank you notes even though felt guilty about it. My son’s bday was early Spring but I just sent out general thank you for being so special in his life photo cards in hopes that it will send good feelings for the forgotten thanks cards, (plus I lost the list where I wrote down what each person gave… luckily it was quite a small party!)
    A related question I have is: if I am unable to attend a bday party of a child in my son’s class, am I still obligated to get a present? What if that child has a sibling that we will be able to go to the sibling’s party?
    Sorry for the long post…

  18. Yikes… at first I thought this q was a simple, easy one, but now realize it has so many deep issues wrapped up in it.Pnuts Mama – I could have written the same thing. It is hard to really explain all the feelings behind the “no gifts pls” on invites or verbal… The only thing I have ever done was invite a few people over for dinner and at the last minute I brought out a cake and we sang happy bday. But that instead made them feel uncomfortable despite my earnest statements that I just wanted their company and really don’t need anything.
    In my life, I have tried hard to work on the issue of “say what you mean” in adult conversations and requests. (This is especially true having grown up in a home where a parent would insist help wasn’t needed but then got mad when help wasn’t offered.)
    When it comes to no gifts… I have wanted to write that on invitations but decided against it in the off chance that someone would find something next on developmental radar that wasn’t on my radar, which does happen. But when I get the beeping toy or other item I don’t want in our home, I do freecycle it or return if gift receipt provided. I have yet to receive a “no gift” invite but I do notice that I purchase on the lower price-point, (about $10), to keep within a budget and am working to not feel guilty about that. I don’t buy cheap things, usually art supplies or one, perhaps two good books with gift receipts, a large ball or two, or, my favorite, Wiki stix (like pipe cleaners but with waxy coating so can be used over-and-over, awesome for car trips). Some people go really over the top and I work hard not to internally compete.
    I have been mired in the day-to-day and forgotten thank you notes even though felt guilty about it. My son’s bday was early Spring but I just sent out general thank you for being so special in his life photo cards in hopes that it will send good feelings for the forgotten thanks cards, (plus I lost the list where I wrote down what each person gave… luckily it was quite a small party!)
    A related question I have is: if I am unable to attend a bday party of a child in my son’s class, am I still obligated to get a present? What if that child has a sibling that we will be able to go to the sibling’s party?
    Sorry for the long post…

  19. Yikes… at first I thought this q was a simple, easy one, but now realize it has so many deep issues wrapped up in it.Pnuts Mama – I could have written the same thing. It is hard to really explain all the feelings behind the “no gifts pls” on invites or verbal… The only thing I have ever done was invite a few people over for dinner and at the last minute I brought out a cake and we sang happy bday. But that instead made them feel uncomfortable despite my earnest statements that I just wanted their company and really don’t need anything.
    In my life, I have tried hard to work on the issue of “say what you mean” in adult conversations and requests. (This is especially true having grown up in a home where a parent would insist help wasn’t needed but then got mad when help wasn’t offered.)
    When it comes to no gifts… I have wanted to write that on invitations but decided against it in the off chance that someone would find something next on developmental radar that wasn’t on my radar, which does happen. But when I get the beeping toy or other item I don’t want in our home, I do freecycle it or return if gift receipt provided. I have yet to receive a “no gift” invite but I do notice that I purchase on the lower price-point, (about $10), to keep within a budget and am working to not feel guilty about that. I don’t buy cheap things, usually art supplies or one, perhaps two good books with gift receipts, a large ball or two, or, my favorite, Wiki stix (like pipe cleaners but with waxy coating so can be used over-and-over, awesome for car trips). Some people go really over the top and I work hard not to internally compete.
    I have been mired in the day-to-day and forgotten thank you notes even though felt guilty about it. My son’s bday was early Spring but I just sent out general thank you for being so special in his life photo cards in hopes that it will send good feelings for the forgotten thanks cards, (plus I lost the list where I wrote down what each person gave… luckily it was quite a small party!)
    A related question I have is: if I am unable to attend a bday party of a child in my son’s class, am I still obligated to get a present? What if that child has a sibling that we will be able to go to the sibling’s party?
    Sorry for the long post…

  20. @&BabyMakes75, I don’t know if this is going to be a useful answer to your question of whether or not a gift is required if you can’t go to the party … but I’d say you kind of have to feel out the situation and decide on a case-by-case basis. If it’s a close friend of yours, you probably should still get a gift. If it’s just a random obligatory invite (the “you have to invite the whole class” thing), I don’t think anybody would expect a non-attendee to provide a gift. RE: the sibling’s birthday party, I would think you’re only obligated to provide for both if they’re very close together or your kid is better friends with the kid whose party you couldn’t go to.I usually give a (cheaper) gift for weddings I can’t go to. Sometimes I send one for showers I can’t go to, but not if I get the impression that I was only invited so the person could get another gift. Yeah, I’m talking about you, out-of-state college friend of my husband’s who we haven’t heard from in 5 years and sent the invite 2 days before the RSVP deadline.
    Do men worry about these things?

  21. I have specified “no gifts” for birthdays. And I meant it. Those who arrived with gifts raised my ire and those who didn’t earned my appreciation. I know how I feel when I say “no gifts” and I have to assume that others who say it feel the same way.My two cents.

  22. @Hedra… you *must* have been at the baby shower I went to 2 months ago. My poor preggo friend opened *AT LEAST* 20 presents from her MIL. The girl who was recording gifts had 2 pages front and back of what MIL gave my friend– and this was not the first grandchild. The present opening took an hour and a half because of MIL. My best friend and I were floored at the ridiculous display (and then felt bad because we went in on a $50 gift together, but hey, we’re broke and have our own kids to support)DD, 2, was invited to a sibling combo party a few weeks ago and I let her pick out the younger sister’s present. DH was having too much fun looking at boy toys (“Look! Nothing on this aisle is pink!”) that I couldn’t take that joy from him! But we don’t really know the younger sister,so we went with a little stuffed animal under $5.

  23. My baby’s not yet 1 year, so I haven’t had time to process many of the things you all have thought about gifts. But kid (or toddler) parties with tons of gifts tend to get me down b/c it just seems so extravagant and stuff-focused, especially when all of them are opened in front of everyone (that can get quite boring too!). If you invite a fair number of people to the party and they all bring gifts, then it seems your kid could end up expecting big piles of presents on every birthday. I guess I just want my child to be happy with less. A special, simple party, with less focus on the things.I don’t know how to make that happen without offending people – if “no gifts please” offends people, and I can see how it would if you read it as “I don’t want your crappy gift”!

  24. When I was growing up I went to 30 kids b-days a year. I had 30 kids in my class and you brought a gift to each. This was not an option… a gift was required.. We were not a rich family so I can only imagine the pressure this put on my parents. To me this is a very old fashioned way of thinking. I would like to think we were out of the stone age ( or the 70’s) and were much more sensative to peoples situations. Stating no gifts on an invite, to me, is not rude at all. I think its great that nowadays we can openely talk about things that seemed taboo before. I have no shame in saying ” Hey!! I aint rich and I cant afford to buy your kid a pony so I dont expect you to buy my kid a pony. As for the TY cards. I feel most of the time when I receive them that they are forced, so I dont feel bad when I dont get one. I just like giving the gifts.. I dont give the gifts to get a card and I dont feel bad if the busy parents dont have the time to send them. Heck…let them sleep in…for once and not spend 3 hours writting cards

  25. Anon, I totally could have written your comment! I do think it’s cultural. I’m from a what’s-a-thank-you-note? culture. (Make that also an email-the-wedding-invite culture.) So to me, calling someone up to thank them or mentioning it next time I see them is a lot more personal and polite than sending a note, and it took me a while to figure out that in American culture it is super impolite not to send one. I try, but it doesn’t always happen.Actually, this ties in to gift-giving too. I don’t know to say exactly why, but “no gifts please” always hits me as kind of…ungrateful and snobbish. Even though I know it’s truly meant to be just the opposite. I think it’s because in my background, we give gifts for life cycle-type events and not for holidays. I would LOVE a no-gifts winter holidays policy, but the birthday/wedding/etc. no-gifts thing makes me cringe. Makes no sense, huh?

  26. I think next year birthday gifts will be opened in private after the party. Good call. It wasted an hour of a 3-hour party when kids could have been running around playing and adults could have been drinking. When people arrive, I will just shuttle the gifts that come upstairs. The End. (And I am sure my in-laws will demand to know why they didn’t see the opening.)

  27. Don’t have time to read all posts now but…I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying this but the whole culture of gift-giving and thank you cards is a little wanky if you ask me. It seems that it is a concern that women agonize about and *most* men could care less about. This is important to consider. I think its another thing that we as women hold ourselves and other women to impossible standards. I feel that I give a gift because I want to and a thank you is a nice gesture but I certainly don’t need my friends and family to stress over when/how to get a thank you card to me. They rarely say anything personal and doesn’t make me feel any more appreciated than I did already. Seriously, isn’t giving a gift simply about making someone else happy and not about whether your properly noticed for the gift?
    I participate in this ritual that I abhor but I will bring notice to what I found on about.com regarding thank you’s from birthday parties since we’re all attending/having a lot of them with our children…
    “Thank you notes are not required in the following situations, but would still be a nice gesture: For birthday gifts that were received and opened in person, and you already thanked the giver personally.”
    I’ll get off the soapbox now. I also promise to teach my son how to send thank you cards:)

  28. I like an idea of a book party that I read about once. On the invite you ask everyone to bring one book (wrapped). They go into a big pile, everyone gets to choose one (maybe via a game?), open it, and take it home. The b-day person gets one gift, kids get to choose, wrap, and give a gift, and there’s not a lot of unwanted toys.Frankly, if an invite says “no gifts” then I’m not bring a gift and I’m not feeling bad about it. I’m not into any passive-aggressive crap. Say what you mean.

  29. My thought about TY notes: I don’t send them (on behalf of myself or my kids) when the gift is given in a small, face-to-face situation, when the giver is thanked immediately or with a phone call (in the case of out of state family). But for a larger event (wedding, new baby event, big bday party, etc.) a TY note acknowledges not only that the gift was received but that your presence was noted among the hordes.Sending TY notes on my daughter’s behalf to her friends was really to her friends’ parents, to let them know that a) the gifts were received and b) that everyone appreciated the thoughtfulness–clearly at age 4 the gift buying process is mostly in the hands of the parents (certainly financially so), who were not at the party. This is why I like getting them in kind.
    Getting TY notes is just nice. I didn’t understand it when I was a kid, but I do now. I’m not going to break up with you over it, but I appreciate the effort. Warm fuzzies. Who doesn’t like getting mail that isn’t bills or junk?!
    Oh, and the guilt! For my daughter’s 3rd bday party we collected books to donate to a specific charity (in lieu of gifts). My contact there kind of disappeared, so now I have a box of brand new books, about 20 of them, appropriate for all ages of kids (board books through chapter novels), that I need to donate somewhere. If anyone has an idea of a shelter or worthy organization in Manhattan/Bronx/Bergen County (NJ), please email me at onetiredema at gmail. 🙂

  30. We said “no gifts” for my daughters first birthday for a few reasons and we really meant it. Several people brought gifts anyway, and I did my best to hide them in a corner and I stuffed the cards in my purse.Reason #1 – Her birthday is a month after christmas and we didn’t need another onslaught of clothes and toys so soon. And frankly, I’d like to teach my daughter that she doesn’t need a lot of stuff because no one taught me that when I was growing up.
    Reason #2 – I didn’t want to make everyone watch her open gifts. It was a slow and painful process at that time(she couldn’t have cared less) and my MIL tends to go totally overboard, which was awkward enough at my baby shower. We only had two hours at the party and I wanted us to spend it in a way that was enjoyable for everyone, including the toddlers.
    Reason #3 – I wanted to celebrate our survival of the first year with DD and wanted to invite LOTS of people – family and friends. And it felt incredibly greedy and inappropriate to “ask” them all for gifts. I wanted them to be there because they are a part of our life and not because we wanted presents from them.
    Birthday #2 feels like it’s going to be more complicated. DD now has “friends” at daycare, plus the children of my friends. So I have no idea at what point we do a family party and a separate friends party? Or do we just do a family party until she is old enough to ask for a friends party?
    Ugh.
    But either way, I will keep saying “no gifts please” for as long as I can get away with it. 🙂

  31. I never did the “no gifts” when my older kids were younger… I was eager to get toys so we didn’t have to buy them. Fast-forward to #3 and I’d happily give gifts away at a party rather than receive them! For #3’s first birthday party I asked people to bring books to donate to the Pi Phi library at TX Children’s Hospital. This way people could arrive with something in hand (if they wanted) but that something didn’t have to stay in my “brimming with toys” house. Grandparents did give gifts, which is fine, but I didn’t have to deal with lots of 1 yr old toys that he wasn’t going to play with anyway b/c he’d much prefer to play with big brother’s hot wheels or big sister’s plastic animals.Here’s a suggestion for the “no gifts” parties. Buy a gift card to a book store and keep it with you… if you arrive to the party and there are truly no gifts you can hang on to it. But it there’s a table piled high, you can add the card.

  32. After the nightmare of having a cranky 1-year-old “open” gifts at his first birthday, I am going to embrace the idea of opening gifts later for a while. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me at the time!I too am trying to give gifts that the recipient will enjoy but that don’t run counter to my personal values – right now, it’s usually books. As LG’s cohort gets older, we will definitely turn to Etsy and the science store!

  33. Oooo, I have to add to the “Thank You” discussion. I am absolutely TERRIBLE about them. Part of the problem is that trying to get the kids to fill in the thank you cards tries my patience. The 8 yr old did a great job of it this year and whipped through them, so no problem. But the 6 yr old is tortured by them, thus we’ve only gotten through about half of them. I understand that it’s thoughtful and important… but can’t we all cut them a little slack? The same goes for my writing out the 1 yr old’s thank you’s… would an email with a picture of him enjoying the gift suffice? It’s just one more thing on my already L.O.N.G. list of things to get done.Really, I appreciate the importance of teaching the kids to be grateful and or showing gratefulness myself… but could I get a pass on actually writing the damn things until life slows down????

  34. After the nightmare of having a cranky 1-year-old “open” gifts at his first birthday, I am going to embrace the idea of opening gifts later for a while. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me at the time!I too am trying to give gifts that the recipient will enjoy but that don’t run counter to my personal values – right now, it’s usually books. As LG’s cohort gets older, we will definitely turn to Etsy and the science store!

  35. @sarah v- ITA, it is poor manners to ask for something specific on the invite, i meant when the person calls to rsvp and asks specifically ‘what would you like for ___”- in the same vein is what informs my opinion on asking for *nothing*- it assumes the person would have brought one, where it should have been left up to the guest to decide either way. i think we’re on the same page.@ hedra, sarcasticarrie, shannon et al- we didn’t open gifts for pnuts 1st- that didn’t fly w/ some family members who decided to stay until we did. ugh- i mean, she was a baby, what did she know? so for 2nd bday we opened gifts in front of the group. double ugh- we have a big family so even one gift each took forever, and so much was clothes, and really, it’s boring for the attendees. so this year we decided she could open the gifts after or the next day (more fun for her, right?)- except that people stayed.and stayed. and stayed- and were asking me when she was opening gifts (and we do late afternoon parties, so this was getting ridiculous) and when i said we weren’t, some smart asses decided to go to pnut and tell her to ask mama to open her gifts. RIGHT. so of course, we sat around and opened her gifts. good times.
    i love giving gifts that i know the person will love/use/enjoy. if i can’t figure out what that should be, i ask.
    i’m with all of you that used to write TY’s like a champ and now have fallen into the pit of suckitude on that front. i know it’s rude and i hate that. perhaps you just write TY’s to those who will hold it against you? (older aunts, etc.?)

  36. I always bring a card, usually one my kids make. Then, if I am worried about it or I particularly want to (about 99% of the time) I put a small gift card to a bookstore in there. My kids love getting gift cards and shopping at the bookstore with them, and this way the parent can get a book (hard to argue with that) or just reuse or even donate the gift card/book if they want.

  37. @pnuts mama, can I just say how much I love the phrase “pit of suckitude”?Oh, and none of you works with me. I am not on here commenting during this conference call.

  38. @pnuts mama, UGH on the relatives! Whose house is this? Who do you think you are that you think you get to choose the course of the party? Thanks for trying to make me into the bad guy; sweetie, your aunt is trying to make us feel guilty because she wants to show off what she bought and cannot manage her own emotions when it comes to materialism. THBBBBT.Okay, so I wouldn’t really say that, but boy would I be thinking it. I’d instead say, Silly auntie, she doesn’t know that we plan to open things later, when you can enjoy each item without a lot of other people making noise.
    Sorry, I’m the mommy. I get really angry when people try to take over control of my child or emotionally manipulate them. How about ‘we don’t encourage emotional manipulation in our house’ as an answer?
    I’m glad that the delayed opening was already well-entrenched in our little subculture around here, so that it wasn’t even a question. In fact, the first time I encountered it, I was stunned. Not negatively, but in the ‘D’OH! What a great idea!’ way. It just felt classy to me, especially since the income range at school was substantial, and this prevented the whole ‘oh, Johnny’s present is cheaper than Mark’s present’ thing amongst the peers (or even just within one child’s mind for themselves – envy of what others can afford to give hurts, too). It was a way to level the playing field socially, which I thought was great.
    Anyway, keep putting the parental foot down, they might eventually hear the thud when it happens… (It takes about 10 years, IME, before they start hearing the echo and look up with a puzzled expression. Huh? What do you mean, you’re the mom? Really? Oh.)

  39. @Kate – you could offer up the books on freecycle stating in your post that you only want to give to nonprofits. Or, your local school or hospital could use them. (Even if your school is well-off financially, odds are most of the classroom books are bought by the teacher… donating to child’s school c/o a teacher with whom you have a connection who can dole out the ones for other ages could be good.)

  40. @Kate – you could offer up the books on freecycle stating in your post that you only want to give to nonprofits. Or, your local school or hospital could use them. (Even if your school is well-off financially, odds are most of the classroom books are bought by the teacher… donating to child’s school c/o a teacher with whom you have a connection who can dole out the ones for other ages could be good.)

  41. @Kate – you could offer up the books on freecycle stating in your post that you only want to give to nonprofits. Or, your local school or hospital could use them. (Even if your school is well-off financially, odds are most of the classroom books are bought by the teacher… donating to child’s school c/o a teacher with whom you have a connection who can dole out the ones for other ages could be good.)

  42. AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGG!!!!! YOUR POSTS ARE DRIVING ME NUTS!!! Actually its whateveryone is experiencing that I am getting crazy about. I have experienced most of it and my kids are only 4.5 months and 22 months old. MY GOLLY!! Now I understand what the baby on board signs for the car means, Irt means that there is a crazy mom driving and if one more insane thing happens to her she could go NUTS!!! When I am an white-haired old lady I will finally say what I mean to people ie I am saying thank you now, so dont expect a card… HEY I SAID NO GIFTS!!! as well as… HEY YOU SAID NO GIFTS.. hide that pony that someone brought!!!

  43. Oh, I have so been to the party where the invitation was formally printed and said “no gifts please” and then there was a huge table of gifts and they had the child open them in front of everyone…and asked if we had brought anything. Awkward…since that incident, whenever I get a “no gifts” invitation I try to find somebody who knows the family better than we do, or who has been part of the community longer, and ask them what the local connotation of “no gifts” is.Luckily, the custom in our current main party community (centered around Mouse’s preschool) is to mean what you say, and if you have gifts, open them later. I really like that–more time for partying–but you do have to do TY notes. I gotta admit, I feel a little twinge of resentment towards the supermoms who have them on the cubbies Monday morning after a Sunday party, but we managed within a week this year. I’m having Mouse do more as she gets more capable–this year, she picked the stationery, dictated what she wanted to say and signed her name. Since she really enjoys getting the notes from her friends about the gifts she chooses (we almost always do books, and I always have her help pick), it’s been fairly easy to motivate her to do them with me.
    We’ve been lucky in the obnoxious gift department–when we had 21 kids for this year’s bday party I thought for sure we were in for some stuff that would push our comfort level, but every single gift was something reasonable and clearly carefully chosen. I was touched, and very glad I hadn’t said “no gifts” (which I had considered, cuz Mouse does not lack for stuff). We would have missed the blessing of seeing our friends’ care in the process and of talking about that with Mouse. I’m sure someday we’ll encounter “gift that you don’t like but need to thank the giver for because of their kind intentions” and “gift that you love but that drives your parents crazy” and those will be interesting lessons.

  44. With regard to being bad at thank yous, I’m terribly ashamed to admit that I still have a box in my basement, filled with a list and cards I recieved, notes which are half filled out and addressed, and stamps; from my wedding which was 10 years ago this Sept. Would it be bad form to finish them and send them out for our anniversary?

  45. @pnuts mama: I really like your comment! I agree that for most of us, myself included, the impulse to say “no gifts” is a control issue, and rude in its own way. I’ve never thought of it that way before, but you’re spot-on.My father and stepmother came to visit for my son’s first birthday. They went on a shopping spree. And it horrified me, somewhat. I didn’t want too much STUFF, I don’t like loud and blinky and plastic, etc. etc. But you know what? My kid adores the plastic blinky crap his grandparents got for him. It’s not what I’d buy, but it was given with nothing but love and the best intentions. And his grandparents get so much joy when they watch him play with these toys. Part of me had really wanted to put my foot down on the gifts during that visit, but I’m so glad I didn’t.
    That said, when I see an invitation that says “no gifts…” I bring no gift. End of story. The motivation behind it is really no concern of mine, and I don’t go looking for hidden messages. If these people are opening their home to me, I am going to do them the courtesy of believing what they say.

  46. This thread is why we have family-only birthday parties. We have too many presents just from 3 sets of grandparents, 2 aunts and 1 uncle (none of whom live local to us, though occasionally a set of gps is visiting for a birthday.) I can’t imagine having 20 gifts from friends in the mix. Casper’s 5th is coming up, and I am going to try to keep to the family idea; for 4, while she certainly attended many parties, she didn’t bring up the idea of having one.When we go to birthday parties, we give books. Unless the invite says “no gifts,” which it never does.

  47. -JOY- About the 10 year old TY cards you didnt send. I didnt send mine for my first marriage and now I am divorced…For my second marriage I sent the cards the next day…. I am just saying….. 🙂

  48. My son is 2.5 and we’ve had ‘no gifts’ parties so far, and really meant it, but it sounds as if the future will bring more challenges.We’re trying to move away from consumerism. Many of our friends don’t have kids, and it seems totally unfair for them to have to find gifts annually. Our parties are always pot-luck too, so people are bringing something anyway.
    A few friends did bring gifts, and I have to say, that it was nice to get some extra toys. I tried to put them out of sight, and then we did end up opening them because these closest friends stayed longest, so I hope it didn’t make anyone else feel awkward.
    Our friends with kids have said ‘no gifts’ and we haven’t taken any, though other friends have, and if there’s been family there, then they usually have brought gifts.
    My husband’s family is extremely dysfunctional and they use gifts as emotional blackmail, so that has been another reason that we have cut back. Going slightly off-topic, my mother-in-law sends insane quantities for Christmas and birthdays, and we have finally found a way of dealing with it. My husband and I open them all up in advance, decide on the ones we’re going to keep, which we re-wrap, and the we donate the others to charity. Phew! Major emotional issue around holidays dealt with. (Obviously, my mother-in-law never comes to stay.)

  49. JOY – I would LOVE to get a thank you note 10 years later with an update on the gift (we use it every day) or a funny note about how time flies and WOW this stamp isn’t nearly enough money to mail these cards now. It would be really funny. I wouldn’t mind getting that at all.

  50. ive been thinking about this a lot becasue when my daughter turns 1, i really want to have a fun party with all our friends and her *friends* from daycare. she has terrible food allergies and ive been on a narly diet and will wean at one year- so its a really big moment for me to be able to eat normal food again. and lets be honet- i want to toast the fact that the bebe survived her rooky parents!BUT- i dont want people to feel compelled to bring presents. we dont want them, i dont want them doing it, etc. SO- we are setting up a birthday fund at one of our favorite charities and linking to it from our evite. this way, if people feel compelled to give something, it wont be some plastic crap toy that we need to donate or regift. and i hope it will start teaching the bugaboo- once she gets it- that philanthropy is a way of life and when youve got a dollar, look to give away part of it to something you beleive in.

  51. Is it wrong to admit that I love getting gifts (for the kiddo and for myself, hehe)? I just don’t buy enough clothes in the next size and I never know what the next developmental toys should be, so I really appreciate the gifts from those who know or are thinking about it.But if an invitation says “no gifts” I will not bring gifts. This year, my SIL did not have a party for the 2-y-o twins and said not to get them anything, but an online friend makes the cutest shirts that I thought would be perfect for the twins, so I did get them, and she understood that I really just wanted to. But if there was a party, I wouldn’t not bring it there. In my world, you should say what you mean. Period.
    TY notes – Let me say what I mean here. I can’t stand doing them and don’t really care if I get them. It’s nice and thoughtful and blah blah blah. I rarely do them, because frankly I forget and get too busy (I did do almost all the wedding and most of the baby showers TY notes). And I’d rather people (myself included) spend the time on better things. Tell me thank you when you see me, shoot me an email if you think of it, put the outfit on the kid if I’m going to see you… those are the things I appreciate. If I’m buying a gift for someone, it’s just that. A gift. From me to you, no strings attached. If I get a thank you, I’m always surprised. I was born and raised in the US, my mom always told us to do them, but I still just see them as something extra that I just don’t get around to.
    I’m sorry if that sounds rude, but that’s just how I really feel about them. In general, I think I’m a thoughtful and grateful person. I just don’t like feeling required to do something extra that takes up time and energy better spent enjoying the gift or calling to chat with the person.

  52. @Amy Exactly why I’m against thank you cards. Well, “against” is a strong word. You can’t really be against something that isn’t global warming or genocide, but you get the idea.I’m with some other posters on the no gift thing. Its done with the best of intentions so take it that way. If you’re made to feel awkward, its the host’s fault… they’re a jackass so don’t go to the next party:) (easier said than done when its your kid’s best friend right?!)
    I personally like when people get my kid a gift since he’s a first born and we don’t have much (I think someone else mentioned that too). I could count on one hand the things I’ve actually purchased for him (other than books)but we have a ton of stuff–at least I think so… I’m always amazed at the amount of crap my friends have for their kids. One friend looks like she runs her own home daycare… she doesn’t, btw.
    While we’re on the subject of annoying card obligating shit… seriously, who feels like an asshole every time a holiday card comes in the mail and you remember that you haven’t done that yet? There’s the obvious December ones but seriously, thanksgiving cards?! Easter cards! Are you freakin’ kidding me! Who the hell has time for that!?! They obviously aren’t nursing a 17-month-old all night long.

  53. the only time i personally feel upset about not-sent thank yous is when i’ve mailed (or emailed, i’ve done itunes gift certs that way) gifts. and i’d be as happy with an email or phone call instead of a mailed note, just so i know the recipient received! i sent my little sister an email gift cert last year that still hasn’t been acknowledged – which makes me really leery of trying that again.to me, ‘no gifts’ would mean no gifts, but i like the gift-card-in-the-pocketbook idea.

  54. ~anon, tamarI too come from a culture of no TY notes because thank you’d were always said in person the minute the gift was given and received. Later on when the gift was opened if it was something I genuinely likedthe next time I saw/ spoke to the person I would say how much I liked it etc because that is what I was taught.
    However I have now begun doing TY notes because I like sending them. I like receiving them too but I don’t get angry or upset if I don’t get one. I do think it is important to acknowledge the gift whether it is verbally with a perfunctory thankyou or by sending a card because that is just good manners.
    As for gift giving I agree that no gift means no gift and if you show up where there are gifts don’t feel badly. If it is a fauxpas in the eyes of the inviters that you came without a gift the way I see it as you’re better off without them. It is not up to us to question and figure out what the motivation is.
    Also, I personally think that unless a person asks what to get as a gift stating what to give as a gift or in lieu of a gift is tacky. And as for charity donations in the name of someone those should only be done for people who will appreciate such a gesture. A gift should be about the recipient more than the giver.x

  55. The only non-December holiday cards we get are from the grandmothers (and one single guy who every few years sends out a newsletter and Chinese New Year card in lieu of a Christmas card).I figure grandmothers like to do that sort of thing, so I never feel bad about that. Oh, and my sister sends out seasonal photo cards of her kid, but I assume that is about sending pictures of her kid to family she doesn’t see very often and not about exchanging cards.

  56. Every year we say, “No presents, only your presence,” and we MEAN it. It’s not about controlling the types of toys or whatever; we simply do not want more toys. Who really needs all those toys? And summer birthdays are a-plenty such that we can’t really buy a gift for every single birthday party, and I’m sure other parents are faced with that dilemma. I mean, 20 parties…phew.I think the best way to put it on the invitation is to say something about giving to a charity instead.

  57. Just this year I got invited to my first “no gifts necessary, we have everything” party. I thought and thought about whether we should bring something because I had the idea that you can’t go to a kid’s birthday party without a present. Well, I decided to not bring anything, just a card.When we arrived people were walking in the house with presents and there was a huge pile in the living room. I snuck my card in the pile, but felt bad that we didn’t bring anything when everyone else did.
    I loved the idea of a “no gifts” party so we had a tiny one for my daughter’s first birthday. No one brought anything except the grandmothers. I knew they wouldn’t listen. I was glad and didn’t feel bad at all that people didn’t bring stuff. I said no gifts. Someone who did attend saw the two presents from the grandmothers and said “Awww, I wanted to bring something but you said no gifts.” Maybe next time I’ll put the Grandma gifts in the back of the house.

  58. I always promise myself I’ll just lurk and not comment, because I feel like such a goober when I do comment. But I just wanted to be a little voice on the side of thank-you notes. I always like writing them, though to be fair, in these days of email, I miss writing and getting actual letters, too. I mean, I like taking the time to remember what came our way, and finding something nice to say, and getting to thank the person for both their thought and effort and success, even if I have to exaggerate about the success. I might just be being a sap, but a aunt of mine just passed away, and I wish I’d saved a letter or two of hers from when I was a kid, she had such beautiful handwriting, and much as I treasure our phone calls and kept our emails, I wish I had some of her handwriting to actually look at again. Okay, that last sentence was OT, but I do like the idea of thank-you notes, the connections that can underlie them. Though I do see that if it feels like just another hoop to jump through, it would suck.I hope I’m not goobing out the conversation, as it were. As ever, it is a pleasure to read about the real world as I drift along in the SAHM summer bubble here in front of the computer. Thanks.

  59. Last weekend, we went to a birthday party for a 2-year-old. The invite read, “In lieu of gifts, please bring a used book for a toddler gift exchange in celebration of D’s birthday.” It was fun to choose a book from what seems like our millions to take to the party. And, my son brought home a gift (book) and still refers to it as “D’s-party-book.”So, the birthday boy’s parents didn’t go home with lots of (unwanted) gifts, didn’t have to provide goody bags, didn’t have to do thank-yous, and we didn’t have to shop.
    But now, alas, my son thinks that he should get a gift at every party! Ugh.

  60. Just a thought, what about, if you are unsure whether or not to bring a gift…when you call to RSVP offer to bring a dish, cookies, anything they might need. That way you are not empty-handed. Simple and its a very nice thought.

  61. @Professor mama, I LOOOOVE the toddler gift exchange idea, but I can also see the potential issue of expectations in kids too young to really understand… Still I might consider that for later years.@Joy, I think the 10 year old thank you note would be hilarious, but only worth doing if you want to. At this point, anyone who is offended is either still mad or has gotten over it. Personally, I don’t care whether I get thank you notes or not. My feeling on that is that life is too short to get worked up about it. I do like an email when I send a gift via mail, just so that I know it arrived, but if I don’t get one, I soon forget about that, too.
    I do send thank you notes, though, but only for “big” occasions. I.e., not things that happen every year. I’m not sure what the policy will be for Pumpkin. We’ll deal with that when we get there, I guess.

  62. I agree with some of the pp’s who say that presence of gifts at a clearly “no-gifts” communicated party are from family members who think “Oh, that doesn’t apply to ME……” which I can understand (somewhat) from a grandparents’ perspective, but I do think it’s tacky to display the gifts for all the guests who followed the directive to see and then feel bad about their lack of a gift.As for TY notes, I have an aversion b/c my abusive and horrid stepmother would make SUCH A HUGE FREAKING DEAL about them. I send them when it’s socially appropriate, but most of my close friends long ago made a “no thank you note pact”, and remind each other of the pact in the cards that accompany our gifts (as in “remember, no ty note needed). As busy moms, it’s just one more thing to remember to do during naptime or after bedtime. I do have to say though, that if you are going to send one….PLEASE do one in writing, sent through the US mail. I think emails that are “thank you’s” are pretty tacky. And lazy. And my motto is: If you’re going to be lazy, COMMIT to The Lazy. It’s a sin to do lazy half-ass.

  63. And I still have 3 boxes of holiday cards with the family photo on the front that I never mailed out to anyone. Oops. That was $60 well spent, huh? I’m thinking of re-using them by cutting off the holiday greeting half of it and using the photograph and making a homemade post card.But still. I have to get my shit together one of these days….it’s no wonder we don’t have any money.

  64. I’m sorry I didn’t have time to read all the comments, but I absolutely agree with what Moxie said and here’s my take on it…I try to have books and balls (gertie balls, in particular, because they are easy to store) on hand to give as gifts. For kids we know really well, I try to go out and get something specific to that person’s taste. I like giving gifts because I want my kids to understand giving (as well as getting, which they understand just fine).
    On thank you notes, I am completely crap at them and I feel bad about it. Nothing more to say there.

  65. Interesting reading all of the comments. We live in SF and most of the folks we know have incredibly small houses, so the battle of “too much stuff” (esp. crap) is shared.We have been invited to a slew of 4yo parties, and about half have said “no gifts”. one said “no gift required” which still leaves the door ajar….
    The nice thing is there is NO GIFT OPENING spectacle, the parties are all about play (and cake). I really think the opening gifts in private is a good thing for parties.
    Last year we did the “bring a book” gift exchange and it worked ok. We are planning on doing it again this year and hope it will be an acceptable substitute to either gifts or no gifts.

  66. @eta — I agree with you on the TY note front. I send them and I appreciate getting them. I’ve never had much of a problem NOT getting them — pretty much everyone I might exchange a gift with sends them predictably. I would notice if I didn’t get one, but not write that person off permanently, certainly.Also, don’t shortchange your SAHM summer bubble! That’s the ‘real world,’ too! You are not a goob (at least not for posting here!).

  67. I’m going to echo what a lot of people have already said about thank you notes-I’m horrible about sending them. I never expect them and though I may try to send them out, I’m not going to stress myself out feeling like a bad person for not getting them out in time…or ever. I will give my thanks in my own way.And the “no gifts” party should seriously mean “no gifts” and the stories of people expecting gifts at a “no gifts” party is incredibly tacky.

  68. I have put “no gifts please–just your company to help us celebrate!” on two different invitations (for my son’s third and fourth birthdays). And guess what? Not a SINGLE person listened. My son has many friends through a very active MOMS Club, so we invited them to a fairly inexpensive get-together, where he just truly wanted to hang out and play. But everyone brought a gift. Even though I had confided in many of the moms at different times that I was ill with the thought of how many toys my kids had. (We have a family that seems to think material goods replace time spent with kids…I’m not kidding–my mother showed up at a restaurant for a birthday dinner for my son with a BLACK GARBAGE BAG of gifts.) It bums me out to think that those toys could be going to other kids who need them, but I know some of these people would be offended if we gave them away. I do agree with Moxie about that one gift that just “speaks” to the child. Or, I also like the idea about providing a certificate for a special outing with just your child and the birthday child–something meaningful, personal, and non-material. It’s still a gift, but less conspicuous.

  69. I have teenagers and have given dozens of birthday parties. I have a different perspective than most of what I have read so far here.First, when attending a party for your child your guests are never obligated to bring a gift. Yes, for some types of parties it is common. But putting any reference (request, hint, etc) at all about an expected gift into an invitation implies that you are expecting something. As a host you are not supposed to be thinking about getting stuff from your guests.
    The idea of a party is to create a lovely event for friends to gather and enjoy your hospitality. (Yes, I know you knew this already) The unwritten expectation actually is that I will reciprocate by inviting you to my home to enjoy my hospitality, giving me the opportunity to show you my appreciation for your friendship.
    No instructions about presents, even negative instructions, belong on an invitation. I don’t know how most of you managed to miss this.
    Second, your child’s birthday is not a fundraiser. If it is, call it what it is and quit pretending this is a kid’s party. Again, no instructions on gifts, please.

  70. a book donation possibility:ProjectNightNight.org collects books, blankets, and stuffed animals for the children who accompany women to domestic abuse shelters and homeless shelters. If there is no contact person near you, books can be mailed Media Mail, which is cheaper, and the donation is tax deductible in the US. It’s also a really great charity.

  71. I specifically wrote “no presents please” on the invitations to my daughter’s birthday party. And I meant it and everyone ignored it, much to my annoyance. The reason I wrote it is because my daughter didn’t need or want anything, period.When I receive an invitation with “no presents please” on it, I do not bring a present. If the party-thrower is trying to be modest or polite or whatever, and actually does want/expect a present, then too bad!

  72. “First, when attending a party for your child your guests are never obligated to bring a gift. Yes, for some types of parties it is common. But putting any reference (request, hint, etc) at all about an expected gift into an invitation implies that you are expecting something. As a host you are not supposed to be thinking about getting stuff from your guests.”When I invite someone to an event, I don’t expect something from them but I do expect that they will think something is expected of them. Because, in my neck of the woods, you are considered rude if you don’t bring a gift. This crazy etiquette is so circular. I see nothing wrong with calling it out. By saying “no gifts” on an invite, I think you are basically sending the message that your party is a “no bullshit” zone. “This party is really not a plea for gifts, we want you there.”
    I am sorry if I sound rude, but I don’t think you live in the same world as I do. I understand that, as a host, if I expect a gift, I am seen as rude. However, as a guest, if I forget a gift, I am seen as rude. Don’t you see the catch-22 here? We are bound by etiquette to NOT communicate. Can’t we just be honest with eachother with out being afraid of stepping on eachothers’ toes? It’s so disingenuous.
    “No instructions about presents, even negative instructions, belong on an invitation. I don’t know how most of you managed to miss this.”
    You are making assumptions. I didn’t “miss this” rule of etiquette, I disagree with it. It is insincere not to acknowledge that someone who receives an invite to a birthday party/shower/wedding, etc. will think they are expected to bring a gift. I have nothing against writing “no gifts” because I have crazy tally-taking, materialistic family members who believe that an invitation to a party is equal to a request for a gift. I don’t want gifts from them because there are strings attached. I know in the end it is their problem and they are the ones being rude…but in the end, it just makes it easier for me to avoid the drama.

  73. @SarahV: “(… The correct attitude is meant to be just not even to mention gifts at all until and unless someone else does, and then to act all pleased and surprised at the thought.)”While this is true according to tradition (who’s tradition? I am not sure!), I think we are past the point in our culture when it’s seen as optional to bring presents to a child’s birthday party. That’s why I think we need to change custom a bit and agree it IS OK to say “no gifts, please.”
    I will admit I faced this dilemma recently and wimped out. I tried to word my invitation with a subtle variation on “You presence is the only gift we desire” sort of thing. It was only partly successful. That leads me to to commenter who wrote:
    “What really chafes me would be to go to a “no gifts” party and see gifts DISPLAYED. That, I think, is the worst part of Danielle’s predicament.”
    Ouch! I never considered that! Now I will, in the future, for sure. I guess I have felt in the past (including last year’s bday party for which I DID say “no gifts” and then all but one or two of the ladies {my mom’s friends} who showed up did bring a gift) that to squirrel the gifts away somehow deprived the giver of some pleasure they were expecting. At this last party I distinctly wished that opening presents at the party was not the norm. It takes forever and I would have much rather spent the time visiting with the guests (it was a party for adults and children).

  74. As a parent that throws “no gift” parties, I implore all of you to take what another adult says at face value. Don’t read into it. If I write “no gifts please” on an invitation, I MEAN it. I cannot figure out why we think other grown ups do not mean what they say!! I am much more annoyed with the one parent that brought a present anyway “because I just couldn’t resist” and really appreciated all the others that respected that it was my party and when they have a party they can get as many presents as they want. As for the thank yous: etiquette dictates that when you thank someone in person, a note is unnecessary. I think we all have too much time on our hands…but here’s what I do think is a bit much: having a gifts party…but not opening the presents there AND never sending a note/calling to say thank you. Kids love to watch other kids open presents. It is a good lesson about manners and the pleasure it brings to give-not get-something.

  75. HospitalityIt’s time to take this whole discussion to another level by increasing the emphasis on hospitality and making an effort to treat your guests to wonderful food, conversation and entertainment. And because you just thought of it, no, this has nothing to do with expense and everything to do with effort.
    Quit whining
    The charming way to de-emphasize gifts it to stop complaining about these inconsiderate, materialistic gift-giving friends you hang out with and start giving parties that don’t require gifts. What? you ask. Yep, I have given many a birthday where birthday is not mentioned on the invitation. We have done a swimming party, girls “fancy” tea party, horseback riding party, a fairy party or a baseball party. Then we sing, eat cake and ice cream. After all the main point of a kid birthday is the CAKE, remember? Not the presents.
    Thank you notes
    Your goal, should you wish to accept it, is to GET a thank you note from a guest who had a truly great time at a party you gave. There is nearly nothing better than working your butt off to create a great party and getting a hand written note from someone who appreciated what you did. If you have never received such a thank you note, you do not yet understand the value of thank you notes.

  76. I can’t resist chiming in late because this is one of my pet issues. I belong to a great playgroup, and for our kids’ first birthdays, we just did one big party with a gift exchange (each kid gave one present, got one present). It worked so well that we decided to to it again for their second birthday. Imagine my surprise when we started receiving invites to individual birthday parties, too!In that situation, I was really glad that most of the invites specified “no gifts,” and I was more than a little annoyed at the one mom who failed to include that disclaimer.
    This year, I really want to throw DD an individual party, but will probably specify no gifts. I want the people we invite to come because we enjoy their presence, not because they’ll give DD presents. And since every kid we know has a birthday within a month of DD (and just weeks before Christmas), I just think it’ll get silly if we all threw parties and expected gifts from each and every other kid.

  77. Just read this post (way after the fact) but here is part of my philosophy:http://www.birthdayswithoutpressure.org/
    I write “no gifts please” and mean it. Oldest is 3 and got 6 gifts this year–2 grandparents, honorary grandparents, honorary aunt, cousin, and us. I don’t mind the grandparents giving gifts, mostly because they both have a pile of grandkids and do NOT go overboard. The rest of the list, except for us, missed the “no gifts please” on the invite, for whatever reason.
    I want my child’s birthday to be a celebration, not a pile of stuff or a tradition of consumerism.
    I didn’t “display” the gifts because as a summer birthday, we just have a backyard pool party with cake and ice cream, but they weren’t out of sight either. We did open gifts in front of others, but mostly right before the gift giver went home. It wasn’t a sit and ooh and aah situation (or making anyone feel bad).
    As for TYs, I have started just this year having my 3yo write them with me–as in I write them and he scribbles on them. It’s not the actual TY writing that I want to instill as much as the attitude. I have had him give people the TYs himself while also saying TY. I’m probably WAY overboard, but I sometimes (living in the West) wish we lived in the South with the “yes, ma’am, no, ma’am” culture. I just want my kids to learn to be polite and thankful. (Taught junior high for several years–manners are WAY out of vogue….)

  78. We said no gifts for our son’s 1 year old birthday, and probably will for his 2nd birthday as well. For his first, I just wanted to have a really big birthday party and invite everyone we know. It seemed like such a big celebration and I felt like everyone in our lives had helped us through some part of the 1st year of our sons lives, either by recommending daycares or babysitting, or just being there to talk about something other than sleep and spitup. I knew if I didn’t say no gifts, i would have felt the need to be more restrictive with the guest list, because how can you invite acquintances and then have them feel the need to bring a gift? I did know that some people would bring gifts. In fact, a couple of people even asked before if I REALLY meant no gifts, and I just explained my reasoning – I wanted to invite a lot of people and I didn’t want anyone to feel compelled – especially because how much stuff does a 1 year old need anyway? We got probably 2 dozen gifts, out of about 75 attendees. We held it in a local park and I tried to be incomspicuous with the gift pile, setting them onthe benches of our of the rear picnic tables, because I knew people who hadn’t brought gifts might feel bad.And while i did love opening the gifts, I really truly didn’t think any more or less of a birthday party attendee becuase he or she did or did not bring a gift. It was really just such a great celebration.

  79. Sorry to everyone that does this, but I really dislike the “No Gifts Please” instructions. I really love buying gifts for people, especially children. I remember how much I enjoyed getting presents as a kid, how special it made me feel…even at a young age I think I understood (perhaps because of the way my own parents explained it to me) that it wasn’t the present itself that was to be celebrated, it’s that someone went out of their way to get something just for me…that they were thinking of me and my special day. I think I loved every gift I ever got, even if I didn’t really like the gift itself.I do respect the wishes of other parents who don’t share this view and appreciate the points regarding why some choose not to encourage others to buy presents for their children…but it makes me a little sad.
    I do, however, wish parents would give more direction as to what their kids want, or are into.

  80. My best gift’ for this year, is my BEST GIFT EVER’ (so far, at least). I got an eReader. It is WONDERFUL. It’s small, holds up to 160 books’ (but you can get as many memory disks as you need, so it could hold THOUSANDS, evtauenlly) it’s small (the size of a thin paperback), it’s light (only 9 ounces) and it had changeable fonts’ so you can make the letters as big as you want to read easily. I have one small problem with it, though it came with only three cards to give to friends’ and I will need more like 100 cards (I know I can print some of my own up, but would rather give out the company’s cards) once I start taking it with me on busses and out’ when I have to eat alone or wait for someone. It’s very cutting edge’ technology, and I KNOW people will see it and want to ask all kinds of questions. I’m reading my first book now, and am halfway through and IT WORKS BEAUTIFULLY. It will get better’ because my husband is going to order me a real leathe bookcover for it (to replace the fake leather’ one it came with) but even so, it’s cool, it’s classy, and it is THE PERFECT GIFT. Not only does it let me read’ it also plays MP3s and displays pictures and I don’t have to get bookmarks’ everywhere any more, because it actually has bookmarks’ for the pages so I can go back to a certain page’ when and if I want to. Of course I have several gifts similar’ to yours my husband is a fine artist and I have several of his pieces of art that he did JUST FOR ME and ALL of them are very special so special, in fact, that they don’t count’ as being holiday gifts’ but are gifts from the heart.’ THOSE are in a category by themselves’ and yes, it was my husband who bought me the eReader, too AFTER he got me the things I wanted this year a button up bathrobe, a nightgown, and slippers. He’s a GREAT GUY, as yours is to you! Aren’t we BLESSED?

  81. Once I went to work on the farm with my dad. Unexpectedly, he needed to move a ttoarcr a few miles down the road but had no one to drive his pick-up behind him. So he had me (age 7 at the time) get in. After a quick explanation of how a STICK SHIFT works, I assured him I was ready. Wrong! I ended up driving an extra few miles down the road until I could turn around without having to shift gears, all the while freaking out! About 3/4 of the way back, there he was on his way to find me. Needless to say, I didn’t drive alone for quite some time.

  82. Well this is great blog and I have read it on my free time and collected lots of information on it. This is great post that gives the huge amount of ideas about the birthday parties which is very interesting.

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