There are several reasons to not open gifts at a kid’s birthday party – mindful and compassionate reasons not only for the birthday child but also towards guests who attend the party. The next time you throw your a kid’s birthday party, consider not opening presents in front of guests for the following mindful and compassionate reasons.
Even with the excitement and all the fun at my birthday parties as a child, there was always one thing I dreaded the most. I would sit down with a pile of presents in front of me and open each one, very carefully guarding my reaction to make sure it was the right response. I’d sit there uncomfortable for 20 minutes while an entire room of eyes watched my every move. It made me squirm in complete discomfort.
I was a shy kid so this tradition of opening presents in front of guests was the one part of every birthday party I absolutely dreaded.
This is a contributing factor to why my kids do not open gifts because they’re all shy in front of a crowd and I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable, but also for the following reasons of being mindful and considerate of others who celebrate with us.
1) THE FOCUS SHOULD NOT BE ON THE PRESENTS
The actual importance of celebrating a birthday can easily be lost, especially on kids, when the focus is put on a big orchestration of opening presents. Celebrations should be centered around spending time with friends and family to rejoice in another year around the sun. The focus shouldn’t be on a pile of presents or the dollars spent on throwing a party either.
If guests chose to bring presents, set them out of the way and help your kids remain focused on spending quality time with their friends and the people who matter most. Teach your kids what the priority of a birthday should be.
Once you allow your kids to unwrap presents in front of guests, it’ll be hard to reign things back in. The focus is automatically shift to ripping open boxes and untying bows and away from the memories of the day.
2) OPENING PRESENTS CAN MAKE OTHER KIDS FEEL BAD
Growing up, I was always the kid who brought a gift bought on sale, homemade or purchased as cheaply as possible. I was keenly aware that my gifts were far less spectacular than my friends. When the birthday kid opened my gifts, I would try to disappear to the bathroom, outside or shrink in the crowd, embarrassed they would think less of my gift versus the kid next to me.
Birthday parties should be fun for everyone, not only for the birthday girl or boy. This means everyone should always feel welcome and comfortable, but bringing presents can sometimes turn into a competition of who brought the best, coolest or biggest toy. The kid who brings the smallest or least expensive can be made to feel uncomfortable
There are many reasons why presents can be tricky; divorced parents forgot to coordinate a gift, the family is unable to afford a gift, cultural differences, a small present versus big present, economic status differences, they already have the item or another person gave the exact same thing, etc.
Presents can spur a whole host of uncomfortable, jealous, unworthy and disparaging feelings for the children who attend a child’s birthday party. If you don’t open gifts at the party or even say no gifts at all, this eliminates any hurt or discomforting feelings.
3) THE SHY BIRTHDAY KID WHO SHUNS THE SPOTLIGHT
A lot of kids clam up and turn shy when all eyes are on them, especially if they’re opening birthday presents and a small crowd has gathered around to watch them. Becoming conscious of their every move puts an uncomfortable spotlight not he birthday boy or girl, and sometimes an unwelcome one. This puts an immense amount of pressure on your child to regulate their reactions to please others, instead of being genuine in their responses.
As an introvert, I very much remember this discomfort of opening presents in front of my entire extended family and trying to show genuine excitement each time I unwrapped a gift, when inside, I was just trying to get through the whole ordeal as fast as humanely possible while still being polite.
HOW TO POLITELY DECLINE GIFTS
When You Sent Out Invitations…
- Ask that guests please don’t bring gifts
- Kindly tell guests that their presence is the gift and to please not bring gifts for Junior
- Ask that guests donate to your school, a charity or organization to help others
- Ask for unwrapped donations to be brought to the birthday party and set out a donation box inside the front door as an easy drop-off area
No Gift Invitation Wording
- Your gift is the honor of your presence, no gifts please
- No presents please, just your presence
- No gifts please
- Gift us only with the honor of your presence
- Your presence at the party is enough of a present
- No presents please
- No gifts please, _________ would only love the gift of your presence
- No gifts please, the only present she needs is you at the door!
- There is nothing he needs, he has toys by the ton. The very best present, is you having fun!
WHAT TO DO IF YOU WANT TO ALLOW GIFTS BUT DON’T OPEN THEM AT THE PARTY
When Guests Bring a Gift..
- Kindly take the present, say thank you and place them in a pile away from the center of the party (out of eye sight is even better)
- Say thank you for the present and let them know they’ll open them after the party
- Always send a thank you for presents your child receives
More Festive & Fun Birthday Resources:
- 15 Birthday Breakfast Ideas Kids Will Go Crazy For
- 24 Unforgettable Birthday Traditions to Start With Your Kids at Any Age
- 15 Tips for Throwing a Birthday Party on a Budget
- 8 Birthday Traditions Kids Love (No Big Party Required)
- The Modern Parent’s Etiquette Guide to Hosting Kid Birthday Party
- 3 Reasons To NOT Open Gifts at a Kid’s Birthday Party
Kelsey vinson says
Hm. Never something you really think about. Definitely an eye opener.
I’m glad you found some new things to think about in the article. I know the main reason we don’t ask for or open presents is to make everyone feel comfortable coming regardless of their financial situation at the time. It has worked out well and the time they get to spend with friends is so valuable!
Russell K. McCormick says
Correct. When you put yourself in the same situation of other kids in the party, you will understand better. Talking about me, as a kid everyone has that feeling to have everything new and especially what the other kid has. It is natural. This should definitely be taken care about.
Yep! Same here and for almost the same reasons mentioned. But above all, I think it’s tacky. Even at adults party.
Love it! Thanks so much for sharing. I think it definitely takes time for people to get on board and they probably secretly wonder if they are supposed to bring a gift anyway. I usually put a (for real) disclosure in my invite!
My daughter was invited to a birthday party 6 weeks ago. While we don’t have a lot of money to spend on a gift, we took time, money and thought into getting something we felt she would like. We even made her a special handmade birthday card. I was surprised to find out that all presents were set aside and left unopened. We were disappointed. It wasn’t so much a thank you we wanted as much as to find out if she was pleased with her gift. Nothing has ever been said. So PLEASE, while focusing on the child rather than the gift is a great idea, PLEASE (as was stated in the article) don’t forget to say thank you. Let folks know that their gift and thoughtfulness was appreciated.
Carolyn P says
My policy was…you don’t play with it or spend it( in the case of money/check) until a thank you note has been sent. Great incentive.
I love this idea – it’s a great way to make sure thank you notes are written and sent out. Thanks for sharing!
I’m glad this topic has been opened for discussion.
We have been to many parties lately where gifts have not been opened and both our children leave very disappointed as gift givers. They are so involved in picking out (or hand making) presents and cards for their friends. They do, of course, enjoy spending time with their friend celebrating. They also enjoy the experience of watching their peers open the gifts they have carefully selected.
For the concerns listed above, and reasons given NOT to open gifts; I offer the following alternatives:
1. Ask party-goers not to bring gifts. This way the party is all about the experience!
2. Set a budget. One of my favorite parties is one where we are only allowed to spend $5 on the gift. People get SO creative and it keeps things even. You could say the limit is the number of dollars your child is turning “$6 for 6 year old etc…”. Your guests will view this as a fun challenge.
3. For those children who want gifts and feel overwhelmed opening in front of a large group: keep the party small/intimate or open gifts in an unconventional way- one at a time spread out through the party without a big audience- just the gift giver and receiver.
4. Coach your birthday boy or girl on how to gracefully receive a gift (whether they like it or not). This is a useful life skill. Help them understand there is sweetness in the gesture of a gift even if they don’t like it. They do not have to be insincere, they can simply say “thank you” and if the gift giver presses “do you like it” they can respond with “you were so nice to think of me” or be totally upfront about their opinion- most kids are naturally honest without being cruel. 🙂
The bottom line for me- try to figure out WHY you are not wanting your child to open gifts in front of others and address the underlying cause.
If someone has taken time to pick out a gift, please, let them have the joy of seeing you open it.
Ivar Svensen says
It is common courtesy to open a gift in front of the giver so that they can see the joy you have in receiving the gift – or not. I believe the latter is also a lesson and not something we should shy away from. I agree the mass opening of presents at the end or at some point can be tacky and nerve wracking. So in my book the post polite thing to do is opening the present as you get it and then set it aside for play later.
This caters both to the gift giver and to the receiver of they find it hard to open in front of a crowd.