Copious Contributions: When you’re inundated with gifts

by epi on September 12, 2011

Q: For my son’s fourth birthday party, I made verbal requests to parents not to bring gifts. I explained that my son still had Christmas presents he hadn’t opened and that his grandparents would do enough spoiling. I further explained that we were having a party for the fun experience with all his friends. Remarkably, every parent brought a present. My son didn’t even notice the gifts with all the activity. How can I make sure that this doesn’t happen next year? I want my son to have a party but not to have a toy store in his playroom!

A: You really can’t. It is presumed that when your son attends a party for another child you send him with a gift. These children then reciprocate with a gift for your son. Part of the experience of growing up is also knowing how to open and acknowledge gifts – to say thank you, to handle a situation when you receive a duplicate gift, to express thanks for something you really don’t like. These are all things your son needs to know how to do, too. I understand your feelings, but you tried this once and it didn’t work, so it is best to let it go and help him learn this new skill during his parties in the future.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate September 12, 2011 at 8:34 am

I agree that people don’t want to come empty-handed to a child’s birthday party. In my community children often invite their whole class to a birthday party. No one wants that many gifts. Some things people have done include suggesting that everyone bring:
1. a dollar in lieu of a gift to be donated to a specified charity chosen by the birthday child.
2. a dollar in lieu of a gift for the birthday child to use to buy something for the children’s classroom, such as a puzzle, a game, or a book.
3. an unwrapped toy to be donated to Toys for Tots.
4. a gently used household good to be donated to a local charity.
And when one of my sons has had a smaller party and wanted to receive gifts instead of using one of these approaches, I’ve told him that if he unwraps a gift he doesn’t love, he should leave it unopened and then we quietly donate it to Toys for Tots at the end of the year.


Winifred Rosenburg September 12, 2011 at 9:36 am

It is incorrect to mention gifts at all, whether to say no gifts please or make a donation instead. You just have to take whatever people bring. You can then donate the unwanted gifts to charity (after writing a thank-you note of course).


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