Aug. 9, 2021

Ask Margaret - Can I Say "No Gifts" For My Kid's Birthday?

Kids love their birthdays for lots of reasons, but let’s be honest: it’s mostly the gifts. Parents love the gifts a lot less. Buying presents for other kids' parties is a hassle, and having your own kids get a pile of plastic for each birthday isn't great either. Is there a polite way to say “no gifts”?


Birthday parties are terrific but gifts can be a drag. Buying gifts for kids' parties can be an expensive hassle, and your kid receiving gifts can mean more plastic stuff she doesn't need or even really want. But is it possible to say "no gifts" for your kid's birthday?

This week's question comes from Facebook, where Katie asks:

What are your thoughts on putting a request for "no gifts" on children's party invitations? I know Emily Post considers it a major faux pas, but my inclination is that the rules can be relaxed for 4-year-olds (and their busy, perpetually stressed, pandemic-induced socially anxious parents).

You can say "no gifts" for your child's birthday, although four may be a little young. You'll get better results if you get some serious buy-in from your child on a reason for going gift-free. Consider encouraging your child to find a cause or organization they would like to support– like a local animal shelter. Ask party guests to bring either a gift for your child or a donation for the shelter (like dog food). Then your child can go with you to the animal shelter to see the donations being put to good use. It's a great lesson for kids– to enjoy getting gifts while also sharing with others. Eventually your child may decide that they enjoy helping the causes they care about even more than getting gifts for themselves.

You can also talk to your kids about the environmental impact of plastic toys and help them see that getting fewer gifts is better for the Earth.

When it comes to bringing gifts to other kids' parties, you don't get a vote. If the invitation doesn't specify "no gifts," you should bring one, although you can decide to make those gifts simple and non-plastic if you desire– Margaret stocks up on gift cards to her local bookstore for those occasions.

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