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No Gifts Please

We’ve all seen this right?  On a kid’s party invite. . .”No gifts please.”  Hell, I’ve even put it on invites myself.

Still, every time I see it I break out in a heart-pounding cold sweat.  Panic.

Why?  Why do parents do this?!

I know exactly why I’ve done it:


The older Mac gets, the more frequently we’re invited to little parties – some food, some play, a cake. . .and often accompanied with the request for “no gifts please.”

The most recent request came the other day from a parent in our play group.  She’s hosting this week and she’s planning to informally celebrate her son’s birthday at that time.

Great idea, I thought to myself.  I might be able to do same for Mac next month.  So much easier than a full-blown party.  

Her invite was accompanied with the “no gifts please” request.

My mind raced:  Did she feel that tag was obligatory and wouldn’t mind gifts?  Did she just not want an extra 15 gifts cluttering up her own small house?  What if I WANT to take a small something?  Will I look like a jerk?  What if everyone BUT us ignores the request and brings something anyway?  Then I will for sure look like a jerk.

I’m so confused!!!

Either way, I might look like a jerk.  I can’t win.  And these feelings are compounded when I don’t really know the parents all that well.  If my best friend said “no gifts” I know for certain she means NO.  A newish acquaintance?   Tough call. . .

AND it’s not just about me any longer.  It’s about my kids too.

I certainly don’t want my children feeling awkward just because Mommy either followed the rules OR broke them.

I started to ponder what I was going to do. . .

And while I was thinking about it, a few other thoughts crossed my mind. . .

When parents plan a party and put out a request for “no gifts please” we are in effect slighting our children.

Not of presents exactly. . .Lawd knows they don’t likely need more toys. . .

We’re depriving them of the joy of giving and receiving a gift.

We’re depriving them of the opportunity to experience giving a gift they’ve specially selected for someone. . .of the thoughtfulness involved.  

And we’re depriving them of an opportunity to express gratitude when they receive a gift – including the opportunity to practice writing a genuine thank you note.

I do not wish for my children to have 15 extra gifts on their birthdays or during the holidays.   I do not wish to clutter someone else’s home with unwanted stuff. HOWEVER, I do want to offer, my own children especially, the FEELINGS that accompany said celebrations.

Keeping that in mind, here are a few ideas I’ve come up with for gifts that might be acceptable in a “no gifts please” situation:

1.  Something you and your child can create together:  a card, a game, a canvas, a photo collage, a painted frame, playlists. . .the ideas are nearly endless.

2.  Something “consumable” you and your child can assemble together – a baked treat, a self assembled craft/hobby kit or a stationary kit for thank you notes, a kit to dye a T-shirt, apron, 0r pillow case.  Bubbles, soap, tub crayons, stickers, temporary tattoos. . .Anything that is relatively inexpensive, centered on an activity, and results in little lingering clutter.

3.  Several prints of the same fabulous photo of the child – one to display, one to tuck away, and a few extras to share with friends and family – bonus if you print them on magnetic “paper” for easy sharing and display.

4.  A book.  I think almost any parent would agree there’s always room for one more well-chosen book.

5.  “Tickets” – Tickets the child can redeem to perhaps spend the afternoon with your family doing something fun like making dinner, watching a movie, riding bikes or hiking. (Bonus free time to the other parents!)

6.  Helping in a meaningful way – Sponsor an animal at a local zoo or aquarium in the honoree’s name. . .Or plant trees. . .Or offer to work on a community service project together.  Children will have fun and learn about the plants/animals/people they are helping.

7.  Time Capsule – offer up the fixings for the party to make their own time capsule.  Tuck it away for a few years and watch the magic with you “unearth” it at another party.

8.  Share your and/or your child’s talents at the party – offer to set up a photo booth  COMPLETE WITH PROPS and take photos.  Offer baking, cooking, floral, hair styling, woodworking skills. . .Make sure you can include your own children in the prep work /execution as much as possible.  They’ll learn how fun it is to help out and make someone’s day special.

9.  Ask your kid.  Ask your children what they think might be an appropriate gesture.  They will dazzle you with some pretty terrific and simple ideas.

10.  Encourage high hopes:  maybe it’s a book of Presidential Addresses, Podcasts about sustainable farming, a Sibley Guide, or an inexpensive journal/sketchbook. . .Help a child find his passion or help encourage something he’s already passionate about. . .




5 Responses to “No Gifts Please”

  1. Pattie says:

    Great insight! I agree and love your ideas. Thanks for making us think things through and measuring their impact .

  2. Jennifer says:

    Ack! I am just in the midst of planning my daughter’s first “real” birthday party and I put “no gift” on the invite. Well, let me clarify, I am too awful of a party planner to actual send out paper invites. I created a facebook event and invited friends that way.
    I did amend the “no gifts” statement after one of my friends insisted she MUST bring a gift. Our situation is a little different in that my daughter has significant special needs and I really didn’t want anyone to feel awkward about not knowing what would be appropriate to give her. So I decided to give her party a theme that would make it very easy for people to go along with if they so choose (that is the awesome thing about a FB event, it can evolve as you go). I decided to do a lily themed party (my daughter’s name is Lily) and I suggested that anyone who wanted to bring a gift could bring some type of lily to start a lily garden for my daughter. This is something I have always wanted to do for her.
    I am hoping this is a nice compromise for the guests. My daughter doesn’t really get or understand parties and presents so I think this will be a good solution. Ugh! So much pressure!
    Jennifer recently posted…50 Ways To Be A WomanMy Profile

    • admin says:

      I think the lily idea is OUTSTANDING! How awesome. There are so many varieties, you can add to it year after year.

      I’m sorry to add any party planning stress. I feel like I just never know what to do – both when planning the event and when attending.

      Meanwhile, we went to the most recent get together yesterday. . .I’ll bet 97% of everyone in attendance brought a gift – some of them were easily $25 gifts!

      The host was super smart and had little bags each containing a matchbox car and some play dough and stickers for every kid. She handed out everything pretty early since naturally her son was eager to unwrap his gifts – so all the children were opening something at the same time.

      AND. . .Mac and I made a canvas/paper collage for the birthday boy. . .it was STILL the lamest gift he got – at least from his perspective. STILL CAN’T WIN. Ha!

      I’m certain Lily’s party will be awesome and I think it’s very cool that you came up with an idea that will give Lily a gift that grows with her AND puts your guests at ease in terms of an appropriate gift idea. Best of luck!

  3. Meghan says:

    Great post! We haven’t been invited to any ‘no gifts’ parties yet, but when we go to any gathering, we always bring something. I was raised to never go to someone’s house empty handed. That means, bring a dish or desert to add to the meal, or if it’s a birthday, I have Avery make a card, or make an art project. I love your other suggestions – I’ll keep them in mind 😉