First, here is my heart on why we do this ~
* As a parent, I have seen so many parties where the presents are just ripped into in only a few minutes and have grieved for the big rush through the gift pile. And, I have witnessed this with my own children at Christmas. Even though we try and slow things down - there is a natural tendency to hurry through so they can see what is next.
* I don't want the focus of our party to be gifts. I never want to hear my children say, "What did you bring me?" or "Where are all my presents?" We have just chosen to make the focus of our parties on spending time with friends they love and having a fun time together even if no presents are opened at the party.
* The party is a gift! Having friends and family take time out of busy schedules just to honor and celebrate the life of the birthday person is really a great gift! This is a time we can feel thankful for the friends who are in our lives and are honored by them being with us to celebrate.
In fact, instead of No Gifts, Please - I usually write something like: Your Presence will be our Gift. So that it communicates to the guest we don't expect a gift and really would just be honored with their presence.
* Last of all, I think that more than ever in our society - our children really do not need so many things. Do they really need all those new toys that I am going to be picking up and finding pieces to for the weeks to come? Do I really need to add all of that work and stress to my life and home?
If there is something a child needs, we will either plan to provide it for them or give it as a gift idea to a grandparent who would like to get them a gift for their birthday. It is certainly not that we don't want them to get gifts - we give them at least one gift and they get gifts from family members. But, we just don't feel that they need so much and have just chosen to limit gifts at our parties as much as possible.
Here were a couple of questions left in the comments:
Do people respect that?
Sometimes. Of course, there will be guests who just don't feel like they can come without bringing a gift. I get that - because I am sort of that way. In these cases, I encourage a hand drawn card or note for the birthday child so they can feel they are not coming empty handed, it is meaningful and handmade - and a special reminder of the friendship.
In some cases, I wonder if it is a relief to see that on the invite. You know how it is during birthday party season - which may be a certain time of year or a certain period of years! The gifts can really add up even if we are careful about shopping from our home store that is stocked with things from clearance racks and after-holiday sales.
No matter what, we have communicated that there are no expectations for a gift. If the guest chooses to bring something - of course, we will allow our child to receive it. Again, we are just trying to keep the focus of the birthday and the party off of gifts.
How do your children feel about this?
Of course, our children have been to birthday parties where presents are a big part of the party and where the birthday child sits and opens a mountain of gifts! I'm sure if I asked Emily or Rachel they would say that they would love for their friends to bring gifts! But, we've just established the standard that this is a time that we celebrate with friends and have an opportunity to share our special day with them.
For one, our children really do not know any differently. We pretty much started out this way and have just continued - so it is not something we've changed suddenly. Also, it is not as if they don't get gifts on their birthday. It is just not usually part of the party. One time I think we did let them open their family gifts during the party - but typically we do that with just family after the party is over.
One thing I can say for sure - I have no memory of being at any of their birthday parties and having them say or even act like they were missing out on anything.
I remember one year when Emily was turning two that she truly would've wanted to have friends over more than presents. Of those I invited, no children came and I was so sad for her - we had a great time of course, but my mothers heart knew. This experience impressed upon me that our friendships and relationships are more important than gifts and I've just wanted to emphasize this in our home.
Above all, what I'm hoping to cultivate here is a spirit of celebration and thankfulness without the gimmies and what's in it for me kind of mentality. Obviously I know that what works for us is not for everyone - and that is OK!
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Your turn to chime in - do you request no gifts for birthday parties? How do you handle that with guests and your children?