Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Politics of Presents

When I meet with parents to go over their child's party details, one of the questions I ask is "will there be gift unwrapping at the party?" For the most part, parents still accept gifts for their children at the birthday party (more on those who don't later), but are divided on whether or not the gifts should be opened in front of the party guests, especially if there are quite a few children invited.

The unwrapping of the gifts can become a laborious process that sees a few children getting restless and wandering away from the group. Eventually, it's difficult to keep everyone focused on the birthday child who is lost in a frenzy of paper, toy packaging etc. and no longer remembers what gift came from whom.

The other way of thinking about the gift unwrapping is that the guests have taken the time to find the perfect gift for your child and want to see his or her reaction. I would suggest letting the size of the party dictate whether or not gifts will be unwrapped during the party. To avoid chaos, I like to put a number on each guest's name tag and then let them know that will be the order of the unwrapping. The children totally buy into that method because it seems fair.

Let's face it: 20 gifts are not only 19 more than what your child even needs, will no doubt include at least one gift with teeny parts you will step on until the whole thing quietly disappears, but they can also appear to be your reason for having the party. On top of that, the other children shouldn't have to sit through an endless stream of gift after gift: that's not why they're there.

An ever-growing idea around gifts is to request that in lieu of gifts, a donation be made to the birthday child's favourite charity. If that is too extreme for your child whose understanding of a birthday party includes gifts, there are also options that allow your guests to give a donation and also go in on a group gift that you pick. At the most recent party I did, the Mom made sure all the guests knew about the charity selected and that they had also contributed to the gift that the child then unwrapped for them to see.

Finally, there are parents who ask for "gently used" books and toys from the guest's own home. I haven't seen this in practice yet, so I'm curious to know if this is well-received.

These last two options are also eco-friendly as there is little to no packaging or wrapping materials.

1 comment:

  1. We attended a party to which the whole class was invited.

    We spent HOURS in a toy shop picking just the right present.

    They did not open presents (as it was a big party - which is understandable). A few days later, I congratulated the mom on the party. She said "and he didn't mind giving the presents away to the children's hospital". We had no idea they were donating the gifts.

    I think if a family choses to donate presents - (and I fully support that) - they should make note in the invitation so that party-goers can choose a present for donation and not spend HOURS looks for just the right 'birthday-boy-present'