The Ultimate Children's Design Resource


To Open or Not to Open: The Birthday Party Gift

Photo courtesy of BetterHomesandGardens.com

This is a topic I was surprised to see become a bit polarizing. People seem to have very strong opinions about whether or not to open gifts at children’s birthday parties or wait until all the guests have left. I don’t think either approach is wrong; I have always just taken a good look at my children and decided whether or not they could handle it on that particular day at that particular age.

At the age of one, there is no expectation of the child. The mom and dad are the ones expected to be gracious. However, there were over forty guests at each of my children’s first birthday parties, so in the interest of time, we didn’t open presents at the party.

At two, I didn’t think either one of my kids was prepared to show any social graces after two hours of over-stimulation and sugar-overload. Even the nicest kid might have trouble being polite in that situation, much less at the unpredictable age of two.

At three, I was/am still working on them not saying every little thing that might flit through their extremely active little minds and voicing every inappropriate opinion. Heaven forbid my daughter get a zsu zsu pet that is not pink…she’ll let you know (to my utter mortification). My son drags gift giving occasions out over a few days because he opens one, gets involved in it and ignores the rest. My daughter at three was a tornado of wrapping paper, but showed no excitement over anything she was given. Hence, no public gift openings on either count. They really are great kids and extremely polite; there are just certain situations they are not ready for.

Four is our year, though. I think at this age they grasp the idea that what they do affects other people’s feelings. We all give and receive gifts our entire lives, and eventually we learn how to do so with a bit of grace. For my son, I think I will do a bit of coaching in the days leading up to his birthday party on what to do when he opens his presents in front of his friends. We want all our guests to leave feeling good!

How do you handle gift opening at your children’s birthday parties?

  • Dandelion

    Hi Paula: Thanks for this. I have always played it safe and reserved the opening of the gifts after the guests have left. I really can’t control how my kids would react and I really don’t want them to react negatively when the giver is around.

  • IngridCalloway

    Hi Paula and Dandelion, because we ourselves opened the gifts after the party, that’s what I do with my kids too. I could screen the reactions from my kids, that’s one benefit. But what I really like is that I could take pictures of them opening the gift, get their reactions and have them hold up or try on the gifts. I then post it on Facebook with the recipient tagged to the photo and a brief thank you note.

  • http://www.frogprincepaperie.com Paula

    That’s a wonderful way to approach it, Ingrid!

  • KelleJoya

    I have not really given this much thought. In our family, we always just rip the wrapper off the gift and squeal in delight. Even the 2-year old does that. But yeah, I think that Ingrid has a point there, it makes it really special and you get to thank the giver.

  • Recreate

    We don’t open gifts at the party, but it’s not really because I am afraid my kids won’t react properly to a gift, because they would go WOW!!! at just about anything! What I really don’t like is seeing the look of desire or longing on the other children’s faces. I have been at other kids’ parties, and when the birthday girl or boy opens his or her gifts, my heart just breaks when I look at my kids and I can tell they silently wish to have the same thing but at the same time know that they couldn’t get it just because they want it.

  • BriskRain

    Recreate: That’s really very perceptive and sensitive of you. I do let my kid open his gifts during the party, in front of the other kiddie guests. And I do admit I never once thought about other kids getting envious. I guess it really is best to just open the gifts privately. Kids being kids, they really go gaga over toys, and they really cannot help wishing they’d have the same, too.

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