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?