Opening Birthday Presents After Your Kid’s Party Is Genius

shutterstock_116046370__1380390994_142.196.156.251Has everyone seen the website, Parent Hacks? It’s a site full of recommendations from fellow parents on how to make all things parenthood a little easier. Topics range from feeding, to toys, to parties and everything in between. Recently, one parent hack posted a genius suggestion for kid’s birthday parties: don’t open presents.

Isn’t the whole ritual of birthday party gift opening a drag? Well, the birthday boy or girl probably loves it – but kids are bored to tears and leave the party wanting everything they just saw their friend open. Parents probably like to see the joy on the faces of children when they open their gifts – but there is a solution for that. Instead of opening gifts at the party, wait until after the party and document your child’s reaction to the gift with a photograph. Then send the photo in the thank-you card. Brilliant.

Now you don’t have to worry about your kid not liking the gift and responding with an audible, Meh. You also don’t need guests to feel awkward about purchasing duplicates or not bringing a gift at all. Let’s face it – times are tough for a lot of families. Why put the added pressure on a day that is supposed to be all about fun and your child?

I personally love the idea. I haven’t had a birthday party in many years, but I remember feeling totally awkward opening gifts at my baby shower. My guests sort of demanded I do it, or else I never would have subjected them to the boredom. If you like the ritual, fine, but if you don’t – this is a really cute way to phase it out. You can make it even easier by sending cyber thank you cards with the image as the cover. Now I’m just getting fancy. It also extends the festivities for your child a little longer. They get to enjoy a party with friends and then a little extra time afterward opening all of their gifts with their families.


(photo: Vitalinka/ Shutterstock)

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  • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

    I totally agree we have to start this. I wanted to do this at my daughter’s party, but everyone was all, “Aren’t are you going to open the presents soon?…What about now?….Now?” My community just couldn’t handle the change, and I ended up giving in.

  • Andrea

    I always, always, ALWAYS! hated present opening. It’s drag for everyone else except the birthday kid and when the kids are young enough, invariably one kid will lose his/her shit because he sees all these toys that are not for him/her and he/she cannot touch.

    When mine were littler, I always did present opening afterwards.

  • NicknamesAreDull

    I take pictures of my daughter with the gift and enclose them in the thank you card. We stopped opening gifts in front of guests when my daughter got 4 copies of the same movie.

  • BBJim’s Mam

    I love this! if/when they ask about when we’re opening the gifts, I’ll just straight up tell them, “after every one leaves”. I remember how boring that was when I was a kid, and it made me feel awkward. I never really liked being the center of attention.

  • Evelyn

    In my kids’ social groups it is the norm to open presents after parties when everyone has gone home. The child guests are usually a bit disappointed as they want to see their friend’s reaction to their gift but if you let the kids open presents at a party they open them so fast that you never have a chance to write down who bought what and can never figure it out after. In your own home with only your kids present (or maybe just a couple of extra kids of special friends who had to travel at most) and the birthday kid calmer the unwrapping is easier to control.

    The other advantage is that it makes it easier to stop a kid blurting out “but I have that already” or “that’s rubbish” to a friend who was excited to give it to them.

  • Ginny

    I think this is great for younger kids, but since I’m a teen I actually enjoying seeing my friends open their gifts. So, up until teenage years, this is a good idea.

    • Aldonza

      That’s a good point. As kids turn into teens and are more likely to have picked out and paid for something themselves, they do like to watch someone open their gift. Of course, as I approached teen years my parties got very different. Less extravaganza and more smaller group things.

    • NicknamesAreDull

      I plan on letting my daughter control her parties around 12. By that time, I’m assuming she’s not going to want a mom planned party.

  • Roberta

    At my first big birthday party (I must have been 5 or 6), the kids would start playing with my toys before I even got to open the packages. After that we spent quite a few years holding the gifts until after the party. If you distract your guests with enough games and bright colours, they shouldn’t mind :P

  • Kelby Johnson

    My kids have their parties together (their birthdays are the 27th and 30th of september) so gift opening for us is a very long process. They always fight over who goes first, etc. I might just implement this for their party coming up soon. People always open wedding gifts after the wedding, so why not birthday gifts too?! =D

    • Leafyleafster

      If you decide to let them open the gifts at the party, you could try the system our family used at Christmas with a pile of siblings (and now with all the cousins/grandkids, Christmas and a few combined birthdays): youngest to oldest. In pretty much every other arena of life, the elder kids will get to do everything first, and the younger kids will be distracted by their shiny new things until it’s their turn again. =)

    • pixie

      One of your kids has the same birthday as me, September 30! Sorry, I get excited when I meet/hear of people who have the same birthday as me. Maybe it’s because I didn’t know anyone with the same birthday until I was nearly done high school. Or it’s just a weird quirk. *shrugs*

  • disqus_WjKIYzni5a

    I used to actually get disappointed when people would not open the presents in front of me because I wanted to see their face when they got their (very, very thought out…it was somewhat of an obsession) gift from me.

    • Shelly Lloyd

      That is how I feel. Some of my children’s friends do the whole open the gifts after the guest leaves and I know my daughter always felt sad when she did not get to see her friend’s faces light up when they see what they got from her.
      My son on the other hand could care less. He was there for the cake, LOL.

  • Angela

    I’m of two minds about this. I mostly have fond memories of watching my friends opening their gifts and feel that seeing their excitement helped me learn to appreciate giving as well as receiving. Most of the time after the gifts were opened we were all allowed to play with the new toys until it was time to go which was a lot of fun. I remember battling envy but I think it that these experiences helped me to learn to deal with those feelings. When it was my turn to receive I learned the importance of being gracious. My mother taught me to thank each guest warmly for their gift regardless of what it was and I remember being careful to try not to show favoritism toward any one gift to avoid hurting feelings. Because I’d been at parties where the birthday child hoarded all the toys to herself I always made sure to share and let my friends all take a turn playing with the new toys.

    On the other hand I certainly don’t think that birthday parties were the only opportunity for these life lessons and am sure that if not for them I would have learned in some other way. I guess in my mind if you don’t like opening gifts at parties then no biggie. However, if you’re habitually shielding kids from envy and disappointment then that will cause problems.

    • Annie

      Totally agree. Wasn’t it awesome watching your friend open a present you agonized over picking?

      It feels like a happy medium would be opening gifts from friends at the party, and then having a private family celebration later.

    • Lilly

      I think the issue with modern parties is that they have gotten a lot bigger / more people invited. I recently had to sit through the gift opening part of a 3 year-old’s party that had 20 kids plus a bunch of adult friends attend — there were at least 30 gifts to open and it took about 2 hours. My 2 year-old gave a flying f*ck when the gift he gave was being opened.

      I think parties used to be just a few friends, I doubt I had more then 10 people at my birthdays before I was a pre-teen — often it was tied to the age, turn 8, invite 8 friends. Now the norm seems to be invite the whole pre-school class (as in the case above) + family + friends with kids around the same age.

    • Angela

      Ugh. Maybe it’s the introvert in me but that sounds like torture! I try to go by the 1 friend per years of age rule but that gets tricky because you never know how many of the kids you invite will actually show. My son has a December party and when he turned 3 only 1 kid showed up so now I over-invite. I can’t imagine inviting 20 kids though. That’s insane!

    • Lilly

      It was insane — but it tired my kid out so much he went to bed early and slept in … so a price I am willing to pay

  • Ennis Demeter

    This takes all of the fun out of gift giving for kids.

    • Rachelle

      If the fun of giving a child is a gift is simply witnessing them open it in front of you, I’m not sure you’re giving for the right reason…

    • personal

      I think what Ennis is saying is that the children who are guests enjoy watching their friend open the gift they chose. That’s what I read and it’s what I think, too. I know my 4-year-old couldn’t STAND waiting until after the cake to give her best friend her present (she’d already shouted out what it was twice).
      ‘Giving for the right reason’ ??? for a 4-year-old? She IS giving for the right reason. She wants her friend to like what she’s giving her.
      And I, too, prefer to watch my friends open the presents I’ve chosen for them. Then I can tell them about some tiny detail, like ‘I bought this because I remember…’

  • G.E. Phillips

    I’ve spent the bulk of my career running birthday parties (I ran a gymnastics facility for many years) and, mainly due to the amount of time allotted to each family for a party, we never had kids opening presents at the party. Staff always bagged them up and sent them home to be opened later. I always thought this was great, because the kids got to spend their time actually playing at the party rather than watching the birthday child get all these new cool toys (I think that could be hard for even the most attentive or magnanimous 5 year old to have to sit through.) I never gave it a second thought and have done it this way for Face’s two birthday parties, and will probably continue to do so until he’s at least 8 or 9.

  • Jussame

    How about take it one step further, and not have gifts at all! This seems to be a trend in my social circle, which I appreciate both because it means I don’t have to figure out what to buy my son’s friends who already have plenty of toys, and when it’s his birthday he’s excited for the party and hanging out with his friends rather than the loot he’s going to get.

    • Shelly Lloyd

      We have been to a few birthday parties where the kids requested guest bring donations for a charity, like a food drive or supplies for an animal shelter, in stead of a gift. It seems to go over very well in our circle of friends.

    • Katia

      That’s true but people usually ignore “no gifts” at least at the 2 “no gifts” kids parties I’ve been to.

  • kay

    this is no help for kid’s parties, but to alleviate the shower-opening awkwardness (a diaper genie! how exciting!) i’m a fan of the shower gift bingo (write out potential things you think the bride to be or mom to be will get on a bingo sheet, mark as they’re opened). Mostly because I’ve won wine playing it. I like any activity that involves free alcohol.

  • Ellen

    I ask people not to bring presents to my daughter’s birthdays. If she does get gifts (usually from grandparents) then we open them at home afterward. I think it’s silly to buy a bunch of stuff for a kid who clearly has enough that his/her parents can throw a party in the first place. Opening in front of others is silly and completely boring for the other children, it’s really just for those who bought stuff to feel good about their purchases. I rather not have more stuff in my house. I prefer my daughter value people and experiences over things. Down with excess birthday junk.

    • Katia

      Once kids are about 3-4 they are very excited about seeing gifts openned actually. Even if its not a gift they picked, and even though the gift is not for them

    • M.

      I totally agree, I do the same thing…I don’t want all this excess junk in my very tiny house. We hardly have room for the stuff he has already. I don’t mind if some of our closer friends want to bring him a little something, but I see no reason at all that people we’re not that close to should feel obligated to bring gifts.

  • mamama

    This sounds pretty lame. It is fun to see the expressions of the people that you are giving a gift to! Also teaches good life lessons for kids that you can’t always have what you want (i.e. kids who are disappointed the birthday kid gets all the gifts). And why not just send a text message with a thank you.. lets start putting even less effort into showing appreciation… lame all around !

  • 88Mwife

    I am going to do this at my baby shower. I am HORRIBLE at the ‘Oh my gosh! Its wonderful! I’m so excited to have this!’ reaction. I have to fake it every year for 3 separate Christmas get-togethers, and I do not want to go through it again. Its going to be a literary shower, so I can ooh and ahh over everyone’s book choices, and hubs and I can open gifts at home. Then he can be apart of it too!

  • Betty

    Personally, I think this is a total cop-out. Unless you have a child who has issues, i.e. autism, etc. where this type of social interaction is difficult, then it’s just another way to make things easier for you at the expense of others. We wonder why no one has social grace anymore.. it’s because no one wants to take the time to teach it, let alone practice it themselves. It’s shameful the way we’ve let the most basic of good manners go by the wayside. Aren’t “Please” and “Thank You” some of the first words we teach our children? Shouldn’t we teach them to mean it?? If you’re worried about how your child will react to a disappointing gift, shouldn’t you be coaching them in advance? Even if your child does let an honest comment slip, it’s still a teaching opportunity for everyone. Like it’s never happened to other parents as well? We’ve all had these kid moments happen. We must stop shielding our children from difficult, awkward, challenging social interactions just because we don’t want to deal with it. How else will they learn? By the time they’re teenagers, it’s too late. Good manners is about having respect for others, not what’s easy or convenient.

    • WinWin

      Wow..that was quite harsh. you ask where manners have gone, but at the same time here you are harassing a person for putting out a great idea!
      Personally I think opening the gifts at the party is too much of a drag for much younger kids. It is not like a 2 or 3 year old always picks out the gift. Maybe for their closest friends, but not for every party they go to. They would be more excited to run around and play. Sitting around while the birthday kid opens every single one of the gifts from the pile is a chore. What about basic manners in doing what is most entertaining for all instead of just the birthday kid?
      (And I would like to add – in the last couple of years of birthday parties, I have seen the gifts being opened at just one party. One out of maybe 25 parties I have been to. So, birthday rituals in the world is moving on – might be best to keep up).

    • Betty

      My apologies. My disagreement is with the idea, not the writer. They are entitled to their opinion, as I am to mine.
      Just because the times are changing, doesn’t mean it’s changing for the better. And, just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t make it correct either. People also think it’s perfectly okay to talk on a cell phone in the middle of dinner or text during a conversation. In all my years of attending birthday parties with my children, nieces and nephews, I’ve only seen this new “ritual” occur with infants and toddlers. That I can understand.
      As for basic manners pertaining to my childrens’ guests – they prefer to have smaller, more intimate parties where they can spend quality time with their guests. Opening presents from 4 or 5 of your closest friends should never be considered a chore.
      Again, my apologies for seeming harsh. When you feel strongly about something, you tend to use strong words.

  • M.

    Omg, I completely agree. I absolutely HATE opening presents in front of people. I hate everyone looking at me, I feel like any response I have seems contrived, I hate every aspect of it. My baby shower was like torture, but at least my husband was there to share in the opening with me. And I hate watching other people open presents. Could anything be more boring??? I don’t know how this tradition even got started and I would love to say goodbye to it once and for all. I tried to avoid it at my son’s 2nd birthday party, but my in-laws stepped in and just started handing him presents. I even put “no gifts necessary, we just want your presence!” on his invites to avoid a mountain of new stuff (this will not work as well once he’s older, I’m sure, but for now he doesn’t know the difference). I think I’ll be more assertive about it next year. I have a friend who shares my feelings on this, and they don’t do presents at her daughter’s parties and guess what? No one cares, everyone has fun, and no kids end up crying because they want to play with the birthday girl’s presents…win win all around.

  • BubbleyToes

    Definitely doing this if I ever have a baby shower! I have a very hard time showing a lot of emotion outwardly, especially in front of a bunch of people staring at me. Even a gift that I loooooove and really, really wanted and appreciate, I just can’t make myself jump around and gasp, etc. So, I always look a little bored lol…even though I’m really not! Not having to open gifts in front of others would be awesome!

  • SDA

    I much prefer this for children’s parties. You should be sending a “Thank You” anyway, and I always be sure to note the item received and what we like about it or will find useful about it. We ended up opening gifts at my daughters first birthday, but it wasn’t really my plan or what we normally do in our friend group, my husband was just like “Oh – gifts!” and I didn’t protest. It is hard when you are out at a destination birthday to keep everything together and if gifts get played with to make sure all pieces come back home.

    I 100% disagree on baby shower and wedding showers. I HATE opening gifts in front of people, but the entire point of these parties is to ‘shower’ with gifts, so I think the actual opening is important even if it is awful! :)

    The birthday party is like the wedding though – it is the celebration that is the focus. Gifts can wait until after and be acknowledged with a note.

  • dcford

    i thought this was pretty common….maybe because my child is only 2 so all of the birthday parties we’ve been to or hosted up until now have been very young children under 3 or 4, it just makes sense to wait until after the party ends to open gifts. otherwise you have a bunch of toddlers running around getting upset that they can’t keep all of the birthday boy’s/girl’s new toys. even for the kids who are a little older, the kids can focus on having fun at the party and likely won’t miss the gift-opening, and the family can have a little mini-celebration later on for opening the gifts in private.

  • F Marcelle Garcia

    I usually use this tactic. However, I find it most successful at parties for younger children. My oldest turned 8 this year. If her and her friends didn’t demand to open presents I would have saved the gift opening for home. Saving gift opening works wonderful when you’re holding the party at a place with a time limit. I usually ask the question, open gifts or more playtime? Hands down until this year more playtime won. So, just as heads up, they may want to open the gifts at the party.

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