In Praise of No Presents, Please!

First of all, let me get this out of the way: this isn’t one of those articles that’s all like, don’t buy your kid any birthday presents and pocket all that cash for college!  The amount of birthday presents I buy my child (or Christmas presents, or Easter basket chocolates, etc) wouldn’t buy a single semester’s worth of textbooks, let alone tuition.  My kid is going to have to sweat for some scholarships or take out some loans if she wants to attend college, and if college in fifteen years looks anything like college looks now, who knows if she’ll even want to, or if it will be fully run by robots on her CApp phone app (that’s an app with a name that’s a play on cap-and-gown that I made up that is the College of the Future, you’re welcome developers, I’d like a cut of the profits, thnx) .  Anyway, insert shruggy guy emoji here!

No, what I want to instead do is sing the praises of the Chill Children’s Party without Presents; I want to belt out an anthem to the No Presents, Please parties, because they’re awesome!

Here are all the thing you avoid when you don’t have presents at a little kid’s birthday party:


  • Antsy kids who don’t care about another kid opening gifts from Great Uncle Marty, because whooooooo is Great Uncle Marty. Sure, patience and knowing not everything is yours is a Good Life Skill™ but…it’s also a skill they can learn other times. The party doesn’t have to be the place to learn it. Can be! Doesn’t have to be!


  • Kids not being able to touch presents or, conversely, everyone lunging for the presents and parents having to, like, parent when we really just want to chat over pizza while the kid tumble about on their own (…not just me right — I can’t be the only Anxious Parent who’s like, omg don’t break everything in this person’s house, pleeeeeease.)


  • You avoid the endless cycle of “now we buy Gus a present and then Gus buys US a present and then we buy Gus a present and then Gus buys US a present” situation. It’s a dance that’s fun and all, but also…what happens when you *forget* to get a kid a present but then you get a present from them?  (I’m so sorry little nephew!  I had your birthday on the family calendar, but then we had some Sh*t Hit the Fan — layoffs, fun for the whole family! — and I totally forgot until your mom mentioned my daughter’s birthday wishes, and I was like, “Oh noooooooooooooo,” and then I fell full-throttle into the dreaded Guilt Spiral.)


  • You don’t invite more stuff your kid doesn’t really need into your house. I’m not knocking new stuff here.  New stuff is fun!  New stuff is great and exciting and livens up the living room.  But my kid doesn’t need a pile of new stuff.  She’s shown herself to be pretty content with pretty much anything you give her; there’s no gigantic pile of presents to miss if she doesn’t get the Leaning Tower of Loot.

Yes, someday when my kid and her friends are old enough to thoughtfully pick out gifts for friends based on interests and what they think a friend would enjoy, I’m HERE FOR IT.  Teaching my kid generosity and kindness and giving with the other person in mind is by all means something I want to do.  But, a birthday party when she’s three doesn’t have to be that learning experience, when that experience is full of balloons and cake and popsicles and pizza and bouncing kids.  She doesn’t have to try and learn this larger life skill when the event itself is so full of other more exciting things.  And I don’t have to go rooting through room for things to trade out to honor our one-in-one-out policy.  Win-win!

In short: try it, it’s great!  (But also if you do have a kid’s party with presents, I’ll totally bring them a copy of The Princess and the Pony, so prepare yourself and your household for a book about a fat farting pony, you’re welcome, you’re welcome.)

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