Yesterday afternoon I took my son to a birthday party for one of his preschool classmates. 3-year-old's birthday parties resemble frat parties in many ways, what with the loud music and everyone running around like a crazy. (There were no kegs, though.)
The mom at this party was overt about requesting no gifts for the birthday boy. She's not a meanie by any stretch. In fact, I think it's a genius idea. Kids get so much stuff over the course of the year, why add more to the pile? How many plastic trucks does one need? Given the chaotic nature of kid's birthday parties, there isn't even time and structure to open them. Grandparents and close family will probably send something over, anyway.
The idea of the giftless kid birthday party has been written about before and is by no means a new concept. For school-aged kids, the idea requires a delicate discussion, since most second graders I know look for forward to the idea of diving into a pile of presents.
For toddlers, this seems like a no-brainer. This is, after all, a group of humans who can barely even tell you when they need to use the bathroom, much less what they really want for their birthday. All they care about is that a bunch of kids are coming over and they can all jump around together.
I've read on other sites that the No Gifts policy sometimes confuses parents as well. Odd, since it seems pretty self-explanatory. One commenter I saw added on the invite that any gifts would be donated to charity. Not technically thrown out, but not kept only to take up precious space. In New York City, at least, space is the ultimate prize. Personally, I don't want mine taken up with a stack of random Melissa & Doug projects.
Think about it: Do you remember your third birthday? Do you remember anything that you received? Probably not. You may, however, remember the party, the cake and the goofy games.
There's also the obvious green aspet of the giftless parties. Fewer gifts means less to give away or toss, which means less in the landfill.
New York City, in particular, is known for excessive kids' birthday parties. On many occasions I've seen four-piece bands walk into the local indoor playground for a first birthday party. It's a bizarre form of being flashy. If you have thousands of dollars to spend on a kid's birthday, how about using $500 of it for the actual party and sending the rest to a kids' charity? (St. Jude's? Baby Buggy? Operation Smile? Heck, just give it to the Red Cross.) That's a better use of extremely disposable income.
Toying with a giftless party for a toddler is a great idea. It takes the heat off the guests to dig something up and cuts down on clutter in your home. As a guest, there's no reason to feel guilty about coming empty-handed. I admire anyone who asks for no gifts at their party -- toddler or adult. It shows that you're there to spend time with people you care about, not to collect loot.