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to gift or not to gift?



I can't believe Ruby's first birthday is coming up next month! In-between prepping for my book tour, I'm trying to figure out what we'll do for her birthday. We're thinking about having her party be a no-gift party—we have such limited space in our house {and terrible storage}, she has plenty of toys, and I feel like she won't really enjoy the idea of presents until she's a little older anyway. I'd rather have our friends and family come, eat great food, and just celebrate our one year with Ruby. Or even donate to a charity, instead. What do guys think? Is she missing out if we ask guests not to bring presents? If you were invited to a no-present party and were asked to donate to a charity instead, would you actually do it? — Joy

p.s. Thanks SO much to everyone who came to Wednesday's book signing in Chicago and to West Elm for hosting. I had so much fun meeting and chatting with all of you! To the girl with the mint green bag who asked me about having more babies, can you shoot me an email (hello[at]

See you in a few weeks San Francisco!

{Instagram photo of Ruby at 10.5 months. her hair clips are from StellinaB.}


  1. That’s a wonderful idea! Instead of gifts you could have donations to a specific baby-minded charity, or maybe broaden the idea of gifts for ruby. Maybe college tuition donations or something more future minded to help you guys out. Just a thought.

  2. I think that’s a great idea! Also, not sure if your in-laws follow the Korean tradition, but as long as their’s good food and the doljanchi (AKA “dol”), I’m sure they would love it, too!

  3. If guests feel uncomfortable attending with nothing in hand, how about a book-only gift theme? Too many toys and clothes can get overwhelming, but you can never have enough books!

  4. I think donating to a charity is a great idea. My son’s 8th birthday landed on the last day of school so he wanted to invite the whole class to his party at the park…so we had everyone bring a gift for donation to the Seattle Children’s Hospital and we let him choose two gifts that he could keep for himself. It worked out great and it was really cool for him to deliver all the gifts to the hospital. 🙂

  5. I don’t have any kids, so take this as you will… but at that age, I don’t think she will really be missing out on any sort of experience if she doesn’t open gifts (who can even remember their 1st birthday). At that age, birthday gifts seem more of an experience for the giver. But I agree with you- if you don’t have the space for more toys or just don’t think your child needs more toys then by all means say no gifts please. If people really want to give a gift they can gift her with something like a savongs bond (do people still do that?! I hope so).

  6. Jenn – such a neat idea! I just went to a friend’s daughter’s 1st birthday party (my first kids b-day party) and we did bring gifts. I found it really hard to find something to buy though, as it seems like at that point the parents have a clear idea about what they want their child to have (learning gifts, noisy gifts, things only made of wood, etc., etc.?) Plus, 12 months I found to be a hard age for gifts too… do you buy something that says 18 mos. just so they can use it later, or something that is for 12 mos. when they might already have sort of outgrown it? I really like the idea of bringing gifts though for donation… forces (although I think most people are happy to do it!) donate. I WOULD donate if that is what was asked, but with life flying by I might forget so it would be great to do it for the party. Also, my friend’s daughter was so enamored with all the people at her house, and the chocolate cake all over her face that I don’t think the gifts mattered that much (they didn’t open them during the party).

  7. I think it’s a great idea- if she doesn’t need anything there’s really no use in spending more money on things you don’t need. She won’t remember! I always said my parents should have saved their money and bought me a car when I got old enough instead of those plastic toys I forgot about a year later

  8. i don’t think she’ll be missing out if you say no gifts – at this age, the wrapping paper itself is sometimes more fun than any toy. for the first birthday, we actaully went out to eat as a family that was important to us but we’re doing it up bigger for second birthday this winter!

  9. I think most people would understand your desire to minimize “stuff.” Birthdays and holidays and weddings should really be about celebrating with people rather than with stuff. (Though I still get the random relative who insists on gifting pajamas or hat/scarf every Christmas.) And although I am constantly trying to limit the “stuff” I own, I do have a soft spot for books, especially children’s literature. So when I eventually have a kid and birthday parties, I might suggest that guests who really want to bring a physical present bring one favorite children’s book (any age). Any duplicates can be donated, and the books can be enjoyed for years to come. (“A book is a present you can open again and again.”)

  10. A no-gift birthday is such a great idea! All of my nephews have plenty of toys and I struggle to pick appropriate and useful gifts for their birthdays and holidays. Can Ruby be my niece? 🙂

  11. It’s too bad that you can no longer gift paper savings bonds. I got several as a baby and young child from various relatives and it was so neat to be able to take them to a bank and cash them in as a teenager. Neither here nor there, really.
    What about asking people to bring a gift for a local charity? Here we have House of Ruth, which takes in women and children who have been victims of domestic violence. They are always in need of blankets, toys, women’s clothing, etc. Then people get to shop, bring something in hand for the party and you don’t have clutter? Just a thought.

  12. Oh, I have heard friends bringing their favorite childhood book to gift to the child! That’s a really cool idea and I’m sure your daughter would love to read them when she can read!
    Here’s a rhyme I found on the Internet –
    •A card is something very nice,
    But maybe read only once or twice.
    So instead, think of sharing a book you see
    And mommy and daddy will read it to me.
    Please sign your name and add a note too,
    So I know this storybook was from you.
    I’m tiny now, just a sweet little tot
    But someday I’ll thank you with all my heart
    Very cute! 🙂

  13. A no gift birthday party is a great idea, although I’m sure some will still bring gifts. People my feel a little guilty coming to a party empty handed. Huge gift filled parties for a 1 year old are more for the adults in to room anyway. I’m sure she will have a lovely time with or without gifts. I see a lot of book suggestions. Maybe the guests can bring books and the books can be donated to an under funded school. I’ve donated books to a school before and the children were very appreciative. I received lots of thank you letters from them too 🙂

  14. We had a “no gifts please” party for the twins first birthday and asked people to donate to the March of Dimes. We were walking to support raising awareness for premature births a few weeks after their party so it all tied in nicely.

  15. I love this idea. When I think of how many baby and toddler gifts I have given that go unused or just sit in a corner I would much rather give to charity or contribute to a future college fund 🙂

  16. What a great idea. I’m going to file that away. I think you can end up with a glut of gifts, but I really like the idea of a library thing or asking people to donate gifts for a local charity.
    In my circle of friends, I think people enjoy bringing food if it’s a party – they feel they want to bring something, and bringing food helps them to feel part of the party. That also helps cut down on the work 🙂

  17. I love the idea of contributing to the book library but I want to take that one step further. A really cool idea would be to request iTunes gift cards and song request lists from friends for Ruby. You could then use the gift cards to download the songs that people love and want to share with Ruby and create Ruby’s music library/play list. It’s amazing what songs people love and remember from childhood. You can save the song request lists for her baby book and look back when she gets older and see who’s contributions to her first playlist helped shape her taste in music. You could even take movie requests and build her a movie library in iTunes to watch on the iPad/Apple TV for years to come without having to purchase a single DVD.

  18. we went to a party where they asked us to donate to childrens hospital LA…thought it was a great idea and we did donate. i think the 1st birthday you can totally get away with it, my daughter is 3 and expects gifts now because she sees it at other parties.

  19. My baby’s about two weeks younger than yours, and this has been on my mind too. I’ve seen all the junk that kids can get at their first birthdays, and it just seems so unnecessary, and the kids don’t really get it yet anyway. But I see two big issues: 1: how to word the invitation, as mentioning presents at all seems a bit wrong, and 2: people will feel awkward coming without anything, I know I would. I kind of like the donation idea, as long as the guests know that their gifts will most likely be donated. I like the book idea too, you can never have too many books. I am not sure if I would make a donation to a charity in lieu of a gift, that seems a little awkward, and doesn’t seem to have much to do with the baby being celebrated. I am trying to think of other things that people could bring instead, to help celebrate the baby, without adding all that clutter, but haven’t come up with anything yet.

  20. My sister asks people if they would like to bring a gift bring it for Amy’s Holiday Party, a local charity that throws a Christmas party for kids. It’s actually really common here in Atlanta. The kids get to keep relatives gifts, which is more than enough. As for our girls, I didn’t have a shower when I was pregnant so I am all for other people stocking us up at this point, bring on the toys!

  21. Happy Almost Birthday! I’m a new reader, and I love your blog! My son is going to be 2 in Jan, and I’m already thinking about his party. For his 1st I did do gifts and I also had a charity option (his birthday was at the Houston Zoo, and people could donate to Give a Gift of Grub for the animals). Mainly I kept present options in because of the big celebration / memories of the day. It was a lot of fun opening presents with him after the party (although to be honest at 19 months his fav toys are still our tupperware and balls).
    I could have easily probably left this out because us (parents) and Grandparents would have still given gifts.
    For his second, we aren’t doing gifts (just family gifts). I’m going to figure out a charity people can donate too. I am thinking donate children’s books since his theme is Where the Wild Things Are!
    I would LOVE if more Bday parties were charity and not gifts!
    Any plans to come to Houston for your book tour?

  22. Donations for a charity are great, or collecting new books to donate to your public library system, perhaps. I feel that donations is a better approach than simply saying “no gifts please” because most people bring a gift anyway. Have fun planning Ruby’s party!

  23. I’m with the book idea! My SIL just threw me a baby shower and instructed people to bring a book instead of a card. It was AWESOME, and now I have a ton of books!

  24. I so feel you on the no space thing, we are prepping for our new little one and are already struggling with where to put everything. I like the idea of book giving if people feel they must bring something, you can never have too many since kids like to read them over and over and over again! I gave my bff a gift to take her 1 year old daughter to the zoo, I just paid for 2 adult entries and presented a “coupon”. No toys hanging around and it gave them a chance to get out and do something fun that they might not have done on their own.

  25. happy early birthday to little ruby! (: I support the no-gift party! (: only because I just threw a party for my little boy who turned one last month and he has an older brother with lots of new and second hand toys, books, clothes, you name it, we have it. because it’s traditional, we tell guests no gifts but they come bearing with red packets instead. which is always favoured more than vouchers (due for the fact that we always forget to spend them until a month before they expire! :x)

  26. This is apparently just me, but I think when you invite someone to a party, you should give them the free will to express their joy the way they see fit. Selecting a gift, to me, is a way for me to think about the person and be a part of it in some way. So when faced with this “no gifting” business, I gift anyway. If they ask us to donate to charity, then I do that as well. Just books? Sure. No matter what, though, if there are gifts, open them while the guests are still there. I’ve been to so many parties lately where they don’t open the presents. I want to see everything!

  27. We were faced with this very dilemma a few weeks ago when we were party planning as my daughter turned one this week. {We also live in a small apartment with no storage space.} We hosted a small party and asked that our family and friends not bring gifts. While some of our friends complied (one couple who know us well brought food for everyone to enjoy – Hawaiian poke! :), and some thoughtfully brought gifts for mom and dad for surviving the first year, but many actually did bring gifts for our daughter. In retrospect, we should have asked directly that they donate to a charity, bring one or two small books, or perhaps even a dessert to share {dessert bar, anyone?}, rather than going the “no gifts” route. Good luck, Joy! I hope you figure out something that works best for you and your family…

  28. I love going “no gifts” for children birthday parties, especially when they are babies. We stated no gifts please on the invitation for my daughters first birthday but people still showed up with some. For birthdays one and two we requested that guests bring a new children’s book to be donated to a local family centre. I tell my daughter that her birthday party is her present.

  29. i think having your guests donate to charity is an awesome idea! i wanted to do that for my wedding last year! this will help more people become more aware of donating to charity and they will most likely do it again! hope things go well!

  30. I think she should get gifts! They need new toys, clothes and books as they get older. I would donate the stuff you don’t want anymore and make room for the new.

  31. i feel like this a really common topic these days. no gift parties are becoming more and more popular and the toys can end of being totally overkill. my only issue is… i recently went to a “no gifts please” party and respected the parents’ wishes by not bringing one. once i got there, severalll people still brought gifts. it made me feel bad and like a lame friend. so, that’s just my experience! ha. good luck!

  32. I think you have the right idea! Gifts are a nice thought but at this age, she won’t know the difference. The BIGGEST most appreciated gift would be to donate to a group who REALLY needs the money and overall attention. Your husband is a surgeon at a children’s hospital, right? I would be honoured and inspired to donate to the hospital or something like it? A children specific charity makes it about Ruby, but saves you from extra clutter at the house. Just a thought… ps. I can’t believe she’s almost a year old!!?

  33. I love the book only idea – because really, you can never have to many books. And maybe ask guest to write a little note inside the book so that each of them will be extra special? This way you want end up with a lot of space-stealing toys, and people will still feel like they are giving something to her, celebrating her.

  34. We had a no-gifts 1st birthday party and told our invitees that it was not only a celebration of Hazel’s first year of life but also a “thank you” party to all of our friends and family who greatly supported us throughout the whole year. Our daughter didn’t miss the gifts at all and everyone had a great time just playing and enjoying ourselves.
    We considered a charity donation, but it didn’t seem appropriate to me. I understand that for a wedding, but I didn’t feel the need to ask our close friends and family to give anything…they’ve all done more than enough. Have fun! It’s been so fun to watch Ruby grow up this year. Thanks for sharing a little bit of her (and you) with us.

  35. Book gifts are always a good alternative to no gifts. For my twin girls we did a “green party” and had our friends bring either things that were gently used by their kids or pick up unique items from a yard sale or consignment sale instead of buying new items. But giving to charity is a great idea as well. So either way I think your ideas would work out perfectly!

  36. Happy birthday to Ruby! We just had my daughter’s first birthday party 2 weeks ago. We told guests not to bring gifts, but they could make a donation in her name to IMA World Health’s “Safe Motherhood Kit” program for women giving birth in developing countries. A few donated to the charity, but most people still brought gifts. Some did both. Her little daycare friends could not imagine going to a birthday party and not bringing the guest of honor a fun present, and the women in my family could not imagine passing up making or buying adorable toddler clothes. So no one really took our “no gifts” suggestion seriously, but I think it’s nice to have a charity option rather than telling people no gifts at all.
    In the reverse role, if I were the guest, I would donate to the charity and probably get a small trinket like headband or a bottle of bubbles along with a card saying I donated.

  37. Aww happy birthday soon to Ruby! What a cutie. Yeah I think a no-gift party is a good idea, if you wanted maybe doing a fund for Ruby’s college tuition (long way off, but good time to save). My friend’s daughter had a 1 year birthday party back in February, and she got gifts but yeah she maybe had 2 gifts that she really seemed to like and that’s it, so to them it’s not a big thing it’s really more for the parents anyways 😉

  38. Such a great idea. It really becomes overwhelming with weddings, baby showers, birthdays, bachelorette parties, engagement parties, bridal showers– I mean REALLY!?
    Just discovered your blog, LOVE it!

  39. Friends of mine hosted their son’s 1 year party last year and asked their closest friends (their son’s “aunties and uncles”) to bestow tokens that expressed something the givers were passionate about and wished for their son. And then we gave our well-wishes on video with short explanations of what the token meant. My husband and I gave him a teeny miniature camera — actually a real vintage Japanese spy camera and a toy sized replica of an iconic chair – hoping he will grow to have appreciation for adventure, photography, art and design. They plan to save the gifts and video to give later in his life when (hopefully) he will appreciate the sentiments.

  40. I agree on the idea of book as gifts for the party. If everyone writes in the book as the card it remains a beautiful and sentimental gift for a life time. Now that my daughter is 3 any book we read that has an inscription, I always have to read it and she loves hearing them (over and over and over again!).

  41. I think no gift is a wonderful idea, especially at that age.
    My parents had a no birthday gift policy actually for my parties growing up (though they bought me random gifts throughout the year). At first I kind of resented it, but then I grew to understand it. I loved inviting my friends, celebrating and hosting, without any of the obligation of them needing to buy me things. They often made me cards, which I liked. The focus of the parties was fun and celebration, not stuff.

  42. I think the no gift idea is a great one. At 1 year old kids hardly understand gifts. Donating to a charity would be great. Or you could just do a book theme and have everyone present books. They won’t occupy much space and will be a great source of reading!!

  43. I love the idea of people bringing a gift that you can then donate to charity. Maybe a specific type of gift (like books) that you can then donate. Maybe even make it a tradition – a gift each year (once Ruby wants to keep some presents) 🙂

  44. Kids in middle and upper-class societies don’t miss out from a lack of toys and clothing, however, they can miss out on the intangibles of life. That’s precisely why I chose to go with a no-gift bday for my Miss A. (Like you, I also had storage issues.) I listed a website on the invitation with her bday details, which let guests know they could donate to a specific non-profit that benefited children in poverty, if they still wanted to give a “gift.” A link to the charity was on the website. A few guests still brought her gifts and we graciously accepted them. She really enjoyed ripping the wrapping paper off…You could always give Ruby a roll of wrapping paper and let her have a go at it! =)

  45. Sorry but I have to disagree with a strict no gift policy! One of my favorite ways to celebrate someone’s birthday is to select a nice and thoughtful gift to give. I think you could perhaps give people an option to do a gift or charity, and explain why. Perhaps you can select a charity that is meaningful to you that would resonate with others. I also like the book theme suggestion. If you get some you already have, then donate those to charity. I also think for those of us without kids, we like to have an excuse to buy cute things for our friends’ kids since we don’t have any of our own.
    Just my two cents…

  46. I would definitely donate to a charity in lieu of a physical gift. For our wedding my husband and I had a relatively small traditional registry and then listed several charities that we would love for our guests to donate to (and we were incredibly happy that many of our family and friends chose to do so). If people really feel uncomfortable about showing up without bringing anything, maybe they could contribute some food and/or drinks that everyone could enjoy!

  47. We are having a no gift party – basically for the same reasons you listed. We live in a small house, our son has plenty of toys, we don’t think he will really grasp the idea of gifts, and we don’t want our friends and family (especially those without kids) to feel obligated to buy a gift. We considered asking for gifts to give to a children’s charity, but decided we can just do that on our own. We know that certain family members and close friends want to buy him presents and of course we will kindly accept them 🙂

  48. Our youngest spent his first weeks in the NICU so when his first birthday came around we had everyone bring a donation for the Children’s Hospital in lieu of a gift. That way those who insisted on bringing something still got to and we got to pay it forward.

  49. I LOVE the idea of a no gift party!! We have 4 little ones 6 and under and 3 of their birthdays fall within a month of each other and we just find ourselves buried in stuff we don’t have room for after parties! and about 75% if it is not stuff we need or want so we’ve taken to donating it to an inner city charity for kids. We’re thinking of just asking guests to bring a children’s book they love if they want to bring gifts to future parties 🙂

  50. My daughter didn’t start playing with toys until she’s 2-ish. Before that it was only a novelty, and it’s wayyy more for the parents, not really for the kid. I would suggest, if anything, clothes or books would be handy. Books becomes very handy after she turned 2 because she really enjoy having us reading books after books after books for her…
    That’s my case 🙂

  51. I see from the photo that Ruby has the same Rainforest Bouncer as my little one 🙂
    I was invited to a few no-gifts birthday parties lately and the invitations simply stated “no gifts, please” and “no presents, just your presence.” I do agree that some people will still bring gifts. Honestly, I’m one of those people…I just love choosing or especially making a gift for a little one. At my son’s 1st birthday party, most of the guests were family and they brought small, practical gifts like books and clothes (they know we have limited space in our condo).
    Either way, it will be a wonderful, exciting memorable day. And you will no doubt, go completely overboard designing everything. I know I spent many hours designing and assembling my son’s invites and party decor when I should have been working 😉 Enjoy the day!

  52. We did a book party for my daughter’s first birthday. I’d rather have a stack of books then a pile of toys (especially as we have a tiny house and I’m very picky)

  53. We did a no gift birthday party for our daughter’s first and second birthdays. Same reasons you listed – too much stuff, not enough space, and this child does not want for anything! I just said, “No gifts please! Only your company and your enjoyment requested.” Some people still brought something but it was little – a small book or something like that. But otherwise they heeded the request.

  54. My baby isn’t even out in the world yet and I’m already trying to tell family and friends (as tactfully as possible) to please please please not buy gifts. I live overseas but will head home to have the baby and I’m terrified at the thought of either trying to haul all that stuff back overseas with me, or offending someone by leaving a gift in storage that we might never get to enjoy before the baby outgrows it. So I think a no-gifts party is a great idea, but considering the number of gifts I’ve already received (two pairs of toddler-sized pink snow pants? I don’t even know if I’m having a girl!) it really makes me think more about our culture of gift-giving.

  55. I think this is a fantastic idea! Why should she miss out on anything? She will still have a cake and loving, caring people about her. What more does a 1-year-old really need?

  56. A no-gift party is a great idea. We have tried, with no success, to have a no-gift birthday party for our daughter for the past eight years. Our parents and close friends found it impossible to follow our request.
    We did have success with a no-gift party (sort of) when she began having a separate party for friends. Since her birthday is Oct 25, we requested guests bring an unwrapped gift, for a boy or a girl of any age. The gifts would then be donated to Toys for Tots a few weeks later.
    The first time we did this, when she was 5 years old, was a little rough, but now it’s no big deal. She has come to fully understand the concept of giving back.

  57. I think your idea is great! I’d donate if you made it easy for me, to be honest. There are websites where people donate easily right through paypal right there for someone’s cause (usually small amounts of money are needed to reach the person’s goal). I can’t remember the name of the site though. But, if you find it and send everyone the exact link for donation then you’ll get more results that way and really change someone’s life in honor of Ruby’s special day.

  58. How about making it a ‘hand-made-card-in-lieu-of-present’ party. That will allow people to express their wishes for Ruby in a very personal way that far surpasses the giving of a purchased present.
    I found the first birthday of my first-born (also a daughter) was much more about a celebration of all the wonderful family and friends we had in our lives and an opportunity to thank them for the support they had given us over the previous 12 months – as much as I loved being a mum, it was a shock to the system!!
    Happy birthday, Ruby (in advance!)

  59. Me again – another idea that might work for Ruby and be a bit of fun – a ‘bring a blossom’ party – each guest brings a single flower to be assembled into a piece of floral art at the party.

  60. I might do the same thing if I have children one day… enforce a ‘no gift’ policy for the first (maybe second) birthday. As you say… they are much too young to appreciate it anyhow. Any gift that is received may also be donated to charity. Time certainly flies… eh?

  61. sweet idea! we actually did this for Christmas once. People obliged, but of course, people still wanted to give us tangible gifts, too. no harm in having a little of both, yeah?

  62. We’ve done a no-gift party for the last two years and some of our friends have started doing the same. instead we asked friends to contribute/donate to the Families of SMA – the leading genetic killer of children under 2 for which there is currently no treatment and no cure.

  63. In my culture, it´s rude to come to a party (or even someone´s home!) empty handed, so if you´re having a party, you could ask people to bring a dish instead of a gift and explain that Ruby doesn´t need toys or clothes. Of course this depends on the size of the party you´re planning on throwing too. You can´t have fifty people bring cupcakes!

  64. Great idea for a charity. Perhaps you could specify one that is dear to you and it makes it easier for the guests. Or books would make a great gift idea. There are so many wonderful books for kids and she will enjoy them over and over. One can never have enough books.

  65. What about everyone brings a favorite book too add to her little girl library? hen she gets to open something, but it doesn’t take up loads of space and you’ll get lots of use from them 🙂

  66. I totally agree with a couple of the other commenters that a book-giving party would be really fun and can still be a meaningful gift for your guests to give. Maybe everyone can bring Ruby a copy of their favorite book from when they were kids? Those books are things she’ll have forever. 🙂

  67. You can always ask guests to bring a favorite kid’s book to donate to a local battered women and children’s home. There are several here in Los Angeles, like the Alexandria House. I’m sure they could use them.

  68. I had a book only party and asked for books for any age child that the giver loved. It was great to already have books at the next level before she got there. We got about 30 books and she is now 10. We’ve read all of the books except the Wrinkle in Time trilogy that I think she is just a little to young for yet.

  69. A gift is as much about the giver as it is about the recipient, some of your relatives and close friends may be sad to lose the opportunity to present a gift to your child on a milestone birthday such as a first birthday. A book party might be a good solution? Even at the youngest ages children love to be read to. I remember every book that my children have ever enjoyed. We have sent bags and bags of toys to charity over time but we have kept every book, I even have some of my nannas books from her childhood and she passed away five years ago.

  70. My kids are 18, 8, and 5 and they don’t need any more ‘stuff’. For birthdays my mom gives them an annual pass to the art gallery or aquarium or science center. We can then go as many times as we like (two visits = cost of annual membership). As for kid’s parties, we (and many of our friends) do a toonie party (in Canada, a toonie is a $2 coin). The birthday kid gets to go shopping with half and the other half is given to charity. It’s economical for everyone, means less obligation, and teaches the kids about sharing.

  71. For my first few birthdays/christmases I got presents from my parents, but everybody else was encouraged to buy mutual funds instead of other gifts. By the time they matured I was a teen wanting to buy a car/thinking about college.

  72. Every time I’ve been to a no gift party or a party where you are asked to donate to a charity, people still bring gifts. But the parties where people asked for a beloved book – those work! And children can never have too many books! 🙂 People like to come to parties bearing something in hand.

  73. I had a friend that did no gifts and instead asked guests to bring a book to donate to a child in need. Sadly, most of the guest did not comply and brought a gift anyway.

  74. i’m so with you. when i have kids i really hope to be able to keep the number of toys to a minimum! so i do hope you have success with this… if it were me, i wouldn’t bother asking them to donate to a charity though. if they ask if there’s anything else they could do, bring it up then, otherwise it could make other people feel bad about doing their own kid’s birthday parties the traditional way.

  75. This might not work with your situation but we have a an Bilingual playgroup that we celebrate birthdays with. Instead of everyone bringing gifts, the parents of the birthday child buys a book and we have some book plates to put in the front saying that it is off all their playgroup friends and the year. We have been doing this for 5 years now and it works really well. If you have a similar group of friends that you always hang out with you could introduce the idea.
    Hope you all have a great 1st birthday!

  76. You can request no gifts, but that doesn’t mean that people will actually do it. The grandparents probably will not abide by this request. One time we were invited to a no-gift party for my son’s friend and we showed up, having followed the suggestion, with no gift. And we were the ONLY people who didn’t bring a gift. It was kind of embarrassing, even though we followed the request!
    Could you maybe suggest that you’re having a theme party of some kind, like, for example, a book party to stock the baby’s library?

  77. We are struggling with this as well. With three boys under the age of five, we get way too many toys and then the boys don’t appreciate anything. We didn’t have birthday parties for them and they did not care one bit! They were just as happy getting one present from the family and blowing out some candles.

  78. I know a teenage girl who recently had a birthday. For her party, she asked her friends to bring toilet paper for a local shelter. I was so proud of her!

  79. Toys at birthday parties can be overwhelming, and with two girls – I’ve donated a lot of them already just to make space – and that’s in a four bedroom home. I have seen people do donations to a college/savings fund for the child and only book parties – which I LOVE.

  80. Let me add too – you could do presents with your in-laws and parents separately in a little get together. With friends and extended family the ‘no gift rule’ would be easy but there is no way my mom wouldn’t get my girls presents. So maybe an exception for the grandparents? I think it partially depends on the family.

  81. As a clutter-phobe as well (and since little ones are oblivious to the concept of gifts), I’m completely on board with the less stuff mentality.
    Perhaps ask if guests want to bring a gift, to bring a small contribution towards Ruby’s college years. My grandparents did that for me on my birthday by purchasing US Treasury Bonds. Although I felt a little gypped as I reached 7+, I was VERY grateful when I cashed them in my freshman year of college to put towards my tuition.
    It’s a perfect, non-clutter way to help give something priceless to a child. And, the parents!

  82. This is such an interesting question in these modern times and how blessed are we to even think about graciously turning away people’s gifts? So many of us are attempting to simplify, limit and dare I say, control? the things that come in to our homes, especially where child items are concerned. I’ve heard very .. honest … people say they don’t want presents because they didn’t want to deal with the inevitable plastic, character-branded, noisy, clutter-filled results. A totally understandable impulse, but …
    In my personal experience, I thought very seriously about making our first birthday party a “no-gifts” affair but I changed my mind and I’m glad I did. I was surprised at how absolutely touched I was by the things we received! So many toys and books I wouldn’t have known about/thought to give my daughter turned out to be her favorites and as she got older, we spent a lot of time talking about the “origin stories” of her treasured possessions … who gave it to her, which birthday.
    Giving and receiving gifts can be one of life’s great pleasures and I think it’s something all children should learn. One is bit young, of course 🙂 but I just wanted to offer another perspective.

  83. I have a coworker who did the same thing for her child and instead of physical gifts, she family and friends were able to purchase credits toward her child’s swim lessons, which was the gift they wanted to give their child the most. If there’s some activity you’d love for Ruby to do, this idea is kind of the best of both worlds; you give your friends and family happy by making it possible for them to give a gift and your family benefits from giving Ruby what she really enjoys.

  84. So when my little guy turned one we had a party with pretty much just our adult friends. We didn’t really know anyone ended with kids. I totally didn’t expect anyone to bring anything, but they did. (Even my single guy friends). While we definitely didn’t have space, I found that the toys that were brought were things I probably wouldn’t have bought but he loves. luckily they really avoided the super annoying noaiy ones. At 2.5 he still plays with most the toys and some are even more appropriate now. Also, I didn’t have a baby shower where we lived, so I think it helped our guests feel like they were celebrating with us and they had fun sharing gifts they had bought for him.

  85. yeah, do it!
    it’s one of the best things to do. a friend of mine did it and she still ended up with lots of presents. we did the “optional” route and ended up with more cash gifts than presents – in the end, we donated toys and cash to charity.

  86. our third kiddo turns 1 in about 10 days. we decided “no gifts” this time around. at one year old she won’t have a clue what she’s missing! and we just asked our guests to come celebrate with us and allow us to thank THEM for helping us survive the first year 🙂

  87. I think it’s a great idea but I’m biased. I did this last year for my son’s 7th birthday. We did “no gifts or donate to Kiva.” Kiva turned out to be a nice thing for parents to do with their kids, helping a stranger out instead of choosing a generic toy at Target that we might already have.

  88. I think it’s a really nice thought to have a no-gift party. Especially since Ruby’s birthday is right before the holiday season and she will get loaded up at Christmas time. And as others said, this may be the only time you can get away with it!
    Our daughter’s birthday is in May, and we kind of lucked out because pretty much every 6 months, she gets a wardrobe/book/toy revamp, and we don’t have to pay for it! Ha! When people ask me what size she wears, I always tell them the next size up in clothes and shoes because she is set for *right now*, and it’s helpful to already having those items when I suddenly discover that a growth spurt has occurred.

  89. Hi Joy!
    Even though it is for a wonderful cause, I personally would feel awkward telling people HOW to spend their money (like “donate here”…even though I know, I know…it’s charitable).
    However I also feel you on the space dilemma….and people do love to give gifts…not even so much for the benefit of the receiver, but because it feels good to give and some people are just givers by nature and want to see the joy on the recipient’s face.
    You might want to try wording the invitation “Your fellowship is the only gift we need! But if you still have the urge to give, we’d love for you to donate to ______” Or even a simple “gifts optional”. 🙂
    Happy (almost) 1st birthday to your little gem, Ruby.

  90. I really miss the days when my kids were small and we could have parties that adults as well as little kids could enjoy. When they were small, we asked that people not bring gifts since it didn’t mean much to the kids at that point anyway, and we just wanted for the day to be a simple celebration for all. Now that kids are older, it’s more complicated, but I love going to parties where each child brings a book for a book exchange at the end. That way, every child goes home happy. And your child will have presents from you and close family/friends.

  91. I’m not sure if this idea has been mentioned, but I copied my sister in law for my son’s fifth birthday party and asked on the invitation for everyone to bring a small gift in the $5 range that any 4-6 year old would like. As the guests came in I put a numbered sticker on the gifts and then at present time they all picked a number from the bowl and found the corresponding gift. We counted 1-2-3! and then everyone opened a gift at the same time. They all loved it and everyone got to go home with something fun as well as have the chance to give a gift. Plus, it saved the parents some money. The gifts were the small kind of things that children usually beg for at the store, so they were all thrilled with the fun little gifts. I have four young children and this is definitely going to be a new tradition for every birthday party.

  92. I’ll be blunt: just let the love flow.
    The sentiment is good, but in practice what it becomes is a way to turn off the flow from the whacko gift-givers in your world (usually relatives, right?!). It doesn’t come from a open, generous place. I began in the no-gift ranks and I have finished in the come-as-you-are camp.
    Because, if we’re honest, there ARE fabulous gifts out there we would never turn down for our munchkin, right? So it’s not genuine to say we don’t want any gifts at all, at the root.
    After five years of attending no-gift parties with my munchkins, my most frank and kind advice is to have a pre-brainstormed answer for people who ask what you want (I always ask ‘toys, books or clothes?’ of the mom), and to say nothing whatsoever about it to the rest of the people. You will get great stuff you never thought of (usually from people with young kids, too) and awful plastic. The freely given love is what is worth keeping, regardless of the form it arrives with. Let what you don’t need go back out into the universe, and if it’s from a dear one who will see it every day consider using it for a month and then letting it go discreetly. Consider having a very small party, another good way to limit this challenge – small people get lost in the shuffle almost instantly when over three kids come, I’ve found.
    My tip, by the way, for when you’re attending one of these parties yourself is to make a donation if it is requested, then also come up with a really great small gift you are 100% sure the child itself will be into. (For tinies, something like one Schleich animal, a tiny Corolle baby, or a board book with baby faces.) If the child is three and up, a well-brainstormed gift is especially kind (I recommend a tape dispenser decorated by you, with extra tape rolls).
    Just my two cents…learned the hard way. Good luck!

  93. Yes! Agreed. I’m one of those who don’t like to show up without a gift in hand. Books are always useful and appreciated… and inexpensive for everyone! A nice treat!

  94. i think asking friends and family to honor your no-gift request is just fine, especially for ruby’s age! if you plan to have many people joining you to celebrate the amount of gifts, however sweet and thoughtful, have to be dealt with in addition to sending thank you cards. To celebrate our son’s first birthday we suggested folks write a little note imparting wisdom, humor or advice that will be opened on his 18th birthday.
    have a wonderful celebration!

  95. Donations are great. You could also ask that people bring a donation or if they really WANT to bring a gift, make it their favourite childhood book. That way they are 1)sharing a special memory. 2) it is not a huge space issue for your. 3) you can easily pass them on when she outgrows them.

  96. I would so much rather donate to a charity then bring a toy or whatever to a young child’s party. I think that’s a great idea. We’ve gotten some really cute gifts with a lot of meaning, but that’s not what’s important at all – and you’re right when they’re young they don’t know. I say enjoy the party with friends and family and donate to a favorite cause close to your hearts.

  97. Wording I’ve seen and liked: “Your presence is the best gift” or “Your presence is the best present”.
    We are going to attempt the no gifts at my daughter’s first birthday party too.

  98. Just like Brianna, Victoria, Amber, and many other commenters mentioned, I think that asking guests to contribute to a college fund is a great idea! You should take a look at CollegeBacker. Its platform allows you to easily invite friends and family to contribute to your child’s 529 college savings plan. If you don’t have one, CollegeBacker’s simple interface makes it really easy to sign up.


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