First off, I understand that what works for my family may very well not work for your family. But no-gifts party works just dandy for my family.
For the first birthday party that I threw for my dd, she turned six. I sat her down, and brutally told her that if I was paying for the party with my hard earned money, then it would happen according to my rules. Instead of one child receiving many presents, it would be every child receives only one present. Yes, I told my dd, I understand that the birthday girl got lots of presents at every single birthday party that my dd had attended so far. That's perfectly fine, and lots of fun, but our family is going to do it differently, just because. For our family, either every single child receives only one present, or no party at all. Take it, or leave it. After an hour of many "Why?"s, my dd was fine with it.
We did a book exchange. I invited every single kid in my dd's class, just because that happens to be a quirky priority for me.
In the invitation, I laid it on the line. "Please, please, please, do NOT bring the birthday girl a present. Instead, please bring a wrapped new (less than $7) or used (in good condition) book that a kindergartener would enjoy. The children will do a book exchange." That's it. No reason why. Just an up front plea.
At the party, I made a big production over it. I had children draw numbers to randomly allocate the books. Then, only when each child had a wrapped package in his/her hands, I had all the children rip open the wrapping all at the same time. The kids had a fantastic time.
Here is the feedback I got. All of the parents told me how much they loved the idea. I started a trend because several parents copied this or did something similar when their children had their birthday parties several months later, and they told me that the inspiration came from my dd's party. With one or two minor exceptions, everyone followed my wishes to the letter. The one or two kids who also brought a gift, did so very discreetly, so that none of the other families were the wiser. We just told the child that the present would be unwrapped at home, and followed it up with a thank you note. Best of all, none of the kids noticed that I didn't do goody bags to take home. The children were perfectly happy taking home a mylar balloon and their newly unwrapped book home. My daughter got tons of birthday gifts from relatives, so she had plenty of gifts to unwrap later. No tears at all. In fact, we had lots of happy laughter.
We did the same thing again six months ago for the seventh birthday, and will almost certainly do the same thing for the eighth birthday.
Originally Posted by childsplay
The first - and last - no gift birthday party my kids (and I) attended was awkward. My kids couldn't understand it, no matter what kind of 'happy-earth-friendly-spin' I tried to put on it they had already written off the kid's parents as "so mean" . The birthday boy wasn't buying it either and spent the last half hour of the party crying. He didn't want to open the cards that his friends had brought, and he certainly didn't seem to care at all about the food bank donations that were collected in lieu of gifts. I can't say I blame him, I mean, he's 6. He's a kid, he wants presents.