90% of the parties we attend are fairly large of the all-kids-from-preschool invited type. All the kids...all...have more than enough and probably too much. Almost all of the parties are "no gifts please" or some variation. It is very very nice to just enjoy the party and it is very, very nice to not to deal with the pile at junk. Gifts just are not part of the equation and for this I am more than happy to overlook the etiquette of not mentioning gifts ever. For the rare party we attend that is not gift-free I only ever bring art supplies or books unless I know the child super-well and have something very special in mind. And usually I mail them from amazon and we don't physically take them. My kids don't even associate parties with gifts.
We do buy rather nice gifts for nephews and nieces and the kids know and participate in those. But usually it is a single, nice item and I try and buy handmade, ethically made goods whenever possible.