Do you really have to take a gift to a child's birthday party? Every. Single. Time?


“Kids get so many presents.”

“They don’t need another piece of crap to throw in the toy box and forget about.”

“Trust me parents don’t want more rubbish to have to sift through.”

These are all true sentiments.

Listen to Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo talk about whether it’s a non-negotiable to take a present to a kids’ party, no matter how much stuff they already have. (Post continues after audio.)

We don’t really want our child to be showered in unnecessary gifts do we?

We don’t really want more toys to put together, more cardboard to throw out, more teeny tiny Lego heads to step on in the middle of the night.

But sometimes the old clichés really do have merit and this time it is the thought that counts.

The thought your child is invited to a birthday party – a party another parent has put days worth of effort (mentally or literally) into organising – that your child will show their appreciation by bringing a gift.

The thought that the birthday party celebratee is just a child –  a child excitedly anticipating, dreaming of a shining iced cake, smiling friends and a table piled high with brightly wrapped gifts.

With that invitation comes an unwritten rule, and expectation. Via IStock.

The thought that your child has been invited to the party because the birthday kid likes them and respects them – or just happens to be in the same class – but nonetheless went to the effort to invite YOUR child.

So with that invitation comes an unwritten rule, and expectation – and it is this:


I will feed your child too much sugar and entertain them for two-hours straight and you bring my child a gift.

It doesn’t haven to be a big gift, it doesn’t have to be an elaborate gift, it doesn’t even have to be store bought – but there needs to be a present.

But its common courtesy to put in a token of effort isn’t it? Image via IStock.

I’m spelling this out because I have come across this trend – a small trend – but a trend all the same of not bothering with gifts for the birthday child.


There are reasons, as set out earlier, there are justifications and there are excuses of all different shapes and styles but basically they come down to just a few things.

1. Cavalier parents who don’t give a toss.

2. Lazy parents who couldn’t be faffed to steer the trolley up toy aisle in Woollies.

3. And busy parents who forget to get a present... and then “forget” again in the weeks that come after.

Now as a parent I agree with the sentiment that our children have too much. I agree that no child really needs three Barbie netball star dolls. No child needs two junior garage trucks. No child needs a Paint Your Own Elsa.

But its common courtesy to put in a token of effort isn’t it?


She feels her child gets “ripped off” at birthdays. Via IStock.

Birthday party gift etiquette is a controversial topic on social media. Last year a mother wrote into an advice column asking for advice on her concerns whether she was being ripped off on gifts.

She wrote as she has an only child she feels her child gets “ripped off” at birthdays when a pair of siblings attend her party and only bring one gift.

She wrote: "For example, I typically spend around $30 per gift for a child, and $30 more for the sibling’s birthday when that rolls around, but the gift their family provides to our one child is a $30 value and comes addressed from both kids.

We normally have our daughter’s party at an external place such as the zoo and have to pay per party guest, so we are also paying admission for each of the family’s two children. Is it unreasonable to expect a gift from each attendee — or a gift with a higher value if they combine?


Aren’t they double dipping?"

Others have asked if its okay to, instead of gifts, ask for a contribution to a fund or say swimming lessons or French classes.

Other parents have pleaded for no gifts wonder if they could donate the ones their child got to charity.

And then there are the birthday party gift registries.. for six-year-olds.

Ignore the pleas for no gifts, ignore the requests for “all put in for a pamper my princess session.” Image via IStock.

So many unsolved problems, so many social etiquette questions. So much angst over a simple birthday party.

Well I have a solution to all these birthday party gift dilemmas.

Its easy and simple and has worked for as long as the game pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey has been around.

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It goes something like this. Ignore the pleas for no gifts, ignore the requests for “all put in for a pamper my princess session.”

Pay attention to the fact your child is attending a party where another child is celebrating a milestone and put in some effort.

Visit your nearest toy shop or craft store.

Buy something small that your own child might like, whether its a plastic toy or a packet of paints it doesn't matter, wrap it up and give it to the child celebrating a birthday.

Watch and delight in the thrill of watching your child enjoy the feeling of giving and the other child enjoy being though of.

See how easy parenting can be?

Dilemma solved.