New birthday party trend: banning birthday presents.

Like any other mother, I’m accustomed to the often strange requests and rules that come with interacting with other parents and children. Don’t bring outside food into kinder – sure. Bring a plate of gluten free vegan treats to share at little Joey’s party – can do. I’ve even had a close friend report with mortification that her gift of Lego to a neighbour’s child was rejected because “we don’t allow plastic”. Well, to me that’s extreme (and also kind of rude) but okay.

Recently though, a new one has popped up on my radar and it’s left me asking in equal parts confusion and outrage “what the actual f@ck?!”.

My youngest has received invitations to two parties in the last few months with invitations stipulating “no presents please”.

No pressie? For a five year old? I get it when you’re a grown up (actually I don’t really, as I love giving and receiving gifts) but I do understand when people feel they have plenty of stuff, adequate means to get stuff they don’t have and simply want the pleasure of their favourite people’s company at a celebration.

But to ban pressies at a kid’s party? That, I can’t get my head around. I know some people are intensely environmentally aware and don’t want to be the cause of ever more “stuff” being manufactured – and ending up in landfill. I respect that, in fact I salute that. I’ve also been keenly aware of how hard some families have it, and I will add to my kid’s party invitations “pre-loved or under $10 gifts please” so that nobody feels pressure to spend more than they can afford on something to bring along for the birthday child.


But no presents at all? This confuses me almost as much as it does my children. They will bring it up for weeks, even months afterwards.

“Not even homemade presents mum?”

“Not even a toy or a book we have finished with but they might not have?”

Nope, apparently not!

I think it’s going too far, in the same way that the “invite the whole class so that nobody feels left out” trend was taking a good intention over the top. I also think forbidding your child from receiving presents at their birthday parties is likely to breed a deep desire for “stuff” when they are older, in the same way that complete sugar, TV and junk food bans tend to lead to teenagers and adults who have a hard time saying no to any of those things.

The only plus I can see? The fact that my kids are starting to think I am an extra nice, extra wonderful mummy, because I allow them to have parties where presents are allowed.

Kate Ritchie is a Melbourne writer and mother to two glorious rascals. She is also the founder of Let Lulu, an online store that enables people to send freshly made meals, instead of flowers, to new mums and anyone needing some looking after.

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