Should Birthday Presents Be Opened During Parties? 2 Moms Debate!

Kids' birthday parties sometimes feel like the price we pay for having kids. Let’s face it: Most adults don't look forward to them and especially not the parents throwing the party. They are a lot of work and inevitably lead to a meltdown once the sugar high and extreme excitement wear off.

We do them anyway because they make our kids happy and, truth be told, we owe it to the parents who came before us. They endured and so must we.

Still, there are ways to make the parties more fun. For some that means keeping them short. For others it means limiting the guest list. And for some, now, the idea has been to amend the way presents are done -- either opening them after the party ends when all the guests have gone or eliminating them altogether.

Two Stir writers with very different opinions on the same issue weigh in on this hot parenting debate below:


Sasha Brown-Worsham Says: "Opening Birthday Presents During a Party Is Greedy."

You won’t catch my daughter or son opening the presents at their parties. It's loud, chaotic, and, quite frankly, among my friends, it's almost never done.

For us, initially, it was a practical decision. Most of the time we are throwing birthday parties outside our home. My son is a summer birthday, so last year we rented a farm, but we have also done parks in the past and never once have we found a space where it made sense to open presents while there. My daughter is the same.

It has become more than just practical now. Last year, my daughter’s fourth birthday was a chaotic mess. She was tired, we were tired, there were meltdowns. And worst of all, she found all the presents and opened them in a wild free for all that left me unable to discern who sent what for thank-you cards and left my husband furious. “We will never open presents at the party again,” he said.

I agree with him.

To me, it feels greedy. The real reason we throw the party is so my daughter or son can play with all his little friends. We don’t want people to feel obligated to bring gifts. We just want them to come. I don't want either of my children thinking that birthday gifts are the reason to throw a party.

More from The Stir: 10 Reasons I Loathe Other Kids' Birthday Parties

We have toyed with the idea of saying, “no gifts,” but the general consensus is that people feel weird about no gift parties, preferring to exercise (or not exercise) their right to buy a gift at will. Certainly, we are grateful and appreciative of anyone who wants to bring a gift, but it isn't required for attendance, and by not opening them, we allow people the option without feeling weird during present time.

When we get home from the party and all the dust has settled, we parcel out the packages and only let our kids open what makes sense, slowly and one at a time. I take notes for the thank-you cards and then we set about the task of making the thank-you cards.

Sure, it might be fun for the kids who picked their presents to see the birthday boy or girl open them, but the party isn't about greed or who got what. It's about fun and time together. It's a time when I much prefer presence to presents.


Jeanne Sager Says: "Opening the Presents Is Part of the Party!"

We went to my favorite kind of birthday party last weekend. After hours of running around the house playing, cake, ice cream, and general merriment, it was present time! Yes, this was a parent who gets it! Opening the presents is part of the birthday party.

To the parents who disagree, let me paint you a picture. Imagine, for a minute, a pile of squirming 5- and 6-year-olds all huddled around the birthday boy or girl, all squealing "open mine, open mine!" Picture it: front and center in your living room (or the middle of some third circle of hell like Chuck E. Cheese) are kids happy to give toys to someone else. Give!

I love seeing my kid give. And yes so there's a bit of me that's doing the Snoopy dance inside because "oh thank God we are not getting more junk for her playroom." I'm human! But the bigger part, the good mom part, is just brimming with all that corny mom pride when my daughter stands clutching the present she helped pick out and wrap, with the card she hand-crafted for her buddy. I can tell the anticipation is killing her. "Will he like the book or the gift card to the LEGO Store more? I hope he doesn't have the minifigure I picked!" For a moment in time, she's entirely focused on someone else's happiness.

More from The Stir: Kid Celebrates Birthday Party at Hooters (VIDEO)

I know some parents moan that opening presents at a party puts the focus on material gain. But if you want to kick materialism in the teeth, how about giving kids a chance to reap the benefits of standing in that toy store debating between the alien LEGO set or the ninja one? When their little buddy is tearing through the wrapping paper and exclaiming, "Oooh, I always wanted this, thank you!" They get to see, firsthand, on the face of someone they care about, what it's like to make someone happy.

It works the other way too. My kid opens her gifts at her parties in front of her pals, and then she thanks every single one. She's learning to associate having a new My Little Pony with a buddy who cared enough to pick it out, to want her to have fun. Because she learns to give at other kids' parties, and at home, she learns to receive ... with grace.

That's worth having a kid sugared up on cupcakes and ice cream in my book.


Do you let your child open presents at the birthday party? Which mom do you agree with?

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