Opening Presents At a Kids' Birthday Party -- Do or Don't?

kids opening presents at birthday party

They're having a great time playing in the sprinklers or are busy playing party games, so the last thing you want to do during a kids' birthday party is stop the fun. So when it's time to open the presents, why not just ... skip it?

It's a crazy thought, right? Opening presents seems like a normal part of any party. The guest of honor sits in the center, meticulously opening each and every gift and thanking the guests. But face it, that 20- or 30-minute-long segment can easily ruin the fun of the party.

We spoke with Cheryl Najafi, NY Times bestselling author, lifestyle expert, and CEO of, who admits that this is a brand new trend she's seeing in kids' birthday parties. But there's a certain way to do it. Here are the top five rules to follow if you choose to skip opening gifts at the party:

  1. Consider the guest list. "No one wants to watch an over-indulged child open 25 presents," says Najafi. "If there are any more than 10 presents, I say skip it. If you've invited the whole class, skip it. If it's an intimate family gathering, go for it." So think about the numbers and the audience. If you've only invited close family and friends, then they'd love to see the child open the gifts. But if 20 screaming 4-year-olds have invaded your home, don't think twice about passing right over it.
  2. Consider the kid. Does your child tend to throw fits or forget his manners, especially in an over-stimulating party atmosphere? If he doesn't like the present he receives, might he let everyone know it? Just imagine the mortifying scenes that may unfold. Avoid it altogether by opening gifts later, says Najafi.
  3. Don't disrupt the party. If the kids are having fun, enjoying themselves, and are generally well-behaved, there's no point in stopping the party to sit down and open presents. "Whether your child is 5 or 15, they appreciate parties not being too structured," says Najafi. "Being fluid is the number one thing you need to remember for a party." That goes directly to presents. No kid will want to leave the bouncey castle or stop making crafts to sit down in a circle and watch the birthday kid unwrap gifts.
  4. Make sure guests are appreciated. "As they leave, I can't stress enough how important it is to thank them," says Najafi. "Say, 'We can't wait to play with the present!'" This way, they'll know you didn't just invite them over, accept a gift, and give no recognition.
  5. And always, always follow up. "Absolutely send a thank-you note," says Najafi. "If the child is young and can't write, have them draw a picture. Something simple is always appreciated." Or take a sweet picture of the child playing with the toy and email it along. Anything easy and simple, but also personal, will let them know that you loved the toy.

Have you ever skipped opening presents at a birthday party?


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