Should Kids Open Gifts At A Birthday Party?
by Ann Mifsud
When organizing a birthday party for your kid, you sure want everything to turn out perfect. Sometimes, parents wonder what the right etiquette is on a number of things party related. One of them is whether their kids should open gifts at their birthday party or opt to open them later. What is expected and what is rude?
Not opening the gifts at a birthday party could save you embarrassment and awkwardness. It could also save you and your guests some precious time having fun. Opening of gifts could be the better option, on the other hand, if your guests are close family members. It would also be an excellent opportunity for your child to practice showing gratitude.
There seems to be no hard and fast rule on whether kids should open gifts at a birthday party. Typically, one should consider their kid’s and guests’ ages, how many kids are invited, who the invitees are, as well as the duration of the kid’s birthday party before making the right decision that best suits their situation.
Although it seems to be a matter of opinion, keeping the above factors in mind can help avoid unnecessary negative feelings, awkwardness and gives you a realistic picture as to what is expected and what makes most sense when it comes to opening gifts at a kid’s birthday party.
The region you come from can play an important role on whether kids usually open presents at a kids’ party or leave them for later. Some kids will be used to sitting around and watching the birthday kid open gifts for a good 30 minutes, because that is how it’s done in their area.
As a matter of fact, some kids (but mostly parents) consider it rude not to watch the host open the gifts. Others, are totally okay with being thanked for the present upon receiving it and getting a beautifully personalized thank you note post party. We will look at all the pros and cons as we analyze the four important factors that can help you determine which approach to take.
- Is your kid old enough to open gifts at the party?
- Are there too many guests to open gifts in reasonable time?
- Are the people invited to your kid’s party family?
- Is the party long enough to dedicate precious time for gift opening?
We hope the following points will equip you with enough food for thought on whether kids should open gifts at a birthday party or not.
1. Is your kid old enough to open gifts at the party?
If you are organizing your kid’s first birthday party, opening gifts in front of others more or less the same age, may result in having a number of kids wanting to play with the same thing.
In their early years, children are not into sharing yet and expecting it from kids this age is unreasonable.
This is a skill that, as many studies attest, kids will get to accomplish slowly as they grow older, usually around age 7.
The closer they get to school age, kids start expressing feelings when they receive gifts at a birthday party. They may still be at an age where it is difficult for them to consciously make their non-verbals match what they say.
So if you foresee that your kid may not have the right tools yet to graciously accept a gift he or she doesn’t like, spare the embarrassment and open the gifts later.
Having said that, your kid may be old enough to be coached into receiving gifts gracefully even if he or she doesn’t like them. This is why age does come into your decision of whether kids should open gifts at a birthday party or not. Even from a young age, most kids can be prompted into saying “thank you”, without elaborating on how much they do or don’t like it.
You need to be mindful that your kid may receive some gifts that are more extravagant than others. This may make other kids feel mortified at the thought of seeing the birthday kid open their gift, which would have been cheaply bought or hand-made. You may want to save some guests from that uncomfortable feeling.
Other guests may expect your kid to open the present at his or her birthday party. They would want to see whether he or she liked it, especially if they put a lot of thought into buying it or making it. If you wouldn’t want to take this experience away from them, but still open them at a later, more private time, your can choose to take a short video of the birthday kid opening the gift and send it to the guest privately, shortly after the party. Whenever we chose this option, it brought great joy to its receivers and didn’t take us more than a minute or two to get it done.
If your kid is old enough, talking it over with him or her may also be a good idea. You may be positively surprised by his or her reasoning.
2. Are there too many guests to open gifts in reasonable time?
If you decide to invite the whole class to your kid’s birthday party, then you needn’t be great at math to know that the whole procedure of opening gifts will take a long time.
With a group of 20 children, the birthday kid may well end up spending 40 minutes of party time opening presents. In a typical 2-hour party, this does not make sense.
Meanwhile, your guests will be equally spending that time seeing your kid open the presents, when they could have been having fun playing games and other organized activities you would have pre-planned. After all, this is what a party is all about and if you want your guests to have a blast-of-a-time and remember your kid’s party for days post the event, this is the way to go!
Plus you will be sparing your child being the center of attention for a good 40 minutes. Especially if your kid is shy or an introvert, such a ceremony does not help.
Another reason you may wish to take into account is that spending party time opening gifts does tend to shift the attention to the gift opening ceremony.
If gifts are opened later, you would be instilling in kids that gifts are really one small part of the party. The focus is automatically more on the friendships.
Having said that, if gifts are not opened there and then, don’t whisk them away immediately, giving the message that you are disinterested or unappreciative of the present you have just received. Rather, have the kid receive the gift, say a proper “thank you”, “I bet I’m going to like it”, “I can’t wait to see what it is” and/or “I’m so excited to open it, but there are so many activities planned, I’d better do so later. Otherwise we’ll spend most of the party opening gifts and we’ll miss out on most of the fun”.
Bottom line is that you should definitely take into consideration the number of kids you are inviting to your kid’s birthday party before deciding whether he or she should open gifts there and then or later.
3. Are the people invited to your kid’s party family?
If you are throwing a birthday party for your kid and inviting family members, you may be more inclined to have the kid open gifts during the party itself.
Grandparents, aunties, uncles and other close relatives usually enjoy seeing kids they’re close to open presents. They love seeing their reaction, receiving “thank yous”, hugs and seeing their nieces or nephews delight in the gift they got.
If it’s a party where there’s a mix of family and friends, you may wish to ask relatives to come a bit earlier so your kid can open the presents in front of them. Alternatively, family members could stay on after the party for the same reason. As for friends then, you could decide to have your kid open their presents later. This works especially well if you are at a rented party venue and have to vacate the place quickly after the party finishes.
If you are interested in: Should Parents Stay On At A Kid’s Party Or Just Drop Them Off?, read our article here.
When our daughter turned 7, we decided to throw her a party with her friends, at home. The party went ahead as planned for two hours, with pre-planned games and activities where they had a blast, followed by a calmer time where they sat down to eat. Then we cut the cake and parents came to pick their kids up. Some of the parents lingered on a bit, sharing a piece of cake.
As the adults spoke, some of the kids asked my daughter to open the presents. A few took the liberty to “help”. Two minutes later, you could tell a couple of girls really liked the gifts my daughter received and you could see it in their eyes that they wanted them for themselves. It was a bit awkward as a host to watch. Even my daughter got uncomfortable.
Pro Tip 1: If you decide to have your kid open the gifts later, make sure they’re out of reach once received.
Pro Tip 2: If your kid is going to open the gifts at the birthday party, do so after cutting the cake.
4. Is the party long enough to dedicate precious time for gift opening?
Most birthday parties for kids are around two hours long. This may be another reason why you would want to consider when deciding whether your kid should open the gifts at his or her birthday party.
When our eldest boy was in second grade, we held a 2-hour party for him at home. As soon as his friends started arriving, there was a whole lot of excitement as my son told them about the games and activities we had planned for them. Time flew by like crazy, the kids enjoyed themselves madly and the gifts were not opened at the party.
The day following the party, he handed out hand-written thank you notes to each one of them, individually specifying that he liked the gift he received from each.
It looked something like this: “Dear Miguel, Thank you so much for coming to my party and celebrating my 7th birthday with me. You really made me feel special. Thank you also for the lovely airplane you gave me. I will treasure it. Your friend, Luke”.
It goes without saying that this takes a bit of time to write and if your kid is too young, your input may be needed. You could opt to have some of the words typed instead, whilst your kid fills in the personalized blanks, like the friend’s name, what the gift was and possibly your kid’s name. Think a bit on how you can make this work. I promise you it’s very effective and in our case, the kids were very happy to have received it post-party and kept talking of the fun games they had for quite a few days later.
Of course, if you decide to throw a lengthier party for your kid instead of a 2-hour party, that could be a different story. In a slumber (sleepover) party or a day by the pool, your kid has all the time in the world to open the presents received. Plus, at such parties, the number of kids invited will likely not be the entire class.
If you are not sure, we can guide you on: How Long Should A Kid’s Party Last? in this article here.
Concluding thoughts on: Should kids open gifts at a birthday party?
When questioning yourself whether it is best to have your kid open gifts at his or her birthday party or not, it may help to consider a few points before coming to a conclusion. From our experience, there is no hard and fast rule. Some will find it easier to decide because they go along with the custom in the area they live in.
But for those who don’t live in a region with a strong practice one way or another, answering the following questions may help you come to a decision you are happy with in your given circumstances.
How old is the party kid and his or her guests?
How many kids are invited to your kid’s party?
Are the people invited to your kid’s party family?
How long is your kid’s party?
Even if there’s no stone-etched etiquette on whether kids should open gifts at a birthday party or not, one thing should be clear. Whether you do choose to open presents in front of your guests or not, still send thank you notes.
Always exercise gratitude with a “thank you” note or card at the end of, or following, a kid’s party. Kids need to be taught appreciation and reminded to mind their manners if you want it to become second nature to them.
Hi I'm Ann
Mom to three kids, I am the proud co-founder of Easy Kids' Parties. After a career in journalism and education, I diverted my skills to creating this website, with the aim of helping all those parents out there who wish to organize amazing and memorable parties for their kids but feel overwhelmed at the idea. Discover more...
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