Should You Open Gifts at a Kid’s Birthday Party?

The decision of whether to open gifts at a kid's birthday party isn't always easy.


Birthday parties mean birthday presents which brings up the question, “Do you open the gifts at the party or not?”

When I ask people this question I get some adamant "Yes" and "No" answers, but quite a few Moms I talk to, especially new Moms, aren’t quite sure what to do.

My vague answer is, “It depends.” There are quite a few things you need to consider regarding your child’s birthday party and the answer may not be the same every year. First and foremost you need to do what is right for your child. Does he or she want to open gifts or just keep playing with friends? You also need to consider what you can handle as the party hostess. Sometimes it is hard to gauge how much time it will take. But, don’t let anyone tell you how it should be done. It’s your party. You set the rules.

If you are on the fence about whether to open gifts at a kid’s birthday party or not, some things to consider are the number of guests at the party, the age of the kids, and how many activities you have planned. Sometimes these factors can easily push you to the right answer.

So, what is your opinion? Should you open gifts at a kid’s birthday party or not? I’d love to hear how you handle the issue at your kids’ parties.

You can download a free Kids Birthday Party Planning Worksheet and find more tips and advice on how to plan and host a fun, unique and memorable birthday party for your child from my blog site, ChocolateCakeMoments.com.

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Sue Kirchner is a family fun coach, kids party planner, and weekly contributor to Patch.com. Sue and her family fun ideas have been featured on TV, newspapers, magazines, blogs, as well as her own family fun site ChocolateCakeMoments.com.

Elizabeth Hubbard May 17, 2012 at 11:28 AM
I think it is nice to open presents at the party. It teaches kids to be gracious and polite. They have to learn what to say if they already have the present, they don't like the present etc. If you have too many guests at the party to open presents, you probably have too many guests at the party! And then after the party...don't forget to make your child write thank you notes!
marco sangria May 17, 2012 at 01:10 PM
It depends on the situation. The comment, "first and foremost what is right for your child" needs to be addressed. Since when does a child know what is right? The real point is that opening gifts in front of others might make someone feel bad if their gift is not over the top like some other gifts. Not everyone feels the same about how much they should spend on a gift and why should the child feel bad if the parent spends $10 and another parent spends $30. There is a difference and at some age children will notice. Thank you notes are a must and it is amazing how many parents do not train their children to do this gracious act.
Jean May 17, 2012 at 01:12 PM
We teach our children that it's more gracious to give than to receive. But when they don't get to see their gift opened by the recipient, some of the experience is taken away and certainly the fun -- especially if the gift is something they took part in choosing or contains an inside joke. It's a disappointment to come home without being really able to give the gift.
Carrol Stovold May 17, 2012 at 01:27 PM
My daughter has always opened the gifts at her party. The guests love to watch the recipient open what they bring. What I have always done is have each girl hold the gift she brought, have my daugahter sit in a "special seat" and have a chair next to her. My daughter calls the girls up, one at a time, to sit in the chair next to her while she opens the gift. This way everyone can see and it's not so chaotic. I always take a picture of the two of them with the gift and then I send a copy of that picture with the thank you note. It always works beautifully.
Tea May 17, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Why are we so politically correct these days?! If you're not going to open the gifts, why have the guests bring any? Who cares what a parent spends on a gift? It's the thought that counts and our children should be taught to be thankful no matter what!
HS May 17, 2012 at 02:56 PM
This is such a wonderful idea! I'm definitely going to do this!
J.M. May 17, 2012 at 04:33 PM
For younger kids, we prefer to open gifts after the party. There inevitably is a certain amount of comparing gifts, feeling envious, etc., that we avoid that way. It also helps in keeping track of who gave what for purposes of writing thank-you notes. And when we open them later, we have time to enjoy each gift for a while before moving on to the next one, so it's not such gluttony as tearing open one right after the other. Finally, it's hard for younger kids to keep still long enough to watch the presents opened. For older kids who usually invite just close friends and not the whole class, opening gifts at the party works fine. In either case, we always send thank-you cards, and typically make invite the gift-givers over later to play with the presents they gave us. I don't think it's pointless or ungracious to do it either way.
Sue Kirchner May 17, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Thank you everyone for your ideas and opinions on whether to open gifts for not. I agree with you all - Thank You notes are a must!
LMJ May 17, 2012 at 08:42 PM
I really agree... I'm sorry, this is the least of people's worries. If you are, then you need to look around and see what else is going on around you. How about giving money to the food banks instead of gifts or even the animal shelters!
Chris L May 18, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Definitely open gifts at the party. My kids enjoy choosing gifts for their friends and they love to see them open their gift. I also always take a picture of the gift giver with my child and the gift and I include them with the thank you note. I also try to take a group picture and send that too.
Anna May 18, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Wow this is news to me. I never even knew this was an "issue". When I was a kid I always opened my presents at my party and I always thanked the person who gave it to me. How did this become something to debate about?
C P May 18, 2012 at 02:25 PM
When we have a party at our home, our children definitely open gifts at the party. Last year when we had a joint party for the 2 kids at the local pool, we opened them afterwards at home because the kids just wanted to swim and there were over 20 kids there. I took a picture of my child holding the gift and included it in the thank you note they wrote to each child.
Sue Kirchner May 18, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Thanks again for all of the comments. I love the idea quite a few of you shared of taking a photo of your child opening the gift, holding the gift, or even with the gift giver to send with the thank you note. What a thoughtful touch.
J May 24, 2012 at 07:26 PM
It really depends. The best thing to do is to enjoy the party and open the gifts later and take a picture of your child opening or holding the gift that was given to then and include in the thank you note...Yes...an honest to g-d thank you note. The party if for friends to get together and enjoy each other's company. One person may give a really nice give while another gives a cheap gift. Its the thought that counts but it could make the guest(s) feel bad. The other thing is that each guest wants to give the 'original' gift. If there are 3 or 4 of the same gift, it can get very awkward quickly and the birthday person may not know what to say and could also hurt guests feelings.


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