Growing up, there was always one thing that made my birthday parties different from my friends'. Not the perfectly executed birthday cakes or the elaborate goodie bags (even though these details were always spot on!), but it was part of the party that was always missing: I never opened gifts during the celebration.
Although as a child I didn't understand why was this was my mom's biggest birthday rule, and as I got older it became a part of our party norm so I didn't give it much thought, as an adult I appreciate my mom's present-opening ban. Along with the other meaningful traditions from my childhood that I plan to pass on to my kids, I will also take a note out of my mom's birthday party playbook and won't be letting my children open their gifts at their parties.
Some people skip this part of the event for the sake of convenience (it can be time consuming and messy), but my mom had different reasoning for her stance on gift opening, and this meaningful position taught my siblings and I an important lesson. These are the three reasons kids should wait until after the party to start digging into the pile of gifts.
- It can make other kids feel bad. Birthday parties are supposed to be fun for everyone, not just the birthday kid, and opening gifts in front of everyone creates an opportunity for some guests to feel uncomfortable. There are countless reasons the gift situation could be tricky for other kiddos: whether their parents forgot their gift, couldn't afford to give one, gave less than someone else, opted out for cultural reasons, gave the same thing as someone else, gave something the child already has, or gave exactly what another child wanted, skipping this part of the party can help keep jealousy and discomfort away from the bash.
- It puts the focus on presents. A birthday party should be centered around spending time with friends and not just what you get out of it. Keeping the focus on making memories with guests and not on what they brought reinforces what your little one should prioritize. This will help keep them from zeroing in on what a guest brought from the time they walk in and comparing packages from different friends. Plus, once they start unwrapping things, it's hard to switch the focus back to the party and away from their new loot.
- It puts pressure on the kids. Although it's important for a child to learn how to graciously accept gifts, there are other ways to teach this without putting them on the spot in front of potentially dozens of people. Even if a child is perfectly polite, it's hard to hide the difference between genuine excitement and just good manners. This can make the kid with a "mediocre" gift feel bad while also putting pressure on your child to consistently have an even response and reining in pure joy over a major surprise. Also, if your child happened to be upset about a particular gift (hey, it happens), at least that reaction isn't seen by the other kiddos.