How to Make Gifts Fair and Inclusive

When our children are young and small, their birthday parties seem fairly easy to put together. As they grow and develop social circles, birthday parties become, well, a little bit more complicated.

For one, they’re going to get invited to more parties, which in turn can give them a sense of perspective – and maybe a little peer pressure – as to how they think their own party should go. And this gets passed up to the parents who handle the actual planning (and spending) for the parties.

The result? Hard-to-answer questions around gift-giving, fairness, and inclusion.

When a young child is invited to a small birthday party, it’s not uncommon for the host parents to give a small gift to each child. That way no one feels left out. However, as your child grows up and the guest list grows, is it necessary to purchase gifts for all of the kids? And if you go the gift bag route, what’s too much or too little to put into it?

There’s no clear-cut answer, but here are a few things our Dad Community suggested you consider.

Age-appropriate gift-giving. At younger ages, particularly between 1-7, a party host may provide a small token of appreciation for each guest. This doesn’t have to be complex or expensive. A fun grab bag full of party favors and/or a small toy can do the trick.

Discuss the expectations. It’s perfectly acceptable to have a conversation with the parents of your child’s friends. Ask them about their expectations around a gift exchange at the upcoming birthday party. They may have a similar concern about the party’s increasing size and might want to forgo individual gifts in favor of another approach.

Gift-giving ideas and alternatives. A token gift provided to the guests of a birthday party is just that – a token. It doesn’t need to be a crazy, out-of-the-way purchase. If you have a specific “Spider-Man” themed party, a theme-matching coloring book/crayon pack is a simple solution that creates an inclusive atmosphere. If you are hosting a party at an arcade, each child will most likely walk away with a prize from the tickets they won. Looking for alternatives that won’t create an additional, major expense to the party.

Maturity does play a factor. As your child gets older and understands more, a conversation around gift-giving and receiving may be in order. Older children aren’t going to be as interested in stickers and party favors – and nor will their parents want even more stuff in their houses. And some times, it’s better to give than receive. There is no age or deadline for this conversation though. You’ll know when the time is right.

The concern for making children feel included (or unintentionally making them feel excluded) comes more from the parents than it does from the kids. As long as everyone has a great time – and fills their belly with birthday cake and ice cream – the party is a success. Allow additional gestures to be within your comfort zone, and remember this is about a day that is fun for the “child of the hour” and their friends.

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