Gift-free birthday?

Sophie’s first birthday is just a few weeks away, and I can’t decide whether to tell people that it’s a gift-free birthday.

She already has two whole toy-baskets full of stuff – and she mostly ignores it all. Her favorite toys this morning were the empty box that my teabag came out of and the wire whisk that I used to make cream-of-wheat. She does like some actual toys, of course. She’s got a push-rider that she always goes straight to, before anything else, and of course there’s her pink-bunny, some duplos, a water-table, a ball, a couple trucks & trains, a xylophone, an incredible indoor mini-gym-for-babies that we scored at a garage sale, some nifty stacking cups, and a few books that she’ll play with regularly. And that seems to be enough, especially since what she really likes to do is push the kitchen chairs around the room.

It would be nice to resist baby consumerism. It would be nice for the environment, and for our friends’ pocketbooks, and just for keeping the birthday a low-key celebration of what really matters, which is enjoying the company of friends & Sophie’s first year.

On the other hand, there are some toys or clothes or other baby-stuff that she might like. She doesn’t yet have a drum, or tambourine, or enough push-toys to practice her almost-here walking-skills. And I don’t want to stop anyone from getting her things that they might enjoy giving. Yesterday, before class, one of my Orange-County students was telling me about her niece’s exciting birthday party. When she asked about Sophie & I said I was thinking of making it a presents-free party, all my students gasped as if I were planning something tantamount to child abuse.

I know we’ll have a few people over for pizza, and I know that I’ll make a low-sugar cake that the babies can eat (maybe some cupcakes, so they can really make a mess & enjoy themselves). I just can’t decide about whether to have presents. Any suggestions?


2 responses to “Gift-free birthday?

  1. Tracy

    I think you should have presents. People give you things that you wouldn’t think to get. Meghan received the classic Fisher Price phone and the little dog pull toy for her first birthday and loved them both. I hadn’t even seen those items in the store. When she, and now Finn, play with those toys I think about the person who gave them. Also, I think it’s fun for people to shop for toys. It’s also fun for your guests to see what cool toys other people bought.

  2. sandusky115

    Hi Elaine,

    My name is Jennifer Davies, and I am a reporter at The San Diego Union-Tribune. I am working on a story about gift-free birthdays and saw that you were contemplating the idea. I’d love to talk to you about the issue when you have some time. You can reach me by email ( or by phone at 619-293-1373. I hope this is not too much of an intrusion.

    Best regards,


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