Do you open presents at your parties? I sure didn’t.

I recently did a party where the birthday girl insisted we open presents during her party. I was really concerned – I have seen the opening process turn out badly, and so I had a negative reaction, an echo from when I was the Mom and my kids wanted to open their gifts in front of their friends. I worried that the present opening time would be stressful for the little guests, challenging for the birthday kid, and a crazy disorganized mess for the Mom.

My experience had been that the children became anxious because each one wants their present to be opened first, each child is concerned their present is not enough, or too awesome, or might be over shadowed or lost in the heap. Little guests have trouble understanding not everyone’s present can be opened first. Then the birthday child inevitably does or says something wrong… Maybe they don’t become “wowed” enough, or show enough excitement, or they inadvertently favor one gift over another (they are kids!).  The there’s Mom; what a mess! Who is writing down the gifts? Is the right card attached to the right present? Did little Susie forget her gift, not give one, or did we lose it in the rush to open presents? Thinking about this again is giving me palpitations!

Then a few weeks ago I worked at a ten year old’s birthday party who insisted on opening her gifts. Here is what I did to make it a positive fun part of the party:

  1. We planned the activity as part of the party schedule. One problem people always encounter is that present opening occurs just after the end of the party when most kids are heading out the door with their parents. By making the present opening scheduled in the last 15 minutes of the party, everybody could stay and watch and participate.
  2. I made sure to have pen and paper and trash/recycling bag ready! Instead of scrambling at the last minute to be organized, planning the event allowed us to have all the recording elements ready. Thank you cards should be easier!
  3. We made it a game! My favorite game for opening presents is to make it “Musical”. This is how it works: every guest takes the present he or she brought in hand. Seated in a circle, the music starts and all presents get passed to the right. When the music stops, the present our birthday girl or boy has in their hands is the one they open. The gift is exposed, card is read, trash collected, and then the music resumes. When it stops again, the next present is opened. The opening becomes completely random and exciting for everyone!
  4. Always prepare your child with some guidelines/suggestions for good host behavior. This is a great teaching opportunity to have them express in a very public way that they are grateful and appreciate their friends.

I think I’ve changed my mind. Maybe opening gifts at the party isn’t such a bad idea, especially if your child really wants it… and it is their party, after all! Let me know in the comments below what you have done to make the present opening process a fun part of the party!

The Summer Birthday Blues 

My daughter just celebrated her birthday, and it was a mixed emotional event. You see, we used to live in the north where school begins later and ends later. Her birthday, which is June 3rd, would fall near the end of the school year – a hectic time of year, to be sure, but still a time when school was in session and everyone was in town to celebrate. This year school was over, friends were on vacation with their families, and her birthday was a bummer. I got my first personal glimpse of what lots of other kids go through every single year – the summer birthday blues.

Do you have a summer birthday in your life? Is your child all depressed because they want to celebrate but half their friends are away at overnight camp, family vacations, or just not around?

Here are three ideas that might help you make your child’s summer birthday a little brighter:

  1. Pull the party forward or push it out. Who said you have to celebrate on the actual birth date? If your child’s birthday falls anywhere near the beginning or end of the summer, just push it a few weeks or even a month. You would move it for other reasons (work, family availability, travel), why not for his or her friends? A celebration is a celebration, no matter when.
  2. Make it on the Half. I’ve suggested this for holiday birthdays too – consider having the big friend celebration on the half birthday. When you are a kid, a half birthday is just as special. Its unique, memorable, and a celebration is a celebration, after all.
  3. Take advantage of summer. The best part about summer birthdays are all of the options/activities you have with the season. This is the time of year of water parks and beaches, baseball, BBQ, leisurely summer nights, so take advantage. It is also more likely to be a smaller more intimate group – and you can do very cool things with a small group. Consider a small group of friends camping out in the back yard on a warm summer night. Imagine loading up the car for a picnic and water play at the beach. Picture going to a fun summer movie followed by a great burger place with an outdoor patio. You can’t do any of those activities in the winter with 30 kids from the class. It can be very freeing to not have to invite everyone and to not have to be inside – your winter birthday mamas are jealous! And of course, the celebration is what counts.

What have you done to make your summer birthday celebration special? How have you made it an advantage? Please share your ideas and comments below!