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!