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Birthday blues

I am turning to the interwebs for gift-giving advice today. Help!

My daughter received an email birthday party invitation, in which the host parents kindly requested that guests should bring a handmade or a second-hand gift.

This actually isn\’t the first invitation we\’ve received of this kind. Parents directing the gifting isn\’t new. We\’ve also been asked not to bring gifts at all. I have to admit, it makes me feel awkward to walk into a party empty handed, but overall I think it\’s a pretty good idea. (Although some kids may disagree. Ha.)

Seriously, I do understand where the “no gifts please” parents are coming from. My family doesn\’t need 10 new toys coming into the house. We are bursting at the seams as it is, and when you combine it with gifts from family, well, it the occasion quickly morphs into the Second Coming of Christmas.

Putting the “handmade” or “secondhand” qualifier on the invitation is an interesting twist, but I am struggling to find a good idea that a 9-year old can make AND won’t end up gathering dust under the recipient’s bed.

The last time we had to bring a handmade birthday gift we made pretty beaded hair decorations. (Instructions are here in case you find yourself in a similar jam.) I was thinking it might be a neat idea to make a no-sew fleece scarf this time around, or sew up some beanbags. What do you think? What else can we make that\’s easy and unique?

If we can\’t come up with a DIY project (or run out of time, which is more likely to happen), then we’re left with the secondhand option. Other than secondhand books (which I think might actually be a nice gift to give) I\’m coming up empty. Since when did birthday party gifting become so complicated?


What about you? What would you do if you were in our shoes?

Mother of two imps and wife of one. Writer, photographer, pro blogger, adventure-seeker, Ottawaholic, social media evangelist and lover of STUFF. Also known as @missfish on Twitter.

15 Responses to “Birthday blues”

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I like the idea of second hand gifts or handmade too. Second hand books are neat. What about a gift certificate/card to a consignment/used kids clothes store? I know our Once Upon A Child has gift cards. Shopping is always fun for a 9 year old. Or is this stretching the rules?



    Here’s the thing… I don’t know what the rules are because I didn’t make them! lol I do like the idea of a gift certificate to a consignment shop. Will think on that…


    My daughter just made a ‘stationery set’ for her dad. She folded card stock in half and create a pocket att eh bottom. She then took a few photographs and drew a few pictures which we took to staples for colour photocopying on card stock (4/page for postcards). She glued a feather to a pen to compte the set!

Lisa Theriault

Wow – I’d be dead in the water if I had to make a gift for a bday … who has the time? LOL. I like the regifting books tho cuz it’s always so hard to know what to do with them after they’ve been read and re-read. I’d go with the books idea myself :). Good luck!


Sheila Gallant-Halloran

we’ve gone to parties with receipts of donations to a favourite charity – that works well. Or, have also had photos of bd girl printed on tshirt…



I made a birthday crown out of felt and posted the instructions over on kids in the capital. I think handmade gifts are an awesome idea.


[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by andrea tomkins, UsedEverywhere. UsedEverywhere said: Birthday Blues: what to do when the invite says "hand-made or second-hand gifts only, please!" #usedblog #birthday ^ED […]



what about “hand decorated” bag or something tha you daughter makes for her friend? A canvans tote and some fabric writers or applique, some do dads and she’ll have very unique gift. Could even put in a used book into the tote, the library often has great books for sale (although I’m sure you know that). I say take your daughter to Michaels and pick out stuff to make her friend a special tote or bag.



What about giving a gift to a foodbank or local charity in the birthday person’s name? Would that be acceptable, I wonder? It seems to me, for MANY reasons, it should be MORE than acceptable.



ok.. the creative juices are following.Not sure if any of these appeal to you.

1)Go to your local bead store (Sassy Bead still around?) and make a necklace/anklet etc.

2)Go to your local Ceramic store (Gotta Paint) and make a hot chocolate mug and give w/ Hot Chocolate & marshmallows. (you’ll need almost a week for this to finish firing etc)

3)A trip to Michaels is always dangerous

4)Buy a kit from Alex or Melissa & Doug that makes something. I remember seeing Rainboots that can be decorated at Mrs Tiggywinkles

5)Check out the billions of wonderful craft blogs for ideas.. Start with The Crafty Crow or

6)Make popcorn or some kind of yummy snack and wrap creatively.

7)Do some silly pictures w/ friends for each month of the year and do up a Costco Calendar



Was birthday party gifting ever supposed to be easy?



I would have my daughter or son join an art class or I would teach them some acrylic or watercolour techniques and make gifts. Even a set of cards can be easily made with a stamp and some nice ink, add envelopes and tie with a ribbon and there you go – a home made gift. And some quality time with your kids.



“Since when did birthday party gifting become so complicated?”

I agree. Isn’t it bad manners to put your guests to so much trouble? and to make work for an already busy Mama! If you feel strongly about accumulating too much stuff have a party with no presents at all or a party with donations for children who are not so fortunate. or if as a host you would like to recycle why not take the onus on yourself to use the resources you already have at home to plan a party activity?

Having said all that I think the Thrift Store does gift cards – secondhand you can choose yourself!


Mary @

What did you end up doing? In our family the rule is clothes or experiences or books.

I always liked pickIng out cute clothes for my friends, though I can’t recall getting clothes except from relatives!


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