My son (3) likes to give presents. Sometimes he asks to go shopping for presents for his friends (holidays, upcoming birthdays, etc.) using money from his allowance (we designate a small portion of his allowance for things he wants to buy for himself, and he mostly uses it for presents for other people; the remainder is for savings), and sometimes he'll just spontaneously grab one of his own toys, and decide that he wants to give it to someone else.

We love this behavior, and want to encourage it whenever possible.

We recently received an invitation to a cousin's 5th birthday. The invitation says "No gifts please!".

This child's parents have specified "no gifts" for other events, as well (previous birthdays, family holiday celebrations, etc.), but the boy still received some gifts (usually from the grandparents, and a few of the mother's family members).

Given this, and our desire to encourage our son's generosity, and the enjoyment he gets in giving, should we honor the "no gifts please!" comment on the invitation? Is there some compromise we could aim for?

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    Call the parents and ask! Can't hurt! I wouldn't be surprised if the main reason for the 'no gifts' is to prevent competition (both from the gift-givers and from the gift-receiver; don't want the kid to favor one person or one person's gift over another and cause insult or issue). They may be willing to accept a gift if given privately rather than during the party, or maybe they wont care at all so long as they expect it.
    – Doc
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 21:20
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    Maybe I'm cynical but has a 3 year old really decided to be generous or simply trained to get your encouragment because that is what he enjoys? And is it really a good lesson that you should put your own satisfaction above someone else's request?
    – JamesRyan
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 15:18
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    @JamesRyan I think at 3, the distinction between "training" and their own decisions is a bit difficult to distinguish. Much of what kids learn at that age is based on behavior modeled by the parents. We do model giving, both by giving each other presents, and by showing and explaining to our son how and why we donate to charities. However, we have never asked him to give away his own toys to his friends. The closest we've done is to periodically go through his toys and decide which, if any, he no longer enjoys and would be willing to donate to charity.
    – user420
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 15:22
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    @Beofett why is a compromise required at all? Why not simply do what they have asked and take the opportunity to teach your child that gifts are not always appropriate? Just because he enjoys something does not mean he has to do it at every opportunity, part of life is learning to fit in with others (even if you don't agree with them).
    – JamesRyan
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 16:01
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    Explain to the kid that the rules of this particular game are "no presents". He can either follow the rule or not play the game (not go to the party).
    – keshlam
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 4:16

16 Answers 16


I think there are a couple of important points here:

My son (3) likes to give presents.
We recently received an invitation to a cousin's 5th birthday. The invitation says "No gifts please!".

This child's parents have specified "no gifts" for other events, as well (previous birthdays, family holiday celebrations, etc.), but the boy still received some gifts (usually from the grandparents, and a few of the mother's family members).

  • Your son is 3, his cousin is 5.
  • The rule isn't strictly applied.

Since you didn't state the reason behind the rule, I assume you don't know what it is.

Assuming that there's a normal family relationship between you and the cousin's parents, I would ask them.

Depending on the reason, you can gauge how your son transgressing this rule would be received. If you feel it would not be a big deal, you can explain that your son would really like to bring a gift, and ask if and how this is possible.

If it's really not permissible for your son to bring a gift, you now have a reason you can explain to your son.

Perhaps they don't want an avalanche of gifts for their kid, perhaps they don't have much room left for more toys, perhaps they are a bit snobbish and think that no one but they can find gifts that are good enough for their son, perhaps they've invited kids from poor families who don't have much money for gifts and who they don't want to make feeling bad.

Depending on the reason given, you could help your son pick a present that meets their constraints, agree to give it another time, or (as has been suggested) give something to charity.

TL;DR: Communication is the key.

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    I'm not sure why this answer received so few votes. I think the communication aspect is great, as are the alternative options.
    – user420
    Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 14:30
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    @Beofett Thanks. Will you let us know how you handled it and what happened?
    – SQB
    Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 19:59
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    It was... rather bizarre. We decided to just have my son make a donation in the birthday boy's name. We arrived and we're told to put any presents on the red table. Apparently only some invitations had "no gifts" written in them.
    – user420
    Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 18:36
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    @Beofett that sounds bizarre indeed. I can think of several reasons for that, but none of them make sense nor should they be discussed here. Just mention me in chat if you feel like it.
    – SQB
    Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 20:29

Don't bring a gift; don't call and ask

This is an opportunity to teach your son three very important lessons:

1. Your beliefs are not more important than their beliefs.

While it may be tempting to give the gift anyway, or try to persuade them to accept the gift, that really isn't respecting their beliefs. If you give the gift, you're forcing your belief on them. If you try to persuade them, you're trying to change their beliefs. If you really want to respect their decision, you will abide by their request and let it go.

2. People are not required to explain their beliefs to you.

Calling them is only going to make them give reasons (which may or not be real reasons, but just ones they chose to advertise) that they should never have to give in the first place. They have no obligation to defend their decision to you, or to make an attempt to compromise.

3. Other disrespectful people don't make it okay for you to be

Other people may have brought gifts in the past and had no incident. They willingly chose to disrespect the stated beliefs and enforce their own. Now perhaps the people who did it were well respected in the family or community, or were key business people who would be incredibly offended if the gift was declined (not to mention ruin the mood for the party), so there may have been no incident, but that doesn't mean they didn't just stuff their feelings down inside for the sake of the birthday party.

Let's put a slightly different spin on your situation. Time for some role playing.

Imagine a boy (let's call him Johnny) growing up in a family of alcoholics. He decides he's going to avoid the pitfalls of his family and abstain from all alcohol. Fast forward to college, and he's going to university with your son. His status as a strict-non-drinker is known to your son. Some friends ask your son if he's coming to have a couple drinks with them. Your son and his friends are very responsible drinkers. They don't get completely smashed and go keying cars, no trouble with the cops, and have no problem getting up to go to work the next day.

Your son's friend says "hey, is Johnny coming?"

This is literally the exact same scenario. Now, generally we consider giving gifts to be a "good thing" and drinking to be a "bad thing", but we know that gifts can definitely be bad, and that drinking can be good, it all matters on how far they are taken in both regards.

Johnny has a right to not drink just as much as your son has a right to drink. Just because your son has no problem having a couple beers and staying responsible doesn't mean he has to force it on his friend who willing chooses not to. If your son wants to respect his friend, he just won't ask him to come since he already knows the answer. Putting him in a situation where he has to say no would probably be embarrassing and difficult.

Johnny is not required to give a reason why he declines an invitation to go drinking. He's not required to go along and DD (although many would consider it a good compromise to avoid social ostracization, he shouldn't have to feel pressured to). And if your son wants to respect his friend, he won't ask his friend to defend his decision not to go. Putting him in a situation where he has to would probably be embarrassing and difficult.

Johnny should not have to feel pressured just because others who chose not to drink have changed their mind and still been responsible drinkers. Not that it's any weakness on their part necessarily, but this is just a form of pressure that a friend shouldn't put on another friend. (Ultimately, that anyone should put on anyone anyway...) This is a straw-man argument to persuade Johnny to come along (a debate that shouldn't even be happening in the first place).

Now, in this case Johnny is like the parents who sent the "no-gift's" invitation. The reactions we would get from the Johnny situation are so obvious because they've been drilled into our heads that we need to avoid peer pressuring friends into drinking and doing drugs, and specifically that we need to learn to resist those pressures. Those principles don't change just because drinking or drugs aren't the subject matter.

Whether the belief is something as important as the existence of God, or something as trivial as light rain showers are pleasant, if we really want to respect other people's beliefs we should follow these three lessons.

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    "What harm is there in giving a gift" - that's precisely a violation of lesson 2. They don't have to explain why. As for the disagreement, "When in Rome". At your party, if you felt that way, and they wanted to respect your beliefs, they should follow it. Even if they feel it does the bad things that they feel gift giving does (which, there are harms to giving gifts), you don't feel that way, so they should respect that.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 4:51
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    "2. People are not required to explain their beliefs to you." -- it's still a matter of mutual respect to react in a fair manner to the question "why?". If you ask and they say, "I can't/won't explain myself", that's fair and 1+3 apply. There is no reason not so ask, really, but every reason to: without asking about our respective believes, we will never be able to understand each other.
    – Raphael
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 6:49
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    I love the first part of this and was all set to vote up, but the role play is irrelevant and not "literally the exact same scenario" and frankly if it wasn't for that first part I'd be voting down. Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 11:12
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    As a person who doesn't drink (and didn't when I was going through college), I would have appreciated the invite rather than not even being told my friends were going and being left behind. I could go and be the DD, drink soda, have fun, all without any peer pressure to drink alcohol... Like @PaulGregory, at first I liked this answer, it had some decent points, but the analogy was at best off-base and at worst helped to prove you wrong (better to ask, just don't pressure).
    – Doc
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 13:49
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    Put this another way: How are we supposed to know that a simple "no gifts, please" on an invitation, in a culture with the tradition of giving gifts, is about a deeply-held belief trumping other beliefs and requiring no questioning? Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 2:30

I would suggest handing the gift over privately before or after the party. That way you don't make other parents feel bad that they didn't bring a gift, or feel like you are sucking up, or whatever weird social dynamics can result when one person brings a present and everyone else doesn't.

Don't expect to be around when the cousin opens the present since it is a private, thoughtful gesture from you.

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    While handing over the gift in private may be a solution, I would strongly suggest asking first. They may not want you to give a gift no matter what. Ask first and find out the reasons why.
    – Doc
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 21:24
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    I don't think this (giving a gift privately) is a good idea, since part of the reason for 'no gifts' is to prevent guests from subsequently competing in class as to who was the better friend. Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 21:48
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    My past reading of manners advice about situations like this is that the inviters specifying "no gifts" is actually not the most polite thing to do in the first place... Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 0:01
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    @Ready: I understand that to be true in the US, but I don't think that breach of etiquette affects the answer because the appropriate response to impoliteness is still to respect the wishes of the impolite person even though you disapprove of how they expressed them :-) Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 8:28
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    @SteveJessop You are 100% correct. Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 8:39

Re: compromise.

The gift recipient's parents are giving the gift of the party to all the attendees. It is natural in society to reciprocate in some way for gifts received, so points to your son for showing a sense of appreciation.

Perhaps you could contact the parents of the child and see if there is another way you son could contribute to the party such as bring sodas, make party favors, give a pack of chewing gum to everyone, help set-up before or clean-up afterwards, etc.

If they decline, then you ought to respect their wishes. As generous as your son is, he may need to find out why presents are not encouraged in this case. It may not do to supply him the reason (from you), but discuss with him ways he can tactfully investigate for himself.

My guess is that the parents don't want a bunch of junk piling up over the years and may be sensitive about reciprocating with presents-in-kind at future parties their child may attend.

The parents of the child having the party probably don't realize they are sending the message that any gift any of the party attendees could bring is unwanted and worthless. Your son probably should be protected from that idea.

If you can't (or your son can't) get a straight answer, see if he can understand that attending the party and behaving nicely also makes a generous gift.

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    +1 for asking them and respecting their wishes. I wouldn't just assume that it's ok to give a gift in private, as it may still be unacceptable for a reason you haven't considered.
    – Doc
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 21:22
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    @Doc Why wouldn't it be okay to give a gift? Are you allowed to give gifts to people any other day of the year? Why on this one particular day are people not allowed to give gifts? When I give a gift to someone, I don't ask his permission first. It is up to him what he wishes to do with the gift. Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 0:02
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    @ReadyToLearn: We don't know why these specific parents might request no gifts, but there are plenty of possible reasons mentioned in both this answer and in others. Depending on the reason, the parents might or might not be happy to receive a gift for their child before or after the party, or on some other day of the year, but this is not something you can know unless you ask them. Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 3:40
  • @IlmariKaronen Fair enough. I certainly wouldn't force a gift on someone, especially at a party. Something about the way things were being said set me off--my apologies. Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 8:43

If the parents are generally okay with gifts, and just don't want them at the party, I would recommend telling him to give the gift at another time entirely, and not making it a 'birthday gift'. The cousin's parents made it clear a birthday gift is not desired, so don't give one. Instead, give it to him at another time - a week later, something like that - just as a "I like my cousin" gift. That honors their wishes while also making your son happy. I feel like "earlier that day" is not really honoring their desires, even if it does avoid some of the 'making other people feel bad'.

This assumes the children's parents aren't saying "no gifts" because their house is full of useless toys and they're irritated about ever getting anything (something I can understand well). In that case, he shouldn't get his cousin a physical gift (ie, something that takes up space). Instead, you should suggest he give him something that doesn't take up space: sing him a song, or paint him a picture (that's at least not bought!), or offer to do a chore for him, or take him out somewhere. This is a good time to learn that some of the best gifts are things that can't be bought.

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    "house is full of useless toys": This. Precisely this.
    – Martha
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 19:13

If the other parents have requested 'no presents' then you should respect their wishes. Even if you give a gift before the party it is still going to cause problems, when guests subsequently compare with each other at school.

Since your child is keen to be generous and give gifts, why not suggest that he gives a gift to a needy child via you rlocal Salvation Army, or gives a gift to the child's ward at the local hospital, give something via oxfamamericaunwrapped.com or you can even sponsor a child via (eg) children.org and make a real difference?

  • Given the specifics (3 year old going to cousin's 5th birthday) the chances that the rogue present-giver mixes with other party attendees at the same school are slim. Everything else is valid though. Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 11:18
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    There are plenty of charities which do good works without any associated homophobia, transphobia, and forcing religion on captive audiences. Any of them would be better than the Salvation Army.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 16:48

This is an opportunity to begin to teach your son about honoring the wishes of others. If your son gives a gift, he is not giving what the receiver wants (the receiver having specifically asked for "no gifts"), he is instead giving what HE wants. This is a little bit abstract for a 3-year-old, though, so I would try something like:

"I love how you love to give presents to people. Today, though, we are going to your cousin's birthday party, and their family has asked that no one bring a present. So instead of taking a present, let's think of something nice we could do for your cousin. Why don't we make him a card?" Your son may have other ideas of things he could do.

  • +1 for the second paragraph. Showing that a gift can be as abstract as being especially nice or thoughtful is an incredibly valuable lesson...at any age.
    – Nicholas
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 20:42
  • I agree that making something is far different from buying something. My 5-year-old likes to make "jigsaw puzzles" as gifts for people by drawing a picture of them and cutting it into several odd-shaped pieces.
    – Gabe
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 16:27

Many other answers focus upon the assumption that the "no gifts" rule is to prevent public competition. However, I would ask the parents directly and explain the situation. There could be other reasons, any of which could provide good options.

For instance, both of my daughters have had a bad habit of leaving small pieces of toys (rubber bands, plastic bits, etc) laying around. Besides difficulty in cleaning this presents a health hazard for our cats. So for my elder daughter one reason I could consider requesting 'no gifts' is to avoid items with small pieces. Asking me first would allow me to communicate that concern and allow your son to still exercise his selflessness.

My younger daughter has so many clothes and toys that her room is overflowing and most of the family's storage space is dedicated to her. I may not want any physical gifts for her. However, especially for a younger child, a gift of something like a share of inexpensive stock would definitely be welcome. Again, asking me first allows the situation to work out for all involved.

A friend of mine raised her kids with very little money to spare, and they could not afford gifts for their friends' birthdays. In their case, requesting 'no gifts' was a way to be socially responsible by not accepting what they cannot reciprocate. This may be a less comfortable topic, but hopefully one the parent is willing to explain. In that case it provides a great opportunity to speak with your child about respecting others' situations, beliefs, and desires, and that sometimes the nicest gift we can give someone is our own restraint.

In short, communication is key. Other parents understand the importance of every experience to a child, and especially the importance of cultivating generosity. I'd be really surprised (and disappointed) if the parent didn't appreciate your concern and try to work with you for a mutually optimal resolution (or at least explain their reasoning to provide a learning experience for your child).

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    Fantastic first post! I hope you stick around and keep providing such thoughtful answers. Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 13:54
  • This. Thank you. This was much better than a list of moral obligations. Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 2:32

I don't understand the problem. Since when has the "wants" of a 3 year old guest been more important than the house rules? Take the opportunity of teaching your son the importance of respect and compromise.

The "no presents please" comment should not be ignored, and the only compromise that needs to take place is on the side of the child - the party hosts should not need to make any compromise in this instance.

  • Why -1? Many of today's problems in society are caused by people thinking the rules don't apply to them.
    – Tommy1964
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 22:56
  • Hi, and welcome to the site. I suspect the downvote is because you posted this as an answer, despite not understanding the question. The question was not "should we bring a present: yes or no?". The question was looking for best approaches, possible compromises, etc. You mentioned compromise, but don't actually offer any suggestions, and therefore don't actually answer the question. Please take a few moments to familiarize yourself with our faq.
    – user420
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 23:07
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    Hi. Please note that I said I don't understand the problem NOT the question, which clearly includes "should we honor the "no gifts please!" comment on the invitation?", and that sounds like it needs a Yes/No answer to me. And my response implicitly discounts the need to make any suggestion for a compromise.
    – Tommy1964
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 23:25
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    Please don't tell me what I do or do not understand. Can I suggest that you re-read your own OP, but from the point of view of someone who doesn't have knowledge of your specific situation, which you admit you've intentionally left out. The overall impression given is that you're looking for justification to override the wishes of others on the grounds that your child may in some way be damaged by being told "no" once in a while.
    – Tommy1964
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 0:59
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    I'm not intending to argue, I'm simply responding to the points raised. And I obviously don't expect you or any other OP to follow any suggestions or opinions given. Not really sure why you've brought the downvote issue up again, and I suspect that the impression you intended, and the one that I got are both shared by many. Anyway, I hope the party goes/went well.
    – Tommy1964
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 1:33

You absolutely must honor the "No Gifts!" request.

You can tell your son that he will give a gift to charity instead of to that child; or you can buy the gift and "forget" to take it and give it to someone else at another time.

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    I can't agree with the forgetting part. Be straightforward with your children. If honoring "No Gifts" is important, tell him that, and help him understand why.
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 20:22

I think that its really lovely of your son to be so generous definitely encourage this!, but also be respectful of the parents wish (this is a wish that they have given for the party, to disobey would be disrespectful towards them

however I think it would be fine to drop over a a little earlier (maybe before or after to give a gift then)

its just a courtesy to the parents and especially other guests, if they haven't the money for presents.


There are few quandaries or challenges in education, they are mostly AGLO moments (AGLO = Another Great Learning Opportunity).

This is not a challenge, it is an opportunity to teach your child three very important principles:

  1. Boundaries - Respect boundaries, there is no "small" or "large" when it comes to another persons boundaries, our own take is not the yardstick, the yardstick is that of the person who set the boundary. What if I love purple, and am also very generous, and I decide to pick your locks while you are on vacation, and paint your entire house in purple? After all, I'm giving you a generous paint job, free of charge, and in my favorite color.. I'm sure you can draw the analogy.
  2. Restraint - A skill no longer that popular, but rather rewarding later in life. It can help prevent addiction, and other destructive behavior. 'NO' is a forgotten word. 'NO' is not cruel, as long as it is delivered with love. If a child cries a bit, that's ok, the scar tissue of the temporary 'pain of NO', yields healthy restraint muscle that lasts a lifetime.
  3. Giving is about the recipient, not about the giver. While a person may feel good when (or about) giving, that is not the end, nor the means, it is merely a side effect, and should not become the 'end'.

The NO should come as a straight out NO, without explanation, doing so enforces discipline, explanations can come afterwards. If you explain points 1-3 to the child, you are unlikely to discourage the child from giving in the future. Though a child cannot (typically) reason at this young age, the message will sink to the subconscious, and will benefit him later in life.

Note: We often refrain from saying NO to our child, because we cannot handle the pain of our child crying (or we simply don't want to deal with it). Remember - "No pain, no gain", educating a healthy and morally balanced child is not easy, its not fast food, it takes sweat and tears.

  • I love this answer. The only part I'm not quite on board with is the explanations coming later. Especially at that age it seems like they should come with the 'NO'. Do you happen to know if any research has been done on this? I'm just going off of personal 'feel' and could certainly be wrong.
    – Nicholas
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 20:45
  • Hi Nicholas, I will respectfully disagree, NO without an explanation enforces discipline, and listening to authority even without a reason. Outside of discipline, there are other ramifications to getting a child used to always hearing the reason up front.. Consider the times you may forget to give the reason (in a rush, tired, whatever..). Consider what will happen if you tell a child not to run into the gutter, and forget to tell them why.. if the child is accustomed to always hearing a reason up-front, they may choose to not-listen because there was no reason attached.
    – Yossi
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 19:42
  • Listening to authority even without reason is generally considered a very bad trait in adults, and parenting isn't about raising kids...it's about raising responsible adults. I do understand, of course, that young kids need to listen and react quickly in some situations before questioning, but there is also risk in teaching a child to simply follow orders instead of assessing risks and determining actions on their own. What I was asking was essentially if research had shown if timing of explanations at that age affected long term development of risk analysis skills.
    – Nicholas
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 14:58
  • Not suggesting "never" to explain/reason. Only that discipline is learned through accepting authority without reason. Also consider the following: 1. You can always explain after the fact. 2. Ample opportunity exists to teach risk assessment skills when the child reaches teen years. 3. Children learn by observation, they see how we assess risk. they take it all in... Re. research, Authoritative parenting styles tend to result in children who are happy, capable and successful (Maccoby, (1992). The role of parents in the socialization of children: Developmental Psychology., 28, 1006-1017)
    – Yossi
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 7:03

There may be many reasons behind the no gifts rule. Possibly the child has an allergy to something (plasticisers?) and the parents have to throw away 90% of gifts which causes them all pain. Maybe they are afraid of cheap toys which might have poisoned paint. As a strong rule respect their wishes unless you have their permission to do otherwise. As a weaker rule, call your friends nd family and ask them if you don't understand something.

Some people have suggested that they might be being rude. That may be so; perhaps they think your gifts are too cheap. However I suspect not. There's probably something serious and strong behind their wish and they aren't saying what it is in order to avoid offending. Maybe they only want quality safe toys such as Lego Duplo and don't want to be seen as greedy by demanding you pay extra. Perhaps if you ask, you and your son will understand and support them, which is probably the best gift you can give.


It's good that your son is so generous. But I would say don't bring a gift this time. Your son can learn something new and important from this experience. Not bringing a gift can teach him that giving material things to others is not the only way to contribute. In fact, there are situations in which simply being a source of comfort to others is far more valuable than any material object. Instill this now so that it remains with him later in life.


I would say no compromise and no gift. I am myself a mother who always mentions "no gift please", and I find it a bit annoying when parents do allow their child to bring in a present. The idea is that my children receive way too many presents anyway and they don't need any more, and I don't want the invited children to compete and the invited parents to make unnecessary expenses (not everyone can afford even a very little present). Even if you as a parent thinks it's OK and you will be discrete and you trust your child won't mention it to others etc, well you can't guarantee that it will indeed not be known + the birthday boy/girl usually gets over excited and not his usual self (three children myself, I can't recognize them on their birthdays...): if he starts receiving presents, then he will be expecting presents. The same as with any other habit at home: when your child can do something, then (understandably) it is a normal fair thing for him to do, then their is no harm asking for it later. Plus, personnally I tend to find this behavior (not respecting the "no gift please") very unfair for very close family and friends: these are the ones who are going to follow the rules, they know me, they understand why I ask for no gift so they won't try anyway, even though I would actually allow them to offer my child a gift another day, because they are special people to my child. So when a classmate brings in a present, I can't help thinking of my child's grandma who didn't bring a present. Of course I am not upset at anyone, I am telling you how I feel, I understand the reasons why some parents feel like they can trespass but I wish they just didn't. :)

As for your son's desire to offer a present, maybe you could ask him to: create something (a card, a cardboard truck, whatever) instead of buying something (because then it is moved from "gift" category to "shared craft activity" category :)) + offer it at another occasion (not for his birthday, but one week later is fine :)).

  • Thank you for adding this. I've never met anyone who made such a request and this helped me understand the position much better.
    – Nicholas
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 15:20

@Beoftt - Since it is the relative's party, You can remove the guilt factor (if it was one of the reasons) in getting a "free lunch" - After all, You will have an opportunity to return the favor in one way or another, numerous times.

Re: violating the stated rule, can also be considered as rude from the host's standpoint, violate their personal/religious beliefs & might put them and other guests (who were not prepared to bring any gift) in a fix . So, go with what the guest had asked. If you are still not convinced, talk to the parents, who are after all, Your relatives to understand their rationale.

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