What are we teaching children with return gifts?

I first came to know about the concept of return gifts after attending a friend’s party to celebrate his daughter’s birthday. We were in Pune at that time and our daughter was hardly one. Since her birthday was around the corner at that time, that party proved very helpful in designing our party when our daughter turned one. The list of items did feature a line item named “return gifts”. We finally bought coloring pencils due to lack of time or lack of better idea. Most of the people who turned up were toddlers and hence would not have even bothered about the contents of the return gift.

At present, I’m back after attending a friend’s party to celebrate his son’s fifth birthday. As soon as I broke the news of the party to our daughter, she was excited as she vividly remembers the birthday boy. She eagerly followed up on the gift for the birthday boy after hearing it from our conversation. Later in the evening, she personally tried to hand over the gift to the birthday boy. The excitement of the birthday boy on being the focal point of the party prevented her from doing so. At around 9pm, we decided to say good bye to our hosts. When our plans were announced, my daughter beckoned me to her side and whispered in my ears, “Aren’t we getting return gifts?”.

How could we leave without receiving the return gifts? She has always carried a gift to the birthday parties. Similarly, she has also carried back a return gift from these parties. How could this party be different? Like all the other hosts, my friend also had return gifts ready. My daughter carried one back home.

But, what are we teaching our kids with return gifts? Isn’t gifting a selfless act?

Picture Courtesy: http://treesouls.com

Tags: Musings,Daughter,Birthday,Gifts


  1. yeah rite! I dont even knw how return gift concept started here??? I have come across many such incidents where children remember wat they got last time as return gift and then based on that they want to go!!

    I am not in favor of return gifts.. but then many ppl say its just that they do not want any kind of gifts so they compensate by returning gifts!! Not yet convinced...

  2. i guess the concept is give and take .... stopped celebrating any bdays coz of the stress involved in being innovative with the bday & return gifts!

  3. It is pure trading.Give and take.Children learn this from the parents when they hear/see them discussing this on a much wider scale in society.

  4. I have stopped celebrating birthdays. Apart from the hassle of managing 30 screaming kids in my house, buying all those return gifts make me stressed out.
    There have been many times in the past when I've forgotten to hand over return gifts to kids and they have told me you want us to go "without getting any thing back?" Embarrassing!

  5. Return gifts are a trend these days, they make one expect in return

  6. dont have objection to this yar..gifts r fun..dont have to be expensive but they always cheer us up..whether it is giving a gift or a return gift..maybe i am wrong..

  7. personally enjoy gifts-both giving n taking..so no objection..:)

  8. Its plain embarrasing when the kids haggle over the return gifts, my son is so blunt when it comes to this part of the birthday that I refuse to go to birthdays with him. Hes like what just a pencil, I dont want this!!!

  9. Return gifts? Thank god it was not in practice when my kids were young. There were few who indulged in it, but it was not always expected. And they went to school with a box of chocolates. These days they get cakes to school, the teachers get a gift too. The other day at Landmark, I found they had labeled a pack as return gift. Ridiculous. The practice has even spread to weddings. Previously we returned home with a coconut or sweet lime and the beetle leaves with supari. But off late, some give a kumkum box ( expensive ones), some vessels, ornate puja items and stuff like that.

  10. Interesting...return gift is a new concept, and like with most trends we just fllow it blindly. I agree that on a child's birthday he/she should be getting gifts, not feel obliged to give away return gifts.

  11. @Vineeta - I understand the concept of "not having an obligation"! That makes sense from viewpoint of the host.

    @Lakshmi, @BKC - Give & Take and Trading! Two interesting ways to look at this!

    @Aparna - The kid asking for return gifts sounded like my daughter! In my case, she whispered into my ears not making a scene and embarrassing me! Organizing parties can be very tiresome!

    @Pesto Sauce - Yes, there are in vogue now!

    @Ramesh - :)

    @Sujata - Wow! So aggressive?

    @Radha - That pack in Landmark is a blessing for many families. I would also just pick it up for avoiding the hassles of selecting the right one for the occasion! You are lucky that your kids are grown up!

    @Neena - Yes! The giver will also have a birthday someday and on that day, the giver can be a receiver. :)

  12. The couple we know sent strict orders saying no birthday gifts to be brought on the occasion of their child's birthday. So people came without any presents, that was fine, but when it was time to leave they all wanted to to know, where was their return- back presents, lol!

  13. @Rama - Thanks for dropping by.

    That is really funny for us and embarrassing for the host. :)

  14. Thanks for sharing this nice information here. it's really informative for me.

  15. I think its a ridiculous concept and it leads a child to expect gifts and increase their greed level. In an instance that happened with me on my son's birthday, few kids actually asked for extra return gifts for their brother or sister and even for cousins who came from another state. Lol.

    While it's a good way of balancing the cost part, the parents don't realize how they are impacting the thought process of the child and sowing greed and setting default expectations. I personally found it very disturbing and I actually did a Google search to figure out who created this crap concept.

    We chose to give sketch pen set to every kid. One kid actually told me that why did I hand it over to him without a gift wrapper. Lol. The kid was just 6, but I was amazed by these expectations. Another kid asked if the return gifts are ready even before finishing the cake. And most other kids had similar expectation.


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