Real Simple’s Modern Manners columnist answers a reader question.

By Julie Rottenberg
Cheryl Zibisky

Q. Should a child open presents at his or her birthday party or wait until everyone has gone home?
Reagan Kaufman
Cheyenne, Wyoming

A. I feel strongly that no gifts should be opened at any party, regardless of the age of the guest of honor. When little kids are in attendance, they’re going to go bonkers—wanting their own Zhu Zhu Pet or Lego set and feeling badly if the present they brought isn’t well received. And if that’s not reason enough, delaying gift opening teaches the birthday kid to focus on the fun of the party itself—not the loot she’s going to bag. As for adults, I stand by my no-opening-gifts-in-public policy (that goes not just for birthdays but showers and anniversary parties, too). It’s a bore to watch someone else open presents, and it’s just as agonizing for the recipient, who has to ooh and aah at the right decibel over and over again. And then there’s always someone who is going to feel self-conscious about what she brought once she sees everyone else’s offerings. Who needs it? A personalized thank-you note will tell the gift giver everything she needs to know.


—Julie Rottenberg

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