Mother of triplets Jenn reached out us with this question:
My triplets are turning 5 and would like to have a party inviting their classroom friends. They are in the same class. I cannot expect every guest to bring 3 gifts. I know you mentioned NO presents as an option but at 5 they are really looking forward to having their first birthday party with not just family but friends too and being able to open their classmates’ gifts!
I’m sure that this cannot be an uncommon problem for mothers of multiples!
Jenn, we’re so glad you asked about this. It’s not just a quandary for the parents throwing the party for multiples, but a common question for the parents of singleton guests too! There’s also the matter of attending a singleton’s party with your multiples. Are you expected to give a separate gift from each child, or is it okay to give one from the family?
Above all, be considerate of your guests as Jenn is being. If you know that every guest you have invited has the resources to give extravagant gifts to each child and that is your community expectation, good for you. For most of us, that’s not the case.
Talk to your children ahead of time and explain to them that the real gift is their friends’ presence. They shouldn’t express disappointment at gifts, even if they feel it, and they should be certain to say “Thank you.” You may need to explain that this is one of the challenges of being a multiple. Sharing a birthday means sharing gifts. Or sharing a birthday means not sharing gifts. Set the expectation that works for your family.
Some possible variations include:
- One gift per guest family per set of multiples.
- One gift per guest family per birthday child.
- One gift per guest child per set of multiples.
- One gift per guest child per birthday child.
We generally discourage that last option. Imagine that you have triplets and you’ve invited triplets to their party. Nine gifts from one family to another is unnecessary, expensive, and will likely go under-appreciated by the overwhelmed recipient children.
Take your multiples’ relationship into account
Do your twins or triplets share all their toys? They would probably enjoy shared gifts.
Do they have a strong independent streak and enjoy keeping their possessions separate? They would appreciate less elaborate individualized gifts.
Do your multiples insist that everything always be fair and equal? It may be simplest to keep gift-giving within the family and invite guests not to bring gifts or to bring donations for the local library or food pantry instead.
Mention gifts in the invitation
Eliminate discomfort on the part of your guests by specifying your gift expectations in the invitation. It can feel tacky to ask for gifts, but it’s better than leaving guests wondering if they need to bring a gift per child or not.
Consider wording your invitation with something like, “We request only your presence, but if you must bring presents, limit your family to one gift for the birthday girls to share!” You’re not asking for things, but you are setting a one-gift expectation for guest families. Then, your triplets can go round robin on opening the gifts to keep things fair!
If your kids have separate friends, perhaps because they’re in different classes, you could write something like “You are being invited to Twin A and Twin B’s party as Twin B’s honoured guest. Twin A is not expecting a gift from you!”
There are several ways to provide guidance to party guests on what to give as a gift to keep things easy and equal.
Jenna did a “5 and 5 party” for her son. Each friend brought $10. $5 went to charity, specifically the local children’s hospital. He used his $5 to choose a toy and picked a new train for his train set after the party. Most kids also brought a card or picture for him.
Beth and Sadia have been to or thrown book exchange parties. Each child comes to the party with one age appropriate, gender neutral, wrapped book. The birthday girls’ parents brought a few extras, just in case someone forgot. Everyone, including the birthday girls, leaves with one wrapped book. This approach has the perk of avoiding the need for pesky goodie bags!
Build an activity center. In your invitation, let your guests know that you’re building an art center, kitchen center, or dress up center and that you’d appreciate contributions towards it. As we suggested above, have the kids take turns opening gifts. Mom and dad can open any remainder to ensure that each kid gets to open the same number of gifts.
Dana often suggests family presents for her twins’ birthdays. These are things like be board games, a collection of books, or art supplies.
Sadia’s daughters have requested canned goods for the food pantry instead of gifts, after discovering the hard way that many people feel uncomfortable arriving at birthday parties completely empty-handed. MandyE always adds a “no gifts, please” note at the bottom of her invitations. Her daughters have gotten some really great cards over the years instead of gifts and love opening them!
Within the multiples community
If you’re part of a close-knit multiples community, as MandyE and Jen Wood are, you’ll probably notice that there are norms in place regarding birthday gifts from twins to twins or higher order multiples. Just ask one of the other moms.
Jen Wood is a playgroup with 7 sets of twins within a year of her kids. They’ve always brought one gift per birthday kid. They also received one gift per birthday kid from each other “set” of friends. If they didn’t share a birthday they wouldn’t be expected to share a gift.
When MandyE goes to parties for multiples, she usually has her girls make a handmade card for each kid and does a larger family gift.
Sadia’s daughters usually give a gift to each birthday multiple unless they know that the multiples in question like to share their clothes and toys. In that case, they will do a more elaborate gift to all the birthday kids. Her twins’ great aunt, who has triplets, always gets the twins coordinating but non-identical pajamas from her whole family.
Gifts for singletons
There’s no hard and fast rule here. Take the size of your family and your financial and time resources into account. This isn’t just an issue for multiples. We don’t imagine that large families should feel obligated to bring a gift from each child who attends a party when siblings are invited.
When MandyE and her daughters go to singleton parties, she lets each of her girls choose a gift. Sadia tends to bring a single gift to singleton birthday kids from the whole family.
On the one occasion that her daughters brought separate gifts, the birthday girl’s mom noticed and mentioned her surprise. In this case, Sadia’s daughters felt that they had individual relationships with the birthday girl rather than being her “twin friends.” They felt very strongly that they wanted to give gifts as individuals.
Twin birthday party etiquette
The truth is that there is no universal standard on how many gifts twins should give or receive. It falls on the multiples’ parents to set expectations for their own family and their guests. Take into consideration the relationships between the children involved, whether they function more as individuals or as a set. Remember that being there to celebrate the birthday child or children is more important than the gift you bring. It really is the thought that counts.
How do you navigate the murky waters of birthday parties with multiples?