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If you are looking for the best 1st birthday gift… you have found it.   The best part?  It isn’t really a GIFT at all!   We had a no-gift birthday party and it came with the BEST gifts…

best 1st birthday gift that isn't really a gift at all
I love this idea because we already have more toys, clothes and ‘things’ than we need.  Years ago, we received the best gift for our daughter.  She was turning one at the time.

I knew that our 12-month-old was not going to remember that rattle or latest Frozen toy that she received on her birthday.   This is going to mean SO MUCH MORE.  I wanted something that was completely UN-materialistic.  Even if you just do this with family, its really more of a treasure than a gift.   (Or if you want to bring a gift- do this idea an include it with a gift)

This idea comes from my dear friend, Hillary.   Years ago, when Hillary’s daughter, Hazel, turned one, she had each of us bring something unique to her birthday party:  She asked for a letter for her daughter to open when she turns 16.  She asked that we also include something to represent the time that we are in (a toy that is popular now, a photograph or newspaper article).  I just loved this idea!

On our daughter’s first birthday, we had a little celebration with our closest friends and family.   We held our own no gift birthday party and it was amazing.   I also asked for a letter for our daughter to open when she turns 16.  She won’t understand it now, but her Mama will… and one day she will, too. ♥

allie & becky

When our friends and family members arrived, I was overjoyed at the notes and pictures that our guest brought.  My friend, Hillary, brought a beautiful letter and a Barbie doll.  She attached a note to the Barbie doll that simply said:

“This is what Barbies look like in 2013, but I am sure that when you are 16, they will look much different.  Remember, now that you are 16-  one thing remains true- no girl ever really looks like her so please please please never hold yourself to that ridiculous standard!

Our sweet Allie may not know how important those words are until she is 16 and she finds herself comparing herself to many others, like all of the women before her.  She may not remember just how beautiful she is until she reads those words written by women even when she was just a beautiful baby.


It wasn’t that note (above) that tug at my heartstrings as much as this…  You see, what touched me the most was what she wrote at the end of her letter:

“So, as you read this, chances are great that you will be in the midst of a push-pull relationship with your parents that will feel so real to you and so unique that you will find it hard to believe that for generations before you, this same struggle has marked nearly every parent/child relationship.  But remember that your parents love you.

At the end of the day, that is all that truly matters.  They love you.  They want what is best for you.  They want to protect you from harm and from hurt.  they make their choices based on that desire.  You may not always agree.  They may not always be right.  But they will always be your parents and they will always love you.”

sleeping baby girl
What great words for a teenager to hear, at the age when they need to hear it the most.  It is hard to think that one day this sweet, precious Allie Beth, who at this age won’t let go of my leg, who won’t stop holding my hand even for me to make dinner, who won’t stop asking me to sing ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’… will one day think that I have anything other than the desire to help her become the strong woman that I know she will be?

But, when that time comes, she will read those words written by my friend and remember how much I love her and how all of those words of “I love you” that I speak to her have been only the truth.

As Hillary wrote in her letter to our daughter: “Being a mom means loving someone with so much force and might that the thought of that person not being there literally takes the breath right out of you.”

A little girl and her mom standing in a field.
Ps- You can even have your guests write letters at the party.  Just grab some craft supplies from the store & have them out.  These thoughtful gifts will be cherished for a lifetime.

If you want ACTUAL (hand-held) presents (these would be great to give with a letter)… here are a few that you might like: (click on the picture to see the gift with my affiliate link)

These first ones are FREE…

free baby leggings



A baby girl sleeping on a white blanket.
potty train in 3 days



Mommy, will you lay with me




Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. That is an absolutely adorable idea that will surely be meaningful to her down the road!

  2. Thanks Becky! I’m so glad you liked my letter! I was searching for just the right words to describe that horrible passage of time that most everyone goes through with their parents. I, like you, have a hard time imagining that time coming but I’m hoping that our kids will always know how much we love them.

  3. That is so touching! Made me choke up. My older daughter is almost 13 and I wish I had thought of this when she turned 1, what a great idea. I think I’m going to have her read this 🙂
    Just followed you on Bloglovin via Kathe’s party, take care – Dawn

  4. Hi Becky! What an incredible idea. Absolutely brilliant! The words that Hillary wrote to your daughter are so lovely and moving. Happy birthday to your daughter, and may she have many, many more happy and healthy birthdays.

    All the best,


  5. Hi Becky!
    Adorable idea…
    Perfect for our little Maya first birthday coming in two weeks. Please more details in how to do invitations? need to send to family out of town (we are not doing a party)just dont want them to send a present! this can totally save them, and a wonderful gift for our baby

    1. I just did all of our invites online, instead of using paper invitations. I would just write in there “In lieu of birthday gifts this year, we are asking everyone to share a letter for Maya… she will wait to open it until her 18th birthday. Please share some advice and even some fun facts about today, because when I look back in 17 years, I would love to hear about what life was like when I was one.”

  6. Hi Becky! So, how did you word the invitation to say please no gifts? I want to do this for my girls parties so bad!

    1. Hey 🙂
      I just wrote “in Lieu of gifts this year, we ask you to just bring something that will touch Allie’s heart for years to come… a letter, written to her, to open on her 16th birthday.”

  7. We did this at our baby shower! I still write him a letter a few times a year and his second birthday is coming up so He will be getting lots more! We actually made his to where he gets them on his 18th Birthday so that the day he becomes an adult he can read all the things from when he was younger and carry the love we have for him wherever he may go! Love this Idea so much!

  8. Great idea. My son had his first birthday already. We don’t have family here so We created memories with the pictures taken when he smashed the cake. But I definitely will use your idea for his second birthday. Brilliant

  9. This is such a great idea! My twins already had their first birthday back in March, but my next 3 have birthdays coming up and I think I’ll be incorporating this idea in some way. Things like this are so much more meaningful than materials. What an inspiring post!

  10. Thats awesome and really touchy idea.Daughter always are special.My princess is 10 .I think i will try this for her.This will be the best gift for her from me.

  11. Great idea. My son had his 2nd birthday already. We don’t have family here so We created remembrance with the pictures taken when he broke the cake. But I definitely will use your idea for his second birthday. Brilliant