Another alternative to a traditional birthday gift, that may be very welcomed by the kid’s parents, is a Savings Bond. Small children, especially children 2 and under, really don’t understand the difference between opening 2 gifts v. 15 gifts. But the parents will certainly notice a nice boost to the college fund, if instead of a small gift, you give a small bond toward the child’s future. The amount of the Savings Bond can be any amount really, in the end even the smallest amounts add up and make a difference!
Now, is it appropriate for parents to ask for money in lieu of a gift for their birthday kid? I don’t think all parents would be completely comfortable providing cash as a gift. As a result, if you are going to ask for money, then make it something like a Savings Bond that people may feel they can go out and purchase for your child that is giving something to their future. Directly asking for cash in birthday cards for your one year old may be offensive, unless it is common practice among your friends and family.
Last, it would not be appropriate to state in the invitation, “No gifts please, cash only.” In this case, money is construed as the gift, and the invitation just stated, “no gifts.” So, if you do not want gifts at your party, just state no gifts, and this includes cash.
Money matters even among the youngest parties!! I really like Savings Bonds as a gift for the one year old! Not exciting, but practical and necessary for the future!