Parents increasingly are throwing birthday parties that specify NO GIFTS. My mom taught us not to show up to parties empty handed so not buying a gift goes against our nature.
But instead of going completely gift-free, we recently attended a birthday party that involved a book exchange. Every attendee brought a wrapped book to the party. At the end, each attendee left with a different wrapped book. The birthday child received one gift as did every other kid. Not only are books universally well-received, there is no need for goody bags for attendees.
Image: It's (K)not Wood