Motherhood

How to Win at Birthdays

How to Win at Birthdays

For the past seven years, every time we’ve gone to a kid’s birthday party, I’ve run around that morning getting the boys ready and then raced to the toy store in a panic to grab a gift on our way.

But! I suddenly realized with a forehead slap: We could just buy the same little treat in advance for every kid. We got a few copies of this lovely book and wrapped them all. Now we grab one as we head out the door. It has made a big difference — the kids are still psyched and there’s no last-minute scrambling.

Other tried-and-true gifts include harmonicas and bubble wands. One of my friends gives kids a $5 gift certificate to a local ice-cream shop — what a thrilling thing for a little dude!

What about you? Do you have any go-to birthday presents?

P.S. Slamdunk gifts for kids of all ages, and the easiest birthday cake.

(Photo via Vintage Everyday.)

  1. Pjs are our fail safe gift of choice.
    What kid doesn’t love a new pair of pyjamas? And it’s a gift that their parents love too.
    We love Peter Alexander so whenever they’re having a huge sale (which is all the time) we duck in & grab a few pairs for the present cupboard.

  2. Gina Dwyer says...

    I love to give books and have given the book, The Willoughby’s, by Lois Lowry, to many of my friends and family – it’s a great family read!

  3. Annika says...

    My go-to gift for little girls (and boys with long hair!) is a Turbie Twist. Usually the parents look puzzled at first, but then come back later and tell us their kids use it ALL the time!

  4. Ilana says...

    Dr.Seuss’ My Book About Me is hit every time.

  5. Shannon says...

    Thank you for the ideas! Just in time for a birthday party in a few weeks

  6. Jillian says...

    My mom always kept a gift cabinet – a designated cabinet with age-appropriate gifts and fun items she’d come across while shopping. Before a birthday party, we were allowed to select a gift for our friend from the cabinet and a card from her box of meticulously organized greeting cards (she had them for everything from birthdays to anniversaries to sending condolences). Now a mom myself, I’m nowhere near as organized or prepared, but I do try to pick a couple of go-to gifts each year and if I look at the calendar and see we have a bunch of birthday parties coming up, I’ll just order in bulk from Amazon and pre-wrap them.

  7. Kara Gehret says...

    Kids love balloons. They are so affordable and easy! Plus, a gift that only lasts a few days is a huge win for parents. Who REALLY needs to add to the toy collection? We always head to the grocery store and get a cool mylar balloon and tie it around a candy bar to weight it down. It’s always a hit!

  8. Jamie says...

    pj’s!!! my kids always seemed to be outgrowing theirs and always fun characters….etc. I feel better b/c I know they will be used.

  9. Kay says...

    Can anyone suggest things that can be purchased as a group gift? Both my sons have birthdays in Fall and Winter – right before Christmas – and some pretty generous grandparents so I love the idea of asking parents to donate a small sum for a larger gift. The thing is, I don’t know what big gift I could buy! My husband is fiercely against depriving his children of birthday party gifts (eye roll), so I need to come up with something good to avoid 20 extra gifts we don’t need. Thanks!

    • stephanie says...

      We are big fans of memberships to children’s museums or zoos or the like as larger group gifts. They provide us with a year of outings together as a family, and some offer guest passes so that we can bring the gifting grandparent, etc.

    • Marta says...

      I agree with the membership idea, but another thing that works for us, if the givers are amenable, is to add to a joint collection or category, like train tracks, or magnatiles. You can never have enough magnatiles:)

    • Holly says...

      Kiwi/Koala/Tinker Crates. My sister bought these as gifts for my boys and they LOVE them! It was so much fun to get them in the mail every month and the crafts inside are remarkable.

  10. I must to say I love search the perfect birthday gift or gifts in genaral but with kids is a little bit more complicated so I tend to call mum and ask what the kid needs-for example this summer I gifted a swimsuit and a tshirt- maybe I find it omplecated because I’m not a mum, I’m been “only” a nanny but I noticed that in the kindergarden mums tend to ask course and your ideas are brilliant too that ice cream voucher is a thing that I’ll copy also for adults!

  11. We love the book you linked – This is How We Do It. Just have the library copy at the moment, but I think we’d like to own it. And I agree – it would make a great gift for up to about age 6.

    We usually do books as birthday gifts, tailored to the age and interests of the child. That’s how I get input from my kids. Sometimes we’ve also taken a coupon and gone to AC Moore (craft store) and I’ve gotten my kid to pick a craft kit for his/her friend.

  12. Ellen says...

    Taking a wee break from politics for a moment. What a day!
    There have been so many great ideas already but there are some memorable successes I’ve had that I haven’t seen listed yet.
    I know folks have mentioned flashlights, a twist on that theme is headlamps as a fun smaller stand alone gift and great as an add on for a bigger gift like a sleeping bag.
    One year I gave monogrammed towels to everyone on my Christmas list. For the grandparents I used their special “grandparent name” and for little kids I made sure I knew their favorite color. I ordered when towels were on sale during the summer. We saw those towels in use all over for years and years. Big hit!
    One year all of the kids (ages 6 to 12) got Maze balls https://www.scientificsonline.com/product/perplexus-3d-puzzle-maze That was a bulky noisy present bag!
    Another year the go to was a kit to make Mentos Geysers https://www.scientificsonline.com/product/mentos-geyser-kit and some bottles of soda after we saw one at a “Science Magic Show”
    I haven’t given these but remember being fascinated by and loving “magic rocks” as a kid https://www.teachersource.com/product/1974/homeschool-science?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIobyn4KDb1QIVxrbACh0n_g-KEAYYAyABEgKuxPD_BwE

  13. Amy says...

    My fave is to go to Home Depot and have them cut a bunch of 1″ pvc pipe into 12″ and 24″ lengths. Pick out lots of fun connectors (3-way, elbows, etc.) and stick them in one of those orange buckets. Good to go. Sculptures, play houses, marshmallow guns, you name it, it’s been done. Inside/outside appropriate.

  14. Anela says...

    A friend just told me about that book and I immediately bought a few for quick gifts! It’s a longer read so my 3 year old and I like to pick one kid to read about at a time. I like the map at the back too…she’s slowly starting to see the world outside herself. Small steps, right?

  15. Jaymie says...

    My mom keeps Target gift cards around the house for this very reason.

  16. Great idea!

  17. Sara says...

    Usually a book that we really like and I know is a bit of a sleeper (like not everyone has it.) I also like unique creative/ make something gifts. For example, one year I gave everyone a publish your own book kit. It included pages you would draw and/ or write your story, mail all the pages in and a hard bound book with the art and story came back to the family. everyone loved it.

  18. JMB says...

    I always give a book that I loved at that age. If it’s for my only niece, I also include a STEM treat (like math flash cards) and something creative like fresh crayons or paint (nothing with characters). Get that little brain going! Last year I taught her how to use my sewing machine and she’s been sewing all year long!

  19. Vanessa says...

    Pajamas. Always. You can never have too many pajamas. I started this when my daughter was in kindergarten and parents have over it and so have the kids. I’m a fan of the Cat and Jack line at Target. Good quality and price point for growing bodies. Partner it with a homemade card and we are good to go.

  20. Loesie says...

    I have a gift closet!
    My built-in closet has a lower part and a small top part. The top part is stacked with gifts for family and friends. That way, I always have something to grab for a party.
    The best part is that I get to buy gifts for holidays and birthdays all year long. As if December isn’t stressful enough with all the food preparations and everything having to be fun… In the past I gave out a lot more ‘standard’ gifts. Now, I buy a lot more personal gifts that are really ‘made’ for that one person.
    I especially buy gifts during sale(s). I even buy December gifts in January. If it’s 50% off, it makes the fun of giving a whole lot better!
    For my son, it’s this magical closet that he knows is there and he knows it’s got stuff he really wants, but he’s not tall enough yet to see exactly what’s in it…
    Plus, whenever I pay an impromptu visit to a friend, I can just get a little something from the closet to give to them (although most of the times, I give them magazines that were passed along from my mom; who cares if a magazine is 2 months old? It’s always fun to read a magazine – and it doesn’t cost me anything! )

  21. Julia says...

    I like to give books as a gift, really good books that kids like to look at again and again. However, I must admit: It can be very hard to observe the child’s face when she ‘s unwrapping my present. Sorry, child, it is no colorful plastic automatic toy …. it is “only” a book… ;-) BUT: as a parent I know how much fun it will be later to spend time with Mommy or Daddy, looking at the book together.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      haha i feel the same! i’m like, i KNOW it’s not as exciting as the flashy stuff, but i promise you will love it :)

  22. Emily says...

    When my oldest was in preschool and everyone invited the whole class to every birthday, that meant a lot of kids gifts to purchase. To make it easy, I always reordered the same ALEX toys crafts from Amazon Prime the week before the part and had my daughter help wrap and make a card. They make lots of craft kits that are not expensive and as a bonus to parents overwhelmed by so many toys after their child’s birthday, the crafts offer the opportunity to do the activity with parents or a sibling, enjoy the finished craft for a while, and if it isn’t something that gets saved, it can usually just be tossed in recycling without the guilt of another plastic, battery operated toy ending up in the landfill.

  23. AzureSong says...

    We have high gift anxiety in our house. I ask what gift I should buy. Daughter(s) don’t know (tweenagers). I buy a gift. Daughters say birthday girl won’t like it, but don’t have any other suggestions. Bought gift goes to the party. Birthday girl opens it in front of everyone, causing anxiety to my daughter at the time and anxiety to me afterwards when I get the gift report.

    This happens when I have to buy gifts for co-workers too. It doesn’t happen when buying for family and friends, since I actually know them!

  24. Char says...

    I have a few go-to gifts.
    For baby showers and new babies I like to give a Peppa Tino Bonding doll; the bunnies are so sweet!
    For 1st birthdays I like to give a harmonica. Not a kid’s toy harmonica, but a “real” one! It was one of my favorite toys when I was little!

  25. Eliza says...

    I have two sons, 11 and 8, and one of my favorite things to do when they are invited to a birthday party is to put the gift in a reusable tote bag tied with a ribbon and a tag instead of a paper gift bag or wrapping paper (Target dollar section tends to carry cute ones for kids). This way it’s really like two gifts in one, and the bag can be used for storage, shopping, or even hauling sleepover essentials down the road. :-)

    • Luna GC says...

      Brilliant. I’m using this one. Thanks!

  26. Krissy says...

    My Go To Kids Birthday Items: Piggy bank with spare change, nice sturdy drawstring back pack (especially if they play on a sport team), wallet with a couple of bucks (for older kids 7-8 years old), and beach towel.

  27. Jessica says...

    The game Spot It! for any age and we especially love the card game Sleeping Queens for ages 4 and up!

  28. 5339kalanianaole says...

    My favorite gift for kids was a magazine subscription. Kids Discover and magazines from the Cricket group were great and pleased everyone. I’d order it as soon as I got the invitation, and take one of the issues my son had on his bookshelf as a “sample” and attach a card that said “we got you a year of this magazine” on the day of the party.

  29. Caroline says...

    I have two go-to gifts for young kids: a butterfly kit (comes with a send-off for ten caterpillars and a mesh house for when they become butterflies) and solar print paper. My mom actually bought the same butterfly kit for my kids (aged 1 and 4 years) and they both loved it equally! It was so fun to get them involved in caring for them – we even printed out a blank calendar page and wrote notes on their behavior and counted the days until they would turn through their phases. Then at the end, you release the butterflies and can re-use the house and order more caterpillars if you want. So fun! I remember using solar paper when I was little so I ordered some for my 4 year-old son – it’s so much fun to take leaves, flowers, even toy cars and see how the sun takes a ‘picture’ of them!

  30. A great gift idea: Klutz books!

    I work for Klutz as a designer and illustrator. :) I love giving our stuff as gifts because they are so much fun and teach so many great skills. I even like making the crafts myself. When I first started at Klutz I was so excited because I remember having their books when I was a kid.

    Here is one of my favorites that I designed: http://bit.ly/2vZ6wiq

    • Brooke Anderson says...

      I LOVE your work. On Amazon now browsing all the Klutz craft kits. So fun! My inner 9 year old is screaming with excitement

    • Holly says...

      We give the Klutz Chain Reactions gift all the time! Most of my son’s friends have tons of Legos, so it’s a great, unique way to use the collection they already have. Keep up the great work!

  31. Linsey says...

    Some of my favorites to give: sidewalk chalk, bubbles, ribbon dancers, sprinklers, glow sticks, disposable cameras (getting harder to find!), and gift certificates for the small mom-and-pop toy store in town.

  32. Sarah says...

    That picture is fantastic. Don’t you usually provide the photo source/give credit?

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Sarah! Thank you for the catch. Just updated. xo

    • Sabrina Izaguirre says...

      Cutest Photo EVER

  33. Jaclyn says...

    YES! One of the cardboard houses or little dog houses that the kids can color in by Alex Toys.

  34. Mary says...

    Gift cards to the movies, Amazon, iTunes, or Fred Meyer (which has everything and more). Slip in the gift card in a fun birthday card and that’s it. Fast, efficient, and guaranteed that the birthday kid (or adult) will get what they want.

  35. I don’t have children, but I have been to 10k weddings in the past few years. Wedding registries make gifts a bit simpler (and EXPENSIVE), but man they just seem so impersonal. I ended up sharing one of my favorite cookbooks with probably 10 couples. Same cookbook & sentiment, different couples!

    • NM says...

      I think there are ways to take registry items to the next level by adding your own personal touch. In your case, this might mean purchasing some of the kitchen items they’ve wished for and also including your inscribed cookbook. Win/win!

    • MK says...

      I was on a thread recently where a woman asked if she should create a registry for her child’s birthday, and I was the only one who said no! Can you imagine getting a birthday party today invitation with a link to amazon?!

    • Lexy says...

      We did get an Amazon wish list link for a recent birthday. We had gotten a ‘save the date’ and since we planned on attending, we bought a gift, and then, later, we got an Evite which contained the wish list link. It made me feel bad about the gift I had already bought. From one side, I get the parents’ desire to be gifted with things the children actually want, but on the other side, it felt uncomfortable. I thought why not just make it a no gifts party, and buy those items for their children?

  36. Grace M says...

    Hey Joanna and team,

    PLEASE do a post about racial violence and what happened in Virginia.
    I know that this is not a political blog, but we need thought leaders like you to use your white privilege and influence to take a stand. Please show up for me and for your other readers of color.

    We need you on our side.
    xo,
    Grace

    • Courtney says...

      As a woman of color who reads this blog often, I was also wondering if they would post about this past weekends events. Maybe?

    • Lee says...

      Yes! I completely agree Gracie. I am a white woman, but I too would like to see a post that addresses white privilege and white supremacy.

    • Sasha says...

      Well expressed Grace, I’ve been waiting…..I think many of us would love to see CoJ taking a stand.

    • Sasha says...

      Posts could even have a how to bent. How to prepare yourself and children to go to a protest. What to say to a racist family member, co worker, neighbor, friend. Reading list by poc. An open invitation to readers who are being targeted, how are they feeling/doing, what can the rest of us do to help right now? Personally, I would love to read that last one.

    • Grace M says...

      :) hell yeah.

      thank you for responding <3

  37. Karen says...

    My son just turned 5 years old and has been going to the same school since he was 14 months old. He has a great, close knit group of friends that we feel so lucky to have because the parents are fantastic too. April through August is big time birthday season & a few years ago, we all decided presents had to stop. So we do a used book exchange. Every kid brings a gently used wrapped book & then after cake, book are exchanged, so everyone goes home with a new book. So far, so good! And so much less stressful! I told other friends about it, and that is what they do now too!

    • Sadie says...

      Great idea! When I was a kid with a single parent short on cash, my mom used to get stressed out by all the money spent on friends’ bday presents, so this is a nice way to bring the expense down.

    • Liza says...

      I’m all about gifting books, and my parents had an awesome way to keep me loaded up with reading material. In elementary school, once a year I would donate all of my books to a homeless shelter and my birthday party invitation asked that I only receive books as gifts. Imagine being gifted 30+ books in one afternoon! In middle and high school, I donated my books to a juvenile detention center or halfway house. It isn’t your first thought, but the libraries in these places sorely lack good reading material, and I love that I was able to provide teenagers with a way to escape.

  38. polyana says...

    I’m at a phase in my life where I don’t have kids, but my friends are starting to have kids, or already have young children. So I always have the hardest time trying to figure out what to get them, since I have no clue what kids want these days (and what parents need for them)!

    But I have this one friend who has, for her little boy’s birthdays since he was 1 (he’s not turning 4), run a Charity Water campaign for his birthday and asks for a donation there, instead of presents. She always talks about he has so many toys already, and they’re so blessed to have everything they need, that she finds it more important to give him a sense of giving back early on, and not get used to being even more spoiled with birthday gifts. And why not use his birthday as an opportunity to help children who need the most basic of things – water – since their birthday party guests were going to spend money attending anyway?

    This is a gift I happily contribute, and look forward to every year, and I wish more parents (and adults who throw parties for themselves) would think to do this!

    • MK says...

      What a wonderful lesson for her son!

    • When I was a kid, we always did a Relay for Life team for my birthday, no presents. We all had matching tshirts and my parents would make a ton of food! Good way to do an overnight that isn’t a sleepover per se.

  39. Sasha says...

    Once, at my daughter’s dog themed party, we asked for pet presents that we took to our local animal shelter. That was super fun for everyone. (The party itself was fun too. I was the “trainer” & “taught” all the “doggies” tricks. Treats were cookies shaped like dog biscuits. We painted spots on faces like puppies and the three-five yos literally played they were doggies for two hours.)

  40. Sasha says...

    A pretty crystal, from a rock shop, or sometimes toy stores, was always such a fun gift for my daughters and their friends. They enjoyed picking out the rock, and it was small and very open ended for the birthday child. And really easy to pass along when one is all done with it. Also, cheap :)

  41. Melanie says...

    Regarding group gifts- great idea, but does that cause pressure on people to donate a certain amount? And what if they can’t afford to give as much money as everyone else? And then one person has to organize, ask for the money, try to collect it, buy the gift, etc…I have a hard enough time getting people to RSVP to the party.

    Off-topic:
    It’s like collecting money for teacher’s gifts. Class parent asking for a contribution with a ‘suggested’ amount. I love kids’ teachers…last year there requests for contributions for holiday gift, teachers’ appreciation day, a luncheon for the teachers, and then an end-of-the year gift.

    Between birthday parties, class parties, teachers gifts…I need another job to pay for all of this.

    How about some hand made gifts also? With a picture of the kids and teachers? I used to teach adults, and my favorite gifts were photos of me and my class.

  42. Alexa says...

    We also do ‘no gifts’ parties for our own children. I guess I have a vision that my children will have a few gifts (say, from us and the grandparents), that they really love, rather than a pile of presents just to tear paper off and possibly not use. So far, there hasn’t been a backlash from our kids, and some children still arrive with a homemade card or a sheet of stickers, which I think is just as lovely.

  43. Alexa says...

    We have been on the 4 year old birthday circuit this past summer. Since we live in a small space, I always aim to give a gift that won’t take up a lot of space for another family. This year, we gave everyone either Ada Twist, Scientist, Iggy Peck, Architect, or Rosie Revere, Engineer. The books are catchy, approved by my own soon-to-be-four-year-old, and have a great message.

  44. What a nice book! I do something similar. We have brought the same book to the last several 3 year old birthday parties we have attended–Horton Hatches an Egg. The local bookstore does a nice job with gift wrap, so it’s super easy.

  45. Kathleen says...

    We live in Boston, and most of our friends’ kids / kids’ friends live in small apartments that do not need more STUFF — many of whom do a “your presence is the present, please no gifts!” policy. So we just make a cool card, and maybe pop some stickers in.

    But when gifts are called for… I try to do “consumable” gifts — cool washi tape, a multicolor pen, temporary tattoos, stickers, or a new box of markers. It’s the kid-equivalent of bringing wine or chocolates as a host gift rather than a new vase, mug, something that will need a spot in the cabinet.

    • Eliza says...

      Love this!!

  46. My cousin has three little girls, and she told me about a pretty ingenious thing that they do (I don’t have any kids, but if I ever do, I’m hopping on board! Well — gift-less parties also intrigue me, but assuming that’s not an option). Parents of all the other kids contribute $10 or $15 to one big, more meaningful gift ahead of time. Maybe it’s a new bike, or a scooter, or a play kitchen–just something that the birthday kiddo’s parents know he/she would love. It fights so many battles: parents having to scramble to find a present the morning of the party, less toys (sometimes read as: crap) amassing in your house, and less attention on “opening presents” at the party. It’s one thoughtful gift that everyone chipped in for, and instead just sweet birthday cards written from each kid at the party. They do this for every birthday in their little community!

  47. Emma says...

    I do the same thing for adult birthdays. I bought a gang of burlap wine bottle bags (on etsy) and make sure to always have a few nice bottles in the house. Before I head out to a friends birthday or housewarming etc., I just grab the bottle, place it in the bag, tie a ribbon around it and voila! Done and done.

  48. This is so great! I’m making a list of some of these ideas… I make books for kids so I love to give picture books, along with some stickers or temporary tattoos. But flashlights, whoopie cushions and head lamps have all been huge hits too.

  49. Jessie says...

    My son is 7 & we did a “no gifts” birthday party. What we weren’t expecting (but were overjoyed with) was how almost every invitee made the most beautiful pictures & birthday cards for my son. Maybe they were inspired to get creative with cards since there weren’t giving presents! I mean, for 7 year olds, they sure wrote some beautiful & touching things about my son! We of course saved all of them & our son loves pulling them out to look at them every now & then.

    When we’re invited to parties, we try to give something fun & creative (& not break the bank), like grow your own geode kits, art kits, washable paint kits, etc.

    • Hannah says...

      We did no gifts for my daughter’s party and 18/20 kids still gave gifts!! It makes me hesitate to write that on the invitation again– I worry that it made the two friends who did not add a gift to the pile feel uncomfortable! I really hope not– they were the only ones following directions, ha.

    • Jessie says...

      Hannah, we had a smallish party (my son can’t handle large crowds/lots of noise) so it was easier for me to double-check on the parents & reassure them that yes, we were serious about no gifts.

  50. Katie says...

    Growing up, I had one aunt who almost always bought me a book for my birthday. I still have most of them (I’m in my twenties now). She had her doctorate degree and always encouraged me academically. The books she gave me were a big part of that encouragement and my own academic growth–plus, they’re easy to ship!

  51. Kim says...

    I love these ideas! I’m a big book giver, but it’s so hard to know what kids have already. This year my go to gift has been the Beamo frisbee. We have two – one for the car and one for the stroller – and it’s great for road trip breaks and Sunday afternoon park hanging out. It’s also a good all ages gift – our 2 year old can throw it and all the adults have fun with it too because it can go so far! We so far have only gotten the 16 inch, but the 30 inch one could be a blast. http://amzn.to/2vzVJu3

  52. S says...

    I always ask when I rsvp is the birthday child has anything on their bday wish list. Then I Amazon it. I keep a bunch of birthday gift bags. When it comes, I stick it in with tissue and I’m done.
    I really like to do this because it ensures our gift will be loved/appreciated. Plus, I think it saves the parents some money on something they would want to get their child. Every little $ savings helps.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s a great idea, S.

  53. tsampamama says...

    This is great! Thanks for the ideas. My amazon basket is starting to fill up with book recos and flashlights (I LOVE this idea. Which kid doesn’t love a flashlight??) I have an 8 year old and an almost 4 year old starting kindergarten so birthday parties are about to double. This post will 100% be bookmarked for future reference.

  54. To avoid the accumulation of cheap toys or similar, a friend of ours invited parents to make a donation to a charity of their choice in her kid’s name.
    I like it a lot also because it gives the child a way to learn in how many ways you can give to others, even when you are the celebrated one.

    PS we did as they asked, and then our son gave his friend as a “present” a wooden stick he found at the park. Best gift ever for a 4 year-old! :)

    • S says...

      My daughter asked if her gifts could be donations on her 8th bday. Proud mom moment!!! Her friends went to c the new Annie movie and we then went and dropped off her gifts to s foster child donation site.

  55. Kate says...

    One of our go-to gifts is the Melissa & Doug Water Wow (http://amzn.to/2i3Aigk). It’s small, inexpensive, but kids seem to love them and get a lot of use out of them. Also they are ultimately disposable. We live in a city and are very conscious of space and having too much stuff and one time a friend said she likes to give kids stickers or coloring books…disposable things that are fun but then get used up so parents can get rid of them (guilt-free) so they don’t take up valuable space!

  56. Jennifer says...

    Our favorite party gift is Sea-Monkeys. They practically take care of themselves, and seem so magical swimming around in their little container.

    • Brilliant! I always wanted Sea Monkeys as a kid but my parents thought they were a waste of money (not a lot of whimsy on that front…). Would have been a delight to receive as a gift!

  57. Cindy D. says...

    Okay. I feeling a little confused by this post and all the comments are making me think I live in some kind of weird “Stepford” community. I live in WNY in a middle class suburban neighborhood. Pretty much every kid party that my boys (ages 6 and 10) go to, I send a gift usually of books, legos, or a gift card all at the value of $20. So, I’m confused and jealous by everyone else buying gifts of $10 or less. That’s what most other people do in our community too. It gets quite expensive sometimes. I usually allow them both to go to so many kids bday parties each per year and then skip some.

    • BMP says...

      I am confused too. I live in a middle class suburban neighbourhood near Toronto, Canada, and we generally give about CAD$50 (approx. US$40) per gift. And the general practice is to include a gift receipt for easy exchanging. So I could not buy gifts too much in advance otherwise the recipient could not return it. So we are generally scrambling at the end. I do go to a store that does free gift wrapping though, and mostly get my 5 yr old son to make a card!

    • Katie says...

      I hear you, Cindy. I live in rural Washington state and even here I’d say spending between 15-20 dollars is typical for kids gifts. I really can’t imagine showing up with a $5 ice cream gift card (unless another present was included). It’s a shame, too, because you know that toy will probably get broken, lost, or forgotten shortly after the day’s over.

    • S says...

      Ha! Me too! I originally thought the article was about party favors as typically those are in $5-8 range per kid. I try and stay around $20 for birthdays we attend. I’m in the SF Bay Area, ca.

    • PinkMonkeybird says...

      I agree and I don’t live in a Stepford community. Our gifts are always at least $20+!

    • t says...

      I live in a place where most of the kid gifts are $20-25 as well but I don’t do it. We always require a no-gifts policy at our children’s birthday parties. We want our kids to focus more on the joy of a day spent with friends and not the gifts. We of course give them a birthday gift outside of the party and they get one from their grandparents but that’s it. Then, when we attend birthday parties I don’t feel bad about getting what I think is a cost appropriate gift ($10 or so) even if the other parents spend much more. The kid doesn’t know the difference and we try to purchase something he or she would enjoy. I don’t know what the other parents think but we keep getting invited…

    • I’m in the SF Bay area, and most of our gifts are less than $20. Maybe $15 for a nice book, or even less if we buy a toy. I recently deviated from my typical book gift, and brought a Pay Doh set to a party. I think it was $6 for something like 8 colors. It looked pretty substantial! Maybe because my kids are younger it’s easier to find lower priced gifts?

    • Akc says...

      Exactly what I was thinking. Suburban Austin here…20-30$ is the norm and my children are 2 and 4. I feel like 5-10 is more appropriate, or pooling money, or no gifts at all. I feel like party favors are an absolute waste but I suppose I fear looking cheap and not keeping up with the norm… So I buy coloring books as party favors. I think I just need to be stronger and maybe other parents will follow…

    • jill c. says...

      I’m with you…i spend at least $25 but try not to go past $35 (depending on how close of friends my kids are) – my ideas usually include a book AND something else (small legos, craft project etc…).

    • Sasha says...

      I thoughtfully suggest that if spending over $5 for gifts doesn’t suit you, just don’t. I honestly don’t remember paying much attention at all to what people spent for my children’s gifts, or noticing what others spent at parties. When children already have too many things, it seems wasteful and sad to be spending more than you’d really care to. Maybe it could start a trend of everyone in your group spending less? And honestly, what kind of people would judge you poorly about your choice of children’s party gift?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      So interesting to hear! Some of our friends buy presents that are more in the $15 or $20 range, but we always bring things that are less, and it seems like there is a mix. I’m so curious to hear from others!

    • Eliza Hall says...

      Sounds like the perfect opportunity to start a new trend in your area! For the next birthday party you host, you can include on the invitation something like “presence not presents”, “no gifts necessary”, “twoonies for charity” or a book theme (attendees bring a book as a gift and dress as their fave story character). I occasionally do gifts that cost more, but my kids have often been more excited by a tube of mini M&Ms than by an expensive gift. What is the goal of the gift??

    • NM says...

      I honestly get really confused by the “presence, no presents” policy. For adults, yes; kids, why?! I’m sorry but I would never show up at a child’s birthday party empty-handed. Let the child open some gifts on their birthday! My god, life is hard enough which they will (and some have already learned) learn soon enough, why are we trying to remove the joy? I think giving back to the community, donating, volunteering, etc.–ALL OF IT is wonderful–and I find ways to do that with my children too, but asking for your kids to donate their BIRTHDAY presents or not receive any gifts at all? Just seems wrong.

    • Capucine says...

      I live in the SF Bay Area too; in my town, we seem to keep it under $25. For my two children’s best friends, under $35. We don’t attend birthdays for kids that aren’t close anymore.

      In truth, I spend more when we don’t know the kid well! Think, that godchild in Paris – not.a.clue. If we know the kid well, often we can knock it out of the park for $10. (Calico Critters Labrador family! Her dream for $8! Still stoked with us a year later!)

      There is quite a bit of donate-in-place-of-gifts in our community and after years of that, I dislike it. Because I slowly learned kids like to open gifts, PARENTS dislike gifts. So I donate $10 to the charity which leaves $15 for the gift. It’s just more pious and makes gift buying harder without giving joy to the child.

      I’m reaching the 10-12 ages and at a loss often. Very hard to buy for so far…I need a groove. Anyone?

      If you’re still reading, a Maileg Mouse-in-a-box along with Jill Barklem’s mouse story treasury…the best gift for a girl ever!

    • Liza says...

      $20+ is pretty standard in my neighborhood. I mean, look at how much a Barbie costs these days. I give books as a default, but honor wish lists whenever possible. If I’m honest, I seldom give just one book. Last week I gave a first-grade girl a box set of the Little House books.

    • Sasha says...

      NM, maybe it’s just a different perspective? The times when my kids collected donated gifts (animal shelter, food bank) or gave gifts instead (1/2 birthday), they had so much joy. For my kids at least, getting gifts isn’t the only way to feel joyful about their birthday (probably more about planning and themes and CAKE for them). And even if it was a no gift party, I assume most kids would still receive gifts from their family?

  58. MA says...

    I went to the movie theater and bought a bunch of gift cards for movie passes for my son to give at birthdays. He is now 11 and we’ve been giving this gift for so many years that his friends all know what to expect, which may be boring by now. But whatever! I don’t have to stress about the gift, and the kids get free movie passes! Win-win.

    • BMP says...

      Love this idea!

    • So smart! I will get some movie gift cards from Costco!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so cute!

  59. Lauren E. says...

    I don’t have kids (and neither do most of my friends) but I will say, my 36-year-old husband received a harmonica as a birthday gift a few years ago and it remains one of his favorite gifts ever. Ha!

  60. Girl, you are a genius! I LOVE this idea. Thank you for the inspiration; such a simple idea, but so easy and lovely. Whew….I’m forever saved.

    • Abbie says...

      Yes!

  61. Michelle says...

    A friend of mine does this but with cards. If she sees a cute celebrations card (birthdays or other occassions) she buys it and sticks it in a box in her cupboard. It definitely comes in handy when invited to impromptu parties (or if she forgets) and the only thing around is a dusty gas station card selection.

  62. Gillian says...

    We have 4 children and I have tried and true gifts for all these ages. Books for the under three set. Djeco animal puzzles at 3. National Geographic Encyclopedia of Animals in the 4-5 range. Water color supplies around 6. And of course legos for bigger kids. Recently sports jerseys for the pre-teen boys.

    However, I always offer to organize a group gift whenever possible because all the little stuff starts to add up into huge stuff.

    • Suzanne says...

      What a good idea to head up organizing a group gift!

  63. Lauren says...

    I know that I hate the accumulation of cheapy toys in our apt so I have started giving crafting kits as gifts. Nice sticker books are a hit, too. Something creative to make/do, and then it can be tossed (in theory, at least!). I also use birthdays as a chance to clean out toys and donate whatever is not frequently played with or any duplicates, which is has been a good way to integrate a gratitude practice into my kids’ birthday celebrations.

  64. Jesse Fulcher says...

    When I was growing up my mother had a ‘present box’ at the bottom of her closet. it was always full of little toys and books that could be used as a last minute gift. I always rember the thrill of reaching past her beautiful dresses to pick a present for the party I had forgotten to tell her I was invited to. Of course now I just go to her website (wherethebooksare.com) and choose a wonderful picture book so I guess you could say Nothing’s after all these years :)

    • This sounds beautiful! Thanks for sharing – on your Mom’s website now :)

    • Brooke Anderson says...

      WOW! I love the website! Thanks so much for contributing this to the conversation! What a neat concept. I joke that the main reason I had a child was to have an excuse to hoard children’s books, so……Ok, see you later…will be spending hours looking at the book suggestion posts and adding items to my Amazon children’s books list :)

    • HRM says...

      My mom had the same cupboard! And I just checked out your mom’s website – it’s wonderful and such a good resource for books to buy or borrow. Thanks!

  65. I always kept games of MANCALA in the closet for gifts. (And for grown ups I keep scented candles ;)

    • Sasha says...

      Macala is SUCH a fun game.

  66. Jade says...

    When I was growing up my mum had a box in her closet filled with potential presents. Because I had a twin brother they were all gender neutral (things like small musical instruments, dress ups, art supplies and books) so when we got an invite
    We could pick out a present and it was done and dusted- no stress).

    I don’t have kiddos so don’t get birthday invites but for baby showers my go to gift is this personalised book.

    https://www.wonderbly.com/en-GB/personalized-products/lost-my-name-book

    Every time I’ve given it parents to be are delighted! (It’s nice to support a little company too)

    I’m sure young kiddos would love it too if you had time up your sleeve. And they have just released a birthday book!

    What’s more it’s free international shipping and you can choose from a few different boys or girls (different skintones) so that the character better reflects the reader.

    Highly recommend !

    • Hannah says...

      This is precious! A few years ago I made the decision to only buy from small businesses for gifts and it has honestly been the best. The gifts are unique, I have to buy ahead of time (no last minute dash to Target), and I’m supporting a smaller (often local) business.

  67. Sabine says...

    We´ve started the trend of group gifts to avoid the “little random gift madness”. That way, a group of friends gets together to get something REALLY cool that`s actually on the birthday child`s wishlist (and too pricey for only one family: past successes have been Lego sets, a great costume, walkie-talkies or even a remote-controlled helicopter!) – which also makes it easier for the parents and is more economical for everyone involved! My kids now actually remember every gift they`ve gotten for their birthdays from their friends, which makes them even more special, as they usually get 3 or 4 gifts that they`ve wanted for a long time and play with for ages.

    • joss says...

      This is such a good idea! Much less wasteful than having many little gifts that will potentially be played with for a few minutes and then tossed aside.

  68. Rebecca says...

    Just yesterday we got this book (This is How We Do It) out of the library. My five year old twins are OBSESSED – they have been poring over it. I strongly second this recommendation. They are really delighting in every page.

    A couple of years ago, the book that we spent hours looking at — and was my go-to gift for the 3 year old set — was In the Town All Year Round.

  69. I used to have a gift per age group and it worked beautifully. I also did a shelf of gifts but then my kids got to the age (6ish) where they were invited to fewer parties and I got tired of keeping stuff on the shelf that was never used, so I emptied out the shelf for our Santa Shoebox boxes last year BUT…I found one box of colouring books/ activity pads, etc. on the weekend so I guess we’re doing some more Santa Shoeboxes this year to properly finish it all off :)

    A gift that works really well for my kids’ friends (twins, now 8) is a gift voucher for a kiddies manicure (and I added two tiny bottles of nail varnish so there would be something to open! I sent my niece and nephew a voucher for frozen yoghurt this year and they loved it.

    We do cards, but my kids make them (it’s a craft!) from stickers, project board, and washi tape that I have tons of.

    • Allison says...

      that is a really good idea to have your kids make the cards! I’m going to start a craft box for just that!

  70. Many years ago I just started putting no presents please on birthday party invites for my kids. They have everything they need and I don’t need other parents spending time and money on junk that will just get thrown out. My kids have been no worse for it.

    • Silvina says...

      Great idea!

    • Holly says...

      We do the same, I hate having to rush around looking for gifts for children that need nothing, and I don’t want others to do that for us. I wish more people would do this.

    • Talia says...

      I did this when my girls were younger too!

    • margaux says...

      i did this for a few years, but IT NEVER WORKED. people brought gifts anyway, so i gave up!

    • brianna says...

      I’ve seen this before (or in lieu of gifts, the birthday kid asks for a donation to a favorite charity).

    • Ramona says...

      This is a great idea, but it’s so awkward when people bring gifts anyway. I’m always torn between respecting the parents’ wishes and not wanting my kid to be feeling bad about not bringing something when other kids did. I try to think of things that are small enough to fit in my purse so we have it on hand in case everyone else brings gifts. In some ways the “no present” parties are more stressful than just buying a gift!

    • BMP says...

      I just heard of this site: http://echoage.com/ where you can register your party and your child gets to pick the present they want and a charity they would like to share the proceeds of their gifts with. Love this idea! Win! Win!

    • Katie says...

      Brilliant idea, Jessica! That is so thoughtful of you and really takes the pressure off of other parents, too.

    • I totally respect this! However, last year we went to a birthday party where “no gifts” was on the invite and my son was the only kid who showed up empty-handed. It did not feel good! We usually give books now. I figure if they aren’t wanted, they are easily re-gifted or donated…

    • t says...

      We always do no gifts and no one ever brings gifts. We are pretty strict about it though – our invites usually read: Your presence truly is our present so please respect our wishes and adhere to our strict no-gift policy.

  71. Lynn says...

    I do this too and I dont even have kids! I’m at the age where friends are starting to have them and as a baby shower gift I usually give this book, since I’m currently living in London.
    http://amzn.to/2vF63ja

    • Kaitlin says...

      I do the same thing! I grab cute books and outfits at Marshalls when I see them and have a stash of books, cards, and cute presents :)

  72. Maria says...

    We give side walk chalk! Kids love it and it gets used up so if we gift it twice it doesn’t matter much. And we always ask for colored pencils, paper and hair bands. They get used up with three kids.

    • Sadie says...

      Brilliant! I love consumable gifts; sidewalk chalk is a great idea.

      I knew the comments were going to be full of good ideas, ha ha.

  73. Kate says...

    There’s 18 kids in my sons kindergarten class and every party the whole class is invited. When Lego was on sale I bought 17 Lego city pizza vans!

    • Brooke Anderson says...

      haha, I’m imagining the teacher saying, “Ok, everyone, now take out your Lego Pizza Vans…”

  74. Vale says...

    Rush Hour is the best!! Or Rush Hour Jr for the preschool set. (I love that it works as non gender defined.)
    But more importantly, I want to say that I cannot just buy a bunch of the same gift as suggested. Each kid needs consideration. ;)

  75. katherine says...

    My mom used to have a box in her closet with “ready to go” gifts that she would pick up when they were on sale. They were often art supplies :)

  76. Melissa Porras says...

    I’m literally bouncing back and forth between Amazon and this thread.

    • Brooke Anderson says...

      same! and another commenter shared her mom’s site about children’s book recommendations (https://www.wherethebooksare.com/) so I’m adding ALL THE THINGS to amazon wish list!

  77. Becky says...

    I love Target for small, cute gifts. They have a really fun selection of stickers, slinkies and bubbles for a buck or two. I stock up on those and then throw in a good book. This is one both kids and adults will love. The facts are amazing and the illustrations adorable. http://amzn.to/2vAbfX4

  78. Amy says...

    My new go-to gift is borrowed from what my aunt always gave us for every birthday: a cardboard number covered in construction paper and kid art with loonies (Canadian one dollar coins) taped to the front – one for each year of age.

    It’s not more plastic junk, it’s not a toy they already have, it doesn’t involve me taking three kids to the toy aisle, and what young kid doesn’t love having their very own money?! I picked up a couple rolls of loonies at the bank a while back and it takes me and my kid 5-10 minutes to make a “money card” before parties. I feel so much relief that I have gifts figured out for the next while!

    • Sadie says...

      I love this! My grandma used to give us all US $2 bills (rare and had to be ordered from the bank) and $1 coins for our birthdays. I hoarded those until I was an adult, ha ha.

  79. Love all the ideas! Especially the no gift one’s.
    I have 3 kids, so we go to A LOT of birthdays for various ages, 2-9. My go-to gift is a game. For the littles, Feed the Woozle, 5 year olds get Zingo Sight Words and anyone older than that get, my personal favorite, a Smart Game, particularly Castle Logix. http://amzn.to/2wM8LDC
    The Smart Games are the BEST!! I love to play them as well. They’re all solitary games that are perfect for quiet time and they’re seriously fun.
    I’ve always been hesitant to give books because I never know if they already have it.

  80. Amber says...

    We purchased a stash of My Book About Me — perfect for kids 7-9ish to fill out about themselves. And many parents remember the exact same book from their childhood! http://amzn.to/2vY3OKa

  81. Hannah says...

    I do the exact same thing with the exact same book! I also have a stack of “this book belongs to:” name plate stickers that I add, and for extra special friends we’ll also include a personalized stamp with their name on it. Why does something with your own name on it feel so decadent?! Even a children’s book :-)

    • brianna says...

      I get this. I have a relatively unique name and it doesn’t appear on keychains or other souvenirs very often. I don’t care so much now, but as a kid, it was HUGE deal to have something with my name on it, spelled correctly.

  82. Sara says...

    My daughter received this book when she was 4 and we have since purchased it for a gift for other children’s parties:

    https://www.nyrb.com/products/jennys-birthday-book?variant=1094934133

    It’s a charming little story about a cat named Jenny and is set in NYC.
    The author also wrote a small series (I think in the 1940s!) featuring Jenny and her cat friends, which quickly became a favorite (for both of us) to read at bedtime!

    • Alice says...

      My 2 year old adores this book. It’s so sweet! And we’ve ended up dancing the hornpipe together at bedtime more than once.

  83. Ramona says...

    I give a gift card for a visit to an indoor play space or children’s museum. We usually can’t play outside in winter where I live, and indoor play spaces are key to everyone’s sanity.

  84. Michelle says...

    I do not have a gift recommendation but I was invited to a “Two Fiver Party” once. As a gift, you make a card and put two five dollar bills in it. One five dollar bill goes to a charity of the child’s choice (written on the invitation) and then the other 5 goes to the child. There were approx 20 children at the party, so the child took his $ 100 and merrily went to the toy store to buy what he wanted. It was a neat experience for the child-giving some away and buying something you actually want (that is bigger than 20 small gifts).

    • Lynn says...

      I love this idea!

    • Sasha says...

      I love this idea!! So much fun all around.

  85. Allison says...

    A few of my go-to gifts are:
    a flashlight,
    Journey by Aaron Becker with a red and purple pencil crayon,
    the Go Find It nature scavenger hunt cards (http://www.sensorytrust.org.uk/gofindit.html),
    or a Cat’s Cradle string game book with string.

  86. Shayna says...

    We gave “Dory Fantasmagory” for every birthday party last year (mostly 6 and 7 yr olds). Great series for kids learning to read but also enjoyable for adults reading to kids.

  87. I have a little night table that’s set in the hallway. It has a cupboard, and I call it my gift closet. My mom and aunts have gift closets, filled with miscellaneous things they’ve bought at different times and liked. One year instead of loot bags, we gave each child who attended my son’s party a gift certificate for a kiddie cone at our local ice cream shop. It was a big party, and everyone loved this treat!

  88. Alina says...

    That book looks awesome! My friend works at a school and knows what’s up- she brought my 2 year old this shark bubble wand…let’s just say it’s WAY WAY cooler than your average bubble wand (you can make giant bubbles and then chop them in half!!!!).

    https://www.onlinesciencemall.com/products/mighty-bubble-shark-sword-by-uncle-bubble-colors-vary?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=googlepla&variant=27365235590&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIttql5I3Y1QIVk4WzCh3bjA9WEAkYBCABEgIc9fD_BwE

  89. Sarah says...

    My mom bought us all moo mixers (electric chocolate milk mixer mugs) and we thought they were hilarious- We bought 10 of them, wrapped them and gave them to every friend at their birthday parties! They were a huge hit, https://www.walmart.com/ip/Moo-Mixer-Supreme/129204912

  90. I have a box in my room filled with various little gifts that I get on sale. A few pairs of sterling silver earrings I picked up that were really marked down, cute stationary, nice Christmas items that were heavily reduced in January (some things while marked as ‘Christmas’ don’t look it so can be given at all times of the year), nice trinket dishes that I had to have when they were on sale but don’t have a use for, nice candles … I like giving friends small gifts if I have just happen to see them on/around their birthdays and having a stash makes it easy.

  91. Yes! I make “art boxes”! I fill a cute tin lunchbox from Etsy with blank notecards, stickers, markers, crayons, washi tape and self adhesive craft jewels. These are always a hit! They are great to keep in the car/stroller for restaurant trips. Art to go!

    • A make your own art kit? Great idea!

    • Amy says...

      I have done this too, inside a cardboard container that they could decorate with the supplies inside!

  92. Susan M. says...

    Love these ideas. I have a couple of gift shelves in my closet, partly with gifts that I am planning to give our kids, some gifts I plan as good go-to gifts. Some items are from re-gifting — such as gifts that didn’t appeal to my child, say, at his 3rd birthday. Not one to waste, I just saved the gift for a more ideal recipient. My child could care less about the Batman toy, but another kid would be over the moon. And so the collection evolves. But yes, there is no point getting a gift the day of the event unless you’re really pressed. Better to get 2 or 3 of the same good gift and roll with that. For boys around 5-7 lately for us it has been Lego set, usually City because that is a pretty flexible design line in terms of appeal. While our kids usually make their own cards, I also try to get cards in 2s and 3s — it is so handy to have a stash of nice birthday cards and ones for occasions that arise fairly frequently.

  93. Yes! I give a party light (I get them from the home improvement store). It’s a light bulb that screws into a regular lamp. It revolves and creates a disco atmosphere! Throw in a cd, or make your own mixed one (old school, I know). Can you say, ‘PAR-TAY’!!!?

    • Sandra says...

      What!?! I am going to look for this immediately…:-)

    • Legitimately, this is the best idea I have ever heard!

    • ? one day, I got the idea! Haha! Thanks…

    • Jade says...

      This is amazing! I am in my mid 20s and would love to receive this ! What a cool unusual gift idea!

    • margaux says...

      stealing this idea! so great!

  94. This year my 7-year old had a birthday party and we asked each kiddo to bring a gift wrapped book instead of a gift for our son. Then at the end of the party, they all exchanged books and left with a new book. Double win: we didn’t have to bring home a bunch of toys that we don’t have room for AND we didn’t have to buy goodie bags.

    Also, my 10-year old wanted to invite his whole class to his birthday bowling party. We did not need 24 gifts! It was January, so he asked each attendee to bring a brand new kid-sized hat, scarf, or gloves. We had two huge shopping bags of winter gear to donate to our very appreciative social worker friend’s public school.

    • Susan M. says...

      Love this!!!

    • Jackie Norris says...

      Freaking genius, on both counts!

    • The neat thing is that once one person gets creative with the “no gifts,” then others follow course. These were not completely my original ideas, other classmates started with similar requests.

    • Allison says...

      We did a Food Bank item instead of gifts for my 6 year old this year because we were moving overseas and I think the kids had just as much fun unpacking all the food as unwrapping presents.

    • Amy says...

      I love these ideas! One year we tried to do a “toonie party” – each kid brings a toonie and the birthday kid keeps a dollar and donates a dollar to their favourite cause. It was a total flop (despite me attending other toonie parties in the area that were successful AND explaining it on the invite) – either the kids brought a gift plus a toonie, or they brought a whole pile of toonies, and one mom dropped off her kid and handed me a toonie and said, “it costs a toonie, right?” I was mortified. It’s hard for people to feel okay with bringing so little in this culture, I suppose.

    • Katherine says...

      We’ve done the book exchange with our daughter the last two years (she’s 4) and it has been a massive hit! I should add that she was born on New Year’s Day, so to not have a total cascade of gifts one week after Christmas has greatly aided our sanity as well.

  95. For other kiddos we try to keep it to books and order in advance online. For our kiddos we are transitioning to fiver birthday parties, where guests bring a $5 bill each = less stress for guests, our kiddos think their rich and get the privilege of choosing a gift with all of the cash and less toys clogging up our house (win, win & win).

    • molly says...

      Brilliant!! And what munchkin wouldn’t love shopping for something from his “wishlist” with a wad of cash;) Such a great idea!

  96. Mac says...

    My go-to gift for 2-3 year olds is a roll of bubble wrap. Kids love it! Noisy, but when it’s gone, it’s gone.
    I’m loving all these ideas!

    • Mac says...

      Also–I was gifted a label maker as a 10 year old and I LOVED that thing. Labeled everything. And last time my mom visited she brought a box of colored pencils and an electric pencil sharpener for my 5 year old. That was possibly her favorite gift ever!

    • Angela says...

      My son loves that book!

  97. Krysten says...

    Our group of friends has started doing a book exchange for kid’s birthdays and it’s awesome. Everyone goes home with a book (also negating the need for the dreaded goodie bag filled with candy and plastic crap.). We do new or used, so mostly we all clean out our shelves, and it makes the whole thing so simple. An unexpected bonus has been that all the kids make each other the sweetest hand drawn cards as something to give to the birthday person. We will never go back to presents.

  98. Jo says...

    I let my son pick out 2-3 gifts from his bday haul and stash the rest away in a secret place (top shelf of the closet).
    When going to a party, I pick one from that stash and give it away.

    This reduces the amount of toys gathering in my house too.

    Though I’ll admit its getting harder as he grows older. He remembers the toy came for him and doesn’t want to part :-/

  99. Anna says...

    My mom always kept her eye out for small gifts- bath and body products, fun socks and accessories, and nail polish- and would buy them in bulk if they were on sale. If I needed a last-minute gift, I’d pick out a gift or two to wrap up. This made buying holiday and birthday gifts so much easier (and cheaper!), and now I do the same thing as an adult.

  100. Jordan says...

    Mini mag lite.

    Any kid ages 2-21 loves for different reasons!

  101. D says...

    What an awesome post to read on my birthday! :)

    • Holly says...

      Happy birthday!!! ?

  102. Michelle says...

    Yes! Our friend, Greg Pizzoli,(http://www.gregpizzoli.com/ )is an award winning children’s book author and his books have been our go to birthday gifts since our son was born. We have the added bonus of having Greg autograph the books to the birthday recipient since his studio is across the hall from my husband’s(http://alexisnutini.com/home.html) !

    • Sasha says...

      Thank you for both links! Love the books and your husband’s art too!

  103. jill c. says...

    Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska is a book we buy a lot for kids. We wrap it in brown packaging paper (i’ve had the same large roll for years now) and i let the kid’s draw and decorate it – then we use some twine (also something i’ve had for years) and a simple craft tag to tie on and we’re done. I like the tag idea b/c again, the kids can draw on it and it can’t get lost once tied on with the string. Besides i don’t feel like many kids even care about cards so it saves me some money and plenty of time (b/c i obsess about getting the “right” card way too much!).

  104. Leanne says...

    We did this all thought preschool but then my daughter hit kindergarten. In her tiny grade level of 75 kids there are THREE sets of identical girls! (And of course, you can’t give the same book or toy to the same family.) That’s like one in every 6 girls in her class has a twin. Seriously, what was in the water that year.

    • Cory says...

      As a mom of preschool aged twin girls I can assure you that you can give two of the same gift to the same family :) My girls love having their “own”! Especially when their names are on it!

  105. Eliza says...

    I’ve been trying to give experience gifts because my kids are overwhelmed with the amount of presents they get at their birthdays/Christmas and we have so many toys (mostly gifted) we just don’t play with and books we love but that we don’t have room for, and I imagine other parents feel the same way! Anyways, right now it’s gift cards to: kids art workshops, the museum, a movie/imax, the bug zoo, a trampoline park, etc. Most kids don’t LOVE opening up a paper gift card so I try to make it fun by pairing it with a helium balloon or a bit of candy.

    • Terri says...

      This is a great idea, especially the part about pairing it with a balloon/candy so the child is excited in the moment and also gets a fun experience later. I know when my kids were little, these kind of gifts were my favorite. No clutter, and lots of fun experiences.

    • Sara says...

      Thumbs up on the “experience gifts” but we do it slightly different. My boys think of a special playdate they would like to do with their friend and then we make a certificate to wrap up for that playdate. They have gone to the park to ride bikes, come to our backyard for a water balloon fight, met at the swimming pool or beach, etc. I try to have a special treat or snack (usually ice cream) when they are playing together.

    • Cooper says...

      I try to do the same thing by attaching something fun to the outside of whatever wrapped book I’m giving to my nieces and nephews – I know their mom really appreciates books but the kids don’t get excited about them, at least right away. Pop rocks candy were a big hit! We didn’t have time to shop for a gift for the last birthday so quickly stashed cash in an envelope, labeled it “LEGO fund,” and called it good.

  106. Laura says...

    growing up, my mum had ‘the stash’. it is a tall wardrobe at the top of the stairs that houses little gifts, christmas gifts until it’s time, hostess gifts etc. my mother is famous for heading up to ‘the stash’ and finding the perfect thing! i say growing up, but it’s still there and well used :) she shops all year round and tucks it away until it’s time. also, there’s a magic about the stash – i have never, ever peeked!

  107. Danna says...

    On a related note, to make wrapping gifts more streamlined I use a big roll of brown Kraft paper for all my gift wrap. I just personalize the wrapping with brightly colored string or ribbon, stickers, stamps, a flower or sprig of greenery. You could even add a drawing or cartoon if you’re artistic (I’m not). It works for kids, adults, birthdays, holidays, graduation. No more bits of random gift wrap cluttering up my closet either. And I keep some nice blank notecards on hand, too, so I can write a brief note to the recipient. It really saves on a mad dash to a store to pick up a roll of gift wrap and one card, especially when you forget that you need it until the last minute.

    • Eliza says...

      Yes! I’ve started doing this in the last year too. And so far everyone loves when the kids decorate the kraft paper, and I love using washi tape to seal it.

  108. Lauren says...

    Don’t have kids but this thought just came to me and addresses some of the issues below…. Why not buy a bunch of gifts in a couple of age brackets on clearance in January and then donate whatever is leftover the following December? You’d probably get a bunch of cool stuff for a song and make some child’s Christmas in the process. Then repeat… and just try not to buy the same stuff a few weeks later.

    • Cazmina says...

      Oooh I love this idea!

  109. Emma says...

    I was just thinking today about all the things I’ve decided to do differently because of an article I’ve read on this blog, and now I have to add this to my running list! Whenever I tell a friend about this site the best words I can use to describe the impact of this blog are, “The content helps encourage me to live life more intentionally.”

  110. Liz says...

    Stomp rockets. I have yet to meet a kid between the ages of 5 and 10 that doesn’t love a stomp rocket.

    • Liz says...

      Seconded!

    • Carter says...

      Yup I keep Stomp Rockets in my closet and balloon rockets too. Always a hit.

  111. Rachel says...

    I am 100% going to go get gift cards to the local ice cream place. That is such an adorable idea.

  112. Naomi says...

    We do this! We’ve had a year or so of “My First Atlas” (age 3-4). We had a “Magic Tree House” starter pack year (age 5-6). I’ve purchased multiples of the DK Eyewitness science books (Gem Stones, Astronomy, etc) (ages 5-8). The hardest part is remembering which kid has received what, when the next year rolls around. :)

  113. Sarah says...

    I fully panic before every birthday party and now I’m wondering why! lol. Thanks for this tip. We usually get our daughter’s friends a book or a board game like Spot it http://amzn.to/2vyxhcG

    • Natasha says...

      We use Spot It for bday gifts also, last time I ordered them on Amazon I bought 5. Makes gift giving easy!

  114. Katie says...

    My mom had what she called a “Secret Closet”. She would buy Christmas gifts way in advance and hide them in the secret closet. When she would find a random cool gift, she would buy it (even without a recipient in mind) and keep it in the secret closet until she needed a gift. It was like her own little curated boutique of presents.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that, katie! your mom sounds so thoughtful.

    • Laura says...

      ha – i just wrote practically the same thing about my mum. great minds!

    • Mac says...

      My grandma did this! She passed away unexpectedly, but the following Christmas there was a gift for every grand kid because she shopped so far in advance. I was only 9 but I remember it so well–missing her so much that first holiday but also almost feeling like she was there, or at least thinking of us.

    • Astrid says...

      That is what my mother did – except it was not a secret closet but a secret drawer – and what I am doing for years now!

  115. Ashley says...

    GENIUS

  116. Kate says...

    This is my go to birthday gift, it is a big flying hoop you throw like a frisbee and it goes super far! So good for so many ages! http://amzn.to/2vW2Jmb

  117. Hannah says...

    Yep, we do this, too. Our little boy is five, and every five-year-old we know has gotten a copy of the Frog and Toad anthology and Shrinky Dinks. Yes, thank you, I am forcing every five-year-old to relive my childhood.

    • Sasha says...

      Oh Frog and Toad, love love love.

  118. Lia says...

    Friendly service announcement from a mom of three – try to avoid gifts that make noise and require batteries. These are usually my kids’ favorite gifts but OMG if I hear the sounds that magical light up Elsa-themed wand makes one.more.time I will lose my mind. Ditto to the weird talking bear thing or the interactive reading book, especially if all three are in use at once. Cacophony. We often pass these gifts on to more noise tolerant households…

    • Amy says...

      My parents often told us that when a particularly noisy toy ran out of batteries that it “expired”. “Oh, let me check the expiration date… WOW! this electric saxophone expired 2 weeks ago” and then never changed the batteries.

    • Holly says...

      Lol the last school party we attended we gave a Frozen karaoke wand and a little dancing dog that sang happy bday… sorry poor parent out there!

    • My SIL bought those wands for my kids and they’ve been retired to a cupboard high up…. when they forget about them in a few months, they’ll quietly leave the house!

  119. Amy says...

    Our go-to gift for the 7-9 year olds in my daughter’s social circle are colored pencils and one of those really detailed coloring books. I think the books are marketed to adults, but kids this age seem to love them.

    • Naomi says...

      I just gifted those to my 18 yo sister who’s going to college – that is a gift for any age! My sister saw my 6 yo’s pencils and coloring book and wanted the same set. Ha! MindWare makes a great set with numbered colored pencils that match the color-by-numbers pages.

  120. Jenna says...

    I started to do this too and have a nice little stash. Makes life so much easier! I buy by age groups to avoid double gifting. I give a lot of craft items or science experiment kits. I like the idea of giving them something they can do, rather than a toy. Bonus points if it is something they can do alone, so mom and dad get some break time!

  121. Melanie says...

    Puzzles!

    Stickers, especially scratch and sniff

  122. Kristin says...

    Great idea! I have about a million one-year-old birthdays coming up over the next few months, but a lot of them will be attended by the same group families. Do you ever worry that people will think it’s weird that you give the same gift over and over?

    • Rachel says...

      Hi Kristin, I’ve found that it’s not really a problem because very few people have their kids open gifts at the party. Maybe this isn’t true for older kids, but especially for 1 year olds, I doubt most people would even find out. And if they did, I can’t imagine someone thinking it’s weird to buy the same thing for every one year old, if it is a good, age-appropriate gift. Hope that helps!

  123. Eliza H. says...

    I do a version of this at Christmas–one gift for everyone. One year it was Hydro Flask water bottles, one year it was personalized stationery. Sometimes I can’t find one thing for all ages, so I have one type of gift for adults, and one for children (last year kids all got Tattly temporary tattoos), or one per family (faux-fur blankets for the couch). I like the challenge of finding something that works for everyone, but the relief of just buying a bunch of the same thing!

    • june2 says...

      greaaaaat idea!

  124. brianna says...

    Books are my go to for kids. I don’t have any kiddos to buy for, but I love the idea of having a bunch of wrapped books on hand to just grab when the occasion arises.

  125. Paula says...

    I gave “Brown Bear, Brown Bear…” to every two year old and three year old when each of my kids was that age. A two year old can easily recognize the pictures and “read” the book themselves once they’ve heard it read a couple of times.

  126. Yes we do this too! It’s the best. We like to give kids (any gender) tools, like a 4-in-one screwdriver or a tape measure. Admittedly sometimes they think it’s weird. But we keep doing it.

  127. Megan says...

    These are awesome ideas! My daughter is just 14 months, and we gave a lot of shaker eggs for first birthdays of her little friends, which are awesome at this age, along with a favorite book or wooden toy. So here’s the real question: how do you make sure not to repeat a gift to a kid? We already struggle with our nieces and nephews to remember who has gotten what—ha!

    • Paula says...

      Write on your calendar? I put everything on mine. But I’m older than most of you. You probably have your calendars on your phones. Mine is on the kitchen wall!

    • Megan, we had a similar concern about repeating gifts, so we started a gift-giving Google Doc. Now when a holiday comes around, we search (CTRL+F) the doc for the recipient’s name and quickly review all past gifts. Takes just a sec and saves the worry about who’s gotten what. :)

    • Ashley says...

      One for every age! i.e. all kids turning seven get a coloring book, turning four get a harmonica, etc.