Motherhood

A Foolproof Birthday Present (For $1)

Toby and Anton

Speaking of birthdays, we’ve discovered a birthday gift that works every time…

A Slamdunk Birthday Present

Guest checks, like restaurant servers use! Toby got these for Christmas and has played with them one million times since then. He’s always taking our orders for elaborate breakfasts, dinners and desserts. We’ve given them to little friends of all ages (as long as they know how to write) and they’re a huge hit. Bonus: They’re only about $1/pad.

What toys or gifts have your kids loved? (Toby still plays with this guy after seven years.)

P.S. Slamdunk presents for kids of all ages, and our most beloved children’s books.

  1. Heather says...

    My parents once gave us a booklet of cheques that were no longer valid. My siblings and I had so much fun filling them out for millions of dollars!

  2. Alyssa says...

    For my son’s third birthday, my best friend gave him a whoopie cushion. A huge hit with all in attendance. Definitely coming on our camping trip this week.

  3. We moved to Italy for my husband’s work, and I recently made the BEST discovery on how Italians (at least the ones in my city) do gifts for children’s birthday parties. I showed up with the requisite gift bag of stuff I didn’t know whether the kid would like, and the mom looked at me like she had no idea what to do with it. I asked my only other english-speaking acquaintance at the party, and she said, “Oh! Here you just give the parents money — usually around €5 — and they pool it to get the kid something nice.”

    WHAT. It’s brilliant. I don’t have to shop and the kid doesn’t get a bunch of things he doesn’t want/need but one special big gift? How do I bring this idea back to the states with us?!

  4. I thought you were going to say a bottle of bubble fluid and blower.
    But this is good. It must be a thing, since my cousin’s daughter takes orders via Skype.

  5. Alyssa says...

    I would’ve been all over this as a kid. So good!

  6. Sara says...

    Tape!! Scotch tape, masking tape, duct tape, you name it! My kids love(d) getting tape!

  7. Natalie says...

    As dumb as it sounds, TAPE is always a hit! It doesn’t even matter what kind if tape it is. Kids just get excited about having their own and feeling like they can use as much as they want. My husband’s grandmother won all of Christmas a couple years ago when she gave my two and five year old boys their own 5-packs of a masking tape. It’s not just my kids either. My son has given it to friends at birthday parties (usually with some other craft supplies), and the tape wins every time.

  8. vanessa says...

    I remember once when my sister and i were about 8 or 9, my dad took us to his office in the city while it was closed on a weekend.

    We went all the way up in the elevator, walked past all the quiet, empty cubicles. We sat at the typewriters, typing and stacking papers, pretending to be secretaries.

    Then at the end my dad opened the huge metal stationery cupboard and said we could each choose one item. We could not believe it! We each chose a pastel coloured ‘liquid paper’ bottle, which we used gingerly for many months afterward.

    Best day ever : )

    Still one of my best memories, nearly 40 years later!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so so cute!

  9. AC says...

    My son loves taking our orders! But when I ask for beer or wine he tells me he only has milk or water. Touche, kid!

    I love getting building toys – Lego/Duplo, Plus Plus, Magnatiles/Magformers/Tegu blocks.

  10. Charity says...

    My go-to gift for 1 year olds is a harmonica. Not the plastic kids kind, but a real metal one. They’re under $10. At 1 it’s a great cause and effect toy, and it’s something that they can keep using as they get older.
    Gifts that have been a hit with my 2.5 year old include a school bus toy similar to Toby’s, a bag of uninflated balloons, a tray of tempera paints with paintbrushes, and a bag of weed free black earth with a mixing bowl and spoon (mud kitchen supplies).

  11. Lindsay says...

    I LOVE this idea and the many others in the comments! You all have given me such great ideas! My nephew’s 6th birthday is coming up at the end of July and I’ve been inspired to create an “Invention Box”! I’m going to collect paper towel and toilet paper rolls, get a roll of string, colorful masking tapes, maybe some glue sticks and double sided scotch tape, construction paper and perhaps markers and a blank book and let his imagination run wild! Thanks Cup of Jo and it’s readers for the inspiration! :)

  12. Mel says...

    Oh my GOD, I feel so SEEN by this blog post. My grandma used to own an electronics store, passed down from my late grandpa. My cousins and I grew up playing there, and we used to jot down fake orders on the stores’ guest check pads.

    That’s one of my favorite childhood memories — thank you for bringing it back to my mind!

  13. Everyone kept asking me what I was going to get my 1 year-old for his birthday to which I’d reply: “The leftover boxes!” Naturally this was true and I totally nailed it. I balled up all the wrapping paper, stuck him in one of the big brown boxes and he had a field day. Not sure he even looked at his other gifts!

  14. I used to LOVE teacher’s supplies. Once my mom took me to a teacher supply store and it was SO FUN to look at all the planners and stickers and such. I always played school and loved writing out my very detailed weekly schedule haha.

  15. Stacey says...

    When I was teaching and working with low income parents, I always recommended things like the order pads, tape, stickers, date stamps, envelopes, post its and other fun inexpensive office supplies. Make believe play is great for problem solving and open ended materials mean kids can engage across time and use them in more complex way. They build literacy and an interest in how we use writing and reading to communicate in real ways. Also, boxes of bandaids are always a big hit!

    • Bandaids! So overlooked. I tried to start a collection of cool tin bandaid boxes when I was little! ha!

  16. This is insanely adorable! What a great idea!

  17. jen says...

    A flashlight with batteries of course is a delight for kids up to 5 or 6 or so. Parents wont let them use the adult one so as not to wear out the batteries.

  18. Diane says...

    A friend gave my child a box of keys from the hardware store–they were all the ones that hadn’t been cut properly. Hours of fun!

  19. Erin says...

    Double bonus: spelling and math practice!

    Love this!

  20. Lee says...

    I don’t have children, but I babysit for several families. A little girl I babysit just turned 3 and I gave her a giant paper pad and a bubble wand. She immediately wanted to use the bubble wand! Definitely a huge hit and it only cost $1!

  21. Lisa says...

    We don’t have kids, but when my niece was little we used to bring her piles of hotel key cards from our travels and say they were credit cards. You wouldn’t think this would be a fun game given a 5yo’s limited purchase power, but she loved the designs on the cards. The best part was when she walked into the kitchen and announced to her parents, “revolving credit debt is vewwy bad.”

  22. This is genius, Joanna.

  23. Lindsay says...

    These are great! Growing up, I played with my grandfather’s old prescription pad from his doctor’s clinic and absolutely loved it. It had our shared last name across the top, which added a sense of validity to my pseudo-medical practice.

  24. Cailin says...

    I was obsessed with playing librarian so my mom bought me a date stamp and ink pad so I could stamp the due date in our books. I would take all the books off the shelves in our house and stack them up in front of me and stamp the return date in the back. I still remember the satisfying sound of the stamp hitting the back page and the thud as I slammed it efficiently shut. It was one of my favorite games.

    • Amy Crossan says...

      Oh goodness- that brought back so many memories. My little sister was almost 4 years younger than me. By the time I got in middle school, our interests were pretty different for playing. I wanted to read, she wanted to play. So I would tell her we should play library. So, she did all the stamping and checking out while I read my book. Worked like a charm for far longer than my little sister likes to admit. ;)

  25. “Mushroom soup – 20$, red wine – 3$”. God I wish.

  26. Kristin says...

    Dude Toby is so much classier than me.

  27. K says...

    One of my favorite memories and “toys” from my childhood was the box our new refrigerator came in. My brother and I played with that thing in the backyard for months (I think all summer and into the fall). We cut a hole in the side that we would crawl in and out of. We we would roll around in it. We made it “our house” with “our rules.” I remember we were still playing with it after it had rained and the cardboard was all soppy and falling apart. In all honesty, I still frequently think about that box. I’m convinced I could still have an amazing afternoon playing with an oversized box even if I am an adult.

    • Kelly says...

      this reminds me of a story from my childhood about playing with boxes: we had just moved into a new house and had lots of boxes around. My parents had some friends over who had mostly boys. The boys decided to play ‘tailgate’ (we used to go to a lot of football games) by placing a smaller box into a large tall box with a door cut into it to make it a port-a-potty! They then proceeded to, yes, pee in it! I was semi-disgusted but also bummed that I couldn’t really play. I’ll never forget the look on the dads faces when they discovered what was going on and had to carry the boxes out to the garbage!

    • K says...

      Haha that’s an amazing memory. I wish I could see those dads’ faces!

    • valeria says...

      A big cardboard box is happiness, I totally agree.

    • Stephanie says...

      @megan I was going to mention Christina Katerina and the Box too. My all time favorite book as a child. I kept my copy from childhood. Read it to my first grade students for 10 years, then read it to my own children for many years. My ten year old still lets me read it to her on occasion. :)

  28. Katharine says...

    My mom had to take me to work with her sometimes when I was a kid and she would always have me stamp the return address on envelopes and put stamps on… eventually I was promoted to folding letters as well. Child labor! I absolutely loved it.

    Mom worked for Meals on Wheels and there was a kitchen in the building with a fridge that always had hundreds of cups of chocolate pudding in it so I’m sure that helped…..

    • Alyssa says...

      I used to go to work with my mom and she let me us her typewriter to type on sticky notes. Big living as a kid. Though I do still love sticky notes!

    • Nicole says...

      I have almost the same memory!

      Eventually, I was “promoted” and made $5/hr. I had a whole system for folding and inserting the envelopes. Guess what I do for a living now? Direct mail marketing! I love going to the mail house and watching thousands of letters being folded and inserted in a matter of seconds.

  29. Christina says...

    Joanna, How do you package/wrap these? Just a few by themselves or with the carrier thing waiters always have? I am terrible with kids gifts and presentation :/

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i just wrap up 2-3 in some paper and call it a day :)

  30. Jess says...

    My four year-old ALWAYS asks for light up balloons, for EVERY occasion. They are an awesome low-cost gift, and bring endless joy. They are like 4 bucks at Walgreens. Turn off all the lights and have yourself a little kiddo dance party.

  31. Cynthia says...

    Children don’t need expensive toys to have fun. When we finished off our unfinished upstairs many years ago, our girls, 6 and 3 at the time, had so much fun with the box the bathtub came in. In the following spring, they had a ball with a washing machine box.

    • Lauren E. says...

      When I was about 9 my parents replaced the carpet in the family room so all furniture had to be moved into the adjacent dining room while the job was being done. I vividly remember the insane and amazing forts we made from blankets and books all the crammed in furniture. THE BEST. And free. :)

  32. Anita says...

    This is right on. My kids have a sales/receipt book for playing store. Other office supplies like adhesive labels and envelopes are also fun. So is a pad of tracing paper or hole punches in various shapes and sizes.

  33. patricia blaettler says...

    My son used to write out “tickets” at family parties and hand them out.
    He’s now a NY city cop. hahaha

  34. Talia says...

    So much fun! My girls also loved to play ‘office’. I gave them an old phone and a notepad – they took phone calls for days!

    • Stefanie Farquharson says...

      i love this! our kids love office supplies but the added phone would be amazing!

  35. Heidi says...

    My little girl loves having her own chapstick and gum/mints for her purse. Orange Tic Tacs, especially. She also loves having a real stapler and tape at her coloring table!

  36. Kate says...

    I used to love ‘grading papers’ when I was a child. I would play Teacher and my parents bought me some of those old-school grading books to keep track of fake test scores and homework. The best gifts aren’t the most expensive ones but rather the ones that spark the imagination!

  37. Bets says...

    I’ve already started compiling a list of Christmas ideas for my daughter since I’m due in early December and won’t be able to shop. This cute idea is going on my list! Always appreciate your gift/toy recommendations.

  38. I love this list! We played Post Office for hours with old transfer forms from my mum and dad and rubber stamps, having our little brother run around the house and deliver the “mail” :)
    A gift for kids that always is a big hit with the under 5 year olds is a simple paper crane with flapping wings. Just look up “origami flapping bird” on youtube to learn it, it’s one step simpler than the classic paper crane.
    I let the kids draw something on a square of paper and then transform that into the crane – they love it.

  39. JoAnne says...

    Guess How Much I Love You
    Author Sam Mcbratney

  40. valeria says...

    That’s a great idea, I would have love it when I was a child!
    Here are the greatest hits from our story of cheap but fun presents:
    – for a small group of 3yo kids friends of my son, we wrapped little flashlights in simple white paper sheets, we switched them on through the paper, switched off the room light and gave to them in the dark: huuuuuge surprise!
    – for a 8yo creative girl, I collect for a period before her birthday every sort of stuff (coloured papers cutouts, fabric offcuts, ribbons, buttons, pieces of wavy cardboard – I don’t know if you say so in english – and anything that caught my eye), then I put everything into a cute box and she adored it.
    – For kids of any age, I make notebooks. It sounds complicated but it means basically to fold some sheets in two, choose a heavier paper for cover and then staple all together with a long stapler (this is the only thing required). You can print a special cover with a kid photo, or use different colours sheets for the inside, make a regular format notebook or very tiny one, add a ribbon as bookmark. The secret is the occasion and how you make it special: for a trip, it will be a travel journal, for a visit in a museum, it will serve as a sketches book, or you can put surprise pages inside simply drawing or writing little things here and there. No limits to your imagination, and the more you know the child, the better. When we have dinner with friends, especially when -rarely- we go at a restaurant, I usually bring a few pages simple notebooks for my son and the other kids and some crayons: they stay seated all the time, drawing on their own notebook or exchanging them to play together.

    • A Martin says...

      What wonderful ideas!!! Thank you!

    • valeria says...

      I forgot: some sheets of black paper and a white pencil (the one that lies untouched in every pencils box)! Or, for a bigger gift, with 3 or 4 fluo pencils!

    • Verona says...

      Great ideas, Valeria, will definitely use some of them! (If not all :)

  41. Vicki says...

    As someone who works with preschoolers, I love this gift so much! But I would add that kids don’t need to know how to write just to be able to notice the concept if writing. The scribbles and letters they attempt before they write conventionally are key in their development and understanding of print. As is the shared writing they do with parents like making a menu (the menu my 3 year old created with his aunt where he priced toast with hony at $10,000 lives in infamy at our house)
    This also reminds me of how I turned leftover night into my kids favorite dinner night by pretending the kitchen was a diner and putting whatever we had on the menu for them to order. Sometimes I ham it up pretending to be at the counter snd take their order, sometimes not, I think the fact that they get choice is what they really like. When we plan our weekly meals my 6 year old will say “can we have menu?”

    • Alissa M says...

      “Can we have menu?” I love that!

  42. We are the last in our group of friends to have children so we seem to always have a delivery of hand-me-downs on our porch. When our boys have birthdays our rule is “absolutely no gifts, and if you bring one, you’ll be taking it home with you.” We’ve been told by other parents that they are the best birthdays to attend because there is no pressure to wonder what we want, what we could use, what price range is appropriate etc.

    That said, I do always bring a gift to an older sibling when a new baby is born and I find bubbles are a great option. Again, so inexpensive and they just draw kids into each other’s company. It’s a very social activity for even the most introverted children, and when they run out, a little dish soap tops it up!

  43. Ceridwen says...

    A hit present we gave recently, my daughter chose for her friend, was a pack of coloured blu tac. The friend was thrilled! Although the parents most likely not because blu tac gets stuck EVERYWHERE! It was $3

  44. Kelly says...

    A light up soccer ball that lights when you kick it! You can get them in toddler sizes, they’re under $10 most places, and it’s like light up sneakers, but for a whole group of partygoing young folks.

  45. Annie says...

    My favorite thing for kids!

  46. Mali says...

    One of the best gifts I ever got my kids was a magnetic whiteboard and a set of dry erase markers. I gave it to my daughter when she was about 8 and she’s still using it at 12.5. It’s great for playing teacher, doodling, playing games like tic-tac-toe and hangman, and coloring stuff together with friends.
    Other really successful gifts I have given my girls are crafts kits (especially beading and cross-stitch, which keep them pretty busy) and a hairdresser’s mannequin head for them to practice hairdos and braids.
    But the best gift I ever gave has to be a photo album I made for one of them. I printed a ton of pictures just of that child, from birth to current age, being sure to include important events and holidays, etc. (There are pictures of her with siblings and her parents and grandparents, but the focus is on her.) I wrote her name on the cover in big fancy letters. I gave it to her about four years ago and she’s still adding to it…

  47. Rachel says...

    We once gave a 4 year old friend an orange traffic cone and some caution tape. He could not believe it!

    • L says...

      OMG my son would LOVE this!

  48. Kathleen says...

    Dollar bin glow sticks. Always a hit.

    • Claire says...

      oh good one! Kids love glow sticks.

  49. Shannon says...

    As a kid, I loved all things office supply (and I still do!), but my favorite thing of all was a crisp new pad of Guest Checks. Love!

  50. Rachel says...

    Giant cardboard boxes (like from an appliance) are free and make excellent rocket ships.

  51. sasha says...

    Homemade playdough, either Kool aid or plain and then add super fine glitter. Lavender petals and purple glitter and lavender eo is a fun combo for summer, white with white glitter and peppermint eo makes snow sparkle dough. You can put in a basket with some fun cookie cutters and a kid size wooden rolling pin. Silicon cupcake wrappers for baking are really fun with play dough too, as are glass decorative stones-they come in heart shapes, stars, little flat stones, in different sizes or colors. Small shells are very cool for making impressions in the dough.

  52. Katherine says...

    First of all, these are sophisticated dinners. You are raising some classy kids! Second: What is keto? Third: I hope that wine is $10 for a bottle.

  53. Krystal says...

    A good old fashioned whoopie cushion! Kids always love them. (There are now self-inflating whoopie cushions.)

  54. sasha says...

    The lesson that children (2-4.5 yos) love most in my in home preschool: a little canvas bag called the tool kit. It has a couple magnifying glasses, mini flashlights, a small tape measure, and a small hour glass (minute timer from a game). I think any combo of these or similar would be fun, for older kids too. They’re open ended and lead to exploration.

    • Madeline D says...

      Oh I love this!! I have a 1.5 and a 3.5 year old and this is right up their alley.

  55. Arliss says...

    My standard gift for a toddler is a box of Kleenex, a roll of Scotch tape, a box of Band-Aids, and a package of bubble wrap. Basically all the things they’re generally not allowed to have :)

  56. Emily says...

    For 3 year olds: fun bandaids:).

    • Erin says...

      Yes! And rolls of washi tape! Those have been standard in our stockings and Easter baskets the last few years! :)

  57. Renee says...

    Those pads are one of my childhood favorites. My best friend and I also had calculators to add up our totals. I have such fond memories of playing cashier.

  58. Bridget says...

    Band-aids! A favorite gift for all occasions.

  59. When my oldest son was around a 1-2 years old, he could spend hours stacking those kids’ rainbow drinking cups from Ikea, and they look really cute, too.

  60. So cool!!! (This was secretly my favorite part of my waitressing job when I was in college – and also pushing the slip down on the sharp spike for the kitchen!)

    We often will get a friend whatever favorite book our kids are enjoying at the moment. Shirley Hughes’ books have never ever failed us.

    For late elementary kids, we like to get one of the maker’s kits at AC Moore or a craft store in whatever interest the kid has – science, robots, sewing, soap, jewelry, uhhhhhh so many options I can’t even recall.

    • Vicky says...

      Bächleboots!!! Every Freiburg kid has one :-). I spent a couple of years there and still miss it. You put a smile on my face this morning!

    • Julia says...

      Nice idea! Either for the bath tub or a river or lake!

    • Abby says...

      I have just been to Freiburg and loved how literally all of the kids were playing outside with these wooden boats in the tiny canals in the streets! I also love that the Reha boats are a charitable product supporting Projects for (against?) mental illness.

    • Kelly says...

      Where can you buy them in the US?

    • Claire says...

      love these. Anybody know a source for them in the US?

    • Val says...

      I would love to find these in the US for my daughter. Anyone know of a place? Thanks

  61. Emmy says...

    This makes me so so so happy! When I was little, I always loved going to the local stationery shop (pre-Staples, Office Max, etc.) and had a ball with all the paper products, pens, pencils, and everything else office-y related. I distinctly remember picking out some receipt books and pens for friends for their birthdays in elementary school and we all thought they were the coolest things for playing Store, Restaurant, and even School :) I’m so happy these little simple pleasures are still around “kids these days” still love them!

  62. Irina says...

    When my husband’s niece was 7 or 8 years old and came to visit us in the US from Russia for the first time, she absolutely loved a multi-color ballpoint pen we got her. I think it had four or maybe even six different colors, which made it perfect for both schoolwork and drawing. It cost around $5-7 at most. Also, this was not really a “present,” but one of her favorite experiences from her stay with us was going to a coffee shop with me and “working” together. I did my writing on my laptop and sipped my latte and she did the exercises in her workbook and sipped her hot chocolate. It made her feel very grown up and cool :)

  63. Melinda says...

    When our girls were young, there would be dinners when we would pull all leftovers from fridge and to the counter. Husband and I would sit at the table and girls would come around and take our dinner orders on their little notepads…. “Yes, we have that… Would you like that with a scoop of potatoes…. Sorry, we just sold out of the chicken.” I would hop up and heat the order in microwave. They would squeal with giggles when I would tell our waitresses, “Order up.” It was all a hoot. Then. Suddenly…. They grew up. Sigh.

    • sasha says...

      I love this so much!

    • Julia says...

      We did this, too. When I was about 10 years old, I would play this game with my friend. She order from my self created menu and I would prepare leftovers in the kitchen. It was so much fun to be the host as a child!

  64. Reb says...

    Those were my FAVORITE when I was a kid! How have I forgotten about them for my own kiddos??? Thanks for the reminder!

  65. Kaye Lyssy Berman says...

    Such a great idea! My nieces and nephews play restaurant all the time – even at 10 years old! They LOVE taking drink orders at dinner time while setting the table. Thanks for the idea!

  66. Heather says...

    Love that red wine is always at the top of these orders! Magnetic Tegu wood blocks have been our go-to toy for dinners out and traveling for our 6yo and almost 3yo, and I swear they have made our kids restaurant-friendly without having to resort to giving them our phones! We got our first set when our oldest was 2yo, and they never seem to tire of making endless creations with them (often incorporating utensils when we’re out). The 14-piece set has been the perfect size and is pretty packable. I recommend them to everyone!

  67. Erin says...

    Oooh, this is is SUCH a good idea! Similarly, tickets — the little tear-apart ones used for school raffles and such — have produced hours of fun at our house.

  68. Hani says...

    I love this so much. It’s just the kind of thing that would have thrilled me at 8!!
    I have dozens(yes, dozens) of nieces and nephews and have gotten a rhythm down for buying birthday presents.
    My go-to gift for 1-2 year olds is cute boxes of Kleenex. Sounds weird but it’s always a giant hit!!
    3-5 year olds is a full-sized ream of printer paper and some oversized crayons/colored pencils(depending on age).
    For bigger kids, I like getting several packs of blank picture books from target–each pack is 3$, they come 5 to a pack, and can be used like journals or made into graphic novels. The key is quantity. I got my oldest nephew(12)a set of illustration pens that cost 12$, and he turned those books into an entire graphic novel series. Amazing.
    In the summer, a bucket of sidewalk chalk is also a big winner and so inexpensive. 💛

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      these are such simple but wonderful ideas, hani! you sound like an amazing aunt.

    • Anna says...

      These are amazing ideas. As a mom to 5 & 7 year olds, I can attest to how much these gifts would be valued!

    • LY says...

      Love these ideas. Kids take such joy out of the simplest things! Colouring and markers are my favourite things to get my kids (but partially I think it’s the 7 year old in me still – super excited about a new notebook and markers on the first day of school!).

  69. Charlotte K says...

    What a hoot! When my 13 year old great niece was about 4 we used to play short order cook for HOURS. I’d sit on the porch of our family house and order thru the screened window. The more complicated and detailed my orders got the more she loved it. I’ll have to ask her when I see her in August if she remembers that!

    I want to eat at Toby’s restaurant if that’s what they’re serving. Esp RED WINE

  70. Guylaine says...

    Great idea! Would be good in loot /goody bags too (although I decided I don’t do those anymore).

  71. Erin G. says...

    I love this ide! My favorite, cheap, always-a-hit kids’ gift is masking tape in bright colors (Washi tape is great too, just not as inexpensive). They can stick it anywhere and it’s easy to remove. I always show the recipient how to make a spider web out of tape on the wall or floor and then they’re off and running! Plus they can wear a few rolls on their arm like a bracelet.

  72. Oh my goodness, I’m going to be a superhero glitter unicorn princess in our daughter’s life when I give her one of these!!! Thank you!!!

  73. Meg says...

    A box of sugar cereal… all their own! A savvy uncle brought a wrapped sugar cereal (Cinnamon Toast Crunch FTW) to one of my kiddos parties and there was no happier child in all the land!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, meg, i couldn’t love this more! my kids would FLIP!

    • Lauren B says...

      YES! Growing up, we could only eat “healthy” cereals (plain cheerios, kix, rice krispies). But the week of your birthday, you were allowed to pick ANY cereal in the store. My sister would debate and plan ahead for months, to make sure she made the best choice possible when her birthday finally came.

    • Hannah says...

      Reminds me of a fave from my childhood… My mother would sometimes buy my older brother and I our own can of whipped cream on our birthdays (which was something we never had in the house). We could eat it whenever and however we pleased – so straight from the can to our mouths was usually the way it went. It was so simple yet so exciting at any age. Plus we always seemed to share with each other – which is really sweet to think back on.

  74. Lauren says...

    My boys LOVE that wooden bus set! They also love playing restaurant. It makes my heart melt each and every time my two year old asks me, “Which one would you like?” Going to put this idea in my back pocket for when my older son can write better.

  75. claire says...

    rolls of tape. kids love tape.

  76. Laura says...

    An “office” kit. Usually use a shoe box-sized container, and fill it with post-it notes or small legal pads, box of envelopes, pens/washable markers/highlighters, tape, stapler, rubber bands, telephone message log (in the same spirit as the order pads above)- most of these are available cheaply at dollar stores, or come in multi-packs. My children (Ages 3/5) love these items, and they were a huge hit at birthday parties in the last year (mostly for 5 year olds).

  77. Alexa says...

    “Red wine 4 oz” bahahahaha

    • Stephanie says...

      Not impressed with this pour at all! Give me the 9 oz please! 😂😂😂

  78. Ramona says...

    Mine has loved this puzzle from the store formerly known as Land of Nod for years (https://www.crateandbarrel.com/roundabout-wooden-baby-puzzle/s514256). As a baby she loved trying to get the sticks into the circles, and now as an almost 3-year-old she uses the pieces from it to play all kinds of pretend games. They have been cupcakes with candles in them, “gas” for her toy car, you name it. It’s my go-to gift for first birthdays.

    I also often give art supplies. Because what kid couldn’t use an upgrade to fresh play dough and unbroken crayons?

  79. Lisa says...

    I just bought these exact pads for my girls! I couldn’t believe how inexpensive they are.

  80. Lauren B says...

    My 3.5 year old adores his play kitchen, but can’t write and even he loves taking our orders on these!! I can’t wait to see that love grow as his penmanship grows to match his imagination.

  81. Emily says...

    Aw, I totally forgot how much I loved those when I was little, too! Thanks for the memory! <3

  82. A says...

    We often gave a few pieces of fabric from the remainder bin at our local fabric store as birthday presents. If you choose well, they can be used as capes, forts, fancy skirts, etc.

  83. Esss says...

    The cheese plate is Keto?! Dying.

  84. Brigid says...

    “Red Wine 4 oz” is killing me.

  85. Anna says...

    I love that the mushroom soup is “20.” He’s got a fancy restaurant ;)

  86. Michela says...

    I loved taking orders from my parents when I was a child…pretending restaurants are the best!

  87. Tammy says...

    Whoopie cushion. As long as the parents have a sense of humour, you cannot go wrong with a whoopie cushion.

    • Heidi says...

      I agree- you pretend not to see it on the chair/sofa and they think it’s so hilarious and sneaky that they’ve tricked you into sitting on it!

  88. Laura C. says...

    Oh my God you are A GENIUS!!
    My little one who is two months younger than Anton, goes crazy with Play Doh. She loves it. I never go wrong with that. My eldest who os seven years old, likes it as well.

  89. Brittany says...

    Alex must be a busy guy, what with a full-time job and all this serving on the side (:

  90. Susan says...

    When my daughter was little, she loved playing “cooking” and she loved Friendly’s restaurant. A family member gifted her a book of guest checks for her waitress play and she LOVED it and used it for many years.

  91. Jessica says...

    ha ha! My daughter loved these, too!

  92. Mac says...

    My girls would go nuts for those!
    My go-to first birthday gift is a box of Kleenex. One year olds LOVE ripping those out of the box.
    And for toddler gifts I often include or wrap the gift in bubble wrap, because everyone loves stomping those bubbles.

  93. Shira says...

    I love getting board games. My kids love Spot It! (there are so many different versions of it), Zingo, and There’s a Yeti in my Spaghetti! Also, my 4-year old got a beginner’s science kit for his birthday last year, and we’ve had so much fun doing the experiments and making observations. One of the friends who got it for him (he got two!) also included a lab coat and goggles, which was a nice touch.

  94. Lara says...

    Ceaser!! <3 <3 <3

  95. Hallie says...

    This is really such a good idea! I remember making my own while playing restaurant with my Dad. Our’s usually included beef sticks, pretzels and mustard, and code red mt. dew lol.

  96. Dee says...

    I can totally relate to the cheapest gift being the favourite. My daughter is only 18 months but her two favourite toys are a spiky plastic ball with a flasher in (you sometimes see them at baby sensory classes) this one is in fact a dog chew and a set of stacking plastic cups bought at the grocery store for $2. The hand carved wooden arc with the beautiful animals? Could not care less!

  97. Megan Flowers says...

    My mom was a waitress when I was growing up and I always snagged her check pads. Also old check books are fun too.

  98. Fernanda says...

    That is brilliant!
    My kids love taking our orders, and they use their books as menus. So we try to find any picture of food in them and that’s our order.
    I had to order horse meat once, though… haha!