Kid’s Birthday Party Gifts

Kid's Birthday Party GiftsThis reader’s question came to me from, Carrie, and she writes:

“I was talking with a friend, and mother of three, today and she told me that due to budget constraints her children are only allowed to go to 1-2 birthday parties a year. She limits their spending to $10-15 per gift as well. They are facing serious financial hardship as two ailing, elderly relatives live with them. Do you have any suggestions on gift giving for younger birthday parties to help her kids be able to enjoy a few more a year? The children are about 8, 9, and 12.”

Birthday gift ideas for kids budget

Birthday parties can be expensive to attend but I know that kids love to go to parties.  I wouldn’t let the cost or expense of the gift keep someone from attending a party, especially if it’s a good friend.  $10-$15 is a lot to spend for 3 kids, 2 parties each.  I think lowering that amount is good place to start.  Here are some ideas I’d suggest.

Kid’s Birthday Party Gifts

  • Homemade gifts or cards are always nice to give.  A special card or a special art project for a younger child’s gift is very sweet.
  • A drawing tablet and set of colored pencils makes a good gift that will surely be used.
  • As kids get older, a book is a good gift.  This doesn’t have to be a new book.  It could be one that was purchased used or that a child has admired.
  • Purchasing an item second-hand is also an option.  Just because something is bought second-hand doesn’t mean it’s any less thoughtful.
  • Have kids make a gift – a sewn or knitted item for a special friend can be very sweet.
  • Card games are another favorite gift my kids have given and received.  Card games are inexpensive and never go out of style.

Birthday gifts for kids

I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with limiting the number of birthday parties kids go to.  Adults can’t go to every event we’re invited to and I think that’s a good thing to teach our kids as well.  Declining an invitation gracefully takes practice.

Another idea is to have the 12-year-old buy their own gifts when invited to attend a party.  My kids are responsible for purchasing gifts for the parties they attend.  Between allowance and earning money around the neighborhood, kids can do their own purchasing of gifts.  This seems to help them focus their thoughts on what they really think their friend would like, at the right price.

Frugal gift giving kids

What are your suggestions?  Any go to gifts I’ve overlooked?

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13 thoughts on “Kid’s Birthday Party Gifts

  1. I used the child’s age as a ‘rule of thumb’ for buying gifts. If the child was turning 3 – then we purchased a gift that cost ‘about’ $3. Of course that was 15 years ago. We were (and still are) on a budget – and needed to keep spending for all things under control. If your child knows what the budget is – they can help with the shopping. Truly – the birthday kid just wants to have LOTS of friends there and have lots of fun. It seems that people think it is appropriate to invite everyone a child knows or that is in their class at school or church. Sometimes I encouraged my kids to attend a party where the child was new to the area or didn’t have a lot of friends – to help the birthday kid feel important. However, that was still their choice. But we did have another ‘rule of thumb’…’if you’ve never been invited to that home to play and you’ve never asked that kid to play at our home, is this really a party you NEED/SHOULD/WANT to attend? It can be the same way with wedding invitations. Are you just getting this invitation because you belong to the same congregation at church or they work someplace in the same big company?….or do you have a relationship with this couple or their parents/family that is important to foster? We do have a choice and opportunity to decline and no explanation is necessary – just a ‘sorry, we/he/she won’t be able to attend but we wish you the very best’. I do find it ‘sad’ that when I attend parties – so often the gifts that are given are quite overboard – item after item after item will be pulled from one bag. Too much keeping up with the Jones maybe?


    1. Shenna, I think that’s the ‘thoughtful spending’ piece that is usually missing in purchasing. Gift giving or being generous is not bad but we’ve somehow gotten out of hand in our consumer-driven society. It’s good to hear other families talking about these values. Thank you and good job teaching your children to think of and include others.


  2. We keep a pretty low budget for gift giving. I usually stick to a $10 gift card, packaged with a lip gloss or something age appropriate from the dollar store.

    Also, for birthday parties for my kids (which we keep small anyway, and aren’t held on their birthday – ’cause that’s just for family), we ask that the children don’t bring gifts, that we are having a “fun” party – and then go toboganning, or have a bonfire, play games and make pizza. It’s pretty good at controlling the excess of unneeded gifts and I think the other parent appreciate it.


    1. Heidi, I agree that controlling the unneeded gifts is something all parents need to help with! Your parties sound very fun, too.


  3. First of all, limiting the number of parties per year that your children attend punishes the children having the party. When I threw parties for my kids, they wanted all the kids they invited to attend. It was way more meaningful to them to have the kids there, then to get gifts. I actually would send out save the date e-mails before the party, so that if I had chosen a particularly bad date in terms of attendance, we could reschedule. Second, I often stocked up on brand new kid gifts at yard sales throughout the summer for pennies on the dollar. People are always selling toys their children have outgrown or never even opened, and no one is the wiser that they were purchased at a yard sale. Now that my kids are teens, their gifts to friends are often free. Both kids make CDs of songs they think their friends will like and take those as gifts. You are entitled to three free songs per week per library card in your house. That means my kids can download twelve songs per week for free, so this gift is literally the cost of a blank cd. Also, my daughter, Lucy, regularly does a sketch of the birthday girl or boy. These are far more cherished by teens than anything that can be store bought. Finally, when Lucy was around three, she attended a birthday party where one of the guests brought a silver and gold crayon and two brightly colored pears to match as gifts. It was adorable. Most kids love going to, and throwing parties so I hope these suggestions make it possible for kids to go without worrying about the cost.


    1. Melissa, these are great tips and I love Lucy’s creative ideas. Yard sales are a great source for gifts, too! Well done. Thank you.


  4. When my kids were younger, I would stock up on generic board games when Black Friday rolled around. I could buy games for 1/2 price on that day, so would buy 8-10 games. Since they were fairly generic in nature, they could be used for either a boy’s or girl’s party. And if I had a young niece or nephew with a birthday, I could “shop” my gift closet.
    Now that my two youngest are teens (both girls, twins in fact), I help them get supplies to make gifts for their friends. We make beaded bracelets. I use coupons and shop sales at the fabric/craft supply store and we buy lovely glass beads and charms and make very nice bracelets for about $5-$7 a piece.


    1. Very nice shopping technique for gifts. It’s nice to have some gifts stashed away for that reason. I sometimes forget what I have tucked away…I try and check my gift box before an approaching birthday or holiday hits. You have a great attitude and it’s nice you’re sharing that with your daughters. Those flip-flops sound adorable, too. Great gift ideas!


  5. Forgot to add, also, this spring we’ve been making embellished flip flops for girls’ birthdays. We buy cheapo flip flops from Wal-Mart (about $1 a pair) and use craft cement (texture like rubber cement) to glue on colorful foam cut outs ( a big bag of small cut outs for about $2.75). We did flowers and lady bugs and they turned out so cute. We began doing these when a young friend asked my daughter all about her own flip flops (I had made these as basket stuffers for Easter), so when this friend had her birthday, my daughter knew exactly what to make. A pair of embellished flip flops, some colorful hair scrunchies from the dollar store and some mini candy bars all tied up in a cellophane bag, was a very cute gift.


  6. I know the question was about gifts for children, but my grown child (now a young adult), although he no longer goes to birthday parties, will also come to me from time to time asking what he should give one of his friends, for birthdays, graduations, etc.
    There’s a type of used gift that is appreciated by just about everyone. That’s the used item that is either a collectible or an antique (or just vintage). If you can identify particular interests of that person you can find very lovely and appropriate gifts on a small budget.
    For my son, being in his early 20s, I usually suggest he look at the used record/cd store. Nearly every university/college town has one. Most of his friends think it’s something cool to receive an actual “album” from a music legend they admire.


  7. Friendship bracelets are becoming popular again, so how about a friendship bracelet making kit? Several colors of the thread (which is really inexpensive), and printed out instructions packaged in a cute box. The kids could even make a friendship bracelet to go along with it. Art supplies are always nice and things like crayons, colored pencils, and markers can all be bought cheaply during back-to-school sales and stockpiled for birthday parties.


    1. Hi Terri,
      I think friendship bracelet kits would be great! I also think making them would be a really fun activity at a girl’s birthday party, with the bracelets as the favor.


    2. Terri, you’re right! Friendship bracelets are back again and that’s a great gift idea. Estate sales have an endless supply of embroidery thread/floss that could be easily purchased and placed in a little bag. Great idea! Thanks.


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