The Best Default Birthday Presents for Kids You Don’t Know Well

For the first time ever, my eldest son J is having a birthday party for just his friends. (Summer birthdays are always awkward, but as he turns 6 he’s old enough now that he knows who his friends are, even if they’re not necessarily in the same class or exact same time slot for Activity Y.) One of the things that’s been surprising to me is how many moms are actually asking what he wants — in part because my previous strategy as a gift-giver has just been to spend $25-$50 on toys or books, purchased at a store that isn’t too difficult for returns, with a gift receipt. (To me that usually means Target, Toys R Us, or Barnes & Noble!) The theory behind it is that if the kiddo liked it and/or didn’t have it already, great; if not the parent could return it for another toy or book the kiddo liked more.  (Or, hey, for a gift card that could then be used for a larger gift.) I think I’ve also written about how the grandparents do SUCH a great job of getting presents that I tend to favor experiences over toys — so I don’t even really know what he wants and have just been responding “Oh, you know, Legos or Star Wars stuff!” (Honestly, what he would LOVE are Nerf guns, iTunes gift cards, and candy, but I would probably be annoyed at anyone who got us those!!)

In any event — let’s discuss! What’s your strategy for getting birthday presents for kids you don’t know well? Do you have some default birthday presents that you tend to just grab and go, similar to my theory on “eh, they’ll return it if they don’t like it”? What are the default presents that you get again and again for kiddos — and for what age ranges? Do you ask moms of birthday boys and girls what they want for their birthday?

These are some of my default birthday gifts for kids I don’t know well — but ladies, I’d love to hear yours…

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Toys, Birthdays, and Experiences

birthday experiences toysIt is my eldest’s birthday today (happy 4th, Jack!), so I thought it might be a great time to have a discussion about birthdays, toys, and experiences.  More and more of my friends are telling me that they are purposely not buying presents for their kids, and instead planning experiences like trips, concerts, etc.  At 4, he’s been a bit young for all of that in the past — and honestly, every day is like his birthday around here.  Besides, all of the grandparents love to buy presents for the boys (sometimes it feels like they are single-handedly keeping Fisher Price, Bruder, Tonka, Thomas, and so forth in business!).  So: this “plan a nice experience” sounds like a great idea.  I think up first, we’ll plan a day with him at an amusement park near my parents — they can watch the baby so Jack can get Mommy and Daddy all to himself for a day the next time we visit.  It’s still going to involve a fair amount of planning and research, not to mention day-of logistics, but I think he’ll have a blast.

(When asked what he wanted for his birthday, he said, “Ummmm… a cupcake.” Yes! We can do that!)

Ladies, how do you celebrate your kids’ birthdays?  If with experiences rather than toys, what other kind of experience-focused presents have you given to kids?  

Pictured: Jack, sizing up his huuuuuge Costco cake last year — pantsless, of course, because that’s how we roll.  Also pictured: our fugly but functional oilcloth table cover and our Oxo Tot High Chair.  All rights reserved.