Buying Birthday Presents for Kids You Don’t Know

Buying Birthday Presents for Kids You Don’t Know

When you have your first baby, your interpretation of the world changes. Your life becomes laser focussed on the health and development of this tiny human you somehow managed to grow inside your body.

You spend a year or so making googoo noises, changing nappies, a wiping dropped food off the floor until it’s time for your little one to start at nursery.

That’s how it was for me anyway. Maybe you were lucky enough to have other childcare arrangements, but even if this was the case, what I’m going to talk about will hit you once they start school.

That thing, is kids birthday parties.

Out of nowhere, you will suddenly start to receive invitations to soft play centres and sports halls where Tommy or Timmy or Toby is going to be turning 3! They would be so excited if your son or daughter could help them celebrate their big birthday.

It’s lovely for the kids, but it’s a bit awkward for the parents, because now you have to start shelling out on gifts for children you didn’t even know existed until the invitation turned up.

So – what to do?

How Much Should You Spend?

How Much to Spend on Kids Birthday Gift

This is one of those situations where you want to spend as little as possible, but you also need to protect your reputation.

No one wants to be known as the stingy Mum, right?

I always aim for between £10 and £15. This seems to be a sweet spot. I know plenty of other parents think the same, because I’ve seen their offerings, and you get to know the price of things a couple of parties in.

Most people buy presents from supermarkets or Smiths Toys, so you recognise things you almost bought and get pretty good at guesstimating what everyone has spent.

I don’t want anyone to feel pressured by this though. If you are struggling for money it is totally acceptable to spend less. You don’t have to buy anything at all if you don’t want to.

If you want to spend less but fear being labelled as the Scrooge of the party, buy something big. Big presents don’t have to cost a lot, but their impact is greater than a smaller present of the same value.

Another good tip is to buy several cheap items and bundle them together. For example, we went to a 4th birthday party for a little boy who loved gardening, so I bought several child sized gardening tools, some seeds, and a bucket to grow them in. I think it cost about £12, but the impact of all of those individual items was huge. The boy was clearly excited, as to him, he was getting several presents in one.

Remember too, that parents won’t be expecting you to go mad. They have been in your position, and had the exact same thoughts. Plus, we’ve all got way too much cheap plastic tat in our kids play boxes, right? They might actually be glad to get an £8 Spider Man t-shirt instead of yet another toy dinosaur costing £13.50.

How Do You Know What to Buy Them?

What to Buy School Friend for Birthday

This is potentially more tricky, especially if you don’t know anything about the child in question.

You could always try asking your own child what their friend might like, but if they are anything like mine, you can’t trust their answers. E

We were invited to the party of a little girl we had literally never heard of before, and our son told us she liked playing with cars and Paw Patrol. Can you guess what our little boy’s favourite things were at that time? Yep. Cars and Paw Patrol.

Thanks for nothing kid…

If your children are older you might have more luck, but up until about 5 years old, I wouldn’t trust a word they say!

So how do you choose a gift?

Well, most invitations have a number so you can RSVP to Mum or Dad. So why not simply ask them what their child likes at the same time? It sounds so blindingly obvious, but in my experience, only about 25% of people actually ask the question.

Maybe it’s nerves, maybe a lot of parents just don’t care all that much, but I can tell you that I have only ever had super positive replies. You’re showing that you want their child to have a great birthday, so of course Mum and Dad will be pleased.

On the rare occasion that there isn’t a number or an email address to contact the parent with, or if they just don’t reply, the next best option is to ask the nursery or school teacher.

You will usually get a few weeks notice before a party, which is plenty of time to ask the adult who works with that child what sort of present they might like. These people spend all day with the kids and know them well, so they are a great resource for birthday present related queries.

Wrapping Up

Boy Holding Birthday Present

Yes, the title of this final section is a pun.

I wanted to finish by saying that, although it may seem trivial to some, there are parents for whom birthday parties cause serious anxiety issues. Especially those parents who perhaps aren’t local, or don’t feel like they fit in.

Getting the ‘wrong’ gift or being seen as a cheap skate is a genuine worry for them, so if you are the one throwing the birthday party, be kind.

To anyone who does worry about present buying, I would say the fact that you went to the party in the first place will be all that matters. If you have also made efforts to find out what to buy the birthday boy or girl then you have done more than most, so don’t worry about it.

Enjoy watching your child run around with their friends, enjoy the awkward conversations with parents you don’t know, and when it’s your turn to be the inviter rather then the invitee, remember to include your contact details!

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