It’s birthday month in our house. We celebrate both my kids’ birthdays this month, so gift giving is at the front of my mind.
How much should I spend on birthday gifts for my children?
Will a simple birthday gift be enough?
Should we have a big elaborate party?
It’s all about the kiddos…not spending
Birthdays are treated like holidays in our house. They are super special, and it’s my ultimate goal to make whoever is being celebrated to feel like the most important person ever!
Even with all this excitement, birthdays are NOT about going over the top spending money and going into debt just to make the day seem special.
However you prefer to celebrate your children, know this… They won’t remember how much you spent making their day special. They remember how they felt.
Remember your birthdays from growing up.
I remember simple cakes (some homemade, some store-bought). I remember my friends playing games with me, family coming over, and getting to choose dinner that night. Mostly, I remember how my family made me feel.
You don’t have to spend a whole bunch of money to make the day special.
It’s about the thoughtfulness behind the gift, not the cost
Last year we bought our daughter a simple toy that was on the clearance rack at Target for $6. We spent six dollars!! One year later, she still plays with this toy. I call that a win.
We weren’t being cheap. Not at all. We were looking for the perfect toy, and there it was on the end cap with all the other marked down toys. We both saw it and laughed at our good fortune.
It would have been easy to keep spending, knowing we got off so cheap, but there was no reason to. We were in search for the perfect gift, and we found it. Finding the perfect gift isn’t about the cost.
If funds are low or if you think your children are acting a bit spoiled (been there, no judgment), remember, the cost doesn’t matter. Put some thought into your gift, rather than stressing about the amount of money you are spending.
If you want to simplify your child’s birthday, consider creating traditions. This is a fantastic way to encourage memories around the day that are not focused on the actual gift giving.
Here are some ideas for birthday traditions:
- Hang streamers from your child’s door so they can walk through them when they wake up in the morning.
- Blow up the number of balloons that match your child’s age.
- Decorate your child’s kitchen table chair.
- Make your child’s favorite cake from scratch (a box cake totally counts).
- Let your child choose dinner, whether at a local restaurant or their favorite home-cooked meal.
- Your child can be “boss for the day”
- Let your child skip chores all day on their birthday.
- Make a special breakfast every year…like birthday sprinkle pancakes!
- Make breakfast in bed.
- Take turns telling the birthday person what you love about them.
- Eat cake for breakfast.
- Use the same decorations every year. This inspires tradition and favorite memories. (It also saves a ton of money!)
Consider skipping the birthday party
Before you roll your eyes, hear me out!
My kids love having birthday parties. They get gifts, get to hang out with their friends, and they get to feel special with a group of people, not just with their family.
We love birthday parties, and we’ve had plenty over the years.
However, every single year, we offer our children a second choice. They can choose between having a birthday party or an experience. We then take any money we would have spent on the party, and we spoil our children rotten with a fun experience day.
Our kids almost always choose the party option, but a few times, the experience has won out!
Here are some ideas for a birthday experience day:
- A hotel night with a pool and pizza delivery
- Beach day, ice cream included with all the toppings!!
- Ski day, including hot chocolate and marshmallows
- Amusement park / water park
- Roller skating / ice skating
- Movie date
- Camping trip
- Trampoline park
- Playground day, picnic, and lots of sugar!
- Anything your child LOVES to do
Simplify birthday parties
If your child wants a birthday party, consider this your free pass to not be Pinterest perfect.
I too have fallen victim to wanting to go over the top with all my birthday planning.
There are themed parties, appetizers, designer cakes, and games you design and build to match everything. There are also matching plates, color-coordinated napkins, and hired help.
If you have a Pinterest perfect party, you can easily drop hundreds of dollars.
Please, even if you have the money to go over the top, don’t do this to yourself. Your child does not care.
I’ve had parties like this. They were amazing…for the adults. None of the children present cared.
They wanted cake, and they wanted to play. They could have cared less about all the activities I had planned and if my plates matched the cake which matched the activities.
If you want to decorate, go simple. A couple of streamers and balloons will be more than enough to make your child feel special. Buy some solid-colored plates and napkins, and you can use them for other events too.
Skip the treat bags. Gasp, I know!
If you feel absolutely compelled to use treat bags, go with consumables rather than plastic junk no mom wants to take back to her house.
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Simple birthday gifts for kids
You know your kid, and you know what they love. Remember, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to make them happy. A single, simple gift, can make them happy!
Start simple gifts when they are young, and they won’t come to expect a second Christmas when they are older. It will also help them continue the tradition of simple gifts with their future children.
Here are some ideas for simple birthday gifts for kids that don’t add to clutter and excess:
Experiences create memories. Memories last way longer than any cheap, plastic gift.
When children are younger, I recommend giving a child a small token related to the experience, and then the experience gift. The reason being children don’t always understand delayed gratification that comes from giving an experience gift.
For example, if you are giving a child a gift certificate to go enjoy an ice cream visit, you may give them a gift bag full of sprinkles, chocolate syrup, and candy toppings that they can enjoy on their birthday too!
Then, when the time comes to go enjoy the ice cream experience, they can enjoy the gratification of a thoughtful gift all over again!
There are tons of experience gift ideas you can give to anyone on your list!
Here is a list of my favorite experience gifts:
- Movie tickets
- Ice cream shop visit
- Amusement park
- Water park
- Roller skating / ice skating
- Pro game
- Theater tickets
- Classes – online or in person
- Any kid-focused local business – Trampoline parks, activity centers, etc.
- Self-made art – Cloth and Glaze, Paint Your Own Pottery, Glaze Fire, etc.
Related post: Experience Gifts for Everyone on Your List
Gifts that spark imagination
Children don’t need toys that do the playing for them. Instead, think of gifts that encourage imagination and play. Even as children grow older, you can still search for gifts that inspire creativity.
Here are a few gift ideas that inspire creativity and imagination:
- Dress-up clothes
- Craft kits
- Journal / diary / sketchbook
- Camera (that’s not part of a phone)
- Board games
- Sewing machine
- Tools for building
- Pottery kits
- Cooking supplies that are kid-centered
- Musical instrument
- Karaoke machine
- Nature journal
Books are one of those gifts you can give that are simple and people never outgrow receiving.
If you are looking to gift your child a simple birthday gift, consider a special book series for the level of reading they are currently enjoying. I love book series, as it allows you to give a whole set of books that they can enjoy for the next few weeks!
You can also sign up your child for an online children’s book club if they are really into reading books. It would be a fun way for them to connect with other children who have similar interests.
Gifts that encourage physical activity and outdoor time
If you want to simplify birthdays for your children, a great gift idea is to focus on gifts that encourage physical activity or outdoor time, rather than add to the clutter and excess inside of your home.
Some of my favorite gifts that encourage physical activity and/or outdoor time are:
- Any type of ball
- Playground equipment
- Outdoor games
- Bicycles and related gear
- Sidewalk chalk
- Lessons in favorite sport
- Yard games – Ladder ball, cornhole
- Slack line
- Zip line
- Jump rope
- Roller skates
- Hula hoop
- Pogo stick
- Mud kitchen
Gifts that encourage playing together
Children LOVE it when their parents play with them.
Think about what your child enjoys and about what you enjoy doing with them. These are the best kinds of gifts and may encourage play between you for months or years to come.
Gift ideas you can enjoy with your child include:
- Sporting equipment
- Board games
- Card games
- Read aloud books (yes, big, long books too!) or audio books
- Video games
- Crafting supplies
- Model cars, airplanes, boats, etc.
- Build a robot
- Children’s cookbook and supplies
- Movies to watch together
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If your child is super into video games, consider getting them a game they’re begging for, but maybe also pick up a game that interests you. I know. Hear me out.
My mom played Dr. Mario and Bubble Bobble with me as a child on our old-school Nintendo. I was good at and loved other games, but these two were my favorite.
I think now, they were my favorite because my mom played them with me…on a regular basis.
Although I limit video games with my kids, one of my favorite things to do is play with them when the chance is given.
Get creative. Think of ideas you would both enjoy, and then actually plan a date to enjoy them together!
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Make your child’s birthday simple but magical
Birthdays with your kids can be simple. They don’t have to be super planned out, expensive, and over the top. A simple birthday day combined with a simple gift is all a child needs to feel incredibly special on his or her big day.