Since January, my not-even-three-year-old has been handed no less than 6 birthday party invitations from children at nursery, and we also have her own party coming up at the end of March.
The nursery that Amelia (and soon Wills) attends happens to be located in a particularly affluent area of Surrey, and as a result I always feel just a little bit conscious about our offering of a present. As a family on a fairly tight budget, when I started adding up the tenners here and there that I was spending on getting just the right present, I soon realised that at the current rate of payday:party we just weren’t going to be able to keep up.
I also started to think about who I was really buying presents for; was I buying things that I knew that the child would love and appreciate, or was I trying to impress that child’s parents? The honest answer is – a bit of both. No-one wants to be the mum at nursery that gives the shit present, and no-one wants the sideways glances that say “I know you’re the cheap mum who gave my kid a crap present” or even worse the look that says “I know you’re broke and I feel sorry for you”.
So here are my top tips on giving great presents that toddlers will love and parents will appreciate, and all for under £5!
Think Outside of the Box
There aren’t many three-year-olds who don’t do a little jig at the mere thought of the latest Peppa Pig pay set complete with slide and swing set that really swings and Peppa who really snorts. But seriously, anyone and everyone can (and will) buy this crap. The best presents we have ever received (either for ourselves of for the kids) are the ones that seem like the giver has put some serious thought into. “Seem like” being the operative words here, read on to see why!
Do Your Research
This is too easy to do in a nursery or school environment; at pick-up or drop off time, just ask the staff or teachers. These people spend a lot of time with our children, and as such tend to know their likes and dislikes pretty damn well. A simple;
“Hey, my kid has been invited to X’s birthday party on Saturday and we’re trying to decide what to get them as a present. I’m looking for something that fits their interests well and won’t break the bank, any ideas?”
Not only do nursery staff and teachers tend to know their kids extremely well, they are also trained in putting together activities and resources for children which work with their interests, are age specific, and are positive for their development. Nursery staff are all to happy to share their (often overlooked) expertise, and they certainly won’t judge you for not wanting to break the bank given that the majority are not paid nearly enough for the hugely important job that they do.
Create a Present Box
I recently put together a gift bag for a child’s birthday we were attending using a bunch of stuff I already had stashed in a box in the cupboard. The box in question has a whole load of big multipacks of craft supplies in it. Think colourful pom poms, mini tubs of glitter, cool stamps, stickers, little pots of paints, self-adhesive letters and numbers etc. I took some self-seal clear bags and put a little of each item in a bag and sealed them. I packaged them a up in a cute bag (more about that next), added some ribbon and a personal touch, and hey presto! Crafty gift for the kid who I know loves art!
I have a job lot of brown paper bags from Poundworld (10 for £1) in my cupboard. They are marketed as disposable lunch bags, but they make a great blank canvas for a little personalisation. Also, they speak to the hipster in me who loves anything wrapped in brown paper (I also have a roll or two of that in the cupboard!). I use these bags for most of our party gifts. Take a little time the evening (or morning!) before the party and add the child’s name to the bag, either using self-adhesive letters or cool letter stamps, and decorate to your heart’s content. Usually, I choose a few stamps and just go wild! What you end up with is a totally personalised gift bag that the child and parent alike will love and remember. Once you’ve filled it, tie the handles together with a pretty ribbon and job done.
Think Like a Kid!
Given the choice, would your child spend all day playing with their Peppa Pig Garden Party set complete with real teapot, or would they be happier on the floor surrounded by glitter, paint, stickers and pipe cleaner creations? I know what Amelia would choose. The latest craze in toys, what everyone else has, or what’s totally selling out right now are all good choices for a birthday present, but a truly great choice is something that is going to spark that child’s imagination and get them truly excited (for more than 3 minutes).
Here’s my most recent ‘crafty’ birthday gift.
This bag and canvas cost a grand total of less than £3 all in, and here’s how;
The bag came in a pack of 10 for £1, the paper shapes I cut from paper and card we had in the cupboard, the feathers came from huge bag for £1, the glitter tube came from a multipack of 10 tubes for £1, the paint tubs were both from multipacks of 10 for £1 each, the glitter tapes were £1 for 3 and the pipe cleaners were from a bag of 100 for, yep you guessed it, £1!! I finished it off by stamping the bag with a stamp and ink set I picked up at Poundland, and taped the bag to a canvas also from Poundland.
This totalled to a total gift cost of £2.50!
What tips and tricks do you have for keeping up with kids birthday parties and gift-giving? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to comment below.