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Everyday Cheapskate: Fun (Cheap) Birthday Gift Ideas for Kids

Mary Hunt on

Some time ago, I got a message from Elaine G., who had recently joined a mom's group. With all of her newly minted friendships, she and her child are getting invitations to lots of toddler birthday parties.

Her dilemma took me back to when our boys were small. Birthday parties for all their friends were challenging. That's why Elaine's message grabbed my attention. "Can you help me with ideas for birthday gifts for young children that will score with the kids without breaking our budget?" You bet, Elaine. Try these ideas on for size.


Give the birthday girl or boy everything they need to write (or draw) the story of their life. For children just learning to read, write or draw, include a list of "prompts" that might include instructing the child to draw a picture of a favorite animal, a place to visit or something that makes them laugh. Package it with a pad or book of drawing paper, markers, crayons and enough prompts to complete all the pages in their book.


Spark the interest and imagination of the birthday child with a custom play kit you put together. "Design" the kit on paper by making a list of contents, and then go "shopping" in your home, garage or attic. Visit thrift stores, garage sales and consignment stores for items that can be laundered and sanitized. Make kits for boys or girls and feature themes such as dress-up, kitchen, handyman, restaurant, doctor, cowboy and entertainer.



Start your recipient on the debt-proof road early with a piggy bank. Add a starter fund of coins (or cash, if it's in your budget) to encourage regular deposits that will make the pig noisy when shaken.


Mount an enlarged photo of your child and the birthday boy or girl onto a piece of foam board. Cover the photo with a piece of tracing paper and lightly draw a jigsaw pattern, making the number of pieces appropriate for the recipient's age. Carefully cut through the paper, photo and board along the puzzle lines. Separate the pieces, and place in a gift box.


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