It’s that time of year again, when the e-Vites and pastel-colored envelopes start arriving weekly – birthday party season. If you’re thinking, “Yay! How fun!” you obviously haven’t been to as many kids’ birthday parties as I have. Listen, I like small-talk with fellow preschool parents and garishly colored sheet cake as much as the next mom, but the part that stresses me out is the gift. Buying a present for a kid you don't know that well is nerve-wracking.
Did you see the movie Date Night? Remember that scene where Steve Carell’s character offers to buy a kid’s birthday present to help out his wife with her to-do list? And Tina Fey says, “No batteries. And it can’t be made in China. And it’s got to be educational.” Welcome to my world.
I’ve decided that there are a few foolproof kids’ birthday gifts. Gender-neutral, always welcome, can be found at most every price point and for every age. Are you ready?
1. Water toys. Rubber duckies, toy boats, buckets, watering cans, a cute hooded towel – for the pool or beach in the summer or for the bath any time of year. Who couldn’t use an extra towel and some of those plastic squirty toys that have to be replaced regularly since after awhile they start to grow that yucky black stuff inside? The kids will love anything that’s new and cute and the parents will love that it’s practical.
2. Arts and crafts supplies. In our house, Play-Doh and markers are, sadly, pretty much disposable. Someone mushes it all together into a brownish blob or leaves the cap off and that’s the end of that. Crayons break, coloring books get used up. You can never have enough art supplies, if you ask me. Even the tiniest tot will enjoy age-appropriate stuff like finger-paints, colored pipe cleaners, stickers, etc. Just make sure they don’t eat them.
3. Personalized stuff. Every kid loves stuff with their name on it – placemats, water bottles, towels, T-shirts. Of course, that takes advance planning, unless you’re the DIY type. Another idea is to find a book with the child’s name in it. This works best if they have a common name. For instance, I plugged “Emily” and “Jack” into Amazon under children’s books and instantly came up with dozens of options for each. When in doubt, get toddlers and older kids a book about underpants. You can’t go wrong.
Anybody else have ideas for can’t-miss birthday gifts?