Girl with red hair in the center faces two children with gifts behind their backs

Kids’ birthday parties, huh?

While I’m exceptionally thankful for them after two years of pandemic drive-by birthdays, it brings me back to the tricky topic of kids’ birthday party gifts.

It’s no secret that a significant number of birthday party gifts come from a quick Target trip the day of the party. Collectively, as moms, I think we can agree this is just a fact of life — and #noshame. 

I’m a huge fan of the “don’t open the gifts at the party” trend for a lot of reasons, but that still doesn’t solve the age-old problem of what to get the birthday child. 

What if they already have the gift we buy them? What if they don’t like it? I certainly don’t want it to be a disappointment. What if we get a toy their parents prefer they don’t have? The downward spiral of “what ifs” is dangerously endless. 

And so, that leads me here. Over the years, I’ve found some fun and unique options that I love to give. Here we go!

1. Tie-dye kit

My disclaimer is that you should ask the parents first if this is something they would want to do with their child, because not all moms would classify it as a “fun” activity. If they’re up for it, I love to buy a tie-dye kit, a few shirts from Michaels in the child’s size, a towel, a pillowcase, and anything else you can think of to tie-dye. Wrap it up in a fun little kit, and you’re good to go!

2. Illustory

This is one of my favorites because it’s parent and child friendly. Everything you need is right in the Illustory kit, Amazon has two-day shipping, and it’s pretty cool to see your ideas come to life in a real book. There is a “regular” story edition and a comic book edition. It comes with a prepaid shipping envelope, and the final products come out great!

3. Hey Clay by Fat Brains Toys

This one comes with an app, so you do need to make sure there is a phone or tablet available for the birthday child to use. Once that is settled, this is really an awesome project/toy. The app includes step-by-step directions for kids to follow and make the six projects included in the box — and the clay dries after 24 hours. The only downside is that you do need to order this one in advance, because there isn’t really a two-day shipping option. 

4. Doodle Tiles

Made by Crayola and Magnatiles, this toy lets you color your own tiles. The best part is that you can clean them with water and color them over and over again. If the birthday child already has Magnatiles, they can just add them into their set and they’re still cool.

5. Scratch art set

This one is a classic most everyone can get on board with. It’s great because it’s so simple. Scratch off the black to draw what you want, and it’s an endlessly fun activity for all. Even as an adult, I admit I love using these very much. 

6. Wikki Stix and Shrinky Dinks

What can I say, I’m a sucker for the affordable classics. Wikki Stix come in so many different kits — big and small. They’re affordable, cool, and great to travel with. Shrinky Dinks, a classic toy for us 80s/90s kids, are still awesome. Similar to Wikki Stix, they’re affordable and have many options available.

Chelsey Weaver
Chelsey is a "central Mass" girl who married her 7th-grade sweetheart. She attended both undergraduate and graduate school in Boston, then taught high school on the North Shore for seven years. After living in Winchester and Melrose for several years (and moving too many times), she and her husband finally settled in Groveland in 2015. She loves the North Shore and everything it has to offer, and she enjoys raising her daughter there. Chelsey is the community engagement coordinator for Boston Moms and is mostly a stay-at-home mom. She spends lots of time advocating for children with disabilities, arguing with insurance companies, and looking for disabled influencers, inclusive companies, and materials that celebrate neurodiversity. She avidly listens to audiobooks, hates everything about coffee, and, most importantly, loves being a mom.