Birthday gifts for school friends — what do you give?

kitpas crayons and card games

My daughter started kindergarten last fall, and beyond the expected academically-focused changes (beginning math! learning to read!), I’ve noticed a big social one as well: a larger class, an expanded social circle, and invitations to so many birthday parties for school friends. At first, choosing a birthday gift for my daughter to give the birthday friend of the moment stumped me a bit: I don’t yet know all of these friends terribly well, and I don’t have a sense of their likes and preferences. But through bit of trial and error, I’ve hit on what seems to be a pretty reasonable strategy for giving gifts to help celebrate these classmate birthdays.

In general, the parameters I try to work within are:

  1. Small in size: living in a city, space is always at a premium. I try to be respectful of the fact that I’m introducing yet another item to another family’s home by keeping the gifts themselves on the smaller side.
  2. Consumable: I love the idea of giving a present that can be used up and won’t clutter a home or a landfill when it falls out of favor. Art supplies are great for this, as almost every child I know loves an art supply refresh, or a fun new coloring material they might not have tried. And once the window crayons or paints are used up, they’re gone! I’ve also given gift certificates for a local ice cream parlor.
  3. Wide appeal: As I mentioned above, there are times I don’t know these school friends very well. I try to choose gifts that have wide appeal and are likely to be enjoyed by children with varied interests.
  4. Affordable: I don’t feel a need to go overboard with these gifts. Affordable means something different to each of us, I’m sure, but in general I choose 1-2 thoughtful but reasonably-priced things.
  5. Respectful of parent wishes: Occasionally, a birthday invitation will specify that party attendees not bring a gift or do something as an alternative to a gift. In these cases, I respect those preferences and either come empty-handed or fulfill the expressed desire for an alternative.

Pictured above are some go-tos of late for us: Kitpas window crayons (every kid I have ever met loves these!) and small age-appropriate card games (check out these list of team favorite coloring supplies and travel games for other ideas). We always add a homemade card and pull the gift together with homemade [recycled] wrapping paper and some colorful washi tape.

What’s your gifting strategy for school classmates? Do share any ideas that have resonated well for you or your child’s friends – I’d love some additional inspiration!

Shannon x

PS: At my daughter’s birthday last spring, a classmate gave her a gift wrapped and finished in custom ribbon that said “Happy Birthday! Love, [classmate’s name].” Such a clever idea for making sure it’s clear who the gift is from, and for helping to keep everything straight for follow-up thank you cards!


Comments (2)

February 3, 2020

We usually give a small book and putty. Or washable markers/beeswax crayons and a small sketch book.

February 5, 2020

Agree that all art items go down very well, and craft kits too, such as ‘make your own tutu’ (sew up one seam!) and older girls like dress designing. Unusual pyjamas have always been popular, board and card games. Wooden items and realistic toy animals have been much loved and things that matched the child’s current interest, such as Playmobile and space. Sending with a swapping receipt always sensible!

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