Practical Kids Birthday Gifts That Really Are GREAT!

If you’re like me, you can’t just pick a birthday gift for a party. You hate to show up with something you just grabbed spontaneously that could potentially have zero worth. You stress over practical, functional gifts versus fun things that parents may not be apt to buy.

Do you help the parent out or do you buy the kid a potentially unnecessary gift, like a toy?

It’s hard to guess because every kid is different, and you really have no idea (or can’t remember) what a four-year-old (insert any age) might want.

“Is this too baby? Is this too old? Does he already have this? How many other gifts will she be getting? Maybe he really could use a new toy.” You could ask the parent directly, but sometimes that feels even less fun.

It’s just a gift for crying out loud!

However, if you’re also like me, you really appreciate practical gifts, things you know you need or will need but don’t necessarily want to go buy yourself. Yes, I bought sheets for my niece and nephew’s new beds one Christmas to throw my sister-in-law a bone. The kids weren’t necessarily thrilled, but they had plenty of other gifts, and it totally made their mom happy.

Here are some practical birthday gift ideas for kids if you want to put your money toward an item that’s a bit more functional:

  • Memberships, passes, classes. Kids museum membership, theme park passes, sporting event tickets, specialty classes. These really are gifts that keep on giving.
  • Experiences. Similar to above. Especially if you’re a close family member, take the kiddo on an adventure. Memories are way more meaningful than toys.
  • Gift cards or cash. Our son’s birthday is right before Christmas which leaves an entire season out of the gift-giving game. It’s nice to tuck away gift cards or cash for pop-up needs, like bigger-sized jammies, savings, experiences or even older age-appropriate toys.
  • College fund donation. We joke that we’re going to make a note on invitations for people to donate to our son’s college fund. We’ll never do it. But if someone gave me a card with money that said, “Put it toward the college fund,” that would make my day.
  • Bigger clothes. Since we celebrate our son’s birthday and the holidays close together, there is an awkward part of the year where he needs to size up. You also never know when a growth spurt will hit, so it’s nice to have bigger-sized clothes ready-to-go.
  • Seasonal clothing. Winter on the horizon? Christmas, summer, anything of the sort? Buy something fitting to the season – a jacket, a swimsuit, a hat, holiday outfits.
  • Pajamas. Kids tend to get a lot of clothes but not necessarily a lot of pajamas. They need multiple sets, and they will always be used. They’re also my favorite to buy as a gift.
  • A nice outfit. No doubt there will be a random occasion pop up where existing closet options will not suffice. A nice outfit is great to have on standby.
  • Shoes. If you want to buy a gift you know will get used – shoes. We love our Sperry’s, our Nike’s or any other kind. Especially with a boy, we just don’t buy a ton.
  • School supplies. I don’t have a school-aged kiddo yet, but I do love our monogrammed seersucker backpack we received. And when I was a kid, you could buy me Lisa Frank anything. Think both fun and practical. Maybe even items related to school sports.
  • Food-related items. Water bottle. Unique plates. Snacks. Lunch bag. So functional.
  • Hygiene necessities. A new toothbrush. Panties. Diapers! These items may not fly when kids are older, but when they’re little, this mom says, “Thank you!”
  • Bath supplies. We love our bath color drops and bath crayons. Fun toys, personalized towels, bubble bath, soap, shampoo – we’ll use it all.
  • Furniture and decor. Sheets, curtains, rugs, an art table, a new dresser, a new bed, comforter set – any piece of furniture needed or desired to spruce up a room.
  • Splurge items. Personalized anything. A custom or handmade gift. A cool local tee. Bean bag or anytime chair. Luggage. Sleeping bag. Anything that might be hard for a parent to justify the splurge, but will definitely get put to use.

You may think some of these ideas are totally lame. You may think some are totally normal. Either way, these gifts are totally appreciated, and if the kid is still young, you can totally get away with buying super practical gifts.

What are some of your favorite practical kids gifts that you love to either give or receive? And for what age?


Kendra Germenis
Kendra joined the mom club in 2016, followed by the #boymom club in Summer 2019. Kendra loves to write, and for AMB, enjoys sharing her new parent experiences, tips, and general love of Austin. For her, life is a balance of spending quality time with her family, pursuing her program management career, and still soaking up life and adventures. She also freelances through her art and design shop, Kitsy Co. Assorted loves: art, date nights, culture, road trips, Bravo, breweries, chocolate, house remodeling, sunshine, live music and patios.


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