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The No-Fail Kids Birthday Party Gifts I Give Over and Over

published May 31, 2022
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One of the biggest joys of being an adult with kids in your life is giving gifts to those children. Watching a child’s face light up or getting a grateful text from a parent about how your gift has kept their kid happy and entertained for over an hour (IYKYK!) is heart-warming. 

Of course, giving gifts that hit the spot to your own children is delightful, but giving gifts to your children’s friends or your nieces, nephews, grandchildren, etc. is rewarding in its own right. Buying birthday gifts for others becomes one of those (joyful) tasks to pencil in on the calendar. 

But it’s too easy to get caught, as I often have been, in that pre-party scramble surrounding the questions of What does so-and-so like? What should we get for so-and-so? and the somewhat awkward texts with parents about what their child is into these days. To stymie the birthday gift-giving chaos and confusion, I’ve begun keeping a mental list, and sometimes a small physical inventory, of go-to-gifts for the children in our lives that we love to shower with love on their birthdays. 

As a parent myself, I have some thoughts about what makes a really good gift. I aim to give something that, even if it’s geared toward children of a certain age, can be enjoyed by multiple children in the family, and even by parents and other caregivers. This means not only that multiple members of the family can benefit from the gift, but also that the gift will “keep on giving” as the child gets older. In addition to gifts that encourage group play, I also appreciate gifts that foster open-ended play or support a child’s development at a certain stage. 

For sure, books and experiences (like a local zoo membership or tickets to a special event) are wonderful gifts. But sometimes a physical gift that can be wrapped and opened and handled and played with feels best. 

Whether the following list of suggestions is helpful to simply keep in mind or it nudges you to have a stash of gifts ready for the next birthday gathering, here are my current go-to gifts for elementary school children: 

Ages 6-7

1 / 3

We discovered this game when my mom gave it to my son for his birthday. Players get to ask ten questions to guess the animal on the card. We love it because it fosters strategic thinking and communication. Older kids can play it alone, but it’s also fun for parents to play with their kids. The game is available in multiple subjects, including animals, cities of the world, dinosaurs, states of America, professions, food around the world, and more (note that some versions are for slightly older kids).

2 / 3
Learning Resources

This game is versatile, educational, and fun. We love that it’s a great independent activity, perfect for some quiet time, but it can also be played in pairs, honing communication skills. Bonus: It doesn’t have little pieces to keep track of.

3 / 3

Magna-Tiles always and forever. My kids have played with them since they were toddlers and each of them still plays with them (my oldest is 13). Magna-Tiles check all the boxes: They are great for independent and group play, they are open-ended, and they are durable and beautiful. Another great thing is that you can contribute to a child’s Magna-Tiles collection at a number of price-points. Whether you’re getting them started with a 100-piece set or augmenting their existing collection with the Arctic Animals set, or this expansion set, Magna-Tiles provide hours of entertainment for years to come.

Ages 8-9

1 / 4

We first encountered this toy at a friend’s house and it instantly got put on my list of go-to gifts. Remote control cars are always a winner and this set takes it up a notch by adding the bumper car and ejecting drivers element. Playing is fun and watching is fun. Expect lots of giggles with this one.

2 / 4

My 9-year-old son jumps for joy whenever his KiwiCo box arrives. KiwiCo offers children of all ages monthly subscription boxes with activities that suit their interests. For me, Kiwi Crates feel like pre-packaged quality time for me with my children. They can do most of the projects on their own, but they always come share what they’ve worked on with me. Other times, we work on them together. You can buy kits a la carte, like this Light-It-Up Electronics set, or purchase subscriptions of different durations.

3 / 4
Fat Brain Toys
was $48.95

This toy is a classic and it has engrossed each of my older children. An introduction to electronics that’s fun and safe, the kit contains instructions for building a flying saucer, an alarm circuit, a musical doorbell, and more. Instructions for a total of 101 projects are included. Snap Circuits Jr. piques subject matter curiosity through fun. More advanced kits, perfect for future gifts, are available if children show a continued interest.

4 / 4

It’s a maze in a ball and it’ll have your 8- to 9-year-olds quietly absorbed for good stretches of time. The Perplexus Rebel is perfect for having around for those in-between “bored” moments when kids tend to get themselves into trouble. By guiding a tiny ball through a series of maze puzzles, kids practice critical thinking, logic, problem-solving, and spatial reasoning.

Ages 10-11

1 / 4

We first bought this as a gift for our own two older boys and have since gifted it to a few of their friends. Every person who’s received it has been thrilled. The pull-up bar is a great way to occupy kids this age and even get the whole family involved in cheering each other on.

2 / 4

This is another game that we’ve gifted to several friends. It is guaranteed to have everyone who plays rolling with laughter. The game consists of challenges with items like plastic cups, dice, chopsticks, and balls (all included). Cards tell players what they have to do and the rest of the players “bet” on whether they think the challenge can be completed. It’s a total blast and a great activity for family game night.

3 / 4
Fat Brain Toys

Kanoodle is a small gift that packs hours of quiet, focused fun. It’s perfect for bringing along on a car ride or to a restaurant. It’s a spatial reasoning game that comes with challenges of varying difficulty.

4 / 4

If you're looking for a gift that goes above and beyond, this is it. For kids who don’t have a phone (and even for ones that do), the magic of Polaroid-style picture-taking comes packaged in this adorable camera. Kids will love taking pictures of special moments or pets or people and being able to have their photos in-hand so they can display them.

More Birthday Gift Ideas from Cubby