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How to Buy a Gift for a Child's Birthday Party

Updated on September 20, 2014
Although the Sing a Ma Jig has won awards, my wife and I found it disturbing.
Although the Sing a Ma Jig has won awards, my wife and I found it disturbing.

Choose a Good Present with These Simple Tips

Purchasing a gift for a child's birthday shouldn't be a difficult task, yet it's absolutely shocking how many people have problems choosing a present that both the child and his or her parents will find appropriate and enjoyable.

Most people just wing it when it comes to buying presents for kids who aren't their own. Really, it's just a matter of common sense, yet so few of us even consider the following options when buying children's birthday presents. We just go to the store, pick out something we either think is neat or something our own kids like. Then we buy it.

Ask a few simple question and do a little research and buying a children's birthday gift that the giftee will be a piece of (birthday) cake.

Try not to be evil toys or be funny. (CC-BY 2.0)
Try not to be evil toys or be funny. (CC-BY 2.0) | Source

What's the worst mistake when buying a gift for a child's birthday?

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  1. Age-appropriateness - Make sure the gift you buy is age appropriate. Although it might seem fun to buy a three-year-old a set of Star Wars videos, those movies generally aren't appropriate for a three-year-old. Not only will you disappoint the child, you'll probably irritate the parents, who will be forced to tell the kid no over and over again. The same goes for certain kinds of books. Make sure the books you are buying are appropriate for the child's age and not full of words the child doesn't yet understand or pictures that are inappropriate for the child to see. Buying an age appropriate gift is often one of the harder characteristics to get just right. Sometimes the best way to handle such a thing is to go to a toy store and ask a clerk for help. This is where toy stores beat large department stores. Toy stores have people who have lots of experience selling toys to people and no what's right for children of a certain age and what's not.
  2. Ask the parents - This is such a simple thing to do, yet most parents never do it. The best way to get a good gift for a child is to ask the parents what kind of thing you should be looking for. Does the child like puzzles? Does the kid love books more than television or the other way around? Is the kid more interested in technological things or in simple things? Does the child like to dress up or more cerebral? These questions can be answered easily by asking the parents. Try it. You'll never buy a bad gift again. There's absolutely no shame in asking a child's parents what kind of gift the child would like.
  3. Ask the your kid - If for whatever reason you're too embarrassed to ask a child's parents what kind of gift their kid would like, then ask your own child. You don't have to come right out and say something obvious like "Hey, what should we buy Sammy for his birthday." You can probe and ask questions like "What kinds of things do you do with Sammy?" "What kinds of things does Sammy like?" "What does Sammy talk about?" Depending on the age of your child, this may give you all the information you need to buy a great gift.
  4. Ask the kid - Maybe people think it's some kind of present buying faux pas for the gifter to ask the giftee what kind of present they want. It's not. And trust me, asking a kid what they want and then buying them that thing if it's not too outrageous will win you big points. It's smart too because the kid is going to end up with all kinds of toys they don't really want and won't really play with, but because you asked, you'll be giving that little boy or girl exactly what they want and they'll appreciate it. However, it's probably good to double check with the parents just to make sure the request is okay.
  5. Just buy anything (and include a gift receipt) - If you want to give it the old college try to pick something you think will work as a present, just remember to include a gift receipt. This way, if the kid hates your gift, he or she can go buy whatever they want.
  6. Screw it, just give 'em a gift card - This is the loser's way out. If you don't really want to put that much effort into buying a gift or have just had too many gifts go down in flames, then just get a gift card to Target, or Toys 'R Us, or Amazon.

Age-appropriateness is always a concern when buying toys. (CC-BY 2.0)
Age-appropriateness is always a concern when buying toys. (CC-BY 2.0) | Source

That Sing a Ma Jig thing that has its picture at the top of this article was the inspiration for the article. I think when my first son was one, somebody got that for him for his birthday. Even though it's an award-winning toy, we had never heard of it. I'm sure whoever got it for him was perfectly sincere about it and it probably looked good since it had won awards. Who wouldn't want an award-winning toy? Well, we didn't. In fact, we never let our son see it. We just traded it in or gave it away or something as we found it a little disturbing. It just goes to show you that when it comes to buying gifts for children, it's better to get some information about the kid you're buying the gift for so you can at least get close instead of completely wasting your time.


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  • Karen Ray profile image

    Karen Ray 5 years ago from Oklahoma

    Great suggestions. It's interesting to see what people buy kids sometimes - either way over or way under their age group - and then watch the kids reaction.