Kids birthday Gifts – What’s “Normal”?

It was the birthday of Miss CF a while ago, the little bugger already turned 3 years old. We had a great birthday party with lots of family. Little Miss CF had a blast and enjoyed all the attention and gifts. Which brings us to the topic of today’s post, what is a “normal” birthday gift for a small child and how much do/should you spend on this as parents? Do you buy new of used (or both)?

Kids birthday Gifts – What’s “Normal”?

I realize that this will depend on your financial position and financial mind-set. As our financial position is solid (we are very fortunate and realize this frequently) but our financial mind-set is frugal, this provides a bit of a conflict.

Kids birthday Gifts – What’s “Normal”?
Kids birthday Gifts – What’s “Normal”?

This year we spend €54 for Miss CF. As we don’t have much references, we are not sure if this is very little, “normal” or a lot (or all of the above). For this amount of money we got her the following:

  • Small kitchenette (€50);
  • Inflatable donut for swimming (€1.0);
  • Large toy flower (€1.0);
  • Pink hair band (€0.75);
  • 6 magnetic butterflies for on the fridge/whiteboard (€0.75); and,
  • 6 party whistles (€0.50).

The kitchenette we bought used off Marktplaats (local ebay, kijiji, etc.) and doubted a while before buying this one as it was one of the more expensive ones available, but it looked amazing and was in a very good scape. When the time comes Miss CF is outgrown the Kitchenette, we will likely be able to sell it again for anywhere between €25 and €40 (based on current prices). So in reality it may only cost us anywhere between €10 and €25, which is not a lot of money.

The other 5 items we bought at a thrift store. We let Miss CF pick out her own gifts, which is always a winner. We also made sure she got some extra attention and time from us that weekend, which resulted in an overall very happy kid.

And you guessed correctly, the six party whistles were the greatest thing in her mind. She played with them for hours, lots of giggles and laughs (and driving us crazy), and was very protective of them during the birthday party. Go figure. 2016-10-gift

The little things

But it comes to show that she favour the little things as much (or more) as the bigger ones (at least for now), however the thing she favours most is attention/experiences. Hope she can keep doing this for many more years to come, would make her a great candidate to become FI early on in her life (which would make us a couple of very proud parents ;-).

What do you think? How much do you pay for gifts for your kids (or how much would you be willing to pay)? Do you feel cheap if you buy something small or cheap?

P.s. sorry for the crummy photo of the kitchenette, got to love the quality of camera’s on most phones 😉


  1. Oh boy, we have three children of 8, 7 and almost 2 years old (and still very well on the road to FI) 😉 and we dont really give big birthday gifts for the girls! Instead, we make sure they each get a birthday party with family and friends, a birthday party for friends from school, and we provide treats for their teacher and class…it all adds up, you know 🙂 So they get something small from us, and they get presents from grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends from school…During the year we give them everything they need of course, and I regularly give them dolls and stuff from fleamarkets and secondhand sites.
    As for my small boy (almost 2), I give him secondhand gifts. He already has heaps of toys from his big sisters, so he doesn t need much.
    When he is older we will treat him the same as his sisters.

    1. Your way ahead of us 😉 But we will stick to one of these little buggers. Think we are on the same page as to gifts and their strategy for the kids. We also have been receiving way too many things from family (albeit we try to steer them a bit on occasion). There are a few older girls in the family, we therefore have been surviving on clothing/toys from them up till now. But our girl is growing rather fast and is poised to be tall, so is catching up really fast. In short, we will have to start buying her new/used stuff pretty soon.

  2. Hey both,

    Looks like some nice gifts you found to buy your child(ren)!

    When I used to be under 10, I got quite a lot of presents. Honestly I didn’t know the value of money back then so I don’t think the price of a gift really matters, as long as it makes them happy.

    When I became a teenager, my parents stopped buying me presents for Easter, Bday, Sinterklaas, Christmas… This was a pity. They were always saying like ‘Later you’ll get something when you buy a house’, but honestly this isn’t what a teenager wants to hear. Try not to make the same mistake as I still think it was a bad move. Presents shouldn’t cost much, an experience is cool too, but just the fact that you get something (even small) as a gift is a nice thing. Every time I receive a dividend, it feels like it’s my birthday, even if it’s only a small sum.

    1. I recognize the feeling (albeit we only even got presents at Birthdays and Sinterklaar). As a kid you should be allowed to live without worries and feel special, but you also have to learn that gifts are not free. There is a fine line here, but I think you hit the nail on the head. Even small surprices, gifts or expriences, are important for kids, whether they are toddlers, small kids or teenagers.
      Cheers Mate!

  3. Hmm.. I can’t say my parents have given me a lot of things when I was little. I actually didn’t ask for any presents when I was little, maybe that was the problem. I still don’t view my parents as cheap though, as material possession didn’t really resonate with me (unless it was something trendy, like yu-gi-oh cards). Something to think about once I have kids in the future!

    1. I was definitely materialistic when i was younger. You seem to have had a good head start in life not having it. Makes life a lot less complicated.

  4. In general, I always tend to turn this stuff around; think about what an appropriate gift for the person is, check what it will cost you and then decide whether it’s worth it.

    I don’t have children myself (yet), but the gifts for my girlfriend have varied between 5 EUR (sleeping a night in a friend’s hay stack; hence only a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne) to 500 EUR (a new smart phone to drag my lady-friend into into the 21st century).

    As always, it really is the thought that counts. Specially with small kids, you never know what will spark their interest.

    1. That would be the alternative way to look at it. It’s actually of how me made the decision for the kichenette. Fortunatly the response was great, so it was worth the money.
      As for gifts between us, we have abolished gifts in year two. Both did not like the “stress” about having to think about. And now that we have had the same bank account for a decade, there is also no point as every cent is checked and allocated. We just spend some time together and relax.

  5. I think it’s not so much about how much it costs, but the quality and enjoyment they’ll get – especially at that age. They won’t know if it cost $5 secondhand, or $100 brand new – they’ll just know that they love it.

    I think it’ll get a little more tricky when they’re heading towards the 5 year old and above mark, especially teenagers. I know that when I was a teenager my parents and I treated birthdays as a way to give me things I “needed” – like a new phone, or upgrading my computer. I hope we can do a similar thing for our children, and it’ll mean we won’t be doubling up on expenses during the year – they’ll need a new computer whether it’s a Birthday gift or a random purchase, giving it as a gift hits 2 birds with one stone (and the kids still love it!).

  6. We’ve only had two birthdays with Toddler BITA, so not much experience. For her second birthday we spent $50 and bought her a bouncy horse (the kind that she can sit on and bounce up and down). So far she has been rather easily fascinated by empty boxes, ribbon, a pile of stones from the garden etc. I imagine that this whole gift thing will get harder the older she gets, especially once she is old enough to compare herself with her peers and their gifts. Also, we put away most of the gifts she got at her second birthday party and have been opening them with her slowly through the year. I feel that way she appreciates each one more. For Christmas this year we are considering asking her grandparents to honor the “one thing she wants, one thing she needs, one thing she’ll wear, one thing to read” rule. Even if we as parents don’t buy her too many gifts I don’t want her to be inundated with gifts from other relatives. I want gifts to be exciting things, things that she looks forward to, and appreciates. Too many will make them ordinary and unappreciated.

    1. Fair point, the peer comparison is a very tricky thing. Not sure how we will deal with this when she gets older, but I guess we will go with what feels right (for us that is 😉

      We had not heard of the “one thing she wants, one thing she needs, one thing she’ll wear, one thing to read” rule, kind of cool. But guess we would prefer to split that between more parties than just the grandparents. Than again, we don’t do as many gifts with Christmas as what’s more common in the states. It’s primarily dinners and family/friend visits for us.

  7. Not having kids of our own, I have a hard time giving a reference value fom experience. For our cousins and nieces, we typically spend up to 10 euro’s for a gift.

  8. When our daughter turned 2, we gave her a doll house we got at a flea market. She loved it! And we loved it as well. Now they are getting a bit older, we are giving them a bit pricier presents, but we still try to keep it down as much as possible.

    1. Hey Sjoukje,
      Nice going? Flea markets can provide you with some real treasures.
      Guess when the get older, they also request pricier gifts as well. Will see!
      thanks for the visit.

  9. Sounds like a great party.

    We spend between 20 and 30 I guesstimate. In my experience, the extra attention is also the best they can get. A hand made crown and all others singing a song

    Our kitchen for kids is already 4 years old and still going strong… They have their moments to play with it and ignore it.
    With my godchild, he is 11, I try to go for experience gifts. I ask him for my birthday an experience as well.

    1. We are definitely aiming for the experiences more than the gifts. But we noticed that Miss CF really likes kitchenettes, so that is primarily why we got her one. It’s also a more sustainable toy (solidly build and made from wood), we like that too. Better then lots of plastic crap that fall apart in no-time.

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