8 Birthday Gift Alternatives

Violet’s birthday is next week + she happens to have a crazy number of friends with birthdays all in a 5-week time frame so I’ve been thinking a lot about birthdays…and both traditional gifting as well as birthday gift alternatives. I want to say plainly there’s nothing wrong with traditional birthday gifts! But if you feel like your kid has plenty of stuff, or you want to simplify, or your kid has identified they don’t want traditional presents, here are my favorite recommendations for birthday gift alternatives that will retain plenty of love and meaning.

1. Book swap

One year, Laurel attended a birthday party where the gift request was to bring a wrapped book (used or new) for a book swap. It was so fun to watch the kids open and chat about their books (and trade already-read titles). This was also awesome for the following reasons: 1) yay for encouraging reading; 2) great if you have a voracious reader at home who mows through books; 3) every kid gets a little something to take home.

2. Puzzle swap

This follows the book swap idea above and I want to specifically recommend a puzzle swap because oftentimes kids will do puzzles a few times (or maybe once if it’s a 500 or 1,000 piece puzzle) and then the puzzles just take up space. (You could apply this concept to games too, but games feel a little more complicated for some reason!)

3. Handmade only

Violet recently attended a birthday party where the ask was for handmade gifts only. So sweet and it was a great little project for Violet to work on too.

4. Charitable gifts

This year Violet attended a party where the kid asked for donations or animal toys to donate to a local shelter, given that the kid’s family recently adopted a shelter cat. We made a shelter donation together and Violet made a sweet cat card for her friend. So adorable! If your kid is interested in something specific, there is no shortage of charitable organizations to support! You can ask your guests either to make a donation directly or collect items to donate to the organization of your child’s choice. I also wanted to mention a great way for kids to pay it forward to other kids: Birthday Wishes is a wonderful local organization that provides birthday parties to homeless children.

5. Time together

Another great (and clutter-free!) idea is the gift of a special get together, whether it’s a movie night, a sleepover invitation, or a visit to a local museum or bouncy playground.

6. Support a local business

I love the simplicity of a small ($5-10) gift certificate to a local ice cream store or cafe near the birthday kid’s home so they can pick a treat. Little kids don’t typically have their own currency and a little gift certificate would give them that agency!

7. Contribution to a collectibles project

Is your kid a collector? Whether it’s little inexpensive glass animals, trying to collect quarters from all 50 states, or nature specimens for scientific observation, if your kid loves collecting something, invite friends to bring something for that project!

8. Simply no gifts

Finally, some families simply request no gifts. And when they say that, they really mean it! Simply have your child make a handmade card and honor the request.

Alternative birthday gift ideas

Alternative birthday gift ideas