For busy parents, the “kid birthday party mad dash” is a tale as old as time: Imagine, It’s Saturday, 9:00 am, and you have two party drop-offs on opposite sides of town. The parties start 30-minutes apart and if you don’t get on the road in the next ten, both kids will be late. Between sports practices and play rehearsals this week, gifts fell off the radar this time and you realize you’ll have to find something to pick up on the way. Ugh.
Not only do we get it, but we’ve all been here. A few times, in fact. For parents juggling work, meal prep, carpool, after-school activities, bedtimes and wakeups, etc., finding the time to invest in thoughtful gifts for kid birthday parties isn’t easy. We have some gift-giving ideas to help save families a few minutes, and as we know from experience, in busy-parent currency, time is basically gold.
Gift Ideas for 3-5 year olds: Preschool Players
The world is truly a preschooler’s oyster. Everything is new, mysterious, and curious and the best gifts for 3-5 year olds will be exposure to all the many ways to play and learn. Here are some gift categories we think 3-5 year olds will particularly love (and a few links to favorite products below):
Outdoor play adventures
Let’s rally and embrace the elements: bring on the dirt! There's no better way to teach little ones about the vast ecosystems we inhabit than outdoor exploration.
These outdoor scavenger hunt cards from Wild Creek Co. are the perfect motivator to get your young kids out of the house for a little neighborhood nature walk. We love the open-ended clues that leave room for kids to discover through their senses and bring their own interpretation to the forefront of their mission.
Oh—one more thing. If the scavenger hunt takes a turn for the muddy, which it probably will, here’s a natural, plant-based stain remover from ZeroWasteStore that could come in handy.
Building and construction toys
Building and construction toys often hit the sweet spot to keep kids engaged in parent-free play (because every parent deserves a little break!). Find a set they’ll love - take a look at the Smart STEM Building Sticks below for a great option!
Simisayo Brownstone founded Teni & Tayo Creations when she struggled to find representation of African beauty and culture in games and toys for her daughters growing up in the Los Angeles area. These Smart STEM Building Sticks are perfect for preschool tinkering and experimenting. We love that they are easy to snap and connect, simple to store and have endless options for creation.
Early-learner picture/word books
It’s true, a picture is worth 1,000 words (especially for kiddos 3-5 years old). Early-learning books can help youngsters begin to connect the dots and build new, creative language.
Classics are classics for a reason, and Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever is quite possibly the best book for little ones to learn to link words, pictures and sounds. Brightly, co-founded in Seattle by Laura Alexander Wittig and Liza Moiseeva, is a store on a mission to raise kids who love to read. They offer curated book lists that are easy to navigate by appropriate age range. We love to support women entrepreneurs while expanding our kids’ bookshelves!
Sensory learning activities
Engaging the five senses can mean toys that make lots of noise and make big messes. We admit we love a little less mess but still getting the little hands busy.
What 3-5 year old isn’t interested in going on a digging adventure through bright colored dough and glitter? This Fantasy Dough from Uncommon Goods is more than a toy: it’s a sensory experience and door to an imagined world. We absolutely love that parents don’t have to worry about the ingredients their kids are digging into, as the treasure is created only from plant-based dyes, organic essential oils, organic almond oil, organic jojoba oil, and organic wheat flour.
Gift Ideas for 6-8 year olds: Elementary Explorers
Early elementary schoolers are ready to dive into their budding independence and flex their quickly-growing creative muscles. Some favorite gifts for this age group will give kids the freedom to find their own way within their play, whether it’s solo or with friends. Here are some gift categories we think 6-8 year olds will love:
Legend has it Mozart was composing at age 5…it turns out there’s truly no age limit for creative genius.
When professional artist, mom, and environmentalist Leah Fanning was pregnant with her first child, she discovered that most children’s paints contain harmful toxins and decided to start Natural Earth Paint, an eco-friendly fine-arts supply company. Natural Earth Paint operates out of a 100% solar-powered facility, delivers with 100% post-consumer recycled packaging and donates monthly to environmental causes. We love an environmental commitment that’s just as vibrant as the paint itself!
Building and construction toys
We said it before and we’re saying it again: building is the best. Find the toys that allow kids to tinker, test, and try, try again. For our sophisticated 6-8 year olds, it doesn’t have to be a basic wooden block.
There’s truly no limit to what you can create with magnet packs from Clixo. We especially love these tools as flexible and accessible on-the-go options for kids to keep their hands and minds busy in the car, at restaurants, doctor’s office waiting rooms, or anywhere else parents might hear the “B Word” (bored).
Level-up picture books
Early elementary schoolers are ready to level up their reading game with books that carry important messages for learning and development.
Books always make for great gifts—it’s one of the core rules of gift-giving! At Tokki, we’re especially big fans of books for little ones that carry important meaning behind the story and in Jabari Jumps, author and illustrator Gaia Cornwall tells a tale of overcoming fear and building trust with family.
DIY activities and STEAM kits
Sensory exploration kicked up a notch with an intro to scientific thinking sprinkled in? What’s not to love?
If there’s something we can do to make bath time more fun for reluctant kids, sign us up. Founded by mom and engineer Sandra Oh Lin, KiwiCo delivers hands-on kits to kids for STEAM Learning. These DIY animal bath bombs will turn the bathtub into a chemistry lab, teaching your young ones about acid-base reactions and the science of molecules while making their nighttime routine much more colorful. And we’ve got you covered with a sensitive skin check: they’re made only with natural, kid-safe ingredients including baking soda, citric acid, olive oil, cornstarch and Epsom salt. Parent and child approved.
Birthday Party Readiness aka ‘Mom Hacks’
All of you busy moms, we want to help amp up your birthday party ready factor and minimize the last-minute stop at the store and the scramble for something when you are already running late! Here are a few things that have made it easier and saved us from some of that last-minute crazy scramble. Here are three hacks to help make the gift giving process smooth and easy for busy families:
Who hasn’t realized that they don’t have a card that works for the kiddo or a cute bag handy? Enter Tokki QR cards + reusable gift bags in cute kid prints. Be prepared for any party coming your way with a bundle of Tokkis. With the built-in QR card, there’s no need to search the long rows of cards to find the perfect one for the birthday boy or girl. You can personalize their card with a favorite GIF, from princesses to dinosaurs and beyond, or add a fun photo or video from your kiddo. And feel great that your gift wrap and card are not going into a landfill – the Tokki QR card + gift bags are endlessly reusable and ready for the busy mom to use for the next birthday party.
To prep for the next round of parties, why not stock up to save yourself from the last-minute scramble? When your kids report back on which gifts were the biggest hits, order a few in advance. Or pick a few that work for boys and girls from our tried-and-true lists above, and keep them at the ready. We like to keep 2-3 gifts for each age of kid. Trust us, your future self will thank you.
With a few gifts + Tokki QR card gift bags on hand, your kid is set up to be the best gift giver ever, and with less stress for you. We’d call that a win-win.
We believe in the golden rule of kid birthday party hosting: treat parents to the wine you wish to be treated with (when it’s your turn to throw the party). Grab a few Tokki wine bags + QR card, add your favorite wine, and leave something special for the brave parents who ended their weekend scrubbing colored frosting out of the couch. Your thoughtfulness will go a long way.