Appropriate amount to spend for 4 yo birthday gift

I'm sorry if this is a repeat question -- I looked through the archives but the most recent answer I saw was from 2013.

What is an appropriate amount to spend on a gift for a 4 yo? Is it still $10-15 for someone you don't know as well and perhaps more for someone you know more like $15-20.  This is what the archives suggest.  My friend in Chicago says $15-20 is standard and possibly more in California!  Really!!  For a 4 yo?

I'm one that doesn't believe more is better but I just don't know what is "appropriate".  Up until now, almost all the 4 yo parties we have attended have requested "no gifts please" and this is the first time we've been invited to a party where this is not stated so I assume a gift is in order.

Also because I don't know what kids have in terms of toys and what they like etc., I like to purchase "experiences" such as a gift certificate to a local ice cream shop.  Is that appropriate? 


Parent Replies

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Color me the most boring parent on the planet but I buy books -- I go to the local book store and buy something age appropriate or a little older. Books are easy to pass along, don't break, and you can take them anywhere. They are also easy to return if you ask for a store receipt to be included inside the book. I don't worry about the price tag but it is seldom over $20. Our local bookstore (A Great Good Place for Books) also wraps. I'd rather get a book than hunt for the "perfect" toy that will likely sit in a corner never to be used. 

We just celebrated my son's 4th birthday a few days ago. We didn't bother to explain on the invites whether gifts were necessary or how much it should be but we did mention on our FB event page that they could choose to contribute to a single large "group gift" my partner and I were getting for our son anyway. Honestly I don't believe you need to over think this one as the point of a 4 year-old birthday party is for the kids to have fun. You can choose a gift of experiences or food or even cash and gift cards of any value you're comfortable with but I'm sure that's not the priority for the hosting parents. As the saying goes: it's the thought that counts.

My kids are 9 and 12 now so we have been to many parties. We have a tradition of making " treasure boxes" using a cute cookie tin or cigar box or nice gift box. However old the child is turning, we put that many dollars in the box, as well as confetti, shells, pretty rocks, marbles, key chains, dice, a domino with the age of the child, any other trinkets my kids find around the house that they want to pass on- if you know something the child likes, such as Lego, then perhaps a few Lego pieces....these are all things we find around our house but if you don't have these items, the dollar store has marbles or glass beads, etc...we also usually decorate the box with stickers and their name, and magnets if its a tin. This was a fun activity for my kids and they would sweetly pick nice things they were ready to give away. More fun than just buying something impersonal! Many times the parents would tell us later how much the child loved it!

Four-year-olds don't need a lot of expensive anything. A good book (can be paperback) and a certificate for an ice cream cone should make any little, or big, kid pretty happy. Melanie

Experience gifts and gift cards are all appropriate and as a parent I really like them though my kids prefer regular gifts like toys or books since it is more tangible.  Gifts for my kids' friends and kids in their preschool classes are usually about $15 or so, $20 if it is my kids' actual friend.  Now if I consider the parents a friend and those are kids of our family friends (and not just kids my kids know from preschool) I usually do $20-40, and if the party is at an expensive location then sometimes even $50 or more.  So it all depends. 

My policy is no more than $10; I shop Target and always include the receipt taped to the item so the parent can return it if they don't like it, already have it, or would prefer to spend that $$ on socks! (lol) Also for my own kids' 4th birthday, I was still able to get away with saying "no gifts". Now they won't let me do that! - but it's still my preference, both as the host and guest.