Creative, budget-friendly gift ideas for kids

Crystal Intini Alperin

Are you looking for creative gift ideas for kids that won’t destroy your budget? This week, Elizabeth Rago from The Circular Home sent me a message asking for budget-friendly gift ideas for kids.  In today’s blog post, I answer her question* with some gift ideas for kids.

Dear Crystal,

The children are invited to so many birthday parties in the next two months. Do you have any suggestions on creative, budget friendly gift to give?

Thank you,


Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you for sharing your gift-giving conundrum with me. While it’s always a challenge to  find creative, inexpensive birthday gifts for kids, it is even more difficult this time of year when our spending flexibility is limited. My best advice for budget-friendly gift ideas is to purchase a handful of sale/clearance items, assemble them together and create a gift experience, something the recipient can do or use with another.

Before I go to a store, I always shop in my home first. I go on a mini-scavenger hunt in my home and collect any new or unused items I can re-purpose for a gift. I spread out all of my finds and group similar items together. I ask myself: How can these items be used together for something new and fun? What, if anything, can I add to them to create a gift experience?It is amazing how much money I can save by using a clean, gently-used basket, plastic bin, tote or gift bag from my own home and other items I’ve accumulated.

When it’s time to go shopping, I quickly check online flyers for sales. If you don’t have time to check the flyers online, I recommend shopping at dollar stores and the dollar sections in discount retailers like Target. Another good place to look for sale/clearance merchandise is the end-caps of store aisles.

Creative, budget-friendly gift ideas for kids:

1. Bin of craft supplies: This is one of my favorite gifts for kids. Purchase an assortment of crayons, markers, colored pencils, construction paper, stickers, craft pipe cleaners, etc. Add any extra items you have in your house. Place everything in a bin and stuff it with colored tissue paper to hide the items inside.

The picture in this blog post is a craft bin I created to give my niece this holiday season. I re-purposed a clear plastic bin I no longer needed and filled it with items I found rummaging through Back to School clearance merchandise. It will provide hours of fun for my niece and respite for her mom, plus it only cost me around $10!

2. Freezer treat basket:  It may not be summer anymore, but freezer treats are a welcome year-round snack and dessert!  Gather a couple of inexpensive popsicle freezer molds in different shapes and sizes, ingredients to make a variety of popsicle flavors and a couple of recipes. Place all in a basket or in a plastic bin or tub and wrap!

3. Movie night kit: Purchase an inexpensive family-friendly DVD, box of microwave popcorn and boxes of movie-theater candy. Wrap the items in a soft, cozy blanket to encourage family move-time snuggling and tie with ribbon.

4. Imagination in a bag: Buy a bag of plastic army-men or animals, some inexpensive Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars and a bag of rubber balls. Combine all in a brightly-colored gift bag, inexpensive plastic tote or re-purposed bin, basket or container.  Done.

Bizarre combination, right? No, I have not gone crazy. I can tell you from years of experience raising 2 boys and a daughter and watching them play with their friends that these 3 random items provide hours of creative, imaginative play. Sure, the adults in the room might look at you like you’ve lost your mind, but I guarantee that your gift will be a huge hit with the lucky child!

I truly appreciate your email. May your gifts be well-received and your holidays be blessed with health, joy and peace!

Yours in Gift-Giving Delight,

Crystal Intini-Alperin

If you are interested in more gift ideas for babies, kids and teens, you might enjoy reading  3 simple steps to create your own baby gift basket, Summer birthday gift ideas for kidsGift ideas for teen boys and Gift ideas for teen girls.

For additional help and tips on how to plan for the holidays and stick to your budget, check out How to create a holiday gift budget.

Challenge to readers: Do you need holiday gift ideas for specific individuals on your list? I would love to help you! Email me at with the event details, and I will feature your gift conundrum, preserve your anonymity and try my best to provide you with a suggestion or two.Visit the about page of this blog to learn more about me and my goals to inspire your gift-giving spirit!

*Disclaimer: The message in this blog post was slightly modified; however, the question is the same. If you haven’t already entered The Circular Home’s first giveaway courtesy of ModCloth, you can still enter it until tomorrow, November 10.