Back-to-school birthday ideas that don’t break the bank

With the school year under way, you may find yourself with party invitations from your kids' new friends and you know nothing about them! So what do you do for a gift?

Emily Blodgett aka the "Bus Stop Mama" said, "Let your child come up with their own idea. It may be painful (haha!) but we're not our children!"

She added:

"If they're having a hard time coming up with ideas, ask a few questions:

Gift giving idea questions:
What games do they like to play at school?
What's their favorite school subject?
What do they get excited talking about?
What have you seen them do for others?

And we can ask similar questions as adults!"

And what about budget! It's tough to buy a present for every single kid your child is friends with!

"It's safe to say we've all had times when the budget is tight and you don't want your child feeling like they gave the 'lame' gift. So here are some pointers for inexpensive gifts that come from the heart:

Ask your children (and yourself):
What are you good at?
Do you have a gift-able skill?
REMEMBER: DON'T UNDERESTIMATE YOUR TALENTS! It's easy to brush off our talents, but what's common to us is special or extraordinary to others!"

Emily also said showing up for others is the greatest gift.

And you can also shop sales!

"Buy things at craft stores when they're on sale or clearance. Have a small stockpile of generic gifts!"

You can make gifts, too! Some of Emily's ideas:

An apron or tote bag painted with their friends name (even better, include watercolor paints OR paintbrushes OR a treat)
Make a painting or drawing
Knit, crochet, cross-stitch something they love
Make an art bucket (can also be a baking or hair bucket)

And if the way to their heart is currency, Emily's idea is to give money equal to their age, or make up your own gift cards, such as:

A 'Spa treatment' card, and include hair clips, nail polish, or bubble bath
A 'Trip to the park' coupon, with a jump rope or ball
A 'Play catch' gift card, with a baseball or bucket of balls
A 'Hike' coupon, accompanying a nature scavenger hunt
A 'Play dough' party, where you plan a time to make it together and include a cookie cutter or objects that create interesting patterns

Now that you have the gifts down, what about throwing birthday parties, especially if you have a lot of kids?

Emily advises:

"Let your children plan it! They'll be in charge of food and activities. Just set a budget and shop together. If possible, go alone with your child and make your time together fun! It's important for parents and children to have 1 on 1 time.

Remember, their friends' imaginations are just as good as our children's. They'll remember a basic party as being 'magical' because it was created in their minds.

My final tip is relax! You're doing better than you think!"

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