Top 5 Last Minute Gift Ideas for Kids on a Budget


You don’t have to be a parent to experience that moment of personal disappointment when you realize that you have forgotten that it’s someone’s birthday. Tomorrow. Someone young. Someone for whom presents are a big deal.

Great. Now what?

Need some ideas? Here are a few gift ideas that we have personally made before. Although we haven’t used them all as last minute gift ideas, we know that they are quick to prepare, and some of the least expensive we have ever made. I give you, in no particular order:

Our Top 5 Last Minute Gift Ideas for Kids on a Budget:

Homemade play dough
Beyond a genius gift idea, this is also a great investment of 20 minutes of your time for kids who have reached the place where the most creative idea they have is to get on each other’s last nerve – and yours too, by extension. Homemade play dough is instant get-along magic paste. Laughter and bonding are sure to follow. But that’s beside the point. Homemade play dough is a great, easy gift – and the recipient’s parent(s) will thank you. Cost: $5 or less for ingredients. 20 minutes of your time.  

A-frame Tent/Fort
We have made these for our kids and they love hanging out in them. The frame itself consists of  2×1 pieces of wood and a wooden dowel. Assemble the pieces of wood and fasten a sheet to it, and voilà, you have created an inexpensive, light-weight collapsible tent. These directions include measuring and cutting fabric, and creating loops to fasten it to the frame. To simplify things, you can buy a used sheet at goodwill (go for the most interesting print you can find), and a few clothespins/clamps will do instead of fancy loops. This project does require a drill and spade bit (to drill holes). If you already own those two items, you’re looking at a cost of about $10 and a couple hours of your time to pick up necessary items and assemble them.  

Homemade treats
Cookies, Banana Bread, Toffee, as long as it’s home made and sweet, you’re going to make one happy youngster. Plus, if you’re giving them a reasonable amount of it, then you’ve just gifted yourself some awesome homemade deliciousness. Bam. You’re welcome. From you. Cost: $5 or so, plus an hour or more of your time, depending on what you’re making. 

Ladybug Counting Game
Not only are these ladybugs really cute, and make for a fun counting and matching game, the best part for us is that they came from rocks in our backyard. I realize that not everyone has rock with the right shape in their backyard, in which case a quick trip to Michaels is in order, but it worked out great for us. Actually, a quick trip to a craft store is likely a requirement as most of us don’t have a collection of googly eyes hanging around our home. Also, you don’t have to be super crafty to make these cute bugs. Cost: $2-10 (depending on what crafting supplies you need). Time commitment: several hours, no account of the red paint needing to dry. 

Mini Notebooks
Go to the school supply section of your local grocery store and find the tiniest notebooks you can. Grab 2-3 of them, plus a small box of crayons, and watch one kid’s eyes light up when they tear open the gift you got them! We put these in our young kids’ stockings every Christmas and they are always a hit. Every time. Cost: about $1 per notebook, and another $1 for crayons. Time: a trip to the grocery store. 

As a bonus, here are some gift ideas that can be the biggest hit with youngsters at no cost to you:

An empty cardboard box (good for ages 2-6?) – this works for cats too.

A ball of used wrapping paper (ages 9-18 months or so) – this works for cats too.

Zulily cards – ok so this one does require that you purchase something on Zulily, but their packages always include an activity card that our kids love to fight over. Seriously, there have been more tears than I can count over those silly cards. Order some stuff on Zulily, collect the activity cards, and hand them out as a surprise to brighten any young child’s day!

~ Jeremy

Jeremy headshot cropped




Jeremy Martin-Weber is the proud father of 6 inspiring girls, and is 19 years into a love story with his partner, Jessica Martin-Weber. 

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