What Gift Should I Get for My Young Niece or Nephew?

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So it’s the holiday season or your niece or nephew is having a birthday and you need to decide what gift to get.  For parents that have their own kids, this question might seem like a slam dunk.  On the other hand, for the person that doesn’t have kids, it seems almost impossible to even know where to begin.  So, let’s dive in.

Your niece or nephew’s age determines the degree of difficulty

For all of the talk about how special and unique each baby or toddler is, it turns out that they are all the same.  Ok, maybe they aren’t actually the same but from a gifting perspective, there are certain things that will have almost universal appeal.  At a very young age, children are indiscriminate in their love of toys.  You can almost select a random toy off the shelf, and there is a fairly good shot that it will be a hit.  And while some kids might like certain toys better than others, it is really hard to predict which ones will be the objects of their affection.  As children grow older, they begin to develop their own personalities, with individual likes and dislikes.  Once they have reached four or five, they might be enamored by train sets and bored of puzzles. A few years later the opposite might be true.

Should I ask their parents for gift ideas?

If you really want to get something great, chances are your niece or nephew’s parents know best.  They are going to have the best insight into what their children will like, and perhaps more importantly what they really need – if your niece really likes teddy bears but already has eight of them, does she really need a ninth?  Parents will also know if their child has been pining for a certain toy that they played with at a friend’s house.

On the other hand, when you get a gift for a child, you are also indirectly getting a gift for their parents.  So, you might want your present to be a surprise for everyone involved, particularly if you are going to be there in person when the box is unwrapped and want to glimpse that look on everyone’s face when they open something unexpected and delightful.  One word of caution though, the older your niece or nephew gets, the more it becomes a good idea to coordinate with their parents as it will be more and more difficult to accurately predict what they will like, unless of course you really spend a lot of time together.  Asking their parents also helps to avoid situations where three people get the same gift.

What is the occasion for this gift?


You might think that the occasion doesn’t matter much.  After all, wouldn’t your nephew enjoy the same things that he receives for his birthday as he would for Christmas?  This might be true, but there are a couple of nuances to consider.  For one, if you are getting a holiday gift, it opens up the possibility of getting something holiday themed.  You might get your niece a Christmas stocking on December 25th, but not for a birthday that falls in July.  In addition, if the holiday season is rolling through and you need to find gifts for two nephews and three nieces, you might think differently about things than if you are only shopping for one.  When shopping for a group of kids that are roughly the same age, you might look at getting all of them the same gift.  How about new PJs, sleds or piggy banks for everyone?  Oh, and if this is a gift for the expected arrival of a new baby, take a look at these ideas.

How much should I spend?


There is some good news and some bad news here.  At a young age, most gifts are practically disposable.  The new outfit or toy that is the perfect gift for a two your old may be relegated to the dust bin long before the child turns three.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that because of the ephemeral nature of these gifts, the bar for how much to spend is actually quite low.  In fact, there is virtually no floor.  If you find a shirt that you like on sale for $3, snatch it up, wrap it and call it a day.  And while some people might enjoy spoiling their relatives with extravagant objects, there is generally no need to reach beyond the $15 – $20 mark, at least for young children.


As kids get older, their tastes and desires grow as well.  They may no longer be amused by a slinky or a toy car.  As gifts begin to get more expensive, joint gifting is highly recommended.  Coordinate with the child’s other aunts, uncles, grandparents or anyone else and pool your resources.  That way, you can get them something they really like rather than several gifts that might get a lukewarm reception.

Gift ideas with broad appeal


Young children can never have enough clothes. Onesies, shirts, pajamas, and hats are always welcome if only to reduce the frequency with which laundry must be done.  Books can be great gifts as well.  Even if your niece already has a vast reading collection, chances are that they have already read every book at least eleven times.  Something fresh will be well received.  Decorations can also be nice gifts, particularly since these gifts have a chance of standing the test of time.  You might get a nice canvas for your nephew’s bedroom wall, or a sign for your niece to hang on the door proclaiming “Alison’s Room” for all to see.  Then there are toys.  Blocks, trains, stuffed animals, squeaky toys, cars, walkers, rattles, balls, tool sets, and many, many more.

The joy of a child opening up a new present is almost unrivaled in the world of gift giving.  Children are far more likely than adults to be genuinely and visibly ecstatic when unwrapping something new and interesting.  Happy shopping!