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Essential Lists & Tips

How to Buy Birthday Presents for 3-Year-Old Boys

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I have always found it difficult to buy presents for boys of all ages. When I try to be creative, I end up giving them something random and inappropriate, like a dirty joke book or an encyclopaedia of golf (if you play golf, do you really want to read trivia about it?). Otherwise, it’s shirts and trousers – boring but functional.

So I sympathise with people wondering about what to get toddler boys when you get invited to a birthday party and don’t want to give them cash in an envelope.

Here are two lists. One list is what the toddler boy will like (admittedly, I’m basing this off the small pool of little boys I know). The other is what his parents might prefer. Both require a bit of research beforehand. If you want it to be a surprise for both the boy and his parents, check out their Facebook feed or ask friends or relatives closer to them.

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What a 3-year-old boy might like as a present:

  • Small vehicles like Hot Wheels – there are far too many already in the house, but his face will light up and you will be rewarded with shrieks of delight. Hot Wheels are the building blocks of Alex’s toy collection. He has zillions and they can occupy him for a long time when he gets in the zone.
  • Trains like Thomas & Friends, Chuggington, Takara Tomy, along with tracks – a step up from Hot Wheels in terms of wow factor at a birthday party. You will be remembered for sure.
  • Dinosaur toys – Playmobil, Lego, and the like.
  • Paraphernalia related to action heroes like Spiderman, Batman, Ironman, what-have-you man, whether it’s costumes or beeping and flashing accessories.
  • Spaceship models.
  • A play toolbox, with kiddie hammers, screwdrivers and nuts and bolts.
  • Edible treats – chocolates, biscuits, lollipops, ice cream. Instant gratification, and if birthdays are about a barrage of indulgence, you are on the right path.

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What the 3-year-old boy’s parents might prefer:

  • NO MORE (___insert his favourite thing____).
  • If you’re close to them and they trust you with their toddler, a voucher promising a future outing with the 3-year-old. This doesn’t have to be a full-on day’s outing. Even an hour to a different playground than he is used to, or ice cream and a movie would work well. The change of scenery will be fun for them, and you will also be giving the parents a break. Better yet, pair the toddler trip with a voucher for the parents to have a drink or tea somewhere, just the two of them.
  • Tickets to concerts like Hi-5, amusement venues like Kidzania or J Kids, or places of interest like Farm in the City or Aquaria KLCC.
  • Books – preferably not of his favourite subject, since he’ll probably have loads already. Books these days can be very expensive, so get something the parents may not be inclined to splurge on, like pop-up books, books with flaps and magnets and sound effects, or Junior tag books. Go to a bookshop like Kinokuniya and browse the kids’ section if you have time and are inclined towards something more personal.

What would you add to my lists?

Uma is a Malaysian working mum with a French husband and a toddler named Alex living in their fourth country together.

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