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What is the perfect gift to give your niece or nephew?

28 June, 2017

What is the perfect gift to give your niece or nephew?

Are you looking for the perfect gift, but you're not sure where to even start? Follow our simple step-by-step guide to make sure your present is exactly what your niece or nephew really wants.

This guide focuses on babies and children up to 5 years old - there's not much we don't know about gifts for little kids.  Above that age, we're still learning so will have to get back to you!

For specific ages, take a look at our more detailed guides:

In this guide, we will cover the following steps to finding the perfect gift for your niece or nephew (or any other little child in your life!):

  1. Choose a gift that fits in with the family style
  2. Make sure your gift is age appropriate
  3. How to pick a gift that suits your niece/nephew's personality
  4. What do you want the gift to say about you?
  5. How much should you spend on your gift?


STEP 1: Choose a gift that fits in with the family style

What do I mean by family style?

I mean, is this the sort of family who has chaos, kids and kaboodle everywhere?  Or are they the sort of family who wouldn't dream of having anything out of place or not matching their aesthetic?

There are lots of different family styles, but I reckon most families can be grouped into one of three key categories:


how to buy the perfect gift - scandi style family

This family is quite minimalist by nature.  Everything they own is design-led, stylish and has its own special place in the house.  Their floorboards will have been stripped back, sanded, and probably repainted white.

Think monochrome, simple patterns or block colours.  Consider the design aspect of any gift you are thinking of giving if you don't want it to end up buried in the back of a cupboard (if it is even allowed to remain in the house at all).

The Scandi family is looking for design-led, fun and functional gifts.  

What not to buy Scandi family: bright coloured noisy plastic toys.

Country Kitchen

what to buy your niece or nephew for their birthday - country style

Think Kath Kidston or Laura Ashley (back in the day).  This family may or may not live in the country and have a farmhouse kitchen, but what they will definitely have is stylish floral wallpaper and traditional style furniture in their house.

They'll probably have a big toybox that all the toys can be tidied away into, so most toys will be ok to gift this family.  Having said that, they are likely not to watch a lot of TV, so expect bemused looks if you go down a branded TV or film gift route.

What not to buy Country Kitchen family: the latest Disney/Pixar action figures.

Anything Goes

how to buy the perfect gift for your niece or nephew in a relaxed casual house

This family don't mind at all that their house has been overtaken by their children's paraphernalia. In fact, they kind of enjoy it.  They live their lives in a state of organised chaos.

They are likely to have watched all the Disney and Pixar films and any gift based on one of the kids' favourite characters will go down really well.

What not to buy Anything Goes family:  they really will enjoy most things, but if it's not fun it might not last long.


STEP 2: Make sure your gift is age appropriate

For a detailed look at each age, take a look at our individual guides to gift buying.

All children learn and develop at their own pace.  But, if you're worried that your gift will miss the mark for being either far too advanced for your niece / nephew, or a little too simplistic, here is a quick overview of the standard early development stages that children go through:

1 year old

  • At one year old, children are starting to move around and might even be walking already
  • They will be grabbing everything in sight, and chewing is a key part of exploring
  • Great gifts include: new textures to explore, walkers to help them get around

2 years old

  • This age is for practicing their newfound social skills
  • They will want to copy adult activities
  • This is a great age to get kids helping out with housework!

3 years old

  • At 3, kids are starting to learn more social skills - things like sharing will be getting easier
  • Their imagination will be blooming
  • Outfits for dressing up is a great gift idea

4 years old

  • Four year olds are usually a blur of energy
  • Expect a lot of showing off when you see them
  • Crafts and activities to explore their creativity will go down well

5 years old

  • Now that most kids this age have started school, they will be showing signs of newfound independent thinking
  • Structured learning begins now, with key skills such as reading, writing and maths 
  • Educational games can be a great addition to their schoolwork (it should still feel like fun at this age!)

One thing to note is the age marked on the box of children's toys and games.  These are mostly for reference to help you decide what to buy.  Having said that, often gifts are categorised by safety standards - any game with small pieces will never be marked safe for children under 3 years old.  And it is good to note that even if your niece or nephew is particularly advanced for their age - it's still worth paying attention to those things, as it is very easy for a child to pop things in their mouth and choke.


STEP 3: How to pick a gift that suits your niece/nephew's personality

does your birthday gift match your niece or nephew's personality?

As mentioned above, the development stages vary from child to child, and the sorts of activities that will hold a child's interest will vary too.  Children develop different skills at different rates, and the best way to hone their skills is through play.

Sara Bussandri, from the popular Mind Your Mamma blog, appeared in a guest post for us in March, to talk about the schemas children use to learn and develop their skills

Figuring out which schemas your niece / nephew identifies with can really help you to pick out a gift that you know they will really love.

The main schemas to look out for are:

Trajectory - does your niece / nephew like to throw or drop things a lot?

Transporting - do they like to pile objects into a bag or box and carry them around?

Connecting - do they love to play with train tracks or lego?

Positioning - does everything get put in a specific order?

Enveloping - do they love to hide or cover themselves?


STEP 4: What do you want the gift to say about you?

Think about your aunties and uncles when you were small.  The types of gifts you used to get would differ from aunt to aunt.  

There was always the auntie who gave a card with cash inside so you could "buy yourself something you really want" (I admit this auntie got more popular the older my siblings and I got).  

Then there was the auntie who gave you accessories - a pretty bag, brush, necklace etc.

And finally there was the auntie who gave you something you really wanted - a game you wanted to play over and over, or a fun craft activity that helped you create something all of your own.

What sort of auntie / uncle do you want to be?  

The auntie who only gives cash may get popular with teenagers, but I know the most memorable gifts for me were always fun games and toys that I had never seen before.


STEP 5: How much should you spend on your gift?

how much should you spend on a birthday gift for your niece or nephew?

The real answer to this question is, of course, it all depends.  

Having said that, we recently carried out a survey to find out exactly how much people in the UK spend on presents for kids up to five years old.

The average spend is £37.50

Of course, this number varies by age, closeness of relationship, as well as the amount of money you have to spend yourself.

A rule of thumb that we use, however, is to spend around two thirds the amount you would spend on the adults in that family.


So there you have it - five simple steps to follow to buy the perfect gift for any baby or child in your life.  Did you find these tips helpful? Please let me know any other tips you have in the comments below.

And if looking for the perfect gift all seems a little bit too time consuming for you right now - take a look at our gifts here.  

We will gift wrap, hand write a personal message and post to you (or direct to your niece / nephew). 

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