What We Gave Our Kids for Their Birthdays in 2023

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It’s M’s birthday today! I honestly can’t believe our little just-before-the-pandemic baby is four years old. In a lot of ways, it feels like it’s flown by, as young childhood always seems to. But in other ways, I’m so darn grateful for the time we’ve had exploring and being together. We’ve been fortunate with so many adventures since she came into our lives, and her sparkly personality and enthusiasm just make her an absolute joy to take along. Love our spunky little gal!

With our big move to London, we decided to keep birthday gifts pretty minimal this year, and standardize them across the kids. We also wanted to focus mostly on some special experiences, especially since we don’t have room for many toys here. We decided this year for each child, we’d do:

  • A book I choose
  • £10 for them to use towards used books of their choice at a charity shop (we left most of ours back in the US!)
  • A small toy or fun thing
  • A special individual experience with a parent

In addition to their individual gifts, we wanted to use the opportunity to spend some time together as a family to celebrate their special days. So for each kiddo, we chose a new museum in London to visit (most here are free!), and while there, the birthday child could pick out a small item (£5-10) from the gift shop. We’ve also wanted to try out a few different afternoon teas in London, so we opted to do that for birthdays this year.

Since they were pretty minimal, I hadn’t shared about them before, but thought it would be fun to share altogether now. Here’s what we gave each of our kids in Fall of 2023 (and Jan 2024 for M)!

13 Year Old Boy Birthday Gifts

N absolutely loves Fortnum & Mason and chose to go there for afternoon tea for his birthday. We’d gone once before, when we visited in 2018, and it was a delight, so we really enjoyed being back. It’s such a classic afternoon tea that’s is also plentiful – they have unlimited food refills, and provide a full child’s tea stand free of charge to children under 4. We also visited the Science Museum, where he picked out squishy ball.

  • Book: N does a ton of reading on his Kindle, so I loved the idea of getting him a book that wasn’t just for reading. He enjoys architecture and loves origami, so this Frank Lloyd Wright book of cutting and folding paper buildings seemed perfect.
  • Toy/Fun Thing: N didn’t get a school placement until a few weeks after his siblings, so we were able to do a few fun activities with just him and baby S. He found out about and requested a visit to the RAF Museum, which I hadn’t heard of before and we all loved. He saw a Spitfire airplane print while there that he loved, so I sneakily purchased it and hid it until his birthday.
  • Experience Gift: N loves adventurous activities and also sports, so is really excited to go to the Tottanham Hotspur Stadium to do the Edge Skywalk climbing & rappelling experience.

11 Year Old Girl Birthday Gifts

K had heard about Peggy Porschen and how pretty it was, and it definitely lived up to the cute, feminine vibe. The desserts were especially pretty! She also opted for the Science Museum and chose this Escape from the Museum card game (which is inexplicably expensive online).

  • Book: Read All About It: 10 Mini Magazines to Make & Share – K is also an avid reader with tons of Kindle books, as well as several chapter books she brought with her (she was the most reluctant to leave her books behind). So I looked into another interactive book and spotted this one at the Design Museum. She loves both writing and drawing, and loves creating new stories and books, so I figured one to design her own mini magazines would be a fun activity for her.
  • Toy/Fun Thing: K had asked for a necklace stand to organize some of her jewelry, so I grabbed this gold t-bar jewelry organizer for her.
  • Experience: K loves British Bake Off as much as I do, loves fun and special treats, and always enjoys cooking and baking. So when I heard about this Big London Bake (a couple hour baking experience very similar to GBBO, right down to the tent, though not affiliated with it), I knew she and I had to do it together! I can’t wait.

9 Year Old Boy Birthday Gifts

The second T heard about the dinosaur tea at the Ampersand Hotel, he was so excited to try it out, and it lived up in terms of atmosphere. It had lots of fun, interactive elements and little dino details – we loved it. And we were honestly surprised that the food was quite good, too (not just style over substance, as Paul Hollywood would say). We’d love to try out their Science tea, which I’ve heard is equally good. For his museum experience, we visited Hampton Court Palace the day before, and opted to go to a family-friendly London Symphony Orchestra Diwali concert on the day of. We didn’t have time to pop into a gift shop either day, so he picked out a clearanced water bottle at Windsor Castle a couple weeks later.

  • Book: History of the World in 100 Animals – T is a major animal lover and the second I saw this book in the British Library book shop, I knew it needed to be in his hands. I love that it’s not just about the animal itself, but rather connects it to places and events around the globe. Absolutely fascinating and beautiful. (And, fwiw, WAY less expensive and with a much prettier cover here.)
  • Toy/Fun Thing: Dan spotted this Gravity Maze puzzle game at a charity shop for under £5 and while we’d never heard of it before, it looked fun and like it would be perfect for our STEM-loving kiddo. Sure enough, he’s spent hours tinkering with it and figuring out different puzzles. (And turns out, it has over 31,000 amazing reviews, so he’s not the only one who loves it.)
  • Experience: T loves to climb absolutely anything and everything. I remember being here just a week or two and going to the playground with some school friends. After a few minutes, one of the parents pointed out a child on TOP of the roofed playground structure at least 30 feet off the ground. Of course it was my child. So when I saw this rig climbing experience on a historic ship, I knew it would be right up his alley.

6 Year Old Boy Birthday Gifts

Admittedly, A’s birthday was the one that took me most by surprise as it was just a few days after we moved to London and I was very much still trying to get my feet under me. But we rallied and he opted to visit the Natural History Museum, where I pre-purchased a kids’ bag given at check in for him to carry with some fun dino-themed accessories. We also visited Kensington Palace Pavilion for tea, which was just lovely to walk around on a beautiful September day, and he was thrilled to have tea at a real palace.

  • Book: The Homes We Build was another book I spotted at the Design Museum and is all about different homes and habitats that people and other creatures live in. I thought it was a perfect fit to learn about different home styles as we were in the process of moving to a new-to-us home!
  • Toy/Fun Thing: A is very into drawing and writing, so I grabbed him a fun pen with popping balls in it.
  • Experience: A is absolutely THRILLED to be able to be a Zoo Explorer at the Whipsnade Zoo, the largest in the UK. It’s an incredible day-long experience at the zoo for 5-7 year olds and will be perfect for our animal lover. It doesn’t reopen until spring but he’s been talking about getting to do it nonstop!

3 Year Old Girl Birthday Gifts

Finally, M’s birthday! She’s been talking about it nonstop for months after waiting through many siblings’ special days. For her, we opted to visit the Transport Museum on her actual birthday (a Friday – we just pulled her out of nursery school for the morning) and attended their fun under 5s storytelling and singing time. She was thrilled to pick out a Tube-themed mug there! Then over the weekend, we’ll visit the Postal Museum as a family, where we have an annual pass already and where we’ll check out the Sorted! under 5s play space. We’ll also head to the London-themed tea at the Dilly.

  • Book: The Buildings That Make London from the National Archives – M loves noticing and pointing out all the different buildings and landmarks in our new city, so I thought this book would be so fun for her.
  • Toy/Fun Thing: I can’t seem to find it on any US websites, but there’s a cute little Crayola unicorn that you can color and style with washable markers, then wash and redo. It’s perfect for our little artist who is constantly drawing (mostly not on walls anymore…) and who is a major unicorn enthusiast!
  • Experience: M has been very into singing Let It Go for months now. She’s only seen the movie of Frozen once before (about a month ago) but I think she’ll LOVE getting to go see the musical – especially since we’re coordinating with her best friend. She’s going to be thrilled!

We only got baby S a couple little things for her 1st birthday, but I feel like she deserves her own post for that milestone so stay tuned for that post. 🙂

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