Don't miss these great no cost birthday gift ideas that any child would love!

No Cost Birthday Gift for 5-Year-Old Boy

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No Cost Birthday Gift?

I literally have no money and I need ideas for something I can do/make as a gift for a 5-year-old boy. Are there any moms or frugal grandmas out there? If so, please help with some great no cost birthday gift ideas. This child is more affluent and has lots of toys already.

The Gift of Reading

My nephews had every toy under the sun so I took some blank cassette tapes and recorded myself reading children's books that I got at the library. I also took them to the library and got them each their own library card. They loved reading along with the tapes I made and still talk about this now that they're adults. I bet they wouldn't remember a store bought toy 20 years later. I'm sure you could do the same thing today recording it on your laptop and saving it on a CD.

Homemade Playdough!

There are thousands of recipes online. One should match the ingredients you have on hand. Throw in some creative utensils you have laying around like plastic knives and forks, cookie cutters, even lids for cutters and patterns. My nieces and nephews love this. Store it all in a shoebox covered in pretty paper. I like to color my dough with colored drink mix packets.

Related: Homemade Play Dough Recipes

For the Child Who Loves to Perform

I can't take credit for this idea, but when I saw it, I thought it was such a great idea that I am planning on making one for a four-year-old girl who loves performing. A friend of mine turned an old refrigerator box into a puppet show theater. You can use a refrigerator box or any other large box that is large enough to provide a space for the child to hide behind. Cut a "window" on one side towards the top, and then paint decorations onto the cardboard. Make appropriate cuts to allow the child to enter and exit the back stage and to assure stability. If you have fabric scraps available, you can make curtains and hand puppets as well. My friend used old fabrics, paint and craft supplies that she had already purchased, and even pulled in a few small tree limbs from the garden to provide props. By the time she was done, it was a work of art. Even better, the box could be folded up for storage.

Create a Book

If you have any writing and drawing talent (or know a friend who does), what about creating a book specifically for that child? You have the advantage of knowing exactly what he's interested in and you can really make something special just for or about him. I'm sure you can get ideas on how to bind the book off the Internet.

Something Simple, Yet Memorable

The week before my son's 5th birthday, my refrigerator died. The new one arrived in a huge, sturdy cardboard box. Instead of throwing it away or giving it to the deliverymen to dispose of, I had an idea, so I kept it and spray painted it white. The day of my son's at-home birthday party, I gave all the boys some washable tempera paints and let them into the backyard with the big box. It was the hit of the party! The party guests loved using their imaginations to make a perfect clubhouse (and I have some really cute pictures to show for it!). The boys are now 17, and still talk about that box being the best party idea ever. Over the years, that box has not only been a playhouse, but a spaceship, a racing car and, when my daughter came along, a princess's castle. If you can't afford a new refrigerator right now (lol!), boxes are free at your local appliance store, department, or furniture store that sells appliances.
Julie in Ontario, Canada

How about a Little One-on-One Time?

Maybe you could take the boy to a park for an afternoon. Most kids love one-on-one time. Also, if you plan it so that there is no specific end time, it might be nice to let him play as long as he wants without having to hurry up or leave to go somewhere else. If you do have even a little money, an ice cream cone is always a great treat.

A Gift that Will Keep on Giving

How about giving the boy a "gift certificate" for an activity like playing at the park, baking cookies at your home, going to a free museum, or whatever activity he (and your own child!) would enjoy. It might not be a gift that has that initial "wow" factor that a huge box with the latest toy would have, but it might very well be the gift he remembers most in the long run!

Related: 9 Low Cost Child's Birthday Gift Ideas

A Gift Worthy of a Super Hero

I always make "super hero" capes for 5-year-olds for their birthday. You can take an old sheet or blanket and personalize it with fabric paint, embroidery, etc. I also make cute ones for girls by just adding beads or "glam" items. I then design a "super hero" logo for the child and decorated it on the cape. You can also stock-up on very cheap capes after Halloween and personalize them for each child.

Cookies and Books. What's Not to Love?

Try pairing a child's book in like-new condition with highly decorated homemade cookies cut out on the book's theme. I did The Gingerbread Man with gingerbread man cookies. The combinations are endless and impressive.
Robin L.

7 Great Options for No Cost Birthday Gifts

For the reader wanting free/cheap gift ideas for a 5-year-old boy, here are some thoughts I had. Keep in mind I'm going under the assumption that he is a close family relative like son, grandson, nephew, etc.

  • Have a special day doing his favorite things. Fix his favorite dinner, including his dessert of choice. Play his favorite games. Watch a DVD he enjoys. Pack some snacks and drinks and go to the park. Let him help you bake his favorite cookies (enjoy some and let him take the rest home). Special one-on-one time with you beats a new toy any day.
  • Go on a shopping spree! Give him a small set amount that your budget can handle, and take him to the thrift shop or dollar store and let him spend it on whatever he likes. This is also a great teachable moment, when he has to make decisions on what to forego to get what he really wants. Even $5 would go a long way.
  • Make a scrapbook storybook of his life. Gather photos of him, his family, friends, pets, special occasions, favorite places and such. Along with an inexpensive notebook, have handy some safety scissors, glue sticks, stickers, colored pens and other decorating tools, and help him make a scrapbook all about him, his favorite people, and the things he likes.
  • Make a dress-up box. Find or decorate a box and collect various old articles of clothing from your own closet or from the thrift shop that would be good for costume play. A big white shirt belted at the waist worn with his own black pants makes a great pirate costume, while a western shirt and hat turns a pair of everyday jeans into a cowboy outfit. Look for double-duty items like a cape that can be used for a magician, a superhero, or a vampire. Be sure to add appropriate accessories like the pirate eye patch and the magician's hat. The same concept could easily be done for a girl; a variety of castoff fancy dresses would be a delightful treasure for a young princess-in- training.
  • Fuel his creativity. For just a few dollars, you can make up a nice gift basket with art supplies like crayons, colored pencils, watercolors, markers, coloring books and drawing paper. Sometimes around the holidays, you can pick up pre-made art kits very cheaply.
  • Trade instead of buying. If you're a member of a DVD or book swapping site like or, you can get a nice children's book or movie in exchange for one of the credits you earn from trading other books and movies. Or you can even ask on your local Freecycle group if someone might be willing to part with a particular book or movie (or even toy) he would enjoy. You might be surprised at the response!
  • Tape instead of buying. This takes a little time and planning before the special day arrives, but it would make for a nice gift. Record (on VHS or DVD) his favorite TV show, whether it's a Saturday morning cartoon or a PBS or Disney series, every time you are able to catch it, until you fill up the tape or DVD. He'll get hours of enjoyment from your investment of time and love.


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