Ten Fun Gifts for Kids Under $10


Bronze Wordsmith
May 17, 2018
Once again, I find myself on the hunt for cheap gifts for kids because so many children in my family and within our circle of friends are having birthdays in the next couple of months. This means several significant things for me: having to set aside a budget for these presents, and also getting creative with it because we need to balance our general expenses with these new ones.

The “creative” part should entail thinking of keepsakes that are both affordable and fun. If they are also durable, that would be a great bonus. In the many years that I have prepared both a budget and list for cheap awesome gifts, I am glad to report that I’ve never gotten complaints about the price tag, and actually saw for myself how the special kids in my life (and their parents) loved their presents! So without further ado, here are ten of my favorite inexpensive gift items for children.


Molding clay sets

As a child, I spent so many hours pummeling and shaping clay into animals, people, food items, and other objects with only my imagination as an additional tool. When we didn’t have money for colorful pre-made modeling clay, my mom would make us some from a bit of flour, cream of tartar, food coloring, and water. It’s one of the most inexpensive and inventive toys we ever played with, which is why I’m glad that today, there are many molding clay sets for under ten dollars available to kids.


Wooden kitchen utensils

Wooden toys never go out of style, and you can always rely on them to be affordable. Aside from wooden blocks and dollhouse furniture, my kids’ favorite wooden playthings are kitchen utensils and foodstuff made from balsa wood. Fortunately, my wife found several colorful wooden kitchen sets in the shape of bento boxes and sushi, plus chopsticks in a Japanese dime store near our place. There are also sandwich sets with slices of bread, cheese, salami, tomatoes, and pieces of lettuce made of wood which any child would cherish.


Origami books and paper

Books have become my default preference for affordable kiddie gifts – especially ones that encourage imagination and psychomotor skills. The Japanese gift store in our town never fails to disappoint with its supply of simple yet stunningly designed origami paper sets and instructional books. My wife and I make sure to keep several in stock for emergency birthday gifts because people (young and old) seem to really like getting them.


A detective kit

Sometimes, putting together a kit (or what my wife fondly refers to as a “care package”) is more fun than buying pre-packaged toys. It’s also usually more affordable, and the recipients are always joyfully receptive to how thoughtfully prepared they are.

A detective or sleuthing kit is one of my favorites to put together, especially for curious children. I would buy a sturdy magnifying glass, a small notepad and some pens, a pair of spy glasses, a penlight and other sleuthing accessories (I draw the line at a trench coat and pipe, though), and then put them all in a small satchel.


Bug catching tool

I would often ask my wife to weigh in on what she thinks make great but inexpensive kid gifts. Whenever she makes a suggestion, it’s usually something outdoorsy-related.

One time, I was fresh out of ideas for impromptu presents when she suggested a magnifying bug-catching gadget. I thought she was kidding, but when we gave one to my nephew, the little boy was over the moon about it. Apparently, he loves catching, examining, and then letting go of grasshoppers, spiders, and other jumpy and creepy crawlies but was afraid of handling them with his bare hands (and rightfully so!).

Of course, I made sure to keep a spare in case I encounter a spider while cleaning the house.


Plastic toolbox (and tools)

Pretend-tools are always a hit for both boys and girls. Aside from kitchen utensils, mechanic’s tools made of plastic are pretty popular. We get ones that are under $10 but already come with a toolbox and several essential tools like toy drills, a tape measure, screwdrivers, a hammer, and some nuts and bolts. It never fails to bring hours of creative fun and imagination among children!


Beginner paint or drawing set

When I get a bit strapped for our gifts budget, I always turn to my stash of basic art supplies such as sketchpads, boxes of crayons and pastels, and lead or color pencils. Kids (and their parents) always welcome paint or drawing sets because it keeps them busy and sparks their creativity. This is why art supplies have become my go-to presents for just about any child in my life.


Play food

I have to admit that even at my age, I still love the idea of pretend-food as playthings. I usually stop at the windows of Japanese restaurants – not because I have a particular craving for ramen or sushi – but just to admire the plastic food bowls they have on display. There is just something so ingenious and whimsical about play food, whether they are made from plaster, plastic, or wood, that transcends any age!


Drawing and painting stencils

I think it was in the mid-80s when drawing and painting stencils became all the rage. They were cheap, fun, and had us practicing our drawing and designing skills any hour of the day. Surprisingly, today’s kids seem to still enjoy them despite having the kind of digital technology they could use to draw with on their tablets, smartphones, and computers!


Age-appropriate books

Off the top of my head, books are some of the most awesome gifts for kids you can give (or receive, if childhood memory serves). I usually get the classics because it’s what I grew up with, but I’m happy to see so many newly published creative and age-appropriate books for kids nowadays. There is such a staggering number of great children’s books lately that I find myself spending hours at the shop admiring them and taking note of which child would best appreciate which book. Then I would wait for the quarterly price slashes at our local book store so I could afford most of those books once they hit the bargain bin.

Those are just a small sampling of gifts for kids under $10 which I can rely on to make the kids in my life happy, creative, and – best of all – busy! I’m sure you also have your own favorite frugal gifts to give to children, in which case, I would love to hear all about them in the comments section.

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