It may be the era of austerity but, as parents, we're still splashing out on birthday presents for our own children and other people's.


In our survey of 740 MadeForMums parents, carried out in association with the Scotch brand, we found that 34% of you spend over £100 on birthday presents for each of your children, while 43% spend between £40 and £99.

We also discovered that a third of you spend between £9-£10 on a present for someone else's child and only 22% go for something more modest, paying under £5.

Most extravagant presents

What our survey did reveal was that some parents just can't spend enough when it comes to buying a birthday present for their child. When we asked you for the most extravagant or outrageous present you'd seen a child being given, you gave us some jaw-dropping answers.

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By far the most popular extravagant present was the electric mini car for toddlers, which retail for upwards of £100 - 45 of you knew little children who had received these.

You also knew of 23 children who had received a pony, 18 given a laptop, 15 an iPad including four for 4-year-olds and one for a 2-year-old, eight had been given a quad bike, and two children had been given Tiffany necklaces.

Our favourite outrageous gifts were...

  • A shed in the garden with a fully-fitted children's kitchen installed - wait for it - by a professional kitchen fitter.
  • Solid gold customised iPhone for a 4-year-old.
  • Weekend away in a hotel for 10 friends with pampering session - for a 10-year-old.
  • Half-eaten box of chocolates.
  • 1000-piece puzzle of HRH The Queen (already opened) for a 5-year-old.

The true cost of parties

Of course, buying presents is just the beginning of birthday costs.

First there's the party - 38% of you spend over £100 on a party, while 37% pay £51-£100, and only 15% of you keep the cost between £26-£50.

Don't forget the party bags. The stakes have been raised here as we're not talking a plastic bag with sweets, rubber and a pencil anymore. Now nearly three-quarters (73%) of you spend more than £1 on each party bag, while 38% spend between £1-£2 per bag, 23% spend £2-£3, and 12% spend over £4 on each little party bag. However, a more thrifty 12% of you don't do party bags at all.

And it seems party bag envy is rife. Nearly half of you (49%) confessed that you peek in the party bags your child brings home to see how yours compare to others. While 60% of you feel content that your party bags are just as good, 31% feel that your own party bags are superior, and only 9% think your own are below par.

No one could out do the mum whose party bag presents were a personalised bean bag each - but then it was in New York!

£10 on a present - for someone else's child

Then there are the birthdays of your child's friends. We found that a third (33%) of you spend between a whopping £9-£10 on a birthday present for someone else's child, while 23% spend £6-£8. Only 22% pay less than £5.

When a third (34%) of you tell us that each of your children goes to between 3-5 parties each year, the costs start mounting up. If you're spending an average of £9 per present, one child going to 4 parties will cost you £36. Another 19% of you have social butterfly children who enjoy going to 6-10 parties a year.

And we take our gift wrapping seriously. When it comes to other children's presents, 83% of you make an effort with gift wrapping - 61% saying you choose the paper carefully to suit the child, and 22% making sure there's a matching tag and taking time to make it look well wrapped.

Only 12% admit to grabbing any wrapping paper that you can find, and a brave 4% let your child wrap the present. Respect!

73% play traditional party games

But while we may be splashing out on children's birthdays, it's encouraging to hear that three-quarters of you (73%) still play traditional party games at your child's party.

While 49% have bravely organised a game of Musical Chairs at your child's party, 30% of you have played Pin The Tail On The Donkey. In top place (64%) comes the classic party game Pass The Parcel.

But, if your child thinks Pass The Parcel is a random game of chance, they should think again.

Over half of you (53%) insert sweets in between every layer, and 47% make sure that every child gets to open the parcel once, and we take the parcel seriously with a third using proper wrapping paper for each layer.

If you're the birthday child, don't expect to win the big prize - 17% of parents confess they rig the game so the birthday child doesn't win, while only 2% fix it so their child does win. A caring 7% of you rig it so that a child you feel sorry for wins the big prize!

73% feel birthday spend is right

And do you feel you're spending too much on birthdays? A big resounding no! Nearly three-quarters of you (73%) feel you spend about the right amount on your child's birthday present and 87% are happy about the amount you spend on other people's children.

For those 24% who feel you spend too much on your child's birthday, three reasons are given over and over again:

  • We love spoiling our children - "I want to spoil my little princess" said one mum, a sentiment shared by lots of you.
  • We can't resist buying things - "I just get carried away" and "I see something that I know he will like and just buy it" so many of you told us.
  • We feel guilty about using childcare - "I feel guilt about putting my child in a creche three days a week while I returned to work" was a common theme.

Birthdays in a nutshell

  • 34% spend over £100 on birthday presents for each child
  • 38% spend over £100 on a birthday party
  • 73% spend over £1 on each party bag
  • 33% spend between £9-£10 on a present for someone else's child
  • 73% feel you spend the right amount on your child's birthday presents
  • 64% have played Pass The Parcel at your child's party
  • 17% rigged Pass The Parcel so your own child doesn't win


Susie Boone, Editorial Director MadeForMums
Susie BooneEditorial Director, MadeForMums