A No Fail $10 Birthday Present

Speeding through the streets I had one thing on my mind.  A solitary thought so strong it rendered the flashing billboards and screaming drunks invisible to me.

I’d been driving for about a half an hour before I realized I was driving aimlessly.  Turning left, turning right with such intensity and purpose anyone following me would surely have thought this is a woman on a mission.  This is a woman who knows where she’s going.

But I didn’t.  I was driving in circles in the most dreaded place on earth.

The toy store parking lot.

My nephew’s 4th birthday was coming up (in about an hour) and I needed to get him a present.

I may  not have kids but I do know a thing or two about them.  They LOVE getting toys.  They just don’t love playing with them.

Unless they’re Lego.

Anything else though?  For the most part kids play with toys once (usually the day they open them) and then the parents have to figure out a place to store those toys for the next 5 years or so while their kids ignore them and instead play with potatoes, cardboard boxes and dead bugs they find on the windowsill.

And then divine inspiration hit me right there in the toy store parking lot.  I turned the car around, and headed straight to the Bulk Barn.

And this … is what I gave my nephew for his 4th birthday.


Candy 2


You’ve never seen such a look of surprise, astonishment and excitement.  And that was just from his mother.  The kid nearly peed himself.

So if you ever find you’re in a rush for the “perfect birthday present” for the party that you were told about months ago but only remembered an hour before the party actually began … give this big ole jar of candy some thought.

Total cost about $10.


I filled it with fun stuff like Pop Rocks, tongue tattoos, Garbage Candy and other things like miniature chocolate bars, jelly candies, gum and a bunch of other sugar filled stuff.

Healthy choices?  NO.

Fun?  YES.

It’s a birthday for God’s sake.  Live a little.

If the kid’s a bit older you can do the same thing, but stuff some money in with the candy.  It looks beautiful, is fun to give and will most certainly be the hit of the party.  Cater it to whatever age the person is you’re giving it to.  I know one of my sisters would love to get this filled with her favourite candy from when she was a kid.  Malt balls come to mind.  Bleh.

So.  Need an inexpensive emergency birthday present?

No need to drive around the dreaded toy store parking lot.

Grab a mason jar, fill it with $10 worth of candy and watch their eyes light up.

An even less expensive solution that’ll get an equally huge reaction … just grab the mason jar and fill it with dead bugs.



  1. Mel B says:

    Karen, this is awesome.

    I once gave a college grad friend a shoebox filled with what he said was “enough candy to choke a horse” in the thank you card he mailed me. Candy inspires good manners!

    I gave a ten year old a slinky. It was late afternoon, Christmas day. Their living room was still all wreckage & stages of some assembly required, and there were new video games. He said, “A SLINKY! MOM, I’ve always wanted one of these!” and played with it on their stairs through our whole visit. She was a little pissed.

    I also once gave a six or seven year old a birthday card, in an envelope. He was very polite as he opened it, but knew it was just a card, not a present. Except it DID have a gift inside.

    “MOM! Do you know what this is?!?”
    “Yes, Jacob, do YOU know what it is?”
    “A FART BALOON! I’ve always wanted one of these!”

    Whoopee cushion for the win. She said, “Wow… the son of two English teachers with doctorate degrees is thrilled with his fart balloon. Thank you, Mel.”

    Sometimes the classics are the best.

  2. Annie Kip says:

    Great idea – it’s like getting a bonus Halloween, but just for the birthday kid!

  3. Heather says:

    You are so right about the toy debacle. Candy…that is a once a year mega-treat which they will love!! Relax all!!

  4. Jo says:

    What a great idea. I’m stashing away that idea for Christmas. Yes, I’m thinking of Christmas aleady. Funny, I don’t remember Popeye having “candy sticks”. Just sayin’

  5. Amanda says:

    I think that might have been his mom looking at you with Eyes of Stabby Death rather than excitement. Give the kid a jar of sugar and then run away, leaving mom to deal with the aftermath? LOL. That said? Still – a cool idea! :P

  6. Amy says:

    That is the perfect gift trifecta: colorful, tasty, and forbidden. Well chosen!

    Another gift we’ve had success with is rolls of colorful duct tape. Great for all ages.

  7. Jane says:

    Love it and I’ve done the same thing before! With 4 kids there were lots of last minute birthday presents for friends. Another great, fun gift is a dollar store ice cream sunday dish (or fancy waffle cones/bowls) and a box/basket full of sprinkles and toppings. The cone shaped icing bags from Bulk Barn look great with sprinkles, mini M&M’s, choc chips, etc. Of course this takes a bit more time, but I used to keep some on hand just for this purpose so I could raid my own cupboards! This even works for a family Christmas gift if you get a bowl for each member of the family.

  8. marilyn says:

    you must be the fave aunt..

  9. mimiindublin says:

    lol re dead bugs!
    As always, reading the comments makes me laugh too, especially Gloria’s idea of ring the bell and run! And I’m thrilled that those people got to keep their front veg garden.
    I’d say a good day all round Karen!!

  10. Karol says:

    I love it! I have done this exact same thing for my nieces/nephews at Christmas. I filled a bag with things like Lemonhead, Nerds, Airhead, and other snarky names, then made a tag that said “you are what you eat!” They loved it… my sisters, not so much. Good job, Karen.

  11. Kerri says:

    Holy blast from the past.. I used to pretend to smoke with those Popeye cigarettes. Gross. At least they changed the name.

    Awesome gift idea.. although you forgot the “something really loud”. Kids love it, parents get you back. A tradition in our family now it seems. Can’t wait to see who finally breaks down and buys the drums :)

  12. latenac says:

    I just hope you also offered to babysit directly after the kid ate 3 or more of the pieces of candy in a row. I know kids who can stretch their Halloween candy until Christmas and this would be a great gift for them. However, the kids who eat all of their Halloween candy within 24 hours, I’m not so sure at least from the parent perspective. For them Target has a great $1 section where you could probably do the same thing but with small toys instead.

  13. Gayla T says:

    This is a great gift for a 4 y/o because his teeth only need to last another 2 years. Not so good for the kid who has to keep them for another 80 years. I’ll bet he will remember this gift though when the others are tossed on the closet floor. Will his mommy drop him off at your house when the sugar high hits? Aunts or uncles buy gifts the kids love and parents hate. Next year try the complete kiddie drum set. That one I could have killed my brother for. Big red fire trucks that have all the sound effects can really PO’em. Any toy that causes them to have an excuse to play in water is exciting. You probably remember the doll that had to be filled with water? What my idiot siblings didn’t realize when they bought my kids this stuff was that ugly as they all were, they might actually get married and have kids themselves. Pay backs were Hell!

  14. Louise says:

    I love this! My brother, who has three kids, and has enough trouble controlling them all without a sugar rush adding to the equation .. and my friends with a various assortment of little ones, would absolutely freak if I did this! Ha ha, a really good way to pee them off! I’d be the most popular aunt, and the most hated sister….fantastic.

  15. Angela says:

    I personally like going to the dollar store and buying $10 worth of glow sticks/bracelets/other glowy paraphernalia. Lots of fun for the kid and you throw them away when the glow expires!

  16. Lucy says:

    I once gave my brother a box of worms in dirt for his birthday. I was 5 and he was 7. My parents had no idea what it was until he opened it. It didn’t smell too good (I’d been collecting for a few days), but my brother thought it was great. Needless to say, my parents were more vigilant in years to come, especially as both the family and my imagination grew. I’d love to get a nice Mason jar full of candy. It’s a great idea for just about any age. I’d venture to say you’re his favorite aunt — at least for this year.

  17. Cheri says:

    Perfect! My kids are 22 and 14 but damn, they would have loved that as a gift! Better than the 400.00 John Deere Power Wheels or Barbie Central! Good call!

  18. Maureen says:

    So, Popeye cigarettes are now ‘tasty candy sticks’. Did he walk around, looking tough, blowing imaginary smoke out or just eat them?

  19. Tracie says:

    Well, I love it…..who wouldn’t love to get a mason jar filled with fave candy and whatever cool things that will fill the gaps??? Plastic bugs work too, or gummy worms, etc…..money is a great idea to add excitement and glamour!! Another great idea Karen, thanks!!!! With all the summer birthdays, this is just what we need…..

  20. Laura says:

    Heh, I can remember when the Popeye “Candy Sticks” were called by a different name. And Leanne, I’m in the same boat for my daughter’s 2nd birthday, in a couple weeks. I really don’t want to add to the ever present toy piles in the house, but there’s no way I’m giving her candy as a present…

  21. Karen says:

    And if they are old enough, they would also appreciate game card packs, such as Pokemon or whatever the latest game of choice is. I know my nephews were crazy about those cards for a long time.

  22. Bethie says:

    I’m in my 20s and am known within my group of friends for giving fishbowls or flowervases full of candy for birthdays- you’re never too old to enjoy a sugar rush!

  23. shuckclod says:

    What a cute idea. Where did you find the sugar filled fruits? I love those. I love the dead bug idea too, or chicken poop. I got an email that those people won and get to keep their front yard garden. Great…

  24. Leanne says:

    I am, at this very moment, searching for birthday presents. I got really really excited when I started reading. I just knew you were about to solve all my problems. But you didn’t. I am terribly disappointed. This is the first time you have failed me. This just doesn’t work when you’re the mother giving the gift. My daughter is turning two next month. She has teeth but they’re new and I’m just not quite ready to get rid of them yet. Maybe her brother. He’s ten. He can use a knife now so I suppose his teeth are more optional. We should keep hers at least a couple more years though. It only seems fair. Now if you know of the perfect, not going to cost me an arm and a leg and a kidney, hiding place/tent/canopy/reading nook for a toddler let me know. K? ;)

    • Angela says:

      I saw a tent thingy on Pinterest a while back where you sew a few pieces of fabric together and drape them over a card table. Yeah, you could just drape a blanket over it, but with the fabric you can make it look like a house or a fort or a castle or something.

    • Kelly S says:

      check pinterest…and search tent….there’s lots of ideas if you’re handy with fabric, thread/glu gun, and maybe some wood. good luck

    • Patti says:

      Or! Depending on where you live – if you don`t have time for that – Canadian Tire has a little pop up tents in animal shapes (bear, dog, etc.) and they`re under $20. Last time I was there, they were $16.99 (the price on the website is $39.99 but I`ve never seen them in-store at that price, and I`ve now purchased 3 of them!)

    • gloria says:

      Ooh, ooh, saw the cutest hiding place tent for a little boy that could easily be made for a girl by changing the fabric. Just use any table in your house (card table best) and sew Or GLUE a cover for it. Make on side w/ and opening of some sort. Decorate as you like. Vo-ah-la! Think I saw this on Tip Junkie, gifts for boys.

    • Chau says:

      Your daughter might be a bit young for this, but keep the idea until she’s older. Once I gave a 6-year old a box of headbands, hair clips, plastic bracellets, foldable paper fan and trinkets bought from a Chinese store. You should have seen the “Ooh and Aah” from kids and moms at the party. The best 10-buck birthday present ever.

      • stacil says:

        I have no idea where this is going to post, so forgive me in advance, please.

        Karen, that’s a BRILLIANT IDEA! I also love the idea of 99cent store hair goodies or art/office supplies, etc – all age appropriate of course. :D

        We know a four-year-old who “goes to his office” every morning. (It’s a corner of the room set up with mini desk and chair. He likes to make art there. Made a mini-briefcase and filled with office stuff and art supplies (thrift store and 99cent store) for that guy!
        Seriously, to all the party-poopers wah-wahing about the kidlets teeth: This is not a huge gallon jug of sugar, it’s a mason jar with a few things in it. It’s not just the idea that it’s candy, but look at the wonderful colors and shapes that delight kids no end! Um, you, as the parent and presumably person-in-control-of-what-your-children-eat, always have that age-old option of rationing.

        Sheesh, it’s one day of fabulous fun for the kidlet (or adult, lol) to open. There’s probably less candy than packaging anyway. AND some of those candy goodies have great packaging double as toys when empty.

      • Karen says:

        Agreed! ~ karen

    • Charlotte says:

      As a mom who recently found my then 2 year olds, now 8 year old tent thingy stuffed in the closet for the past 6 years, I wish I would have gave her a really fuzzy leopard print blanket and told her 2year old brain it was a chair tent? Guess how much fun they would have had and guess what I wouldnt have had to store for 6 years

  25. gloria says:

    I was sure you were going to show us how to make the kid a marshmallow gun from PVC, but with a contemporary twist to match your decor or possibly your chicken coop. But candy is always good. Can’t go wrong there. Unless, of course, if the kid’s parent is a dentist. Then maybe just leave it on the doorstep, ring the bell and run.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *