It’s never too early to start giving adventures rather than things. Take a 1-year-old to the park, take a 2-year-old to McDonald’s, bake cookies with 3- and 4-year-olds, and watch cranes and dump trucks at a construction site with a 5-year-old. It’s about time spent together, not doing something fancy.
It’s OK—and even preferable–to mix things up a bit regarding cost. Some years you may make a pinata together, and some years you may go to the circus. Be sure to avoid a scenario of outdoing last year’s adventure every year.
If you don’t live in the same town, be creative. A birthday adventure can occur several months before or after a birthday. Your goal is to spend memorable time with the child even if it doesn’t fall on their actual birthday.
If you don’t want to give up gift-giving altogether, give adventures for birthdays and gifts for Christmas, or vice versa.
Make a list of the adventures your child would like to help grandparents and others. Include simple as well as more complex choices. Revise the list each year since the child’s interests and abilities change.