Knitted cactus - emily Sian hart

Unique birthday gift ideas: how to truly surprise your loved ones

gifting thoughtfully
by holly tucker


Want some fresh ideas for ways to make birthdays unforgettable? I might have one or two up my sleeve...

How to make someone feel special through gifts? Start with their passions

Finding unique birthday gift ideas is hands down one of my favourite things to do — even though it drives me to utter distraction. It’s a kind of exquisite torture. Like you, I have spent many an hour not sleeping, racking my brains for that unexpectedly thoughtful, original gift. Yet it feels instantly worth it to deliver an extraordinary moment of true surprise, joy or irrepressible laughter at a memory or feeling evoked — something they will look back on forever, with love.

Over the decades I’ve come to see that there is a knack to it too. First you think of their passions and aspirations — not the obvious stuff but that little thing you know about them that is the spark of the idea — their obsession with birds (just me?), dachshunds, allotments or that they once mentioned they always wanted to go to Paris. Then you go to town. Nailing the theme and finding creative ways to build on it. How can you make it personal? If you can’t take them to Paris, how can you bring Paris to them? Where could you give them the gift that’s relevant? How could you decorate it? Which wrapping paper and card elevate it? It doesn’t have to cost loads or take ages (although if you are in a hurry, you might want to try my birthday gifts collection or some instant inspiration as I’ve done the treasure hunting for you!).

How to make birthdays special: from token gifts to heirloom presents

You could start by thinking about what the person you’re buying for most needs. Is it a good night out or a good night in? Something soulful to remind them of what matters to them most in the world? A meaningful piece of jewellery? One way of truly surprising them is with birthday gifts that only they could receive (and only you could give) — perhaps because of a conversation you’ve had, a date you know is special to them or something you’ve remembered that shows you listen. You could try…

  • An heirloom gift — something special that’s made to last that they will keep or pass on.
  • An unforgettable birthday gift experience — think beyond physical items by gifting memories; something fresh to talk about, learn or do.
  • Creating highly personal or personalised gifts — custom creations based on something imaginatively ‘them’ that will really make them smile.
  • A surprise party idea — which can be a gift in itself (see our celebrations ideas for original decorations and dress-up inspiration).
  • Subscription gifts — delivering curated surprises all year round or niche subscription services tailored to their interests.
  • Surprise getaways — a weekend away with a twist (with a treasure hunt to discover the destination maybe or given with food or drink from the area?).

Handmade gifts with soul: the power of creativity

This is where innovation and handmade gifts come in, and thank God for the extraordinary imagination and talent of the nation’s creative small businesses as I don’t know about you, but I’ve neither the patience nor the knowledge, time or skill to sit for hours and make by hand — but my goodness, the impact these gifts have.

And the more niche, the better. I love developing gifts with makers, infusing love and care between us. Most artisans are up for creating something new so always ask. It’s what they’re best at. You might want a piece of handmade jewellery etched with something inspiring? Commissioned artwork to mark a life moment? Thoughtful or sentimental birthday gifts don’t need to be naff. Venture beyond the obvious. Think about the best or most surprising gift you’ve ever received. Was it because it showed that someone knew you inside out? Or that you genuinely had absolutely no idea it was coming? Whatever the reason, choosing birthday gifts gives you a brand new way to make a connection with your loved ones and to spread some happiness. Let's embrace it.

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