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For a unique birthday gift, consider giving an older child a set of lessons in some skill they'd like to learn. You can probably find affordable lessons through your city's recreation department for a wide variety of topics. Dance classes, arts and crafts, music classes--even cooking classes for older kids--can all be fun.
*Check with the parents to make sure the class is okay with them before mentioning it to the child. For an extra special gift, consider offering to drive the child to and from the class if possible so as not to burden the parents.