About a year and a half ago we had a party to go to for a 4 year old and I find it really hard to buy kids toys knowing that most of them have WAY TOO MANY! I read somewhere about giving the gift of a play date with a friend so I decided that we would take Lippy Lou's friend out to McDonald's and then to the park to play.
Here is the "gift" card I made her to announce what we would be doing.
Of course I always ask the parents first to be sure the child will be able to go, but by far these gifts have been the hit of the party. When the day came to go on our play date the girls had a blast and Riley talked about it for weeks afterwards!