Completing a puzzle is a rewarding activity to do, and is also great for fine motor skills and concentration. Try to find a puzzle with a picture of interest to the child you’re buying for as they’re more likely to keep coming back to complete it.
Toy cars may be predictable but they’re also fail-safe for young boys. I discovered when my boys were little that toy shops often have single long pieces of plastic tracks you can buy for about $2. I think they’re meant to connect into those fancy trick sets, but on their own, they are great to race cars off the coffee table or down a set of stairs.
If you think a placemat as a birthday present is strange, just hear me out. We’ve been given kids placemats twice and they were total hits. The kids started taking initiative in setting the table of a night and knew straight away which seat was theirs at meal times (no more fighting about who was sitting where). You can get personalised ones, which is what we have, and kids love anything that has their name on it. So, in my book, placemats are a great gift!