When you're a parent, you sort of have gifts you'd be glad to be given to your kids than other items. Personally, I pray my kids receive less toys because they have so many already that any additional ones are turning to clutter.
Below is the list of items I buy for my children's friends aside from toys.
BOOKS. I love books so this is my first choice for birthday gifts. I think you can't get enough of them. Educational, cheap (most of them), classic, safe.
SLEEPWEAR AND UNDIES. I don't know why we don't buy this as birthday gifts. We can never have enough of these, right? We use them everyday so we need as many as we can get.
ART MATERIALS. These are kids' most consumable items (sometimes they really 'consume' them). My kids' crayons and papers need to be replenished every two or three months since they practically use them everyday.
KIDS' TOOTHBRUSHES AND TOOTHPASTE. There are so many cute kiddie toothbrushes that are great gift ideas. Just make sure to buy good quality ones made specially for kids. The same goes for toothpaste as well. A note though. I don't buy soaps since parents usually have a preferred brand for their kids.
Gift giving for kids don't have to be impractical or useless. Most of these gifts will be appreciated by the kids and the parents as well.