Excellent ideas! May I also suggest a gift that would inspire a new hobby such as a simple sewing kit, knitting supplies, card-making supplies, metal detector, scroll saw, woodburning kit, coin collecting kit, etc….
Also equipment to try a new sport: ice skates, roller skates, volleyball, hula hoop, etc…
Great idea! Thanks!
These are all wonderful ideas for young children, as well as, grand-children and even adult children. Wishing you and your loved ones a very blessed Merry Christmas.
Great ideas! I dislike my kids getting so much “junk” for birthdays and Christmas, so I encourage people not to get them stuff. But if they really want to get stuff craft supplies are always welcome in our home. My kid’s very favorite Christmas gift is from their aunt and uncle who give them an iou for an outing with them. They have done a zoo and aquarium at different years, but this year they moved far away so they got the kids a year membership to a science and nature museum. It’s not as fun as an outing with them, but one we’ll get lots of use out of.
I know some people who are doing other subscriptions like kiwi crate (for monthly crafting supplies and ideas) and little passports (learning about other countries or states and activities). One thing I did this year, was still toys, but instead of getting them the ones that they usually request, but are only wow factor I got them open ended play ones like quality wooden blocks and some other building and creative play. Those I notice they play with all the time and will include in other play.
I love your suggestions of Kiwi Crate and Little Passports! I was thinking of magazine subscriptions when I put that in the article, but these kinds of subscriptions are FABULOUS too – thanks for mentioning them!
Thank you for the ideas
My 5 year old daughter was so glad when she received some body products (cream, bathfoam, lip balm…).
I am sure she would also appreciate items such as hair accessories or a belt (this is good for a boy, too).
A few times I chose to give kid bedsheets or a blanket (I gave a Lightning McQueen blanket two times!) and it was a good choice
My granddaughter when she was little love the colored liquid soap. She would draw with the soap on the tile wall next to to the bath tub while taking a bath.
we enjoyed the gift of Pipsticks (monthly stickerclub suscription), they are beautiful, both our boys (11-10-8) and our girl (5) LOVED them !
other ideas: a self-sewn bag for gymlessons at school, or a little felt bag for the calculator the eldest needs at school, or a nice ‘thing’ (sorry not native englishspeaker) to put your keys onto, I bought the kit two times already at http://www.vanmarieke.nl or click http://www.vanmarieke.nl/sleutelhangers.html
you can choose the materials and sew it very easy (even I can do it :))
thanks for your ideas !
great ideas !
our kids loved the idea of Pipsticks (monthly stickerclub subscription), or I make them a bag for the gymclothes or swimming clothes, or a felty thing for the calculator (then often they choose the fabric themselves, not knowing what’s it will become
or a beautiful thing to put on your keyring (I’m sorry I’m not native english speaker, don’t know how to call it properly but look here http://www.vanmarieke.nl/sleutelhangers.html
you can choose everything and personalize it, and even I can sew it in very short time :))
Love the ideas thanks! I love the idea of pipsticks. To further that maybe a good quality sticker book as a gift too. My kids get stickers from everywhere and they always want to keep them and never have a place to do so.
Also if clutter and too many toys is an issue consider the “Santa bags” something to adopt. Santa drops a big bag off for each child the week prior to Christmas on Christmas night he takes the bags back to the North Pole with him so he can take Some old toys and fix them up to make them new again and give them to another boy/girl. Then you get to make room for new stuff, and empower them to “give”
I LOVE this idea!! It makes it all part of the Christmas magic for a kid! Sugh a lovely way to do it!
I don’t usually give toys as gift, and I like several of the ideas listed. One thing I would add, for older kids, would be a personalized cookbook with some of the recipes that they enjoyed growing up. For my grandkids I do the following:
One thing they want
One thing they need
One thing to wear
One thing to read
I think a map of the world is also good.
I love these ideas and did many of them with my children growing up, although I’ll admit I did go overboard on the toys on occasion.
My kids are older now, but they always remember fondly the simplest of gifts and wonderful activities we shared together.
Thank you for the terrific list – it was great to reminisce about the days my children were younger!
I love your list and I will enjoy matching up your ideas with the interests of those I’m shopping for this year — it’s great for any age really!
One other personalized item is to identify a birth year, wedding date etc and find or purchase coins, bills or a combination from that year.- or buy a proof set of uncirculated coins.
An extension of that for a special birthday is to get a coin from each year from birth to the present birthday.
I like to put them in a blank coin collecting folder and then give the newest year each year after – just include it with a card.. This is also flexible in the amount you want to spend using pennies up to a dollar.. To go all out you can include a picture and/or a note/comment about each year which becomes a mini scrapbook of sorts.
Such great suggestions! We too struggle with the sheer volume of toys. Even the toys we really want them playing with, like Lego, just has so many pieces! So we’ve tried years with the extended family or only natural material things, or only books, or no toys but time etc. This will be another one of those years!
One gift my daughter loved was not just outdoor garden tools but seeds to go with it.
My mom used to do the five senses for our stockings and we carry that tradition with our kids now. So they get something to:
smell (soap, body wash, perfume etc)
hear (music or a DVD or tickets to a play)
taste (usually good dark chocolate and an orange!)
see (a book or magazine)
touch (usually something like gloves or socks)
and then one little fun thing for play.
Love all the ideas .. Great.. Thank-you for sharing
Great thoughtful article,I thought I was the only one that thought this way.The little boys in my life are getting handmade (by me) puppets for Christmas,toys,but requiring imaginationI’m so excited !!
My brother has three sisters including me, and we all live at least an hour away. He always misses us so I made him a little paper box with pictures, mementos, and little notes from each of us to look at when he misses us. He treasures it and it cost nothing.
This is a great list! Thanks for the wonderful ideas.
Fabulous post with wonderful ideas! Thank you for the helpful links too! Some gift lists aren’t as thorough as yours, I appreciate the work you put into yours.
These are some really great ideas. I personally liked the idea of musical instruments or something similar to enhance their skills and hunting the talents. Also, it is quite encouraging for the kids. And a personalized item, like carved name or photo watermark, can add more emotions to it. Thanks for these great ideas.
When I saw your list, I had to chuckle because when I asked my 3-year=old daughter back in November what she wanted for Christmas, the very first thing she said was “a mouse towel.” She got a bunny towel for her birthday, and she really, really wanted a mouse one to go with it. And she stuck with that all holiday season and was ECSTATIC when she got it (courtesy Etsy) on Christmas morning.
Anyhow, my gift suggestion was a tea diffuser. My kids actually love tea. It’s a nice holiday gift, because it’s warm and you can get good kid-friendly teas in holiday flavors. And tea diffusers come in all sorts of fun characters. Maybe a tea diffuser with an old-fashioned tea party set (although most cups in those sets are too small for a real diffuser, but still). My kids love their tea party set and while they might seem old-fashioned, I find them lovely and a great way to teach manners, responsibility and sharing.
LOVE these ideas! Thank you for sharing.
I love the image of your daughter hugging her mouse towel on Christmas morning.
Thank you so much for this page! I am almost embarrassed to share I have this post saved in my favorites to revert back as any of my 3 children’s birthdays come up. Just some great meaningful ideas in here, hope everyone enjoys family time as it seems to be harder to find the time as the kiddos grow up! Thought I would share an idea my husband did for everyone as a gift, very thoughtful of him and the teens love it! He bought all of us our own domains. He showed me how to access it and set it up for the kids whenever they want to change it, and it’s very easy. We use a company named WEBiCANN.com just because they are much cheaper than the larger companies, and my husband said its the same thing. But yea so you can get YOURNAME.COM (if its available of course) and then link it to your social media sites! Use it for email! And its cheap! Under $10 a year for your name!
Yea just wanted to pass it along since I took all your ideas, may be a fun / meaningful / good on the budget gift that those social media crazy kids just love telling their friends to go to their name to find them on Facebook.
Take care y’all!
We did a lot of non toy or homemade items this last Christmas and are hoping to do it again this year with even more experience type gifts. One thing I did for my 3 younges and great neice was to make stick horses. While it’s still a toy it really gave them something they had to use their imagination with. I also made quite a lot of felt food for their kitchen set. One gift they all received from their aunt, I even received a larger version of it, was a homemade flower press. While it wasn’t something we were able to use right away due to the weather, it is something we can use throughout the rest of the year. We can take walks and gather flowers and leaves together and then after we’ve pressed them we can use our pressed flowers for crafts and art that we can also work on together.
What lovely ideas! Thank you for sharing!
WOW,Great idea and Awesome suggestions for upcoming Christmas!! It will really help for our kids for their mental development also.Thanks!!
Check out M is for Monster, it’s a monthly educational box subscription.
Amazing quality & contents.
Personalized stationary and stamps to encourage the old art of writing.
Another cool game we love to encourage imagination and creativity is Story Cubes.
Play silks also are a hit by such a varied age range – they can be used as superhero capes, for fort building, for dress up, for snuggling up, etc.
Yes! What great ideas! Thank you.
Not only does this list keep growing, but there are more and more great ideas being added in the comments, so definitely keep on reading once you get to the end of our list. Nourishing Joy has the best. readers. ever!
If your home is anything like mine, you’ve donated more than half your children’s toys to your local thrift store and you still don’t see the dent.
It’s amazing how pervasive our mountains of toy possessions can be – and how quickly they can grow.
Now, don’t get me wrong – there are a lot of toys I really like, some I even love. Some toymakers have gotten incredibly innovative in creating toys that are creative, engaging, socially responsible, AND durable. After all, play time is an ESSENTIAL part of a child’s healthy growth and development.
What I take issue with is how overrun most of us are with toys. It’s the sheer volume that does us all a disservice – and our children the most.
And secondly, spending time with our precious kiddos is a far greater gift than anything we can put in a gift bag anyway. They may not jump up and down with such grand enthusiasm on Christmas morning as gifts are unwrapped, but thirty years from now, they’ll still be talking about “that time you took me to see…”
So this year, I propose a toy-free holiday when it comes to gifts. There are some really great toy alternatives that will serve our children well – and whether you use this list for Christmas, a birthday, or another gift-inspired holiday, these 31 are just to get you started.
Be sure to follow our Growing Creative Kids and Growing Thoughtful Kids boards on Pinterest!
N.B. There are a few items on here, namely games, puzzles, dress-up clothes, and art supplies, that some might consider “toys.” I chose not to categorize them that way, but ignore them if it sets off your semantic radar. Also, for the sake of clutter, you might not want to consider these items anyway. If you’ve got a very young child in the house, it’s entirely possible puzzle pieces and game tokens will be spread across the house faster than you can say “Happy Birthday,” so choose what’s right for you.
31+ Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Children
1. Tickets to an event. One of my favorite birthday presents growing up was when my dad took me to the symphony. Give your child tickets to an event that allows them to feel grown-up, special, or just something to look forward to. Most of all, it’s something to do together.
2. Magazine subscriptions. One of the most thoughtful gifts we received when our first child was born was a subscription to Babybug magazine, which morphed into Ladybug and Spider as she grew. Not only does she look forward to receiving mail every month, but magazines such as these that are low on fluff and high on quality give a child a on-going dose of fun education and encourage their literacy skills!
3. Classes. Encourage what your child loves or is good at. Be it dance, art, athletics, horseback riding, music, storytelling, or carpentry, give your child a chance to enhance their skills doing something they love or want to learn. The only word of caution here is to book the classes before you gift them – it’s all too easy to promise this gift and then not follow through on actually booking them.
4. Memberships. If there’s a zoo, aquarium, museum, theatre, or music venue in your area, gift your child a membership so they can attend regularly. Not only will it provide on-going events together, but you’ll get to explore more in depth each time you attend. These are especially good for large families, as typically getting a “family rate” is significantly cheaper than purchasing a day pass once or twice.
5. Dress up clothes. Dress-up clothes used to be hand-me-downs from Grandma, so visit your local thrift store and fill your dress-up wardrobe with inexpensive, REAL clothing (not the cheap Disney pre-made stuff that only allows your child how to pretend to be one movie character). Our favorites are aprons, old-fashioned shoes, feather boas, fans, hats of all sorts, old ball gowns, scrubs, and the like.
6. Repurposed play food & kitchen items. Put together an entire kitchen of play food by collecting used containers from your own kitchen, such as spice jars, salt & pepper shakers, and empty boxes (such as from baking powder, cornstarch, sugar, and baking soda), then cleaning them out well and carefully taping shut any sharp or loose edges. If they’re already “pretty” enough as a gift, leave them be, but if you want to “prettify” them, paint and decorate them to make them look just right.
7. Their own travel supplies. Whether it’s a toiletry bag to keep their toothbrush in the next time they spend the night at Grandma’s or a backpacking backpack all their own, having their own travel bag or supplies for on the road gears children up for adventure and helps assuage fears of the unknown by fostering independence. If you’ve traveled away from home before, perhaps slip a few photos from the trip into the gift as well.
8. Monthly mail. One of my daughter’s absolute favorite gifts of all time was when my sister, who lives abroad, gave her the Christmas gift of sending her a postcard once a month for the following year. My sister was intentional in choosing cards with fun images that reflect the place where she lives and my daughter still treasures each of those postcards. Kids love getting mail and it provides a wonderful, on-going connection between the giver and the receiver.
9. A piggy bank. Help your child begin to learn important budgeting and saving skills by giving them a piggy bank. We especially love this one that has separate compartments for spending, saving, and tithing (sharing). You can seed the piggy bank with a cash gift too if you so desire!
10. Music. Music is the language of the soul and can stir the heart, the soul, and the mind – so whether you want to gift your child classic rock or classical rhapsodies, give a gift that can inspire for years. My husband and I still return to music we first heard decades ago when we feel the need to dance, grieve, or just sing at the top of our lungs while we do family housecleaning – and our children do the same with the music they each love.
11. Musical instruments. Listening to music is essential, but making it and creating your own sounds, melodies, and rhythms is even more so. Whether it’s small, like shaker eggs and maracas, or large, like a guitar or keyboard, the ability to create music informs and shapes the mind AND spirit.
12. Audiobooks. A good story enlivens the mind and inspires discovery. And sometimes it’s just nice to hear a story rather than read it, especially when it’s read by a master storyteller. Give your child a gift they can curl up with over and over again. Some of our family favorites include the Classical Kids series, The Children’s Homer, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, the Magic Tree House series, and any of the books from The Chronicles of Narnia.
13. A photo album. Whether blank, filled with photos, or gifted with a small camera, a photo album helps create the story of one’s life. Whether the child uses it to tell the story of a single event or the events of their life, this can become a treasured item for years to come.
14. One-on-one outings. Do an activity together of the child’s choosing, such as skating, swimming, skiing, bowling, painting – you name it! Intentional time together having fun is the best part of this gift.
15. Nature up-close. Give a gift that will help your child observe and interact with nature on a regular basis. A few ideas include a butterfly garden to watch caterpillars morph into butterflies (you can order them here), a bird feeder + bird seed + bird field guide (like this one), a bug house, or even just a magnifying glass, a pair of binoculars, or a telescope.
16. Their own kitchen tools. It has surprised me over and over, but some of my kids’ favorite presents have been their own tools to use in the kitchen when they help us cook. Invest in simple-but-sturdy whisks, wooden spoons, measuring cups, and measuring spoons. These can also make superb stocking stuffers if you feel they’re too small a gift to give on their own.
17. Their own work tools and outdoor equipment. Give your child their own gardening tools, their own workshop tools (these ones are FANTASTIC!), their own fishing rod, their own hiking stick, or their own gardening gloves. These “just like Mom and Dad’s” type tools give a sense of independence while emulating their role models AND give them the tools to discover the world – literally.
18. A watch. Not only does having a watch help a child develop a sense of time and how quickly a certain period of time passes, but it gives a sense of independence. Knowing when an event will happen or knowing that they have 15 minutes to complete an activity and it’s their responsibility to finish in time can be a very empowering, encouraging thing.
19. A calendar. Whether it’s a calendar with kittens on it or a homemade calendar with family photos, a calendar provides a sense of connectedness to what’s going on in the family. This can be an especially fun gift for kids in the 6-9 year old range who are starting to develop a sense of longer time periods and who want to KNOW how long it is until vacation starts or when someone’s birthday is or when a certain friend is coming to play.
20. A fun or fancy bath towel. It’s simple, but having your own, designated, super-amazing hooded bath towel that turns you into a shark or a beach or a frog or a duck makes bath time fun for years on end.
21. A sleeping bag. Not only can a sleeping bag be a fun new place to sleep, but it can be a Cave of Wonders to be explored by flashlight, a place to escape to read books by yourself, or the top of a living room fort. Our favorites are the kid-sized ones from Mountain Equipment Co-op and REI.
22. Personalized recipe cards + a special dinner cooking date. If your child likes to join you in the kitchen, give them a pack of recipe cards on which you can write, “From the Kitchen of… your child’s name.” You may also want to include a cookbook that’s near and dear to you or a child-specific cookbook, such as this one that our four-year-old son loves. Lastly, you may want to have a special dinner in honor of your child, and if so, decide a date and a theme, then plan a menu together around that theme. Clear your calendar and cook the meal together, then serve and celebrate!
23. A gift given to a charity chosen by the child. Depending on the age of your child, this may or may not be an appropriate gift, but if so, introduce several charities to your child. Include organizations that work in your area (such as a food bank), that do work that is important to your family (perhaps, planting trees in deforested areas), or that your child would find intriguing (say, provides school supplies to low income kids in your community). Let the child choose a charity and give a gift in your child’s name to that organization. Deliver the gift in person, if appropriate. Alternatively, you could find a Christmas Giving Tree-type program in your area and gift your child the same gifts you provide for the low-income child in need to serve as a reminder of how kids everywhere all just want to play and feel loved. (These are typically toys, however, so they somewhat break the “no-toy” rule, but provide a much bigger gift, nonetheless.)
24. A special article of clothing. Give one article of clothing that you know your child would really love and that they don’t need. Perhaps a fancy dress, a beret, a certain style of jeans, a scarf, a piece of jewelry, or a tie-dyed t-shirt. Especially if clothing is something you and your child have conflict over regularly, giving a special piece of clothing that acknowledges their desires without foregoing what you feel is important can be a special way of honoring your child and building trust.
25. Art and craft supplies. When the supplies are on hand to just CREATE, amazing (and messy) things happen. Fill a basket with supplies you know your child will use – everything from googly-eyes and pom-poms to sparkly paper and scissors – and include a few items your child hasn’t used before, just for the fun of it. It’s funny how new paper and unused supplies never cease to inspire. Even as adults, looking through blank journals and fresh pads of paper just feels inviting – like there’s something that is just waiting to be created – so this gift is appropriate for kids of all ages!
26. Homemade coupon books. Every child wants to feel respected and to sometimes feel grown-up. What could feel more grown-up that getting to choose when you’ll have game night, what you’ll have for dinner, or getting to stay up late? Make a book of coupons the child can spend anytime through the year with items like, “A trip to the local coffee shop with just Mom,” “Stay up one hour past bedtime,” “Impromptu Movie Night! You choose the movie,” or “Redeem this coupon for a double scoop of ice cream after any meal of your choosing.”
27. Books. Whether your child is a pre-reader (in which case wordless books like Pancakes for Breakfast and A Boy, a Dog, and A Frog are delightful) or a seasoned chapter book reader, books inspire children to explore worlds and emotions they wouldn’t otherwise discover – and in often delightful ways. (And I must mention, this season’s super-popular new children’s book, The Book with No Pictures, is popular for very good reason and there’s a copy already tucked away in our home ready to be given to our own kiddos this Christmas. )
28. Restaurant gift cards for a Night Out for Two. Going out to dine can be a special occasion that is treasured, especially when it’s one-on-one. The gift can be specified that it’s to be used with the giver or you can offer the option that the gift cards can be used with any one other person the child chooses – a grandparent, a trusted adult friend, a parent, whomever!
29. Games. A well-designed game can provide hours of entertainment all together as a family. Some of our family favorites are Ticket to Ride, Wordigo, and Dutch Blitz.
30. Puzzles. Again, these are waaaaaaay more fun to do as a family than all alone, so find a few puzzles that can be done by people of all ages in your family (or work multiple puzzles at multiple levels). Choose puzzles with designs of special interest to the child who will receive the gift.
31. A digital camera. See the world through your child’s eyes and give them the gift of discovery! You can find brand new digital cameras for under $65 – or perhaps gift your old camera if you are going to be getting a new one yourself. There are also cheaper ones designed specifically for children, but you’ll get better and longer use out of a basic “regular” camera.
32. A sewing machine. Learning to hand-sew is a wonderful life-skill and excellent creative outlet for kids of all ages, but for older children, a high-quality sewing machine designed with kids in mind will help give children the confidence to create anything they can imagine with fabric and contribute useful items to the home. This solid-yet-compact kid’s sewing machine has been recommended highly to me by multiple friends and colleagues (and there are other colors available too – don’t be put off by the hot pink color!)
33. Giant coloring posters. If your child or grandchild loves to color, consider these giant coloring posters that provide hours of coloring fun. We sometimes do these all together as a family, as they’re big enough to work on together.
34. Mittens or other woolens. This might sound a little bit like a let-down, but my daughter’s favorite recent gift is a pair of mittens. These particular mittens were knit in Nepal that not only are crazy colors she loves to show off on the playground, but are part fingered gloves and part mittens. For her, she gets to show off her sense of style while still getting to play on the cold metal trick bars in freezing weather. For her, total win. On the other side, my two sons still absolutely adore the slippers my mother-in-law crocheted for them last Christmas – nearly a year later, these are still an appreciated gift. These gifts are small, practical ones that reflects the recipients sense of style – and thus they’re cherished ones.
35. Monthly subscription boxes. There are subscription boxes popping up all over the place these days, and personally, I think they’re wonderful. This may be #35 on the list, but it just might be my #1 non-toy gift idea for kids!
Whether you want to fuel your child’s love of discovery with science boxes, inspire their creativity with an art box, or engage them in the larger world with geography-based activities, subscription services that send a box once a month with project supplies like Kiwi Crate, Green Kid Crafts, and Little Passports are a FANTASTIC gift that keeps on giving.
(Kiwi Crate also has versions for younger and older kids: Koala Crate is an art subscription for preschoolers and Doodle Crate and Tinker Crate are more in-depth activity subscriptions for kids ages 9-16+.)
Also, you can find subscription boxes for nearly any interest – just type an interest (e.g. “sewing”) plus the words “subscription box” into your favorite search engine and you’ll likely have at least one option pop up. And better yet, Kids Activities Blog has done a bang-up job of reviewing different boxes – read their reviews here.
Ooo – and heads-up: you can also buy individual boxes without the subscription on Amazon, like these backyard science, ocean science, or even music science ones, so you pay around $25 rather than a full year’s subscription.
And….. there’s now a Part 2!
And if you’re still feeling stuck on inspiration, consider giving each child four small gifts:
One gift to read
One gift to wear
One gift to delight
One gift to give (like the gifts listed in #23 above)
So, there are a few ideas to get you started! I hope you found at least one inspiring idea for the children in your life.
What other non-toy gift ideas do you have? Are there any ways in particular you like to celebrate the season with your children?
Original article and pictures take http://nourishingjoy.com/31-non-toy-gift-ideas-for-children/ site