This list of non-toy gifts for kids encourages family time, generosity, and creativity.
Do I dare make this confession?
There’s a part of me that dreads the holiday season.
Let me back up a moment. I love the many traditions of Christmas – getting together with friends and family, eating delicious food we eat only once a year, and the general sense of warmth and togetherness the season creates.
But the presents.
Ever since becoming a parent I have a love/hate relationship with presents.
On the one hand, the delight on my kids faces as they tear open their gifts is priceless. Anyone who has been a kid on Christmas morning re-lives that special feeling as they watch kids experience excitement and surprise.
But as I watch my children tear through wrapping paper, I wonder – am I feeding my girls a diet of unhampered materialism with all these presents?
After all, my girls have everything they really need: a loving family, a roof over their head, clothing to wear, plenty of food. And as for toys – there’s no lack. Due to years of generous gifts and hand-me-downs, our house is overflowing with toys.
So what’s a parent to do?
Eight Meaningful Non-Toy Kids Gifts
Rather do away with gifts altogether, I’ve instead tried my best to choose gifts that have meaning beyond the first hour they’re opened.
Below is a list of non-toy kids gifts that take the focus off of acquisition and onto spending time with family, being generous to others, and inspiring creativity and exploration.
Give the Gift of Family Time
- A tent and camping gear: Even though a tent is a physical gift, there are great experiences that come with its use. We purchased this tent a few years ago – it’s the perfect size for our family and a great price!
- Board Games: Create a tradition of a family game night with the gift of a few board games. Our favorites include Blokus, Ingenious, and Quoridor.
- Kids Coupons: Give kids the gift of an hour with mom or dad, a night to stay up late or a trip to the ice cream parlor with printable coupons.
- Question a Day Book: This Question a Day Book can start a fun daily activity – Each day for three years your child will answer one question and chronicle their thoughts. A great way to capture memories.
Give the Gift of Education
- Educational Subscription Boxes: Educational subscription boxes for kids arrive with a curated educational activity once a month (or more often). Themes for these boxes include STEM activities, book subscriptions, geography and culture, boxes with a creative theme, and general education boxes. See my list of 20 of the Best Educational Subscription Boxes for Kids for recommendations.
- Online Cooking Classes: Kids can learn to cook at home with these online cooking classes designed specifically for kids. The classes feature three levels of teaching and cover all the basics such as measuring, knife skills, stove top basics, and independently following a recipe. Check it out here: Kids Cook Real Food
- Gardening Sets: Gardening provides kids with lots of opportunities to learn about botany and ecosystems and best of all get them outside! Little kids will enjoy this herb growing kit, while older kids are better suited for this one.
- Science Kits: Amazon has dedicated a section to kids science kits called Scientific Explorer. I’ve also created a page of standout science kits in all disciplines that you can access here.
Give the Gift of Creativity
- Nova Natural: Nova Natural sells a wide range of creative kits and products for kids. These pared-down, earth-friendly products put the focus on kids play and creativity.
- DIY Kits: Kids will love making their own lip balm, glycerine soap, and paint their own T-shirts with these kits.
- Wood Working Kit: For the builder, this woodworking kit provides all the tools necessary to build a truck or other project.
- Art and Craft Subscription Boxes for Kids: Every month your child will receive a new art and/or craft project based on different themes from one of these nine art and craft subscription boxes for kids.
Give the Gift of Reading
- Magazines: Kids magazines make a fun gift that lasts all year. Some of our favorites include Stone Soup, Cricket, and National Geographic Kids.
- Bookstore gift certificates: If you have a child who loves to read (and even if you don’t), a gift certificate to a local bookstore will inspire the bookworm in all kids.
- Children’s book subscription boxes: Give the gift of reading that keeps on giving! These eleven children’s book subscription boxes will send 2-3 new books to your child every month based on different themes and topics.
A recent article in the Atlantic discussed how research shows experiences bring people more happiness than possessions. Here are a few of the experiences parents can give kids during the holidays:
- Vacations: This doesn’t have to be a multi-country European tour. Even just a weekend trip to an amusement park will be a welcome gift for kids.
- Extracurricular Activities: Let’s face it, the cost of extracurricular activities can add up. If your kid has wanted to try out an extracurricular activity that stretches the budget why not give it as a gift? Relatives and parents can contribute to the cost and kids will likely appreciate these activities more if they come in the form of a gift.
- Museum memberships: Science museums, children’s museums – the gift of membership not only supports these institutions but also provides the chance for many family outings.
- Tickets to a sporting event: If you have a kid who loves sports, give them the gift of a trip to see their favorite team. Even if it’s too early to buy tickets, you can create a card that kids can cash-in later.
- Tickets to a performance: If you have a ballerina, a theater nut or you know your kids will love seeing Disney on Ice, wrap up a few tickets to these performances.
For more experience gift ideas see: 101+ of the Best Experience Gifts for Kids
Give the Gift of Charity
- Global Giving: I love this website, Global Giving. Each year my girls receive a Global Giving gift card that they can use to support a wide range of causes. In addition to encouraging charity, this site also prompts discussions between kids and parents about the needs of people around the globe.
- Heifer International: Another gift my girls receive, either from us or their grandparents, is a donation to Heifer International. Parents can either purchase a flock of geese, for example, to donate to a needy family or let kids pick out their own donation.
Give the Gift of Charitable Loans
- Kiva: If you aren’t already familiar with Kiva, it’s a wonderful site that lets donors loan their money to small business owners around the globe. And the best part? One $25 of the loan is paid off, kids can then re-loan the money to another entrepreneur.
- Pro Mujer: Also a micro-lending site, Pro Mujer focuses on loans to women in Latin America.
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About Kerry Flatley
Hi! I’m Kerry, the mother of two girls and a certified parent educator. I believe it is possible for parents to have a supportive, loving, and warm relationship with their kids while raising them to be independent and ultimately self-sufficient. Over the years, I’ve read numerous books and articles that support this belief and I’ve put these ideas into practice with my own kids. Read more about me and Self-Sufficient Kids here.