Science says instead of giving toys… give gifts that create memories. They are valued more than toys.
Outings, experiences & vacations are “valued by children, both in the moment and for long afterward in their memory,” psychologist and best-selling author Oliver James explained to The Telegraph. “It’s all about talking nonsense with your parents, sharing an ice cream and moments of time in which your interests are genuinely taken into account. So if you’re going to spend money on something, it’s pretty clear which option makes more sense.”
I love toys for our kids. Toys are wonderful… educational, creative, opening a world of play. I am a play therapist, so kids, play & toys are my job. However… Toys are also overflowing in our house, and if you are reading this, I’m guessing in your house, too. Every year, I take my own Whole-House Declutter Course, where I take time to go through our house & donate toys, but they come back every birthday & holiday.
Just this week, I was in our playroom looking for toys to donate and I realized that our kids rarely play with any of them anymore. Sure, they want toys. They ask for toys. They see them in the store or at a friend’s house and feel like they can’t live without them.
I don’t want our kids special days or holidays to always be about the toys. I want them to get past the “want” for toys and have a “want” to help others, a “want” to create memories, a “want” to see the real reason for the season.
Kids have so much stuff. Too much stuff. (It’s not just the kids… we have too much stuff, too.)
Trucks, cars, barbies, legos, Princesses, Pokemon, Shopkins, Nerf Guns, Droids, trains, dinosaurs, baby dolls (times three!). While I feel so blessed that we are able to give our kids so much, it is a conversation that we have often: when do you say enough is enough? When do you say “No” when you know that you can say “Yes”? There are children in our own town that are sleeping on a cold floor tonight and our kids have three of the same toy… a toy that another child would be ecstatic to receive.
I want our children to know that there is more to giving than just toys. I know that it is so fun for the kids to have new toys, but I don’t want them to stop appreciating (or remembering) what they are being given, because it is so routine for them.
With four kids, 3 boys and a girl, we have accumulated a lot of stuff… you can find most of it in the toybox. That’s kind of where it sits. Yes, they play with these things from time to time, but more often than not, they are playing family or superhero or playing outside on the swings or making forts in our backyard. Our daughter, on the other hand, loves her princesses and plays with them daily. She is the perfect age for toys right now, but if you ask her to play ‘family’ or dress-up, she’d choose that any day of the week.
Sometimes I feel like we buy just to buy. “What does ___ want?” Why do we all do this? I am certainly no stranger to this notion. I do it constantly, but I want to change this. Last year, my brother and I decided that for each other’s kids, we would give experiences instead of toys. My parents do this for our kids now, too. It’s been so much better!
I’m not saying I’m going to toss out all of our toys or that our kids will stop asking for them. Like I said, there is certainly a special place for toys in our homes and in our lives. We use them daily, but if you want to give the best thing to a child, try giving something that creates a memory. Take that child to the movies, on a picnic, out for ice cream. Today, I am sharing my favorite ideas for non-toy gifts. (I found a few affiliate links to make it easier for you to find the things that I already use or have.)
What if we … stopped? What if instead of buying only toys, we invested our money in memories? Today I’m sharing affiliate links to some things that you can give that aren’t gifts.
Here are some non-toy gift ideas to get you started:
- Make them a photo album of memories from the year (use an album where it has room for you to write and share why you loved that moment.) Our kids each have a “firsts” book where I have a picture of their “firsts” and I write what it was right beside it. (First time at the movies, first car ride, first time on a bike”My favorite example… “Allie’s first photo with her big brothers”
- A blanket with a photo on it (how fun to cuddle up with this reminder every night). Our daughter sleeps with her every night (it has pictures on squares that are sewn together to make a beautiful quilt- made by her great aunt)
- Subscription boxes are great because they are a gift that just KEEPS giving. Another one that we like is our subscription to Little PassPorts – this is a great little box that comes every month & introduces kids to new places in the world or to new science experiments (like making an eggshell disappear). Our kids got this from my brother’s family. I find out son reading these all of the time.
- $5 McDonalds gift card & a new set of pajamas…. then go out together and get ice cream in your pajamas with your kids. Our kids LOVE this! (We stay in the car, get our ice cream, park and eat and chat…)
- Photo mug – so we gave each of our kids a photo mug a few years ago. They use them every night for ice cream instead of using a bowl (it’s usually their snack after dinner… mine, too). The mug has pictures of the kids playing in the lake over the summer and each of them has a special picture on their mug as part of the collage.
- A personalized book. This is always going to be a favorite of mine because I still have mine from when I was little. I give these as gifts for birthdays and give them to our own children for special occasions, as a way to remember what special thing happened that year.
- Membership to a local museum (we have a kid-museum close & the kids love it!) I think that it makes for a great day out and if you get a membership, you can go so often and it pays for itself after just a few visits.
- A butterfly kit (my sister in law ordered Ethan a butterfly kit last year and our whole family loved watching them start as caterpillars and end as butterflies)
- Tickets to an event. My mom took our son to the Hip-Hop Nutcracker last year and he loved it. My parents have season tickets to the plays in Charlotte and go every other Sunday. They have kid-tickets, too, so that would be a great way to spend a Sunday with your family.
- A membership to Netflix. Our in-laws got this for us & we use it every month.
- A gift certificate to get their ears pierced. My friend did this for my other friend (after asking permission) and it was a HUGE hit.
- Take them somewhere. Go hiking, on a picnic, anywhere that gives you one on one time.
- Classes at a local gym, art studio, dance studio, soccer clinic… whatever they are into. I love giving lessons as a gift because they truly learn from it.
- Passes to an amusement park. If you have a park close to your house, chances are the kids will use it again & again.
- A gift certificate for books – check out scholastic.com and order a gift card for a gift of education.
- Clothes. Kids like them, but parents appreciate them. 🙂 Or better yet- take the child to pick out a special outfit.
- Shoes – our kids go through shoes so fast! Our kids LOVE to pick out a new pair of shoes: a memory & a practical gift. (Get them some FUN, neon-colored laces, too. Let the child pick!) 🙂
- A monthly subscription to something like Kiwi Crate where they send projects for your kids every month. This is so much fun & every month your kids get to open a new gift!
- Gift cards to a movie and a few snacks to go with it.
- An umbrella. I say this one because our kids have broken at least an umbrella each, but they love them so much that they’ve used them even when they were broken! lol!!
- Their own kitchen tools… and your favorite recipe on the back of a picture of the two of you. Our son, Beau, asked for his own set of kid kitchen knives last year and he has spent a lot of time cooking in the kitchen since.
- Family recipe cards and ingredients in a basket. (Make cookies or even playdough – here’s an playdough easy recipe)
- A sleeping bag and a coupon for a sleepover at Grandma’s house (or Aunt’s house… from the person giving the gift). Or a coupon for a night to have a cousin or friend stay at your house.
- Coupon books for things like “One coupon good to skip chores today.” I know that our kids would LOVE this one.
- A tea party. A few years ago, my mom & I went to a ‘tea party’ at a little tea shop and it was so much fun. We shopped around, drank tea, ate the snacks & talked. It was great and I can’t wait to start taking Allie. This Christmas we will have our first one.
- Sewing kit or cake-decorating kit (perfect for kids starting a new hobby)
- A “five senses toy” … something to smell (soap), something to hear (tickets to a play), something to taste (favorite cookies from a bakery), something to see (a book), something to touch (new winter gloves)
- Steve Spangler Science Club – they deliver a box filled with a science experiment every month. We loved ‘making snow’! Our boys had so much fun doing this activity.
- A new bath towel. Our kids love getting their special bath towels, like sharks, princess or even pirate cat towels.
- Dress up clothes- I love when kids play & use their imagination. Give them your old prom dresses, etc… Allie loves to use mine!
- Mini Golf gift certificate. This is not my favorite thing to do, but kids LOVE it, so I try to love it.
- Craft supplies. Make the kids an invention box (here is ours) – it will give them hours of creativity.
- Snacks – what kid don’t love fun snacks? Try a cookie jar filled with cookies – now THAT would be a fun Christmas treat… for the kids! haha!
- Sports Co Box– These little boxes are for fans of Baseball, Softball, Basketball & Hockey. They are boxes customized for All Ages & Skill Levels. You can surprise your athlete with a box of training aids, accessories, gear and other fun products. You can subscribe for one month, 3 months, a year or as long as you choose!
- Nail polish and play make-up. Be sure to take the time to play with them with your child. Allie LOVES to put makeup and nail-polish on me. I love that time together, too.
- Tattoos – our kids love to use temporary tattoos. They are so much fun!
- Weighted blankets. They are said to help kids sleep better (our kids have them). We just ordered two here.
- Calendar already filled out with fun things: playdates, special one on one time, birthdays, lunch-date, movie nights.
- Chick-Fil-A calendar (it comes with deals every month)
- A Watch – I seriously don’t know any child that doesn’t love wearing a watch (at least for a week!) and a book about telling time.
- Your favorite book from when you were their age. Re-read it with your child (or grandchild) and then talk about it. This book was a favorite in our family.
- Board Games that kids will love. We like to play Headbandz with the kids & they love it, too!
- Socks- our kids LOVE to wear fun socks!
- Movie for the car. If you have a TV in the car, a movie for the car is perfect! I pick up $3 movies when I see them on sale & save them for road trips.
- Movie night at home – we make “drive-in” movies:
- Room decor. I love paintings for the kids rooms (or personalized things to hang in their room.)
- “Your Day” – give your kids a day to pick whatever they want. Call it a your day. Give them a big poster with a bunch of different ideas.
- Weekend family vacation. I told my husband that I wanted to give eac of the kids a little slip of paper that says “Grab your bathing suits! We’re going to Hilton Head for the weekend!”
- Money … in one dollar bills. Give a child ten one-dollar-bills and see a huge smile on their face!
- Paint your own pottery trip.
- Painting Lessons. We have a place nearby called Painting with a Twist and you go in, take snacks and paint on a canvas with step by step directions.
- Slippers. My favorite thing is slippers- I hate to be barefoot, especially in the winter, so I wear flip-flops (that I save just for the house) or slippers. Here are the ones that I have (they are so fun, aren’t they?! They were a gift from my mom.)
- A photo of you with just that child, framed. Our kids each have a framed photo of me with them in their room. They also have one of Mickey with each one of them. It is one of their favorite things.
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