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I love finding meaningful Non-Toy Gifts for kids, unique gifts for teens (and meaningful gifts for parents, too!) Of course, toys make wonderful gifts: they are educational, creative, and open up a whole world of play. However, today, I am sharing the best non-toy gifts because these are the gifts that make memories.
Update: This post was written years ago and has been updated to be shared again today.
Play is essential when it comes to a child’s development, so I would never discourage playing with toys, but I just try not to make TOYS the focus of what our kids are receiving. Of course, there is a place for toys, just not in today’s post. 🙂
They make great stocking stuffers for kids during the holidays, fun birthday gifts, and they are just fun to play with sometimes… I am a play therapist, after all. Playing with toys while working with children is literally my job (because learning through play is an amazing thing!)
However… I also love to think of birthday and Christmas ideas that are not toys. I’d much rather get meaningful and useful Christmas gifts for kids. Toys and things are also overflowing in our house, and if you are reading this, I’m guessing it is the same in your house, too. Every year, I take my own Declutter Course, where I take time to go through our house & donate toys, but they come back every birthday & holiday.
Too many toys?
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 Christmas or birthdays to be ONLY 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.)
Toys, toys & more toys. Trucks, cars, barbies, legos, Princesses, Stuffed Animals, 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 toys… 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 it’s fun for kids to have new toys, but I don’t want them to stop appreciating (or remembering) what they are being given because it has become routine for them.
NON-TOY GIFTS FOR KIDS
This year, when I was thinking about kid gift ideas, I knew that I wanted to think beyond giving gifts that are just toys. I wanted to find unique gifts for kids that aren’t toys.
Today, I am sharing my favorite ideas for non-toy gifts for kids. These could be Christmas gifts for kids, Easter gifts, Valentine’s Day gifts for kids, or birthday gifts. Really- these work anytime, and are so much more meaningful than any toy you could buy.
Some of these cool gifts for kids were gifted to us by companies or friends, while the rest are ideas that we have tried over the years. I also included a few affiliate links to make it easier for you to find the things in the post below. I hope that you love these gift ideas for kids as much as I love sharing them. 🙂
Ps- If you don’t want to over-do it on the gifts, be sure to check out what we have done in the past: Our Four -Gift Christmas.
When I find myself buying too many toys for the kids, I have to stop and ask myself: Why am I buying them so much?
- Was it because it was cute, fun, or a good deal?
- We saw a sale advertised in a commercial or on social media and thought it was a great deal.
- Was it because I love that smile on their faces?
- Did all of these things have more to do with ME than THEM?
Sometimes, I feel like we buy just to buy. “What does ___ want?” It happens at Christmas, for birthdays, for graduations from certain grades. We buy it because we think that we should.
That’s when I usually stop myself and ask: In the long run, would these toys better their lives? Maybe a few, but not as many as Santa brought, as well as all of our relatives that shower our kids with toys.
With four kids, three boys and a little girl, we have accumulated a lot of stuff… you can find most of it in the toybox or in one of the storage ottomans in the living room. 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 some kind of made-up game, or hide & seek, or you’ll find them outside playing on the swings, making forts, or playing football in our backyard.
On the other hand, our daughter loves playing with toys (dolls, etc…). 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.
A fun way to declutter & donate
I recently heard of a great idea for the holiday season. It is about a Santa Bag, but you could use this anytime (Birthday Bag, Easter Bag, Summer Bag, etc…). Personally – I loved the idea!
Santa (or mom or dad… or the Easter Bunny…) brings a big bag the week before the big day. Your family fills it with toys and leaves the bag for him. That night, Santa comes back and takes them home. His elves fix the toys up and deliver them to children all over the world.
This could work any time of year.
Why We Like Non-Toy Gifts for Kids
What if we … stopped? What if, instead of buying so many toys, we invested our money in memories? When thinking about Christmas gift ideas for kids, or birthday gifts, etc… ask yourself this question: What if we really aimed for memory-makers as birthday gift, or holidays gifts? What if we spent our money on vacations as gifts, or found more practical, useful, or meaningful Christmas gifts for kids?
Non-Toy Christmas Presents for Kids of All Ages
These are great for birthdays, gifts for the holidays (like Easter or Valentine’s Day Gifts for Kids), or for any special occasion.
Check out the list of non-toy kid gift ideas below…
50+ Non-toy gift ideas to get you started:
- DIY THEMED PHOTO ALBUM: Make them a photo album of memories from the year (use an album that has room for writing next to the picture- write a little note about each picture, sharing 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. You could even try it in something like this. OH- and one year, we made an album of family members that the kids can “decorate.”
- PHOTO BLANKET: Make a blanket with a special 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, which are sewn together to make a beautiful quilt- made by her great-aunt).
One year, I made the kids a “Hilton Head” blanket with photos from our trips to HHI. Each child had a unique blanket because I picked pictures specific to that child. You can have your own blanket made here.
- SUBSCRIPTION BOXES: These are great because they are a gift that KEEPS on giving. Another one we like is our subscription to Kiwi Crate – this great little box that comes every month & introduces the kids to a world of STEM— complete with robotics, experiments & more. Our kids love it! I give this one as a gift quite often.
–>>Here is a list of subscription boxes that make perfect gifts!
- TICKETS TO AN EVENT. This is one of the best gifts because it comes with many memories. You can easily find events near you by searching online – there are so many plays, musicals, and more that would be so much fun. My mom has taken our kids to the Hip-Hop Nutcracker, Irish Christmas Carol, Frozen on Ice, and more. They are always so much fun!
- “PJ’S & ICE CREAM WITH ME” Give your child a five-dollar gift card to a favorite ice cream or snack place (somewhere with a drive-thru is even better for this gift!) & a new set of pajamas. 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, eat, and chat…)
- PHOTO MUG FOR ICE CREAM OR HOT CHOCOLATE GIFT. We gave each of our kids a photo mug a few years ago. It doesn’t sound like a super exciting gift, but our kids LOVE them. 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 has a special picture on their mug as part of the collage.
- A PIGGY BANK WITH MONEY IN IT. (I’d base the amount inside on the child’s age, with older kids getting a bit more money. I’d also base it on what other gifts they had received)
- A PERSONALIZED BOOK This will always be a favorite of mine because I still have mine from when I was little. If you are looking for non toy gifts for 1 year olds (or non toy gifts for 2 year olds), this is perfect. I started giving these books to our children when they were toddlers, and I still give these as gifts for birthdays today. Finding gifts for toddlers that aren’t toys is important to me because at that age, they will play with a toy for a few weeks, but creating a book is like giving them a gift and memory for a lifetime, since they can look back on it year after year.
I also make these for our children for special occasions, as a way to remember what special thing happened that year.
- A MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION. Our kids have several of these: Handyman, Sports Illustrated for kids, and Highlights, National Geographic, are just a few.
- GRAPHIC NOVEL: Our Kids love The Action Bible (a graphic novel of Bible stories. With more than 230 fast-paced narratives in chronological order, making it easy to follow the Bible’s historical flow.
- MEMBERSHIP TO A LOCAL MUSEUM: We have a kid museum close by, and the kids love it! It is a super fun place where they can explore and learn.) They have everything from pretend doctor’s offices and supermarkets to rooms of DIY Lego sets. I think 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: A few years ago, my sister-in-law ordered a butterfly kit for our son, Ethan. Our family loved watching the butterflies grow from caterpillars.
- TRAVEL SUPPLIES– a new bag for sleepovers, toiletries for a night away, fun pajamas, etc. These gifts are always practical because you can use them when you take family vacations, too!
- A DOODLE BOOK- LIKE THIS ONE: I’d also include art supplies & crafts.
- A MEMBERSHIP TO A STREAMING CHANNEL. Our in-laws gave us a year-long membership to Netflix when it first became a streaming channel (years ago!), and it was a great gift!
- EAR PIERCING 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.
- ONE-ON-ONE TIME CERTIFICATE: Make a gift certificate (pick a date to add to it) for hiking, a picnic, or anywhere else that gives you time to catch up — one on one time is always the best.
- CLASSES – 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 them.
- 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 TO A BOOK STORE – online or in-store, books are always a great gift. Not only do they teach kids about a certain subject, but they are fun and can build a life-long love of reading.
- CLOTHING (SWEATSHIRTS & T-SHIRTS ARE ALWAYS A HIT) Kids like them, and parents appreciate them. 🙂
- SHOES – our kids go through shoes so fast! Plus, the older our kids get, the more they like finding cool shoes. (You can find some adorable shoes, clothing & accessories here)
- KIWI CRATE (STEM SUBSCRIPTION)- A monthly subscription to something like Kiwi Crate, which sends cool STEM projects for your kids every month. This is so much fun & every month they send a new box to open (a gift each month!)
–>> Which Kiwi Crate Should You Get? Find Out Here.
- MOVIE THEATRE GIFT CARD + SNACKS You could even give them a themed gift depending on the movie. Example: Gift cards to the movies to see the new Stars Wars movie & give it to them with a Star Wars activity book or sweatshirt.
- A FUN UMBRELLA You could even get a personalized umbrella like this one. I picked this because our kids have broken at least one umbrella each, but they love them so much that they’ve used them even when they were broken! lol!!
- KITCHEN TOOLS – When Beau was younger, he asked for his own kid kitchen knives. It was one of his favorite gifts (and they work well!)
- RECIPE CARD + INGREDIENTS IN A FUN MIXING BOWL. Make cookies or even playdough together – here’s a playdough easy recipe)
- A SLEEPING BAG – I also gave our kids a mini (plug-in) night light with this gift, so they could use both on their next sleepover at their grandma’s house or when we went on a trip. You could pair this with a new bag, a Going to Grandma’s Tote, or a note about having a cousin or friend spend the night.
- SKIP CHORES TODAY: This is a fun idea if you are looking for DIY gift ideas for kids (not toys). Create Coupon books for things like, “One coupon good to skip chores today.” or “Stay up 30 minutes later tonight.” I know that our kids would LOVE this one.
- A TEA PARTY (AT A TEA HOUSE) 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 snacks & talked. It was great, and I can’t wait to start taking Allie. It’s a great way to be intentional this Christmas.
- SEWING KIT – perfect for kids starting a new hobby). You can give them their first sewing machine, too!
- 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)
- SPORTS BOX Co. – The perfect gift for kids who love sports. Training aids, gear, accessories, and more delivered to their door! Get a box based on your child’s favorite sport. These mystery boxes are awesome!
We have the lacrosse, baseball & basketball boxes.
- A NEW BATH TOWEL OR ROBE Our kids love getting unique bath towels, like sharks, princesses or even pirate cat towels.
- MINI GOLF GIFT CERTIFICATE – This is not my favorite thing to do, but kids LOVE it, so I try to love it.
- CRAFT SUPPLIES IN A CRAFT BOX – Make the kids an invention box (here is ours) – it will give them hours of creativity.
- CAKE-DECORATING THEMED GIFT – This is always fun! Buy fun sprinkles (you can find so many different varieties), cake mixes, cookie mixes, icing, icing bags, etc…
- DRESS-UP CLOTHES– I love how kids always find a way to use their imagination. Give them your old prom dresses, etc… Allie loves to use mine!
- NAIL POLISH & PLAY MAKEUP
- Musical Instrument – Each of our children learned to play the recorder (similar to a flute) at age 10-11. These instruments make great gifts (and they cost less than $10). 🙂
- TATTOOS – Our kids love to use temporary tattoos. They are so much fun! (We have this kit)
- WEIGHTED BLANKETS- They are said to help kids sleep better (our kids have them).
- CALENDAR (ALREADY filled out with fun things: playdates, special one-on-one time, birthdays, lunch-date, movie nights.
- CUSTOM GUITAR PICKS
- A WATCH – I don’t know any child that doesn’t love wearing a watch (at least for a week!)
(according to Amazon, this is the #1 best-selling kid watch.)
- YOUR FAVORITE BOOK FROM YOUR CHILDHOOD. This is such a fun gift- give them a gift of memories & something that you can share… your favorite book from when you were their age. Re-read it with your child (or grandchild), and then talk about it.
- BOARD GAMES. There are so many board games that kids of all ages can play! We like to play this game with the kids & they love it, too! Here are our favorite board games!
- SOCKS (personalized or customized)- our kids LOVE to wear fun socks!
- MOVIE FOR THE CAR If you have a TV in the car, a new movie to watch in the car is so much fun. We have a DVD portable case holder that we keep in the car. I pick up $3 movies when I see them on sale & save them for road trips.
- HEADPHONES Our son asked for these a few years ago, and they have been the best investment!).
- ROOM DECOR: I love paintings for the kids’ rooms (or personalized things to hang in their rooms.) These hanging inspirational quotes are wonderful!
- “YOUR DAY” – give your kids a day to pick whatever they want. Call it “Your Day.” Give them a big poster with a bunch of different ideas.
- WEEKEND FAMILY GETAWAY (or staycation) An all-time favorite family gift idea would be to take a weekend family vacation. I told my husband I wanted to give each of our kids a little slip of paper that said, “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 massive smile on their face!
- PAINT YOUR OWN POTTERY – Our town has shops where you can paint pottery with your family.
- 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 In our house, we love to wear slippers (there’s nothing worse than walking barefoot on the cold floor in the winter!) I wear flip-flops (my house shoes) or slippers. The kids wear slipper socks or slippers.
PS- Here are the slippers that I have. They are such fun, aren’t they?! They were a gift from my mom. 🙂