Ya’ll, I just put five trash bags full of toys outside the front door to donate. If you don’t know me well, I don’t ever say “ya’ll” while speaking, but I write “ya’ll” when I have an important point I want to get across. Apparently, you can’t take the WV out of the girl, it’s true. Along with the five bags of toys to donate I put out an additional two trash bags full of broken, random junk I found at the bottom of our toy bins. Good riddance, junk. Meanwhile, I have been building an Amazon gift-list for Christmas and it’s full of toys. That makes zero sense. Can we talk about NON-TOY gift ideas please?
Why I want to focus on Non-Toy Gift Ideas this year
Lately the clutter in our house has been making me insane. It could be that I’m pregnant and feel the need to “nest”, but the fact that my kids had toy bins everywhere full of things they never, ever touch was driving me absolutely insane. Literally, the only time anyone touches half of their toys is when they have friends over and the other kids rummage through the bins, because it’s all new to them.
We all know the kids play with the box far more than they ever play with the toy in most cases. In my experience, there have only ever been a few exceptions to that rule. We have some toys that get played with over and over, and they are the toys that require imagination. Blocks are a winner, and the magnetic tiles for building are even more popular around here. Puzzles are done over and over again in our house. Play-dough, used until it’s no longer good (but we make our own). I don’t really consider those toys though, they are more like tools for the imagination and would fall more under the non-toy category.
While you’re here, check out my list of 50 Useful & Creative Stocking Stuffers for Adults! (These can make great birthday gifts too!
How I plan to incorporate non-toy gift ideas into our holidays and birthdays going forward
For starters, I am going to remove the random toys from my Amazon list I’ve been compiling. We don’t need those. I do have some really cool stem toys on my list that I’ll be keeping because they are in line with the blocks and magnetic tiles. They will get the kids thinking, being creative, and using their imagination. That list includes:
Block Bars (you can find them here)
Brain Flakes (you can find them here)
Flexible Building Sticks (you can find them here)
Gears Super Building Set (you can find them here)
Now, I’m not saying they will get all of these for Christmas, but these are just some ideas I liked. I also like to have ideas for family when they ask what they should send to the kids for holidays and birthdays, so making a list of ideas as you come across them makes it easier.
I will also let our family know that we would prefer non-toy gifts this Christmas and for birthdays this year, and of course share the below list of suggestions with them!
Now, let’s get to the good stuff. The list of non-toy gift ideas that you should save for holidays and birthdays and send to your family members when they ask what to get! I’ve done a lot of research, brainstormed ideas with my idea-man (Chris, my husband), and compiled this list in the hopes that it can help you have less useless toys in your house too. Let’s focus more on experiences, using our minds and imaginations, and saving our money from junk that just clutters our homes and makes us crazy for no reason.
The Ultimate List of Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Kids of all Ages
- Memberships: A membership to your local zoo, children’s museum, water park, conservancy, or any other place that a child would benefit from and enjoy frequenting is a great gift. It’s a gift that keeps on giving!
- Gift Cards for Treats: For example, my kids love Royal Scoop, they would be super excited if they knew they had a little card that would allow them to purchase their own ice cream cones here and there. And, the great part about this gift is that you can spend as much as you want and it feels special either way. Think of their favorite restaurant or shop for a sweet treat and get them a gift card!
- A real toolset: Forget the fake tool sets once the kids get a little older, and get them their own real tool set like this one.
- Personalized plates:My sister-in-law gifted both of our kids with personalized dinner plates that have their names and cute pictures on them. They love to use their own plates to eat. It’s fun, and useful. I found this site with super cute options.
- Special Activities: This could be a gift card/certificate for any special activity that isn’t a norm. For example, little girls would feel so special getting their first pedicure. Other activities could be putt-putt golf, movie tickets, tickets to a baseball game, you get the idea.
- Knitting supplies: For kids who love to knit or want to learn, there are so many fun knitting supplies to choose from to make the perfect gift. Check this selection out.
- Vouchers for extra-curricular activities: As a mom who pays for gymnastics, martial arts, soccer, and a million other things, I would consider it a gift to my child and my bank account if someone gifted money to pay for one of those things for a certain time period. For example, one session of gymnastics is about $150 (a session lasts a few months). A homemade voucher/certificate showing what the money is for would be a great way to make it into a gift and give meaning to the child that you purchased that experience for them!
- Pottery Kit: Kai recently asked me for a pottery kit, but really it was because it was a “volcano maker”, but that’s besides the point. It got me thinking that it would be neat for the kids to try out making their own pottery. I found this really neat kit.
- Open or contribute to savings account: I like this gift idea especially for the little ones who don’t even necessarily know they are receiving gifts yet, but family want to give them something. If you want to physically give them something still, do it in the form of a “piggy bank” with money in it.
- Magazine subscriptions: My son loves National Geographic Kids, and he gets so excited every time it shows up in the mail. It’s definitely a gift that keeps on giving because he is reminded of his Grandpa Bill every time one comes (although it took me a while to help him understand they are not gifts from the mailman). It’s educational too, so win win. When he was a little younger, he loved getting Zoobies books in the mail every month.
- Metal detector: Since we leave near the beach and are there a lot, we often see men there in the evenings searching the sand with metal detectors. Kai is always so curious and amazed by what they’re doing. It would be so cool for him to have his own metal detector, and I bet a lot of kids would love this gift! They make metal detectors just for kids, like this one here.
- Subscription boxes: I actually really want to get my kids a fun subscription box like the ones from Blumm. This would be an amazing gift to give a child so they get new surprises every month!
- Paint and other art supplies: Last year around Christmas time I purchased a plastic case full of paints from Costco. We have used those paints countless times since then, and they’re almost all gone. It’s been a great go-to for art projects, and just giving the kids something creative to do. I just recently put another paint set on my list of ideas for gifts because I know they get used and it’s something we always need to have on hand.
- Learning Tower: I have wanted one of these for my kids for a long time, because they love to help out in the kitchen, but they also love to dance while standing on kitchen chairs. Everyone with a young child could use a learning tower.
- Travel items: Even if the family only takes one big trip per year, the kids love to have their own travel items. You can find anything from cute kid-sized luggage, sleeping bags, activity trays for the car and airplanes, and much more. Check out this selection of creative travel ideas for kids.
- Music: This could be anything from an iTunes Gift Card to a CD Player/MP3 player and headphones for older kids. Music is a gift that keeps on giving, and headphones are as much a gift to the parents as they are the child.
- Fort Building Kit: My kids love forts, which I normally build out of random chairs, the couch, tables, and sheets. A couple of years back we got this fort building kit and the kids love to build their own forts however they want, and then we drape a sheet over.
- Outdoor Play Equipment: Anything that keeps the kids playing outside is approved in my book. For example, this monkey bars climbing tower, a saucer tree swing, this giant connect-4 yard game, or this rocker seesaw.
- Sewing Machine: This is an awesome gift for a child who may want to learn to sew, and these super cute machines come in the best colors. Add on this Sewing School book for kids for the perfect combo.
- Cook Books: For kids who love to cook or would enjoy learning, consider a fun cook-book full of kid friendly recipes, like this one.
- Cooking Equipment: Speaking of kids who enjoy cooking, I love this 3-piece set that teaches kids kitchen safety and allows them to help out with the cooking!
- Sidewalk Chalk: Every kid loves sidewalk chalk. It’s something we always have on hand, and it’s another thing to keep the kids playing outside.
- Headphones: We try to limit screen-time, but when they do use the iPads these headphones could really come in handy. I’ve been thinking about getting them for our kids for a couple of reasons: they compete with their volumes, and occasionally I need to take one kid with me to business meetings and I give them screen-time so they aren’t bored, but need to not hear the noise. These could also really come in handy on road-trips, like our last one when I wanted to throw their iPads out the window. These are cool headphones for kids.
- Science Experiment Kit: I started to talk about how much Kai loves science, and realized I keep talking about Kai and haven’t mentioned Alana. It’s because the kid only likes baby dolls. That’s it. So, Kai loves science a lot. This science experiment kit is so cool for kids!
- Telescope: I think all kids are intrigued by space and stars, so this kids telescope would be a great gift for really the whole family to star gaze together!
- Edited on 11/23/18 to add – Kinetic Sand, Sand Castle Building Set: I can’t believe I forgot to add this to the original list! We got our kids each their own set last year and they still play with them! It’s a Christmas miracle. Literally, they are beside me at the table playing with them right now, which is what made me realize it should be on this list! These are so much better than a regular kinetic sand kit that only comes with the sand, because the tub it comes with keeps all the sand inside of it (instead of on the floor) and makes it super easy to clean up and put away. The fact that I don’t actually mind getting this out and putting it away when they’re done is a huge bonus.
Update 3/1/2020: More Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Kids
I wrote this post at the end of 2018, and since then we have found some favorite new things that our kids love. I’m adding those to this list below!
27. Modeling Clay: My 6 year old is really into modeling clay these days. He makes some super cool creations with them. You can get clay that dries so they can keep their creations, or that does not dry so it can be re-used over and over again. We use both.
This is the kind that dries out.
This is the kind that never dries.
28. Outdoor Exploring Kits: We got our two bigger kids each their own outdoor exploring kit for Christmas and they have been a big hit. They use them outside all the time. I love that they have their own bags so we can keep the stuff in one place and hang them up on the coat rack when they come in.
29. Search & Find Books: Our kids have always loved Look & Find Books, and my husband recently found these Search & Find workbooks. They have been great for some quiet time fun, or just a calmer activity to do with the kids. My son got the one pictured below (click on it to find on Amazon) and my daughter got this cute unicorn search & find.
30. Walkie Talkies: Kids love walkie talkies, and we get a lot of use out of these. I even send one out with the kids when they play in the yard so I can check on them without having the leave the baby inside alone (because we’re in the social anxiety phase where he screams if I walk and inch away).
31. Butterfly Garden: My daughter’s preschool teacher has this butterfly garden in her classroom. I had to get one for us to do at home, because it’s such a cool experience. If you have milkweed plants near you, you can get monarch caterpillars off of them and use those. Just be sure to feed them lots of milkweed leaves (they eat a lot). If not, this kit comes with a coupon to get a cup of caterpillars mailed to you! We got the cup the first time. It’s SO fun to watch the caterpillars eat and grow bigger by the day, then make their chrysalis, and finally hatch into a beautiful butterfly that you then release into nature. We ended up using our habitat over and over with more caterpillars, and now we have our own milkweed plant outside. Careful, it’s an addicting hobby.
It was really fun making this non-toy gift idea list! I feel like I could go on forever if I had the time to research more. I hope this list has helped inspire ideas for your holidays and birthdays to come! If you have great ideas to add, please add them to the comments! I would love to hear your ideas and add them to the list!
If you like the idea of having less junk around and are planning a birthday party any time in the future, also read this post: Parents, Why Do We Do This To Each Other?
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Hi, I’m Jessica! I am wife to Chris, and mom to Kaiper, Alana and Koa. I am a graphic designer, website developer and aspiring author. In this space, I share about everything from parenting, working from home, food we cook, and lots of things for kids! Learn more about me here.