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20 Excellent Non-Toy Gift Ideas For Kids

First published on Simplemost on November 22, 2016.

The holiday season is the most magical time of year. It’s also the time of year when a lot of parents (ME!) start to have a mild panic attack about space and clutter, and adding to the already overcrowded piles of toys in their homes. It’s all too much. Much too much.

So, what’s a mom, a dad, an aunt, an uncle, a santa supposed to do? You don’t necessarily need to eliminate toy gifts completely, but try substituting in some of these non-toy ideas instead. Especially if you are say, the cool aunt—gifts that aren’t toys can be even better coming from you. Because let’s be honest, you have no idea what LEGO sets nephew Johnny already owns. The chances of you doubling up is high, giving Johnny not only a duplicate, but giving his parents an unwanted trip to the toy store return counter.

So, be a really cool grandma, uncle or friend this year and try one of these non-toy gift ideas instead.

1. Tickets

This could be anything from movie tickets to tickets to see their favorite sports team. Maybe there is a musical coming to town they would enjoy, or a favorite pop star concert or even Disney On Ice.

2. Magazines

Yes, these are still a real thing. My kids have received magazine subscriptions for the last several years and they love them. It’s like the gift that keeps giving every month in your mailbox. We have received Highlights and Ranger Rick for my young kids, but Sports Illustrated or a fashion mag like Vogue could be great choices for older tweens and teens too.

3. Classes

There are classes for anything and everything out there. Maybe your kids like to cook, so a cooking class is a great option. Or maybe they have a flair for the dramatic, so get them signed up for an acting class. The point is pick something that interests your recipient.

4. Books

I am a book giver. In my book (ha, see what I did there?), you can never go wrong giving a child something new to read. Be sure to write a special message on the inside cover so they will know when they received it and who gave it to them.

5. Fun Day

This could be a certificate explaining that for one whole day you and the recipient will spend the day “having fun.” You set your own limits and plans, but this day could include lunch, mani/pedis, storytime, a sporting event, a movie, a trip to an amusement park, you get the idea.

6. Beach Towel

Sure, it’s not really pool season, but some of my favorite gifts that my kids have received are their monogrammed beach towels. These are useful, cute and, most importantly, not yet another toy.

7. Membership

Zoos, museums, planetariums, arboretums—so many fun (and educational) places require admission, why not give the gift of membership so the kids in your life can enjoy one of their favorite spots year round.

8. Art Supplies

Art supplies are consumable and kids love them. You can never have too many art supplies, but think outside the box here. Instead of just crayons and coloring books, try oil pastels and a sketchbook. Or make the kids day (and the parents insane) by tossing in some glitter and sequins, too.

9. Restaurant Gift Card

Ask my kids their favorite restaurants, and they would probably say Chick-fi-laand Pinkberry. I know they’d be thrilled to have their own “money” to spend at either.

10. Games

This is bordering on toy territory, so make sure it’s a game worth playing again and again and again and again. Some of our preschool-aged favorites are Zingo, Raccoon Rumpus and Spot It!.

11. Puzzles

Again, nearing toy town, but puzzles are actually a blast for the whole family. Get one that will be a challenge for the kids, requiring adults to get in on the fun, too.

12. Sleeping Bag

With this idea, you could include other slumber party supplies and an invitation for a sleepover too.

13. Watch

Remember when we used to look at watches rather than our phones to tell time? Yeah, me neither, but we could bring it back. Give a kid a watch, and give the gift of time.

14. Camera

There are all sorts of digital cameras out there, and even some really neat instant film type cameras. What kid doesn’t love snapping photos on your phone? Give them the power to do it on their own little camera instead.

15. Music

Sure, you could give them a standard issue iTunes gift card, but why not mix it up? Try giving them your favorite album, along with a subscription to Spotify or Pandora too.

16. Calendar

Yep, just like watches and magazines, these still exist too. Kids always want to know, “how many days until….?” Give them a little help keeping track with a wall calendar they can really see and use.

17. Piggy Bank

Teach kids how to save their pennies early in life by giving them a bank to get started. This one even helps kids budget what they will save, spend and give.

18. Clothes

But don’t give them something they need in the clothing department—give them something they want. Maybe this is a special pair of jeans or shoes they’ve been eyeing. You could even design something just for them, like cool custom kicks from NikeiD.

19. Monthly Subscription Boxes

Like a magazine subscription, these programs keep giving, but in a really big way. There are several out there, but we really like Kiwi Crate and Green Kid Crafts.

20. A Fish

Just kidding, don’t do this. It is never ok to give a live animal, especially a fish, to a child unless you are the parents of that child or you hate the kid’s parents—and then by all means.

Have any other great ideas? What would you add to this list?

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