Are you so fed up with the clutter? The holiday season has the potential to serious add to the toy clutter in your home. What if there were some fantastic non-toy gifts that your kids would actually love? We have some great non-toy gift ideas that are huge hits with kids and perfect for gifting this holiday season.
Years ago, as a new mom, I heard another mom complaining about toy clutter. She said she was going to go home and throw away half the toys in her house because she was so fed up. I was still in the toys-are-cute-let’s-buy-them-all stage of parenting and, since we still didn’t have many in my house, I couldn’t imagine wanting to get rid of toys.
I should add that I ran a home daycare at the time too, so having new and engaging toys around made my daily life easier and I was always looking for more to collect.
Fast-forward 12 years and 5 more kids and I feel like I’m drowning in toys. My girls have so many toys in their bedroom that they couldn’t keep their rooms clean even if they wanted to (which they don’t).
After 6 kids, we have pretty much every toy we need.
I’d love to be able to skip the holiday shopping completely, but my kids are still kids and they need a few gifts to make them feel special Christmas morning. Christmas gifts are no longer about adding to our toy collection. We buy gifts to create Christmas memories and let our kids know how important they are to us.
That being said, I’m still opting for as many non-toy gifts as possible so the clutter in my house doesn’t reach unmanageable levels.
Why would you want to opt for non-toy gifts?
Even if clutter isn’t a concern, there are several reasons you may want to opt for non-toy gifts:
- Your kids will learn to be grateful for what they already have. My girls are asking for dolls this year, BUT they already have a ridiculous number of dolls (nice ones too). Buying a new doll pushes those dolls to the back burner and limits the amount of playtime they will get.
- It’s less wasteful. Buying more toys when you already have enough isn’t the frugal choice. I know many families who continue buying toys even though they need money to pay down debt, pay for bills, or put towards a larger goal. As I mentioned earlier, gifts are important and you need to consider what will create a great memory for your child, but be smart with your money too and avoid buying things that aren’t needed just to have a gift under the tree.
- It isn’t always the best way to spend your money. Last year my family had an amazing Christmas. We’d had a good year working from home and I was grateful so we splurged a bit. After all the presents were opened and we were winding down for the day, I realized that my kids had made some fun memories, but many of the toys we bought were going to be used for a few days and forgotten. I wasn’t wrong. Most of those toys just added to the clutter in our house and didn’t get the playtime I had hoped for. Each child generally had one top gift and the others fell to the sidelines. When I looked at all the money I spent on gifts, I realized I could have donated to a family in need, taken my family on a vacation (which would have created memories that were even more amazing than opening gifts Christmas morning), or any number of other things.
Non-Toy Gift Ideas
1. Art supplies. Art teaches kids so much about expressing themselves and how to relate to the world around them. Art can be used to teach literacy, math skills, and just about anything else. My 5 year old daughter’s favorite thing in the world right now is to “play school” with her sisters. She sits them down and does art projects, teaches them their letters, shapes, and more. The time they spend together has helped them build strong relationships with each other. We went from them fighting all the time to being best friends and that’s definitely something I want to encourage. The three of them are going to find this arts and crafts table under the Christmas tree this year. I’ll wrap up smaller arts and crafts supplies like construction paper, new scissors, glue, and more so they have little packages to open.
2. Membership to the Zoo. I love gifting memberships because it’s a gift that keeps giving all year long. We’ve made some wonderful memories spending time together as a family at the Zoo, reading books about the animals we saw afterwards, and talking about our visits. The time that we’ve spent at the zoo together has created more memories (and learning experiences) than any toy ever could.
3. Tickets to a museum. Museums are a fantastic way to encourage your child’s interests. There are some amazing children’s museums for younger kids. If you are lucky enough to live near one, that will be the best gift you could give. For older kids, I like to gift tickets to science museums, art museums, technology museums, and more. It gives kids something to look forward to and makes the Christmas break from school more fun.
4. Books. You can never have too many books. My husband may disagree but I don’t believe that books fall in the “clutter” category. My son was a reluctant reader and all it took to turn that around was giving him a book that he ended up loving one Christmas. He’s been a reader ever since. For older kids, I highly recommend getting them their own Kindle (I’m a fan of the Paperwhite).
Bookroo is an amazing option. They send wrapped books every month so it’s super exciting for kids. We’ve built a great kids’ library using Bookroo. They even have a new Junior option that is perfect for kids ages 7-10.
5. Restaurant gift certificates. My kids love to eat out but with 8 of us in our family it can get expensive. We don’t do it often so it becomes a real treat when we do. We love to give restaurant gift certificates for the holidays. The best part is, during the holiday season you can often find discount gift card promotions that stretch your budget further. It isn’t uncommon for us to find gift card deals that give us an extra value of 25% or more on the cost of the gift certificate itself. These make great stocking stuffers and they are something my kids always get excited about.
6. New Bedding. I love helping my kids make their bedroom a space they can relax in. New bedding, especially if it fits the personality of your child, is a great gift option. Last year we found great deals on duvet covers for my kids and they loved them. It’s something they enjoy every day and really helped them to turn their bedrooms into their own little space. As a bonus, bedding is usually fairly large to wrap so it’s an exciting gift to see under the tree.
7. A date with mom or dad. My kids love to have one-on-one time with my husband and I. We get so busy that it doesn’t happen all the time, but we love to take kids out on an individual “date” to do something fun. My daughter calls them “Mommy Dates” and her favorite thing to do is just go out for ice cream and talk. With just two people, the dates are never expensive but they are a great way to connect with each child. Put together little themed gift packages to show what kind of date you will have. For my daughter, and her love of ice cream, I could simply wrap up a package of ice cream cones (just to represent the date) and a gift card to her favorite ice cream shop. For my son, who loves going to the movies, I could do a little bucket of movie popcorn, some microwave popcorn or candy, and a movie theatre gift card.
8. Kid-sized kitchen tools. Cooking is such an important skill and it is a great way to spend time with mom or dad. My kids have all loved to cook from a young age, and what really helped was having little tools that made it easy for them to work in the kitchen. We love this cookbook for kids with it’s color coded measuring tools for kids. This Little Cooks Kitchen Tool Set is a great option to and has everything you need to start cooking. I highly recommend buying a set of kid-friendly kitchen knives too so your kids can practice their cutting skills without the risk of cutting themselves.
If your older kids want a bit more cooking experience, look into a local cooking class or an online class like Kids Cook Real Food.
One thing we did when my kids were little that really made it easier to cook with kids was buy a Learning Tower. This is a secure stool that goes right up to your kitchen counter and gives you a safe way to bring your kids to counter-height. You can fit two kids in these and there’s no worry about a stool tipping or kids falling backwards. We’ve gotten a lot of cooking time in with ours.
9. A calendar. My older kids love having a physical calendar to keep track of their own schedule. For younger kids, I love these blank calendars from Lakeshore. They are a great way to help kids learn about the days and months of the year and practice their number writing skills at the same time. I love that kids can customize them just the way they want too so it doubles as an art activity.
10. Luggage. For older kids their own set of luggage can be a great option. Teenagers should have their own suitcase for family trips, school trips, or anything else. Quality luggage can last a long time too so if you buy a set of luggage for your teenager, he could use it when he leaves for college. This is a practical gift but you can make it fun by looking for luggage that has a bit of personality like this Marvel Suitcase from American Tourister.
11. A Photo Book. My kids all love looking through our photo books to remember fun things we did. My daughter, especially, asks to look at her baby book at least once a month. Seeing pictures of family adventures reminds kids about how much they are loved and is a great keepsake. You could make a photo book for a family vacation, your child’s sport season, an All-About-Me book with things your child likes, photos of your child’s artwork, a year in the life, and more.
We’ve tried photo books from several companies and my favorite are the ones from Shutterfly. You can find some great deals too, especially during the holiday season.
12. Tickets to a Play. My kids love going to a play and it’s fun for me as a parent to expose them to some culture. I love taking my kids to my favorite plays and discovering new ones with them. If you have a great local theatre, you may even be able to get a great deal on season passes so you can see all the plays in one season.
13. A blanket. You can never have too many blankets and there are some great options out there that are fun for kids. If you are crafty, you could make something homemade. I, personally, love anything soft and fluffy when I’m curled up on the couch.
One year we got my son a cute little hooded dog blanket. My twins still use that one today. My daughter has a mermaid tail blanket that she was absolutely thrilled to get as a gift and uses every single day. This unicorn Snuggie blanket would be a huge hit too.
14. Camping gear. My family loves going camping together and we’ve made some great memories that way. We try and add a few pieces of camping gear to our collection every year to make our trips more enjoyable. Things like sleeping bags (we love these ones from Kelty), tents, outdoor cooking equipment, camping chairs, and lanterns make great gift ideas. You could plan out a camping trip together as a family to get them excited about things and feel involved.
15. Subscription boxes. There are some AMAZING subscription boxes for kids available right now. Kiwi Crate is our favorite (and they have options for several age groups). If you have a reader, Bookroo is an amazing option.
For little travelers, check out the award winning Little Passport subscription box. Your child can discover a new country every month or go on a science expedition, discover world themes or more.
16. Travel games. We always need fun things to do, whether we are traveling or just on-the-go. Travel games and activities are the perfect way to keep kids occupied whether you are waiting at the doctor’s office or on a long road trip. This year, my girls are getting these portable magnetic playsets. They come in several options so you can find something your child would love.
17. Classes. I love when my kids can get out and do something instead of staying home so classes are one of my favorite non-toy gifts. I sign my kids up for community sports, music lessons, or whatever else they are interested in at the time. Check out your local community center for something that starts in January so your kids don’t have to wait too long to enjoy their gift.
18. Magazine subscriptions. I always loved getting things in the mail and with everything switching to digital it’s kind of a lost experience these days. My kids love getting magazine subscriptions in the mail and the best part is, it’s a gift they can enjoy for the whole year. Some of our favorites are Highlights magazine, Sports Illustrated Kids, Zoobooks and Boys Life.
19. Dress Up Clothes. My kids are always dressing up. They have so much fun wearing old Halloween costumes around the house or playing dress up with friends. Because of that, we have a pretty good collection of clothes, but adding a few more doesn’t really add to the clutter in our house and it definitely adds to the fun.
Some of our favorite dress up clothes are from Little Adventures, because not only are they super cute, they are also machine washable. That’s a huge perk from the mom-side of things!
20. A butterfly garden. We raise butterflies every year and my kids always love it. Even my older kids have fun watching the caterpillars grow and we all have a blast on butterfly release day. My younger kids have learned so much about the life cycle of butterflies by seeing it in action. This kit has everything you need, from start to finish, and the garden itself is reusable. The same company also has ladybug kits, ant farms, and more.
21. A piggy bank. It’s never too early to learn to save. All my kids have loved having a piggy bank and they have so much fun watching their savings grow. I personally love the look of the classic piggy bank, but older kids may want something a bit more high tech like this one.
22. An Alarm Clock. Telling time is an important skill so having a good clock or watch is a great way for kids to practice. Make sure to get a clock or watch with clear numbers so kids can easily tell the time. For younger kids, I especially like an OK to Wake clock like this one, so kids know when it is okay to get out of bed in the morning.
23. Musical instruments or sheet music. I love the idea of encouraging musical talents with holiday gifts. Maybe your child already plays an instrument and could use some new sheet music, a music stand, or a new metronome. If your child wants to play, consider lessons or a new instrument. I love these Loog guitars that make it easy for kids to start playing the guitar right away. One of my kids may be finding one of those under the Christmas tree.
24. Audiobooks. My kids love listening to audiobooks in the car or while doing things around the house. There are some great ones on audible. An Audible membership is the best deal. Around the house, we love using an Amazon Echo to read books to us. I’ll even turn my book on for a few minutes while I do the dishes each day.
25. Games. We love collecting new games to add to our collection. Game night is a great way to spend time together as a family. Some of our favorites are Ticket to Ride, Exploding Kittens, Hedbanz and Blokus.
26. Puzzles. My little girls love puzzles so we always add to our collection for the holidays. I get puzzles that are just a step too hard for them to make sure they stay challenged. They continue to play with them for a long time though, because there’s quite a few benefits for kids practicing on easier puzzles they’ve already mastered too.
27. Active toys. I’m always looking for ways to keep my kids active. Outdoor “toys” like bikes, scooters, and skateboards are a great way to help kids have fun while staying active. My oldest son absolutely loves the Acton electric Skateboard. My younger kids love Ripstiks. Think beyond bikes. A few fun gifts would be kayaks, stand up paddle boards, kids golf sets, frisbee, a volleyball net, or badmitton.
28. A camera. Photography skills are good to have and kids have so much fun documenting the things that are important to them. You can find cheaper cameras for younger kids and basic DSLR cameras for teens who want to learn how to shoot manually.
29. Tickets to an amusement park. Spending the day at an amusement park is always fun. One year for Christmas we did Disney passes and we made some amazing memories there as a family. It was so much better than filling the tree with toys that wouldn’t get played with for long. Get Away Today has some great package deals that will save you some money (and simplify your trip).
30. Favorite foods. We’ll often include some favorite treats in Christmas stockings or as gifts. We focus on treats that we don’t normally buy or fun variations of favorites. My oldest son loves getting fun flavors of hot sauce and my husband loves unique barbecue sauce. We’ve done special flavors of beef jerky before, and that was a hit. Younger kids may enjoy having their favorite candy, ingredients to make their favorite homemade treat (this would look cute packaged up in a new bowl), or fruit snacks.
31. Geocaching supplies. Geocaching is such a fun hobby and a great way to get kids outside exploring. Start with a good basic handheld GPS unit. If you don’t have any experience geocaching, check out this kit for beginners.
32. A sewing machine. They make some great sewing machines for kids that are really easy to use (and affordable). My teenage son actually bought himself a sewing machine after discovering how much he liked the sewing portion of his home ec. class at school. He’s made some fun projects with it and it’s been fun to see his skills improve.
33. Nail polish. My little girls all love to paint their nails so it’s fun for them go get some new colors for their collection. We stick with non-toxic options (since they put their hands in their mouths so often). One of our favorites is Piggy Paint.
34. Headphones. My kids love any kind of technology and headphones are both practical and fun. For my sensitive son, a good pair of noise canceling headphones was a fantastic gift. For younger kids, look for fun styles that they’ll love. My younger kids like these soft headband style headphones, and they come in some fun styles.
35. Coloring books. My kids ALL love coloring books. My younger kids usually get the cheaper coloring books featuring their favorite TV character or an educational coloring book. My older kids love the more advanced coloring books or adult coloring books as a stress-reliever.
36. Snap Circuits. This is probably the best “toy” we’ve ever purchased. It has gotten so much use over the years with my kids that we’ve gone back and bought several other kids from this company. Snap Circuits lets kids learn about electricity in a way that is fun and engaging. The activity book that comes with this kit includes hundreds of projects you can do.
37. Boogie Board. My kids have all loved Boogie Boards. My younger kids use them for drawing (this is especially handy on-the-go since there is no mess), while my older kids love to use these as scratch paper while they do homework.
38. Play-Doh. This is one thing that kids always love. You can buy packages of Play-doh or make your own. We love this Pumpkin Spice play dough recipe. I’m not a huge fan of the packaged Play-Doh toys, but I do love tools kids can use like kid-sized rolling pins, cookie cutters, and tools of various shapes and sizes.
39. Bean bag chairs. Most kids are obsessed with bean bag chairs. I love that they give kids a comfy place to read. You can find all kinds of different styles and sizes. I like this option for a great reading spot.
40. A puppy. This may be a bit higher maintenance option than you are looking for, but the best Christmas gift I ever got was a puppy and it’s been my dream to do the same for my kids. We have an adult dog right now and, while he does need a friend, we aren’t quite ready to train a puppy yet. You do have to plan ahead to have a puppy on Christmas day. I’d recommend checking with your local shelter or going through a reputable breeder.
What are your favorite non-toy gift ideas for Christmas? Let us know in the comments if we missed any of your favorites. We’ll be updating this list as we go!