Inside: The kids in you life will love these non-toy gift ideas! They won’t clutter your home either!
When my now-30-something brother was an infant, my mother nearly trampled on him, as he was lying on our living room floor.
While Mom had been upstairs with 5-year-old me, my 3-year-old sister had removed our newborn sibling from his bassinet.
“I was trying to teach him how to crawl!” my sister cried.
To this day, we’re still confused as to how my sister was able to climb into the crib, pick up my brother, and move both of them to the floor unscathed.
Surrounded by plastic dinosaurs, Raggedy Ann and Andy, and my favorite crosseyed Gerber baby, my mother thought my baby brother was a doll.
Fast forward 35 years, and I can relate.
When my kids were little, not a day went by when I didn’t find myself muttering under my breath: “They have too many toys!”
And, honestly, they did.
Although we only give our kids three gifts each Christmas, between presents from grandparents and aunts and uncles from both sides of the family and birthday party gifts from their friends, I felt like our kids’ bedrooms, the playroom, and even the family living spaces were always overflowing and cluttered with toys.
I contemplated taking my kids’ toys away for good or even asking the grandparents to tone down their gift giving.
But neither of these were long-term solutions to the root issue–people who loved our children wanted to give them gifts, especially at Christmas and other birthdays.
How could they–and we–continue to give to my four children without my home becoming the next Toys ‘R Us?
Enter: Non-toy gifts.
Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Kids
Non-toy gifts have become a favorite of mine over the years because they don’t create overwhelming clutter, yet they still bring about the joy that presents are intended to give in the first place.
The following 6 non-toy gift ideas are some of the best.
1. A Subscription Box
From a very young age, children love getting mail, and subscription boxes are the gifts that can keep on giving.
You don’t have to be a crafty or science-experiment-type mom to enjoy subscription boxes with your kids. All the work–the planning, the ideas, the instructions, and even the supplies–are all in the boxes for you!
Most subscription box services offer a variety of membership types, and some even offer one-off boxes, so you can surprise the child you love with a box on Christmas day (or their birthday), but you don’t have to commit to any ongoing fees.
In a hurry? I hope the following list of kid subscription boxes will save you time:
- Kiwi Co: STEM and scientific experiments and crafts
- Green Kid Craft: Similar to Kiwi Co. I usually price compare if I’m going to be purchasing one or the other. The most affordable one at the time wins out!
- MEL Science: Science experiments. In my experience, Kiwi Co and Green Kid Craft are more crafty, while MEL offers more robust science kits.
- Little Passports: Geography and culture through crafts and games
- Godly Girlz: Fun, faith-filled box of Christian encouragement for girls ages 8-12
- Annie’s Creative Girls Club: Crafting kits for girls age 7-12
- Young Woodworker’s Kit Club: Woodworking projects to inspire young builders from ages 7-12
- Mickey Monthly: Disney fans: this subscription box promises to bring the “magic of the Disney parks” to your child’s mailbox each month.
- Groovy Lab: Monthly STEM boxes.
- Pipsticks: Monthly sticker club.
- Walt Life: Similar to Mickey Monthly. This one sends your child a box of Disney fun each month.
- Sensory TheraPlay Box: Items to help your child self regulate… or simply for fun therapeutic play
- The Preschool Box: Activities that encourage learning, reading and creativity in children ages 3-6
- Kid Snack Box: Dietitian-approved snack box for kids
- Little Sous Kitchen: Cooking subscription for kids and parents
- We Craft Box: Craft with your kids without the prep work
- Eat2Explore: Discover the joy of cooking, tasting & exploring new world cuisines and cultures from the comfort of your home
- Little Global Citizens: Introduces your child to countries of the world AND their cultures.
2. Bath & Body Products
What child doesn’t need bath and body products? There are tons of fun products to choose from on the market today, so your children will feel like they are getting toys, even though this is a very practical gift!
Couple either of these with a new washcloth set in your child’s favorite character or with a fun loofah sponge, and you have gifts for your kids that will stay in the bathtub and aren’t toys that will clutter up the whole house! Plus, they make bath time fun.
By the time your kids are teenagers, they will want to smell good when they get out of the bath. A teen boy may enjoy the Counterman Charcoal Body Wash or Counterman Charcoal Body Bar. If he’s shaving, he might like the Counterman Smoothing Shave Cream.
All of these products are made with safe, clean ingredients, so you don’t have to worry about the toxins your teens are putting on their skin.
3. Museum or Zoo Memberships
Oftentimes, a zoo or museum membership will pay for itself in just a few visits.
Certifikid is an online resource that even helps you track down places in your area that offer memberships –plus gets you some discounts as well!
We used some birthday money from friends to purchase our girls a children’s museum membership a few years back, and it was well worth it! We actually got an additional discount because my husband is a teacher. If you or your spouse serves in the military, is a first responder, or is an educator, it’s always worth asking museums and parks if they offer any kind of additional discount for you.
A membership gift will not add to the clutter in your house, making this one of the greatest non-toy gift ideas on the list!
A few years ago we asked my in-laws if they minded if we used their Christmas money toward a trip to Disney World (yes, we did eventually go to Disney World–even though it wasn’t on our radar a few years ago). At this writing, we’re stashing all the grandparent money away (with their blessing) to take a second trip in a few years.
4. Extracurricular Art, Music, Dance, or Sports Lessons
Extracurriculars can get pricey, but why not gift them as part of Christmas? This is something we have done in the past with grandparent money, and our girls have loved it!
This doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Perhaps you can split this year’s gymnastics fees with Aunt Susie, or Grandma can buy your son’s soccer cleats.
5. Online Classes
Kids Cook Real Food eCourse is a fun and practical online course that our girls have taken in the past. If you get something like a cooking class for your kids, you can always couple it with a small physical gift, like a handmade apron or other cute apron!
If you have an older child that is crafty, he or she may enjoy a membership to Creativebug, which is an online platform for teaching sewing, quilting, painting, and many more arts and crafts classes!
You can also look into a digital learning platform like ABC Mouse. They even have a free trial! In my experience, children usually age out of what ABC Mouse offers around age seven. My older children really enjoy Adventure Academy. It has a free trial as well.
Related: Last Minute Digital Gift Ideas
In my opinion, books are some of the greatest gifts you can give–not just to children but to anyone!
One Christmas my parents gave our girls a set of the Boxcar Children books. This took me back to my childhood, as they were some of my favorites back then. Another favorite read-aloud series of ours is the Wingfeather Saga.
Some of my favorite books for the different age ranges include:
- Eric Carle books (really, any of them!)
- Goodnight Moon
- Guess How Much I Love You
- I Love You More Than Rainbows
- God Made You Nose to Toes
- God Gave UsYou (any of the books in this series)
- If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (any of the books in this series)
- Corduroy (a favorite of mine from childhood!)
- Going to Sleep on the Farm (We picked this one up at a Goodwill Bookstore when our firstborn was an infant, and it’s become one of our all-time favorites! When our first copy wore out a few years ago, I made sure to order a new copy on Amazon! It’s a keeper!)
- Tea for Ruby (teaches manners)
- The Bernstein Bear books (any of them)
- The Pumpkin Patch Parable (as well as The Sunflower Parable, The Pine Tree Parable, and The Parable of the Lily)
- The Way Home: A Princess Story (a little too advanced for preschoolers but definitely good for elementary)
Read-Alouds for Elementary/Older Elementary or Middle School Chapter Books:
We’re in this season right now where most of our children are reading. I love the sweet time of chapter book read-alouds together!
- American Girl books
- Little House on the Prairie books
- Boxcar Children books
- Anne of Green Gables books
- Bobbsey Twins books
- Hardy Boys books (my hubby’s suggestion)
- Island of the Blue Dolphins (my hubby’s suggestion)
- Stormy (my hubby’s suggestion)
- Wingfeather Saga
This Children’s Puffin Set 10-book collection is pricey but would be amazing! A set of Little People, Big Dreams would also open a world of possibilities as children read how other people have impacted the world.
In addition, kids love getting magazines in the mail. Over the years, we’ve gifted our girls with Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. and Brio (all from Focus on the Family) and For Girls Like You. They love getting them in the mail each month!
Related: Christmas Books I Recommend
But what if you want to give your kids toys?
There’s no shame in giving your kids toys! We do a combination of both toy and non-toy gifts for our kids.
Bonus: If you want to check out some of our toy suggestions, my husband Will has curated an incredible Christmas gift guide with plenty of toy options. Check it out here.
Depending on the age of your children and your season of life, you may prefer giving toys to your children.You may want to check out the innovative concept of Toy Library. For a small monthly fee, you can rent toys, return them, and get new toys the next month. This may keep your kids from getting bored!
Admittedly, it’s easier to give non-toy gifts to older children, but, in all my years of parenting, I’ve learned that we, the parents, set the bar for what our children come to expect out of special occasions and gift giving.
By starting the tradition of non-toy gifts early–and, by all means, mix them with toy gifts as well–your kids will never know the trauma of watching their mother nearly break her ankle while tripping over their newborn sibling while thinking he is a doll.
What are your non-toy gift ideas for kids? Share in a comment below!
Related: See all of our previous gift guides HERE.