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10 Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Kids


As I’ve shared in the past, we don’t have a lot of toys at our house and we have pretty specific standards for the kinds of toys that we keep at our house. As a result, many people have asked for ideas of non-toy and consumable gifts.

So I put together a list of some of our favorite non-toy gift ideas. My kids helped me come up with their favorite ideas. I thought it might give you some ideas as you’re thinking of gift ideas for your kids or any kids you need to buy for this Christmas:

1. Books

While books do take up space, they can be easier to store, much less messy, and very worthwhile. Plus, it encourages your kids to be reading and learning. You can see some of the books we’ve read the past few years on boards on my Pinterest Page.

2. Magazine Subscriptions

Magazine subscriptions like Ranger Rick, Clubhouse, or National Geographic for Kids can be a lot of fun. My kids LOVE getting magazines as gifts because it means they’ll get fun mail every month all year long! Then you can recycle them or pass them on when you’re through with them.

{Experimenting with Fizzy Sidewalk Chalk}

3. Bubble Bath or Sidewalk Chalk

My children have so much fun with bubble bath and sidewalk chalk, but it’s not something that I usually am going to spend money on. It can provide lots of fun — and is completely consumable!

10 Non-Toy Gift Ideas

4. Time Together

What about planning a special date with your child instead of buying them a gift? This takes time, but it is often very meaningful and memorable.

5. Treats

Is there a special food item your kids love? Maybe juice boxes or fruit snacks or animal crackers? Give these as a special treat instead of toys.
10 Non-Toy Gift Ideas

6. Craft Supplies

Craft supplies can provide hours of creative play and fun! Here’s a great idea for a snail mail craft kit. Or, check out this Handmade Craft Box idea.

7. Colored Pencils & Coloring Books

My kids have spent hours coloring this past year. I think it helps that I love coloring, too! Here’s one of the Coloring Books our girls have especially loved this past year. And here are the colored pencils that we adore (they are super pricey but might be a great gift for an older child that really loves art and coloring!)

8. Gift Cards for Restaurants/Treats

A gift card to a restaurant or ice cream shop your child loves is a fun gift. And if your kids are like my kids, they think that getting to use their own gift card to pay is just about the best thing ever!

10 Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Kids

9. Memberships to Local Attractions

If you have some local museums, a zoo, or other fun places that offer memberships, consider buying a membership as a gift. These are pricey, but can provide hours of fun, memories, and entertainment. Best of all, they take up zero space in your house!

10. Subscription Boxes

Our kids all got a subscription to craft kit boxes last year for Christmas and their birthdays (check out Doodle Crate, Kiwi Crate, and Tinker Crate) and they love, love, loved them! It was one of their favorite gifts ever. If you have LEGO lovers at your house, check out LEGO’s Pley membership — Kathrynne got this as a gift and has loved it, too!

What non-toy gift ideas do you have?

Related: Dealing With Toy Overload, Four Weeks of Frugal Family Fun, and Consumable Gifts for Christmas.

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  • Kristy H says:

    I try to do the 4 gift ideas I found on pinterest a few years ago….”Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read” ;-). Stockings are 4 items also… fun socks, one fun candy thing, fun bandaids and a toothbrush 😉

  • Jennifer says:

    A la carte classes. Art, cooking, sewing, whatever they are interested in at the time. Also gift cards to the movies, bowling, skating rink.

  • Meredith says:

    This year I only bought a few toys for our kids (two were to add to special collections our youngest has, one was a homemade puppet theater for puppets we own, a board game, and one was a bike for our oldest who outgrew what he has now). I bought and also made t shirts with things they are interested in on the front, passes to a local trampoline place (each can bring a friend along), and made up a certificate for our oldest to have a day out at an old gold mine near where we live (something he’s been dying to do!). I also bought several kinds of all natural flavored Oreo type cookies (our youngest saw a blindfolded Oreo tasting contest on YouTube) – so those will be wrapped and we will have a family contest with them as a “gift” (and share the rest with neighbors). We’ll also get some elements (periodic table) in vials for our oldest to add to his collection of those.

  • Ang F. says:

    Love this list! Thank you for all you do! You are such an inspiration!

  • Davonne says:

    Great list! We often use the majority of our gift budget for each other to take a family trip instead of buying presents. It started out as an experiment for Christmas one year and our kids loved it so much that it has blossomed into an annual tradition, and now even spills over into birthdays (with them requesting a day trip or weekend camping trip instead of presents & a party).

  • Jessica says:

    I do many of those! My kids also get fun bath stuff, like bubble bath or bath crayons. It gets used up quickly.

  • Julie Calvert says:

    For my son’s birthday for the past several years we have given him Vegetable seed. He then can plant his own garden. Any of his produce that is sold he gets the money for.

  • Jane says:

    We are getting them a subscription to “Adventures in Odyssey” online for quality entertainment. They love listening to the shows.

  • Stacy says:

    One thing I asked for this year for my kids was gymnastics leotards. Those get pricey but it’s nice to have some extras. Other sports equipment would be good too. Baseballs, soccer balls, cleats, shin guards, etc…

  • We have asked for help with sports and lessons from the kids’ grandparents. One Christmas my parents gave my oldest the gift of swimming lessons. They gave him a swimsuit, goggles, and a “gift card” that he opened on Christmas. He loved it and had a blast with the lessons!

  • I have to just laugh it off this year. I keep an Amazon wish list with useful and wanted items going for each child, but my family seems to prefer their own ideas. My father said he was thinking of getting my oldest a drone. He then asked what to get our children and I extensively suggested lessons, camps, gear, etc. When I finished, he said “I’ll think I’ll go get that drone”!

    As parents, at least we will be sure not to add to the clutter, giving needed apparel, 1 want, items to use up, & a handmade ornament representing a trip.

    Another point I’d love advice on:
    Older children’s rooms seem more difficult to clean out- there are less junky toys, but so many books, journals, quality & well-loved toys, momentos, etc..

    • Jessica says:

      Yep. This is our family too. We suggest “experience gifts” and magazine subscriptions until we are blue in the face and still end up with junky toys that break or are tossed aside in a few months.
      We did have a little success with recommending specific STEM toys that DS would benefit from (he goes to a STEM magnet) as they have the same items or similar items and will reinforce learning at home.
      They really only want to give gifts with the “wow” factor.

  • Love these ideas. Our daughter has way too many toys already but we still want her to have the joy of opening presents. We are thinking some fun educational gifts also!

  • HokieKate says:

    We’re going ice skating as a family as a Christmas present! It’s pricey, and actually two states away, but it should be an adventure.

  • Pam says:

    Great ideas here. Once year I created a box with an activity of the month – and they’d get to open up an envelope each month with details inside. For instance, January would be ice skating and there was a groupon inside for ice skating. June was hiking – with a map of a local state park and a $10 gift card for bagels before. I had a blast putting it together and it created a fun year of memories!

  • Ha! I just posted on this very thing today! My friends and I collaborated on the list. Now if only we can get those over generous grandparents to agree to shopping from the list!!!

  • Victoria says:

    Having teenagers I would add simply giving money to this list.

    My children now want very BIG items that are more than this mom can afford to put under the tree so instead I buy those chocolate bars that come out at Christmas time that are wrapped to look like Santa Money (ALDI and Hallmark sell them where I live) I carefully unwrap the top wrapper and put money on top of the foil wrapper and then put the top wrapper back on and tape it. I then wrap them up and put them under the tree. Sometimes I will also add a note on top of the money that says “this is to go towards you savings goal of a …..”. My teenagers LOVE IT.

  • Love these ideas! One thing I started a few years ago, that my kids absolutely adore, is homemade coupon books. I make simple coupons for fun things such as staying up late, extra one-on-one time with me, and being in charge of choosing our dinner menu. It has quickly become a favorite holiday tradition for my whole family!

  • Katie Blackburn says:

    My boys have received swimming lessons, a museum membership, and a zoo membership…we love them since it gives us things to do throughout the whole year. We also have received tickets to college and pro sporting events…things that we love to do but can get expensive quickly.

    This year, we are taking our nieces and nephews out to lunch and to a paint-your-own pottery place.

  • Rachel says:

    When I heard you mention food as a gift on Periscope today – I thought, “I knew there was a reason I liked her”. I FONDLY remember getting pepperoni sticks and chocolate covered cherries as gifts. I also got Kraft Mac and cheese and canned tuna as gag gifts too. I have also given a jar of Marshmellow cream to a nephew for a gift. We were farmers (just farmed for ourselves) so ANY store bought food was a treat for me back then. So that pepporoni stick (just for me and didn’t have to share LOL) was a great gift!

  • Kaylee says:

    I always appreciate these posts. Such great inspiration, and it helps me stay on track. I once received a 6 pack of cream soda as one of my presents on Christmas morning. It was my favorite pop, and a special treat normally, so I thought that was so awesome!

  • Tonya says:

    This year for my son’s upcoming 4th birthday I was able to persuade both sets of grandparents to pool their resources and purchase the kinderbach music program.

    His birthday is in January. I can’t wait to introduce him and his 2 year old sister to the joy of learning music!

  • Elaine says:

    Depending where you live, there are so many fun musicals and plays around Christmas time. The Wednesday of Christmas week, we are going to see Mary Poppins! Board games and Legos are always a hit with our kids, and those are things that last and encourage creativity.

  • Brynn says:

    I love these ideas! I think that my children are a little young for most of them right now. Anybody have any suggestions for gifts for an almost 3 year old? I also have a 3 month old, but definitely going to do the wrapping already gifted items or needed items for the near future , and that is just for my daughter to see him get something from Santa as well. I did have my daughter pick out one of her toys to”give”to her brother. We will see how that turns out!

  • Jessica says:

    We have a host child spending the holidays with us, and he can only go home with a backpack that he can carry himself, so we’re working hard on an unwrapped Christmas.

    We started a new tradition this year and are going to the Nutcracker. Thanks for your list!

  • Faith Still says:

    Great ideas. We do similar things, but include some toys too. I always gift practical things too like new pj’s, scarves, gloves, long underwear etc. The boys get excited about all of it. I am giving quite a few books this year too as the boys are really into read alouds and reading on their own. I picked up some beautiful hardback children’s books at the library book store for 50 cents each and some paperback classics for read alouds at Dollar Tree for $1. After several years of mothering boys, I came up with a list of the best gifts for 3 to 8 year old boys.

  • Melissa says:

    My kids grandparents have gifted lessons (riding lessons in our case, but any type of lesson the kids might be interested in would be great) and Also a week of summer camp to my kids. And my mom mentioned paying (or helping to pay) for ski club for this year for my son because he really wants to join but I’m not sure it will be in the budget for us this year.

  • Kathy says:

    Fellow Grandparents: Please get “on board” with these ideas! LISTEN to what your sons and daughters are telling you about gift giving. With both my grandsons in daycare all day Monday thru Friday, they have very little time or need for lots of toys at home. Weekends are for family outings. I love the idea of family membership to a local attraction like the zoo, a museum, aquarium and such!

  • Patty says:

    We are a lego VIP member, but have never heard of Pley. What is it?

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