When my daughter was about 6 months old, we began to accumulate so many toys that our living room was becoming almost unlivable. Anticipating her first birthday, I started to plant some seeds…some non-toy gift ideas that people could give her.
I worked for weeks to compile a list that could be mailed out with her party invitations.
This list contained adventures for our entire family, learning opportunities for her, ways for us to connect at home and things we could put away for her future.
The specific items on our non-toy gift idea list have changed as my daughter has gotten older, but the categories have remained the same.
To inspire you to give your child (and your family) experiences rather than things, read on! I am sharing some of my favorites non-toy gift ideas for kids of all ages!
(Hey Mama, just a head up that this post contains affiliate links. I may receive credit if you purchase items from links on my blog but there will be no extra cost to you. Check out my disclosure policy for more information. Thanks for supporting Happy Mama Wellness and our programs!)
25 Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Kids: Good for Any Occasion
When I was in fifth grade I got Mono (mononucleosis – aka A Living Hell for a kid). I was stuck in bed for months! At the time, I couldn’t really think of anything worse happening to me.
I was out of school for several months. My Mom would pick up my lessons each week from my teacher and bring my work from the previous week in for grading.
As an adult, I am appreciate THAT as one of the best gifts I have ever received – my parents and teachers working together to make sure I didn’t have to stay back a grade due to my illness.
As a child, the BEST gift would come when I was about three weeks from returning back to school.
My classmates all wrote me letters and signed a big Get Well card. They sent it home with my Mom and I got to spend several days reading about how excited my friends were to have my back in class.
Being missed and feeling loved…gifts don’t get much better than that!
I still have every one of those letters and that card.
You know what else I loved when I was that age?
Lincoln logs. I would spend hours, days playing with those things. Do you think I still have my Lincoln logs?
The gifts that mean the most are the ones that come from the heart. The ones that make you feel special. Non-toy gifts that help make memories…not the stuff that accumulates in our living room.
I certainly don’t wish for any of you, or your children, to get an illness.
But I do want you to be inspired to give from the heart and make memories…so whether it’s Christmas, a birthday or just because, here’s a list of non-toy gift ideas to help you do just that!
Gifts For the Whole Family To Enjoy
1. Camping Gear
I know this might sound a little silly at first, but camping is really the ultimate bonding experience. No screen time. Only one room (or two if your tent is ginormous like ours) for everyone to gather. Returning to simplicity.
Camping is one our favorite ways to make memories and spend some really good quality time together. Going for walks, cooking over the fire (or camp stove) and of course, making s’mores!
Here is a list of some of the camping gear we could never do without!
Tent (of course) – Sizes and styles will vary. Here’s a great buying guide to help you choose the right one. This is the tent we have and LOVE! It fits three people and two dogs perfectly! This will be the most expensive gear you buy…but it’s worth spending the money to get a good quality tent that will last your family a lifetime. After all, it is your home away from home!
Sleeping Bags – Sleeping bags are rated by temperature. You can pay big bucks for ones that will keep you warm at -60F, but most people never need that. For most families, a bag rated 30-40F will work just fine.
Lighting – Lanterns, flashlights or headlamps…these can be used at home too! Flashlight tag anyone?
2. Overnight Trip
No explanation needed for this one!
3. Tickets to:
A Sporting Event – Football, Lacrosse, Baseball, Soccer, X-Games…you name it! Go to whatever event your family gets excited about!
The Theater – Have a budding actor or actress? Get tickets to the local theater for a play or musical. There is so much to choose from, you will absolutely find something for your kids regardless of their age!
Zoo or Aquarium – Zoos and aquariums trips are great memory-making time combined with an amazing educational experience. Plus, you are supporting a great cause! Go here to find a list of zoo and aquariums near you.
Museum – I know, sometimes this doesn’t sound very fun…but it is!!! First go here to find museums near you, then plan a day trip filled with learning and fun! P.S. – “Museums” include Halls of Fame, planetariums and children’s organizations.
4. Outdoor Equipment
5. Board Games and Playing Cards
Bring back Family Game Night! This gift will keep giving and giving! Here is a list of some of our family favorites from little kid to big kid:
- Chutes & Ladders – Ages 3-7
- Trouble – Ages 5 and Up
- Sorry – Ages 6 and Up
- Twister – Ages 6 and Up
- Life -Ages 8 and Up
- Cranium – Ages 16 and Up
- Card Games like Uno, Skip-Bo and Phase 10
6. Butterfly Kit
For your little naturalist(s), kits like this one let the whole family watch their little caterpillars grow, pupate and become beautiful butterflies.
7. Bird Feeder
If your family is anything like mine, we have a pair of binoculars and the bird ID book sitting right on the kitchen counter. Purchasing several feeders and adding different foods can attract a multitude of species all year long. How much fun will you have bird watching in the winter from the comfort of your own home!
8. Activity Boxes
You can purchase stand-alone boxes from KiwiCo and Amazon (I like these ones from Amazon – Quiet Time, Magic of Science, Art) or you can get a monthly subscription. Either way, your family will work as team and learn while spending quality time together. My favorite monthly subscription boxes are from KiwiCo and Little Passports.
KiwiCo has amazing monthly subscription boxes that are developmentally age-appropriate, backed by science and education-based fun. Here are their crate options:
Tadpole – Ages 0-36 months
Koala – Ages 3-4
Kiwi – Ages 5-8
Atlas – Ages 6-11
Little Passports is similar (with crates geared at certain age groups) to KiwiCo but focuses on exploring geography and culture. Here are their subscription options:
Early Explorers – Ages 3-5
World Edition – Ages 6-10
USA Edition – Ages 7-12
Science Expeditions – Ages 9+
9. Water Table
I know this might sound like an odd family gift, but a water table is a GREAT way to have fun and cool off in the summertime and it can be converted into an indoor sand play area during the fall and winter. Spark your child’s imagination year-round with this family-friendly play station!
Gifts for the Individual
10. Personalized Book
11. Digital Camera
Let the kids in your life record memories in their own way. Have little ones? This camera is a GREAT one to start with!
12. Gift Cards or Money
I know it may not sound like fun, but giving kids a way to save their own money for the things they want to buy can not only keep the clutter down, but it can teach them an amazingly valuable lesson!
And of course, they need a place to put their money. I LOVE the Moonjar. It has spaces for “saving”, “spending” and “sharing” to help kids be money-wise.
Classes and lessons of all kinds are a great option for any age, any gender and can even be turned into a parent-child activity. Here are some class ideas that are available no matter where you live…
If they are going to take part in classes or lessons, they would probably love some supplies to have at home. Art supplies and musical instruments don’t have to break the bank. The Doodle Crate from KiwiCo will bring art supplies every month, or you could give your child a set like this. Instruments can be rented from your local music store until your child is committed enough to spend money on their own.
In our local area, there are YMCA camps, zoo camps, aquarium camps, science camps, nature camps…should I keep going. Most educational organizations will have a day or week-long experience for kids during school breaks. Some even have great programs for home school families. Need help paying for multiple camps, check out MyRegistry.com to create a sharable gift page that can include custom gifts like classes and camps.
Hopefully your child has a love of reading, but if not, they certainly love their tech. Audio books are a great way to combine the two. Get your kids away from the screen and into a book with this gift.
17. Magazine Subscriptions
Getting mail addressed to you is just so much fun! And, magazine are wonderful for both learning and entertainment. Here are a few of my favorites!
Gifts For the Family on a Budget
18. Dress-Up Clothes
You could go the route of hand-me downs and get your kids to use their imagination or you could purchase “costumes”. We tend to do a little of both. We get cool clothes from family and save all the Halloween costumes and dance recital costumes…it all adds up to a great trunk of creativity!
19. Adventure Day
When I was younger, we would get in the car, my Mom would blindfold us and we would give directions for a certain amount of time…like this:
- Everyone in the car (with water snacks, lunches…prepared for anything)
- Blindfold on
- Timer started
- Kid #1 gives directions – “Take the second left”
- Kid #2 gives directions – “Take the third right”
- Continue taking turns until the timer goes off.
We would end up in the coolest places and have such a fun adventure…and other than gas money, it was completely free!
20. Big-Kid Experience
Does your little one really want to be one of the big kids? Take them to get their first pedicure or barber shop haircut. Make a big deal out of it and that is what will create the memory!
Have a little one that loves to cook? First, check out my blog post on how to incorporate your kids into the kitchen. Then, check out some of the amazing cookbooks out there now for kids! I don’t even have a link for you here because there are SO MANY options. Choose one that fits your child’s tastes and skill level.
Can’t find a book that fits your child’s eclectic taste and personality? Make one!
22. Recipe Box
Write out your family favorites, the dishes passed down from previous generations and leave some blank for your child to create their own. You can even add in some coupons for the “ingredients” to create certain recipes as part of the gift.
23. YOUR Books
I don’t know about you, but I have been saving my childhood copy of Anne of Green Gables since I was 9 years old, waiting for the time that I can start reading it with my child and then pass it on. What were your favorite books as a kid…if you still have them, gift them on to your children and tell them the story of how the characters they are about to meet helped to shape you.
24. Scavenger Hunt
Sometimes we have a prize at the end, sometimes we “kidnap” one of my daughter’s toys and she has to find it. Whether you leave riddles or compass directions leading to the next clue, you can customize the time and space of this memory-making machine!
Don’t have a creative bone in your body? Start a “Hike and Seek” competition to see who can spot the most things outside, or use this Scavenger Hunt in a Box to get you started!
25. Prefilled Calendar
Print one. Buy one. Whichever you choose, pick out certain days in the month or days of the week and prefill the entire year with special events. Ice cream day, stay in our pajamas and watch movies day, make our own popcorn day or whatever else you can think up.
Creating events for an entire year too overwhelming? Try covering a school break, or your child’s birthday week and go from there.
Want a little extra tip for controlling the toy clutter than already exists?
Create a rotation.
- Separate all of your child’s toys into categories (blocks, musical, puzzles, etc).
- Get 2-3 plastic bins.
- One category at a time, start distributing toys in the bins – For example:
- My child has six little puzzles. I am going to put two puzzles in each of three bins.
- Choose one bin and put the others in storage.
- Each week (or two) clean up all the toys into the current bin, then go up and get a new bin and store the current one.
You’re cleaning up the clutter and creating novelty – making old toys feel new again because they have been out of sight for several weeks.
What awesome non-toy gift ideas do you have? Share with us in the comments!
P.S. – As part of our “Mama-It-Forward, Pay-It-Back” campaign, I have compiled a list of additional gift ideas. Each of the links below is a Mama just like you, working their own business and changing the world one sale at a time. Check them out and support them if you can!
And now…I have a Non-Toy Gift for you!
I wrote this Dear Santa poem for my daughter when she was two years old…the first Christmas she really “got it”. It has helped us focus on experiences rather than things…and there is even a line in there about choosing a gift for a child or family that isn’t as lucky as ours.
I am giving you this PDF for FREE – just click on the photo above, fill out the form, download and enjoy!
Want to Support A Mamapreneur when you’re buying gifts this year? Here are some amazing Mamas I know…
- Nicole Donahue is an independent Lularoe consultant with lots of clothing options for kids and teens alike. Check out her Facebook group for options and discounts.
- Stephanie Bowlin offers some AMAZING sign language courses for the little ones (both in person and online). Check her out on Facebook at Signing With Miss Steph.
- Amanda Buzzell and her friend Kate created an amazing alternative to Play-Dough. Neat-Dough is an awesome sensory box filled with hours of reusable fun.
- Alieshia Mottern-Frink creates custom ponchos for kids (and adults). Check her out on Facebook at Cozy Mouse Designs.
- Kristen Paige has an entire etsy shop of handmade toys, hair bows and children’s decor. Check her out at Wainbough & Co. on etsy.
- Kayla Crowningshield is another etsy Mama! Making handmade hooded towels for kids, you can find her at Cricket, Firefly & Co. on etsy.
- Misty Burriss has her own line of soaps, lip balms and bath items. Made from all natural ingredients, her products can be found at Mrs. B’s Soaps.
- Laura Navarro‘s slogan of “Be Bold, Be Brave, Be A Boundless Girl” is inspiring at any age but her clothing line caters to the super girls in your life who want to truly express themselves in their clothing. Shop her store here.
- Looking for awesome children’s books? Check out MJ’s Adventures In Sign written by…well…Me :-)…Monadiki: The Goddess of Fierce Leadership written by Allexia Brewer, or head over to an Usborne storefront like the one Kim Cummings hosts! Reading is an adventure for the whole family!