12 Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Kids


I spent the better part of this afternoon ‘purging’ toy after toy from my daughter’s over-abundant play room. Some had been used once or twice, others were basically brand new. It got me to thinking about where each toy came from – and most were gifts. Very generous gifts in which we are grateful for. But I started thinking about all the great things and experiences that would make excellent gifts and that wouldn’t end up in a storage box in the basement a couple months later! Here are my top ideas… I would love to hear yours, too!

1. Classes: Music, Cooking (Yummy Sprout offers great classes at Whole Foods!), Gymnastics, Swimming, Dancing, Etc. There are so many great choices!

2. Craft Supplies/Craft Date: Artterro offers some really great eco-friendly craft boxes with a variety of options.

3. Subscriptions: Magazines or monthly gift boxes make great gifts as kids can anticipate receiving something special in the mail each month.

4. Events: Movie tickets, tickets to a play, ballet, concert or sporting event (Mallards, Brewers, Badgers, Packers, and many more to choose from!) – so many things they can look forward to!

5. Quality Time: Let your child pick something fun! Go play a round of mini golf, take them bowling, go to the skating rink, plan a fishing trip, get a manicure/pedicure together, play frisbee golf – the options are endless.

6. Books, Games & Puzzles: We love to use the library – but it’s also fun to have books at home! Usborne Books offers a wonderful variety for all ages. Games and puzzles also offer fun ways to spend time together as a family (bonus: they are equally educational AND fun!)

7. Pet: But only if the parents are okay with this first of course! My toddler adores our four year old Boston Terrier. They have become best friends and not only that but having a pet can teach children responsibilities and how to be loving, loyal and caring. Check out the Dane County Humane Society or a local animal shelter to find a pet who needs a loving home.

8. Sleeping Bag, Pajamas, Popcorn & a new movie: I saw something on Pinterest for giving a child a new pair of pajamas, a movie and popcorn for Christmas each year! I love this idea and decided to take it one step further by throwing in a sleeping bag. Kids love ‘sleepovers’ in their sleeping bags whether they are at home, camping or at a friends house.

9. Restaurant Gift Card: Could be dinner, favorite cupcake shop, ice cream parlor or a coffee shop (did you know that Yola’s serves amazing waffles and has a play area?!).

10. Piggy Bank with a little cash: Start them early, teach them how to save money and the value of a dollar! Open a savings account for your child and help them learn money management. And if they want something special throughout the year, give them a chance to learn how to save up their dough so they can buy it for themselves! (Not to say you can’t help contribute to that stash by letting them ‘earn’ some money here and there for good behavior or helping out!)

11. Donation to a Favorite Charity: Teach your child the joy of giving to others who are less fortunate. If they love animals maybe you can make a donation in their name to the Humane Society or Animal Shelter. Perhaps they love nature – you can donate to the World Wildlife Fund. The Make A Wish Foundation is another great organization – there are SO many to choose from and your child will actually enjoy helping others when you emphasize how great they are making someone else feel!

12. Memberships: A membership to a place like the Children’s Museum, The Little Gym, Zoo (Madison has a free zoo, but not every city is so lucky!), YMCA, science museum or another place that your child enjoys can turn into the gift that keeps on giving all year long.

12 Responses to 12 Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Kids

  1. MR August 11, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    #8 is a HORRIBLE idea. Pets should never be given as “Gifts.” A decision to get a pet should be a family decision in regard to what is going to work best for their lifestyle and schedule.
    This is how more animal end up at Humane Societies, Animal Shelters and Rescues.
    Even checking with the parents, an addition of a furry or non furry family member should be just that a FAMILY decision.
    If the child is an animal lover, sponsor an animal in his or her name. Most rescues will give you updates on the animal and allows the child to understand the importance of charity, giving and responsibility of pet ownership.

    • N August 20, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

      calm down

    • huh October 8, 2014 at 8:31 am #

      Yeah, what the heck. Calm down MR

  2. Laura August 12, 2014 at 7:57 am #

    Some great ideas! I’m currently struggling with the fact that at some point my son will get Christmas gift this year. He has so many toys already and doesn’t need more. I think I’ll ask people to read this list (minus pets, as we don’t have and do not want pets) to get ideas.

    • Alisa
      Alisa August 12, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

      Thanks Laura! And I agree, if the family is not seeking a pet, it is a not a good gift idea. I probably should have been more clear on #8, I was more or less suggesting that as an idea from parent to child and maybe a pet fish or hamster or something like that… but if you are a not a parent you will definitely want to make sure the family is desiring a pet before you get them one! 🙂 Thanks for reading the post and for the feedback!

  3. Airika August 28, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    I just passed the sleeping bag idea to Grandma. She is always looking for good non-toy ideas and now they’ll be ready for sleepovers at her house. Thanks for the list.

    • Alisa
      Alisa September 4, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      So glad to hear that Airika! A sleepover at grandma’s sounds like fun!

  4. Jessica September 22, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    Love these ideas! The best gifts my daughter has received are by far non-toy items. We got her a fish for her second birthday and she loves her “fishy”! Such an easy animal to care for and she loves watching him swim everyday.

    A great magazine subscription for kids is Highlights magazine. It comes every month and she loves to read it and do the games/puzzles.

    I’ll be getting her a piggy bank for Christmas to hopefully instill the idea of saving!

    Great ideas!

  5. tyler September 28, 2014 at 2:41 am #

    if i ever got any of these as a gift, heads would roll.

  6. Nicole Davison September 28, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

    I liked how this article promotes the idea of giving gifts that are more commonly used. Ive been trying to get a good present for my neice and finding gift ideas for her is not always easy. I like the craft supplies idea and the sleeping bag.

  7. The Roamer October 8, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

    I though this post had some good intentions but I think it ran short.

    Non toy ideas are great to look for. Clutter in our homes is the ever time consuming beast but I was really hoping that the content was going to have more substance.

    More then once I felt that the post was encouraging money spending when its completely not necessary. It felt still greatly leaning towards consumerism.

    I thought the first 3 were great ideas all involving learning and only minimal clean up , I’m looking at you magazine subscription .

    But the saddest one was quality time. Why do you need to go anywhere to have quality time . you can have quality time together at home. Its as easy as making it a priority to play games with your kids that they want to play. I know we could better practice this. Like if he wants to play with cars not say no let’s play cards instead. Or better yet just put down the phone

  8. Michelle September 24, 2015 at 8:00 am #

    I love this list! When you are looking for something special for a holiday or a birthday gift, but don’t want to add to the clutter – memories and learning opportunities (shh) are a great way to gift (kids and adults alike).

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