The no-toy gift guide for kids

Kid toys have gotten crazy over the last 10 years. Everything requires batteries or a charger and some manner of assembly or set up. I remember playing with a ‘stick horse’ as a kid that was literally just a stick I found outside, so I’m a little jealous. My own  children have an abundance of toys, games, clothes, things, yet they insist on playing with the same 4 toys (one of which is usually an empty box or water bottle).

Every year during the holidays, I tell myself I’m going to rein in our the amount of toys they get for Christmas, but that is usually overcome by visions of their excited little faces on Christmas morning as they shred through carefully placed wrapping and bows to discover what treasures are waiting for them.

About a month ago, I read this post about giving ‘gifts’ instead of ‘toys’ for Christmas. It makes the great point that most kids don’t usually remember a lot of the toys they recieve, but they remember experiences. Go do something with them and they are probably more likely to remember and appreciate it than some plastic toy. Plus, it won’t get tossed into a toy box and forgotten.

This post inspired me to try to make at least one of the things I give my kids (and nephews) for Christmas this year a ‘gift’ rather than a toy (don’t worry, they’re still getting plenty of toys, too).

Here are some creative gift ideas that can help you create memories with kids.

  • Give them a gift that teaches them something/– any kind of lessons (or camp or membership), just teach them something. Not only will you be teaching them something new, but they’ll also appreciate the time you’re spending with them.
    • If you have a talent (playing guitar, knitting, underwater basket weaving), teach them yourself.
    • If you’re less talented, think about taking lessons with them (dancing, cooking, pottery, horse back riding, whatever).
    • Or if they’re into soccer or animals, sign them up for a camp or get them a membership to your local zoo.
  • Give the gift of reading – with Blue Manatee boxes, you can give a child of any age a collection of books tailored to their interests/needs. You can build your own box of books by selecting from a wide variety of book titles, organized by age, occasion and popular categories. Or you can select a themed box based on a special occasion or interest. You can also add gear (toys or clothes) and a personalized note to your box. Boxes range from $30 for 3 books to $80 for 9 books (shipping is free). And, as an added bonus, the packaging is also eco friendly and comes with play ideas (like how to make the box into a robot).
  • Give them inspiration to think critically – The Goldie Blox Zipline Action Figure is girl-oriented but I love the idea of an action figure for girls (that isn’t all boobs and high heels) that promotes engineering and  critical thinking skills. The Goldie Blox line contains a variety of buildable items for ages 4 and older. This Zipline kit includes a book about Goldie’s Zipline Adventures and everything needed to send Goldie ziplining across the room, down the stairs or anywhere (within the 13′ range).
  • Give them something to build or make – Mindware Marble Run provides hours of fun and endless possibilities. Kids can use the colorful (and easy to assemble) pieces to build tracks and then send the marbles speeding through the twists and turns of slides, tubes and funnels. There are a million different ways to configure the pieces, which promotes problem solving and creative thinking. Bonus if you get in there and build with them
  • Take them somewhere – take them somewhere, anywhere. Maybe it’s the park or a local children’s museum or a sporting event. Maybe it’s a scavenger hunt around their town. Maybe it’s camping. Maybe it’s a road trip to see the World’s Largest ball of twine. It doesn’t have to be Paris or the rainforest or Disneyland or somewhere grand (ie expensive). Just take them somewhere, show them something new. Again, spending time with them will be far more memorable than any toy you could give them.

Now I know, you’re looking at this list and calling BS because there are in fact toys on this list. Truth. However, the idea is that you give kids something that really make them think, teach them things and solve problems. They go above and beyond a light up, singing Elsa doll (we already know all the words to ‘Let it Go’ so we don’t need a doll to teach us) or an Elmo figure that giggles when you touch it (I may be dating myself by calling that one out, I’m sure Elmo is on to way cooler things than giggling these days).

And also remember, they are kids, so a few toys won’t hurt.

Need gift ideas for mom and dad too? Check out my gift guide for guys (with commentary from my husband) and my favorite things (which make great gifts for any lady).


Back to top