10 Great Non-Toy Gift Ideas

posted on November 20, 2014 by  |  posted under Birthdays, Christmas, Fun With Kids, Gift Giving  |  47 Comments

no-toy gift ideas

As any gift-giving season approaches (be it Christmas or birthdays), you’re likely to have several loving friends and family members ask you for a wish list of items your kids might like to receive. Have you ever glanced at your child’s toy stash and wanted to say ‘NO MORE TOYS PLEASE!?’ Are you in that situation right now?

no-toy gift ideas

I have one daughter’s birthday in December and the other in January so, combined with Christmas, ‘tis the season to wonder where the mountain of toys came from!! That being said, I totally understand the desire of grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. to give them a gift that they’ll be excited about.

So, today I want to share with you a list of ideas we have come up with for non-toy gifts that you could put on those wish lists:

10 FUN Non-Toy Gift Ideas

 1. Lessons (gymnastics/swimming/dance/sports/instruments/etc.)  Maybe you’d love to give your kids the experience of dance lessons, have them join a team, or take up an instrument, but the cost is a strain for you.  Maybe Grandma & Grandpa could help out by giving the gift of lessons!

2. Uniform or other required items for the lessons.  Make the gift of lessons even more fun by including the needed costume/uniform/or instrument required for the lessons!  The tangible item makes it more fun to open!

no-toy gift ideas

 3. Science Kits/Baking Kits  A kit could be something that is very fun, can be done once (and you get to do it with them!), can be a learning experience, but doesn’t have to be stored on a shelf (or all over the playroom floor) forever.

 4. Tickets to a theater performance/movie One of the best gifts I can think of is time.  Wouldn’t it be fun for your kids to open a gift to find a note from you or their grandparents/aunt & uncle, that says they’re going to go out for a movie or a show together one day?  You could tell them all about the snacks you’ll be sharing (maybe even include a small bag of treats), or tell them which movie you’ll be going to.  Think of the excitement this builds & the quality time they’ll spend together!

no-toy gift ideas

 5. Mini-vacation How fun would it be to announce to your kids that you’ll be taking a little vacation together?  This could be as big or small as you want.  You could go for a night to a hotel nearby with a pool and just enjoy the fun of getting away together and focusing on each other.  You could plan a week away for something big if you’ve got the time & funds for it.  Maybe let them in on the surprise slowly by giving them gifts that they’ll need for the trip- a bathing suit and sunscreen to start, maybe a pair of flip flops… and when the kids look confused, let them in on the secret!

 6. Coupons for Grandma/Grandpa or Auntie/Uncle Outings (bowling, mini golf, a sleepover, out for ice cream, to your favorite restaurant, etc.)   My kids love to go to Chuck E. Cheeses.  They would be SO excited to open a gift to find a pouch filled with tokens to one of their favorite places with a note promising a trip there soon!

no-toy gift ideas

 7. Tickets or a Membership to the local Zoo or Museum

8. Snack Splurge Find out their favorite snack that they don’t get very often and give it to them as a gift!  (My kids love Dunkaroos, but we don’t usually buy them.  My daughter would be so excited to open a box of them!  Then she could decide whether to have one each day for a week or spread them out and savor them).  You may want to go the healthy snack route.  There are a lot of healthy & fun snacks out there that tend to be a little more expensive.  Take this gift-giving opportunity and splurge on some of the best ones!

no-toy gift ideas

9. An Extension to, Game for, or Refill for something they already have.  You’ve already got a DVD player, a game console, or an Easy Bake Oven?   A new DVD, game, or refill for a larger, pre-existing item would make a great gift!

10. Useful Items.  There’s nothing wrong with giving a gift that isn’t “just for fun”.  You’ll notice in the Gift Guides that were posted on HowDoesShe earlier, that we’ve included useful things, and things you might get for your kids anyway like the alarm clock or the DIY canopy shared on the Girls’ Gift Guide.

I hope you find this list of ideas helpful!
Thinking about other options has definitely been helpful for me and I hope to use some of these soon.

Do you have other great non-toy gift ideas?  Please share them in the comments!

Heather Lynne

And to check out our fabulous Neighbor/Teacher Gift Ideas here:

36 Neighbor Gift Ideas

Over 36 Neighbor Gift Ideas…and Counting!

    1. December 4th, 2012 at 7:12 am
      Alison says:
      Heather I love that picture of you in the middle of the toys! I feel like that a LOT! Thanks for the ideas:) I really love the performance tickets idea. Thanks!!
      • December 5th, 2012 at 2:37 pm
        Heather Lynne says:
        haha :) Thanks Would you believe the playroom was actually tidy the niht I decided to take that photo? Man, of all the days! ;) My husband & I had fun messing it up for the picture ;)
    2. December 4th, 2012 at 9:49 am
      Jennifer says:
      My daughter has an early February birthday, so I kind of get that feeling.
      One gift I give my daughter is a little basket filled with bubble bath, bath crayons, a new toothbrush, toothpaste and other similar things. Most are things I need to get her anyways, but with some extra fun things and picking the ones that have her favorite character on makes it so exciting for her.

      I love number 1 and 2! I'll have to give that a go when she gets a little older. (she's almost 3)
      Thanks for the great ideas. :)
      • December 5th, 2012 at 2:39 pm
        Heather Lynne says:
        That IS a great one! My sister & her boyfriend once gave my daughter some Dora foamy soap, bath fizzy colour things (what are they called?? ;), and shampoo. Such a fun gift, and doesn't add to the toy pile! :) I loved it & so did she! After reading your comment yesterday, I spent some time checking out the Cinderella & Strawberry shortcake body wash at Walmart last night ;)
    3. December 4th, 2012 at 11:04 am
      Aja says:
      I love all of these especially the mini vacation surprise idea.
    4. December 4th, 2012 at 11:06 am
      Tia says:
      These are such great ideas! I had to add one my kids' favorite gift to give is personalized pillowcase. They pick the fabric and I sew them and add a name. :) Just wanted to share.
      • December 5th, 2012 at 2:40 pm
        Heather Lynne says:
        Oh, that's so fun! I made my older daughter a Christmas pillowcase one year (while my other daughter was still in a crib, not using a pillowcase)... I still need to get the 2nd daughter her pillowcase (she's just turned 4 ;) I hope to check that off this year!
    5. December 4th, 2012 at 11:27 am
      Alyssa says:
      Love these ideas! This year we've definitely been trying to stay away from the clutter of lots of toys for Christmas. I'm trying to get my girls more books instead of toys this year. :)
      • December 5th, 2012 at 2:42 pm
        Heather Lynne says:
        I love the book idea. There are some classics that I found on amazon with really pretty hardcovers that go together. I have them pinned on Pinterest, hoping to start a library for the girls when they get old enough for novels! :)
        What kind of books is J reading now?
    6. December 4th, 2012 at 1:38 pm
      nicole says:
      I've been doing this for years! My girlfriends gifts are always a fun outing :tea party, manicure/pedicure, picnic, photo shoot (both friends are photographers), bowling, arcade, etc. I love it! They were kind enough to listen to me when I requested no more gifts (our rooms look like the one above) and instead take them out on a outing. Now if I can just get grandma to buy into it...
      • December 5th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
        Heather Lynne says:
        I love that. Outtings with friends are a great idea! Sometimes it's hard to make "girls' nights" happen often enough!
    7. December 4th, 2012 at 5:48 pm
      amy says:
      great post! thanks. ;)
    8. December 4th, 2012 at 7:47 pm
      Chelsea says:
      I really like all these ideas. I like to give crafty gifts. I made a gift basket for my niece, who's at the age where she still likes Disney, but not necessarily dress up and other "little kid" activities. So, I filled the basket with a "learn to crochet hearts" kit, glow in the dark lanyard jewelry kits, etc. (and included a nail art kit, because that's the grown up version of dress up!) I made my nephews those popular fort kits, which are still toy-like, but take a little more imagination, and less cleanup time and effort. Also, books are a great gift for kids. Find out what their favorite thing is, and find a book focused on it.
      • December 5th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
        Heather Lynne says:
        I love crafty gifts but I'm not very good at getting started on them early. Last year two of my girls' aunts made homemade gifts and I LOVED them!!! (so did the girls ;) They mean so much when you took the time to make them, too! I STILL have a raggedy anne doll that my aunt made for me when I was young. (actually you can see it in the photo above of me sitting in the playroom- cuz my girls play with it now!)
    9. December 4th, 2012 at 7:51 pm
      Chelsea says:
      Of course, it's also a good idea to teach your kids some valuable lessons by donating their toys regularly. Some parents do it during the holidays, so that the kids are "rewarded" with the upcoming presents. However you decide to do it, it teaches them about giving, how fortunate they are, and that things aren't as important as people.
      • December 5th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
        Heather Lynne says:
        YES! My girls have a couple of younger cousins and it's fun when we can choose to pass a toy on to one of them. That way they're putting some thought and love into a gift. And donating to children who need the toys more than we do is a lovely opportunity to teach about giving, and about service.
    10. December 4th, 2012 at 9:12 pm
      Monica says:
      We have started giving things to our kids that are directed to being active, like tennis racket, ping pong table, trampoline. Those things don't go in the playroom and it encourages our kids (and us) to be more active.
      • December 5th, 2012 at 2:49 pm
        Heather Lynne says:
        I love this! We live in Canada & it's always way too freezing for outdoor activities, so I tend to overlook that option. (plus all of our birthdays are in the winter!) Summer birthdays would be awesome for giving gifts like bikes! (giving them in the winter isn't as fun b/c they can't use them anytime soon!)
    11. December 5th, 2012 at 7:30 am
      Nicolette says:
      Heather, these are sooo great! I'm forwarding this page to all grandparents! I especially love the gift of lessons.
      • December 5th, 2012 at 2:50 pm
        Heather Lynne says:
        Thanks Nicolette! :)
        Yes, that's one we thought of this year, and my parents are going in with us on some gymnastics classes for one of my daughters who has been talking about gymnastics ever since the olympics! :)
    12. December 5th, 2012 at 12:04 pm
      Sally says:
      Those are good ideas, Thanks.

      If you need some more inspiration have you visited http://www.whyimbroke.com yet? They have some interesting unique stuff there.
    13. December 6th, 2012 at 3:03 pm
      Stephanie says:
      Oh boy, my kids would go bananas for the Chuck E. Cheese tokens! Great list!
    14. December 9th, 2012 at 6:12 pm
      Melinda says:
      I would also add a big box of art supplies that maybe they don't get to use on a regular basis.
    15. December 11th, 2012 at 6:09 pm
      Rosemary says:
      Thank you for your non-toy gift suggestions which are helpful as I have family members that I'm sure have their fill of toys.
    16. December 11th, 2012 at 6:20 pm
      Lisa S. says:
      My kids have been getting subscriptions to their favorite magazines from Grandma for several years. They love it and think about Grandma every time one comes in the mail. Plus they're learning something new each month.
    17. December 11th, 2012 at 6:25 pm
      Heather French says:
      One year I got my son a box of his favorite cereal that we had a hard time finding. He loved it. Also would be good for those cereals they beg for that you don't really want to let them have
    18. December 11th, 2012 at 7:09 pm
      Stephanie Short says:
      Thanks for this post! I have 3 kids but my 2 son's birthday are Dec 29th & Feb 3rd so it seems like overload!! I love that my Mom gives them a cheque to put away for their education and my Dad's wife gives them a subscription to a educational magazine.
    19. December 12th, 2012 at 6:17 am
      Katie B. says:
      This is a bit time consuming but completely worth it! Go through the old t-shirt stash and pick out some of the old favorites that no longer fit. Cut the front (or back) designs and sew into a quilt. Add a little batting and an old flat sheet (you know you have spares) and you have a quick quilt full of awesome memories!!! The extra T-shirt material can be used for patch sizing adjustments or a cute block border. Makes an EXCELLENT graduation gift too!
    20. December 12th, 2012 at 9:10 am
      diana.padilla says:
      so many great ideas.....honestly, I hadnt thought to regift tokens....and this would be great for a toddler neighbor, and a distant toddler cousin that will happen to join our festivities this year. Thanks. I'll come back and share one, once I think of it, that is!
    21. December 12th, 2012 at 9:31 am
      Pam@behealthybehappywellness says:
      I agree with all of these! One of the best gifts I gave my daughter two years ago(she is 8) last year was a certificate I had purchased from Living Social for an afternoon of ice skating. We all went and had a TERRIFIC time! In fact, it has now become an annual winter tradition to go skating at least once or twice.
    22. December 12th, 2012 at 9:34 am
      Pam@behealthybehappywellness says:
      Oh, just thought of another favorite (which is a great family gift from the Grandparents) - a membership to your local zoo or children's museum. That is a wonderful gift that lends itself to many fun outings throughout the year.
    23. December 13th, 2012 at 7:13 am
      Rachelle says:
      Another great idea is a magazine subscription. My friends in New York last year sent an email to my kids in Florida saying they each had a one year magazine subscription starting in January. They love getting them in the mail each month.
    24. January 6th, 2013 at 9:48 pm
      Tessa says:
      I just came across this on Pinterest today. What a great list- I hope that many will listen to this great advice. I actually just finished up a blog post on a very similiar topic. My favorite gifts to receive are experiences, so I made a menu for "The Perfect Day" for my nephew. He was exhausted and crabby during the last hour after all of our fun, but those first 23 hours were a blast!
      The link is below, if you would like to check it out (I linked this post at the end of mine, in case someone liked the idea of the activity gift but didn't want to put all the time into the menu idea.
    25. February 16th, 2013 at 3:05 pm
      Jennifer says:
      We almost always give gifts that are, in this order:
      1) Something needed
      2) Experiences (I have given my nieces and nephews "dates" with me since they were about 2. This is where I give them a homemade gift certificate on their birthday and then they get to choose where we go and what we do)
      3) Books.
      • November 18th, 2014 at 12:42 pm
        Mom23gr8kids says:
        I did something similar to this in our home for years for my three children. They received 3 presents from Santa (because Jesus received 3 presents) and from me (single mom) they received (within price limit based on budget that year);
        1. Something they want
        2. Something they need
        3. Something to wear
        4. Something to read
    26. October 25th, 2013 at 1:50 pm
      Jackie says:
      I love to make carved out "secret-stash" books for 7 to 10 year olds. They love to find treasures or money to put in there (I usually include a few small bills with the gift!). They are easy to make, too!
    27. November 27th, 2013 at 10:12 pm
      Rhonda says:
      This year we are giving tie blankets to our 3 girls. They are hand made, practical and easy to put away right on their beds. Also fuzzy slippers and as always hair accessories. One board game for the whole family will be given and one puzzle for each. We don't consider games or puzzles toys for they are in the family room for others to enjoy also. Lip balm is always a stocking stuffer along with batteries,hats, mittens and scarf and a big pack of gum. Sleds, saucers, and snow tubes we have done before too and are always a hit, We have done sleeping bags with new pajamas in the past for sleep overs. Just some added suggestions.
    28. April 4th, 2014 at 6:44 pm
      Daniel Robbins says:
      See, what I do with my nieces and nephews is read to them and do other things with them that I know they will like and - frankly - I like! Something as simply as bouncing rubber balls around on the hardwood stairs. I have been amazed at just how much they love this. Also, let them take the lead! As long as they know you're game, they'll come up with ideas! Go outside, jump on the trampoline, play with lego; and, as I said, of course, read books! I have been humbled by just how much they really love all this!
    29. October 26th, 2014 at 2:48 pm
      Rachel says:
      These are some great ideas! I love giving gifts that aren't toys. Here's another list of ideas: http://www.ordinaryhomemaker.com/non-toy-gift-ideas/
      • October 26th, 2014 at 5:41 pm
        Heather Lynne (@raisingmemories) says:
        Thanks for sharing that, Rachel!
        I made an updated list on my personal blog last year that has been popular as well. If you're interested, it's here: http://www.raisingmemories.com/2013/12/ultimate-list-100-non-toy-gift-ideas.html
    30. November 17th, 2014 at 7:27 pm
      Lorena Kern says:
      Love these ideas. Others I've gifted in the past include a subscriptions, like a Lego or Discovery Kids, NatGeo Kids. Also, for the hard to shop tweens, spa kits. A basket with slippers, mud mask, bath fizz, fave magazine. I love buying tickets to a big show. Took my 20 years old to see Blue Man Group, just us two, and I even got a hug at the end of the night!
    31. November 17th, 2014 at 7:48 pm
      casey says:
      I opened 529 accounts for my nieces and nephews. I buy a small toy and then put money in their college fund.
    32. November 17th, 2014 at 8:51 pm
      celeste says:
      I know this falls in the 'needs' category, but this year my kids are getting snow pants, jackets, gloves and boots and a new car seat. Luckily I've been able to hold off on these purchases until Christmas. :)
    33. November 18th, 2014 at 1:05 am
      Heather says:
      I try to do what my step mom did when we were growing up. We got one fun item that we wanted, one craft item and we got a hope chest the first year and every year after we got an item to put in our hope chest. House hold items we would need when we left home, for example, sheets, plates, bowls, cups, silverware, measuring cups, recipes, pots and pans, you get the idea. As a teenager I wasn't thrilled but I came to appreciate it. One year I got stem ware and other fun items as well. When we left the nest we had all we needed to be self sufficient. I am very grateful that I didn't have that expense when I left home at 18. I am starting this tradition with my kids while they are young so that they will be prepared. My daughter is excited to get purple plates! I just wanted to share my experience. I hope it helps. :-)
    34. November 18th, 2014 at 9:49 am
      Leslie says:
      Memberships to museums, botanical gardens, science museums and things like that are favorites of ours! Id rather give my child a memorable experience than more things that I usually end up cleaning up anyway.
    35. April 17th, 2015 at 3:13 pm
      cadouri pntru barbati says:
      WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for gifts
    36. July 13th, 2015 at 7:48 pm
      Alyssa Sorenson says:
      We are really enjoying our family pass to the swimming pool this summer that Grandma got for us as a family xmas/bday gifts
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