Fifty non-toy gifts that are kind to everyone

12222-NO7LXCIn our household we’re in full gift buying mode right now. With a tiny apartment and a leaning towards minimalism I’m really trying hard to keep toys down to a minimum.

I can’t help thinking about the amount of toys in landfill… We’re certainly not doing our kids any favours by buying them mountains of plastic-battery-operated, light-up gifts.

So here are fifty ideas for non-toy gifts that are suitable for most ages. It’s a kindness gesture for our world and for future generations. We’ve already ticked off a few for our 3 year old and one or two for the 3 month old.

1. Tickets to something. Experiences always win out over gifts in our house. This Christmas my three and a half year old will be getting tickets on the Big Apple Circus, and I can’t wait!
2. A library card. It doesn’t cost a thing but gives so much. It also supports your local library. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it! Add a book bag of you want to add a ‘paid for’ element.
3. A CD player. Our iPad loving 3 year old surprised us this year by asking for one of these (they have one at school and use it to sing along, dance and listen to stories.) He already has a playlist on Spotify plus audio books – all of which we play through the iPad, but we are always in charge of it. The freedom of his own CD player and “story records” is the appeal I think!
4. Books – I’m a firm believer that kids can’t have too many books. Whether you make a special gift of buying them your favourite childhood book (anything by Roald Dahl) or choose something you know they’ll love, it will be a treasured gift.
5. Puzzles – I don’t really class these as a toy toy. They are educational, keep them quietly occupied and can last forever (my son still plays with puzzles that used to belong my my friend’s son – who is now 18!)
6. Passes to a class – whether it’s baby massage (for the newborns), mommy and me yoga or a season of soccer, a class pass is a great gift.
7. A homemade CD (if they have a CD player – see above) whether it’s a mix CD of their favourite songs or a recording of you reading a special story.
8. A photo album or photo book
9. A photo print or canvas for their wall
10. A watch – and a few lessons on how to tell the time.
11. An apron and kitchen utensils – a whisk, a bowl and the ingredients for their favourite cookie maybe?
12. A cook book. When my husband was 7, he received the best Christmas gift ever – a family cookbook. Upon opening he gave it to his mum and said: “I think I opened yours by mistake”. The mistake was his of course, and every week for the following few years he ‘cooked’ a family meal. Some were better than others, but 30 years later he’s a great cook. So everyone wins. You can either buy a special kids’ one, get an adult one (like my mother-in-law did) or create your own with a bunch of family recipes.
13. A musical instrument (if you are feeling brave and/or the children you’re buying for do not live with you!). My eldest LOVES his bongos!
14. Christmas PJs
15. A cute robe and slippers
16. A flashlight and something to make a reading den
17. Play silks or a play parachute
18. A globe or world map
19. A magazine or part works subscription – there are loads of kids options, including Little Passports for young minds, or how about National Geographic?
20. A sleeping bag
21. Sponsoring a child – we did this last year and it was a huge success.
22. Adopting an animal – a whale, a monkey, a snow leopard. The choice is yours.
23. The gift of time. With kids going from school to class to… bed, spending time with mum or dad can be a really special gift. Make gift cards with ‘mummy or daddy time’ which they can spend how they wish (within reason).
24. A dinner date at a favorite restaurant. When I was 13 my dad took me on a real life date to restaurant. It is one of my favorite childhood memories.
25. A day trip – a nearby city, the beach, a forest/country park – whatever you think would tickle their fancy.
26. A great getaway. Yes it’s a little more expensive, but if you were thinking of taking your kids to Disney (or Centre Parcs) anyway, why not make it into a gift? You can always get creative by wrapping up their own (or a new) suitcase.
27. Membership to something – a museum, zoo, aquarium… As long as it’s something you’ll visit often it will be worth it.
28. Gardening equipment and some seeds. Get them growing – vegetables, flowers, a tree.
29. A worm farm… Or ant farm. Yes they come with LIVE creatures. Yes it’s kinda gross. But kids will love it.
30. A plant. I know a seven year old who’s favourite gift was a Venus Flytrap. Yes really. Kids surprise us sometimes!
31. Their very own chair – arm chair, dining chair, desk chair, rocking chair… If it’s their very own, they’ll love it. (Bonus points if you personalise it).
32. Stickers and something to decorate!
33. A special knife and fork set like this one.
34. A plate and bowl set
35. Dressing up clothes/costumes – whether you go for the real thing like this, or raid a thrift store for random items, this is a gift that will really fire their imagination.
36. A backpack/lunch bag
37. A thermos
38. Sports equipment (roller blades, a football, a skipping rope)
39. Playing cards
40. Some good quality paints, brushes and paper or canvas.
41. Knitting needles and wool, plus a lesson on how to knit.
42. A camera
43. A sewing machine
44. A bird feeder and a book on birds
45. Some real binoculars
46. A nightlight (maybe even something like this which helps you get a little more sleep)
47. A tent (and a chance to camp out with you)
48. A clock – cuckoo, alarm, Thomas the Tank… Whatever they’d like.
49. The gift of giving. This is a radical one, but worthy none the less. Children understand more than we realize and explaining to them that there are other children who don’t have clothes or toys can really make them think. Get your kid(s) to pick a favorite, local (or national/international) charity and make a donation in their name.
50. Their dream come true (my kiddo really, really wants Mickey Mouse to come and play at our house, so I’m looking into getting a children’s entertainer to come and visit). Maybe the child in your life wants to ride a horse, be a zoo keeper (for a day) or ride around in a sports car. Be creative. They’ll love it, and the memory will last a lot longer than a piece of plastic.*

* Or maybe not. Those plastic toys in landfills are bound to take a few thousand years to decompose.


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