All of us who have children have too many toys scattered throughout the house. No matter how diligent we are at keeping them at bay, it seems to be a constant fight. It’s especially hard when special days come and we want to give gifts to our children, or grandparents want to give gifts.
Gifts are good things! But too much of anything isn’t good.
A great way to combat too many toys is to shift all the gifts to non-toy items.
1. Classes. Music, dance, riding, drawing. Classes are a great way to encourage children in their interests and let them know that you pay attention to them and what they enjoy.
2. Memberships. Zoo, science museum, children’s museum, YMCA membership, etc. These are particularly great for family gifts! Many young families want to enjoy day outings, but affording them can be a challenge, so give them the gift of a yearly membership.
3. Something for their room. Do they need a lamp, alarm clock, or shelf? Perhaps an organizing caddy to help keep their art or hobby supplies under control. Many older kids enjoy displaying their LEGO creations on a shelf where younger siblings can’t reach.
4. Events. Movie tickets, tickets to a play, concert, or sports event are really exciting! Having an event to look forward to makes the rest of life more enjoyable.
5. Activities. Mini golf, bowling, skating rink. These are so much fun! And a big part of the fun is going together. Children love spending time with the adults in their lives. They want to see you enjoying your time as well as enjoying them.
6. Recipe and ingredients. Kids love cooking with their parents. Baking something special or cooking dinner is an ideal time to spend together and learn life skills. Print out a recipe, purchase all the ingredients, and set a date for cooking together.
7. Crafting Date. Crafting dates can mean the world to our creative little people. Keep a basket of craft supplies and check out 101 Kids Activities for inspiration.
8. Arts and Craft Supplies. If your craft box is running low, stock up a little on things you need. Add in something fun the kids haven’t used before. A gift of art and craft supplies often brings on the imagination, and kids can’t wait to get to work.
9. Coupons. An envelope of coupons that they can “spend” at any time: “One chore — no questions asked — for movie and popcorn night. You pick the movie!” “1:1 game of cards or basketball” (whatever the child’s interest is). “Sit and read a book with me.” “Stay up a half-hour past bedtime.”
10. Restaurant Gift Card. Dinner, ice cream, coffee, cupcake — whatever suits their fancy! Give them the freedom of inviting whomever they wish: It may be mom or dad. It may be a grandparent, aunt, or even teacher that they would like to spend more time with.
11. Dress-Up Clothes. Some of the most fun my kids have had have been with two old wigs and play silks that they used to create dresses or capes.
12. Books. Books are always excellent options and typically aren’t considered “toys”.
13. Kindle and Books. Minimize the clutter of a bookshelf and get a bunch of books on loaded on a Kindle.
14. Audiobooks. Audiobooks are great for all ages. They’re great for downtime for kids.
15. Clothes. When kids only have a certain amount of clothes, they often enjoy getting clothes. Make it a point to get something that fits their style and can be worn many ways.
16. Snacks. If your child is a foodie, they will love this! Some homemade granola or cookies made just for them is a special treat!
17. A Watch. The average child these days doesn’t know how to read analog, or finds it takes too long to think about it, so they search for a digital watch. Getting them a cool watch makes them want to be able to tell time on it. Young, tweens, and even teenagers can be excited about this.
18. Puzzles. These are great activities for when kids have to be indoors. It’s a good practice to have individual quiet times during the day, and having a puzzle to sit and work on by themselves helps brain development and problem-solving skills.
19. Games. Games teach a lot too! Monopoly and PayDay have been popular and help cement math skills. Memory games are great for younger children. Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride are great for older kids.
20. A Swoop Bag. This is a huge help for children and parents alike. Great for Legos or sets of small toys that the kids like to play with, the swoop bag makes cleanup and storage so simple.
21. Calendar. Many children like to know what is going on, what day it is, how many days until __. Give them their own calendar so they can plan everything out.
22. Photo Album. Little ones love looking at pictures of family members and themselves doing things or at special places. Costco and digital photo sites let you create a photo book of all the special people and special things your child has encountered.
23. Bird Feeder and Seed. Having a bird feeder outside a window to watch is very entertaining for kids and helps pique their interest in wildlife. You can also encourage them to recognize bird species and develop a lifelong interest!
24. Artwork Picture Frame. Displaying our children’s artwork is important and also very fun. But the fridge tends to get filled up, and parents at times feel guilty for throwing anything away. An art cabinet hangs on the wall and allows you to change pictures out when a new masterpiece is created.
25. Savings Account or Stocks. Setting money aside each birthday or holiday may not be very exciting for these little people right now, but when they turn 18 and realize the amazing start they have in life, it will be a huge blessing. You can give a small token gift that they can open and enjoy on their special day, but put the majority of the gift into a savings program.
26. Music. Kids love music! Some great kid-geared artists are: Raffi, Tom Chaplin, and Sandra Boynton.
27. Sleeping Bag. Having their own sleeping bag can make little ones pretty excited about sleepovers, trips, or camping-out family nights.
28. Piggy Bank and Coins. This may take some supervision, but all the little people I know absolutely love putting coins into their piggy banks!
29. Wallet. A wallet is such a grown-up thing, which makes it extra-exciting. For the young ones, it’s best if it has some zipper pockets as well as areas for bills.
30. Shoes and Boots. Snow boots or rubber boots are especially helpful. For the little cowboy or cowgirl, having a special pair of cowboy boots is super exciting.
31. Math Counters. Kids will totally end up playing with these animal counters. We keep ours in a small bucket and bring them out when everything else is put away. We stack colors together, make patterns, practice adding and subtracting. We have a lot of fun with these.
32. Donations. Children understand more than we think they do, generally they are caring and thoughtful of others. If you explain to them that some people don’t have food to eat, or a nice place to sleep and the children have to have jobs, they can sympathize with that. There are many places that take charitable donations, help those in need, and send a card or a plush animal to someone you love. We personally like World Vision and Compassion International.
33. Sporting Equipment. Now is a great time to splurge for their own skis, snowshoes, trampoline, etc. Think through what activities you do as a family or something you would enjoy doing.
34. Real Tools. Yes, they have play ones, but isn’t it more fun if you can use the real thing? Go ahead and give them a box of nails, a hammer, and some scrap wood. Be sure to supervise, but it won’t take long before they pick up this important skill.
35. Real Fishing Supplies. If you are an outdoor family, you know high-quality supplies are easier to use and work better than any of the character/cutesy supplies they market to kids. It’s much more fun to take children into the outdoors when the adults don’t have to fight the equipment. If you get a telescoping rod, it means the kids can transport their own to the fishing spot and not worry about damaging it.
36. Real Camping Supplies. Just like the fishing stuff, higher-quality supplies are easier to use, even if they aren’t as “cool.” Quality equipment can last them their entire lives.
37. Real Gardening Supplies. Again with the real — but real is good! Having their own set is special and makes working easier for them. Add everything to a pot with some dirt and seeds, and they can grow something fun right away.
38. A Digital Camera. Help them develop good photography skills. A point-and-shoot is a great to start out, and if your photographer is an older teen and in need higher-end equipment, it’s a great time to learn those skills.
39. Jewelry Box and Real Jewelry. Having a place to store jewelry without loosing earrings and getting necklaces tangled is a true gift, but also getting them into the habit of putting jewelry away will help them their entire life.
40. An Umbrella. My kids beg to be in the rain with an umbrella, and it’s a wonderful way to show that you are paying attention to their interests with a themed umbrella.
41. Tea Party. Do you remember real tea parties? I loved sitting for tea with my grandmother, eating little sandwich triangles and dainty cookies. Schedule a date and have them wear something nice. If they are young, maybe give a coupon with the Fancy Nancy Tea Parties book.
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