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18 Excellent Gifts for Kids That Aren't Even Toys

11/06/2014 12:10 pm ET | Updated Nov 30, 2015
  • Rachel Jones Mother of 6 and blogger, NourishingMinimalism.com
Stephanie Mull Photography via Getty Images

All of us who have children have too many toys scattered throughout the house. No matter how diligent we are about 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 having too many toys is to shift all the gifts to non-toy items.

18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children

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. Subscriptions. Kids enjoy getting things in the mail. Why not encourage their reading by getting them a magazine subscription for something they are interested in!

4. Events. Movie tickets, or 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. Our daughter loves making crafts. I do, too; I really do enjoy the creative aspect. But I rarely take time out to do it with her. These crafting dates mean the world to our creative little girl. Keep a basket of craft supplies and get out a book for inspiration. We like Sneaky Art: Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight, by Marthe Jocelyn.

8. Arts and Crafts 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 arts and crafts 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: I'll do one chore -- no questions asked; movie and popcorn night, you pick the movie!; 1:1 game of cards or basketball (whatever the child's interest is in); sit and read a book with me; stay up 1/2 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 they would like to spend more time with.

11. Dress-Up Clothes. These do need to be limited, but two dresses and a couple play silks can get hours and hours of play!

12. Books. We get a lot of books from the library, but there are some that I just can't find there, or it takes us longer to read through. We have read through the entire Little House series, Narnia, and are working our way through Shel Silverstein's books. Be sure to pass the books on when you are done, so they don't clutter up your home.

13. 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. That may mean Western clothes, superhero, fancy dresses, etc.

14. Snacks. If your child is a foodie, they will love this! Some homemade granola or cookies made just for them is a special treat!

15. Outdoor Supplies. If you are an outdoorsy family, giving kids their own fishing tackle or gardening equipment can be a big deal. It's also something that gets left on the shelf in the garage, so you always know right where to find it.

16. Telling Time. Many children these days don't know how to read analog, or find 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. Boys, girls, and even teenagers can be excited about this.

17. Games and Puzzles. Games and puzzles 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. Games teach a lot, too! My kids talk about how they passed geography, just because we played Risk when they were little. Monopoly and Payday have been popular and help cement math skills. Memory games are great for younger children.

18. Calendar. Many children like to know what is going on, what day it is, how many days until ____. These kids are the ones who want to know what the plan is for the day, the order in which things will happen, what time friends are expected over, etc. They struggle with spur-of-the-moment and can be frustrating if you are a spontaneous parent. But celebrate it! These children have many strengths, and make our world run more smoothly. :-) Embrace their inner schedule and get them their own calendar. They can write down their own classes, appointments, playdates, etc. And if they ask you, send them to their calendar so they can get used to being in control of their own schedule. You can even schedule "spontaneous days," so they know that something different will happen that day. Trust me, it will help them enjoy the spontaneous outings!

Rachel Jones is a blogger and mother of six. She runs and writes for nourishingminimalism.com, where this piece first appeared.

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