Think Outside The Christmas Box: Non-Toy Gift Ideas For Kids

Published Aug 1, 2014

Sometimes the best Christmas gifts don’t come wrapped in a box or topped with a bow.

Passing up the latest trading card craze or bobble-headed fad in favour of a unique and meaningful gift will leave you nodding your head in satisfaction—and it may even leave you with extra cash in your wallet!

1. Frame up your child’s art.

I went to Michael’s Craft Store and found some inexpensive, simple frames for my children’s artwork. The art looks fantastic and my children can feel proud when they see it on our wall or give it to their grandparents for Christmas.

2. Buy an E-Reader that is compatible with your local library.

Our local library has many children’s books and audio books that can be downloaded onto personal E-Readers. For children who are avid novel readers, this is an excellent choice. Be sure to check with your library before purchasing an E-Reader to ensure it will work with their system.

3. Buy passes to the local museum or science center.

Experience gifts are great fun and don’t have to cost much. One year, I bought my children a $10 gift card to a favorite local cafe where they enjoyed an after school hot chocolate and cupcake.

4. Visit a local consignment or antique shop.

Often you can find something unique, valuable, and inexpensive. Last year, instead of buying my girls a plastic children’s tea set, I stopped at my local consignment store and bought them beautiful real china tea cups, saucers, and bowls—for less than $20. In their gift, I included a box of quality peppermint and licorice tea. This gift continues to please them, as we often have “real” tea parties with their special cups.

5. A magazine subscription is a gift that lasts all year long.

There are options available for people of all ages and interests. Our children usually receive a science and art magazine gift subscription from their grandparents, while my husband usually gets a gift subscription to his favorite business magazine.   

6. Find something fun for the kitchen.

One year we bought a waffle iron for our 8-year-old daughter, and as a result she has taken great pride in being the waffle maker for our family on Saturday mornings. Another year, we bought an ice cream maker and have since had fun experimenting with different recipes. Less expensive options include a popcorn maker, cookie cutters, homemade tasty treats, or items found at a craft fair.

7. Get your child t make their own music.

Find a used musical instrument on craigslist or rent an instrument, and give this as a gift with a set of lessons. Our youngest child had expressed an interest in learning to play the violin. We didn't want to purchase this expensive instrument, so instead we rented one and wrapped it up for Christmas. Even though it wasn't technically hers, she still took great pride in “her” violin, and enjoyed many sets of lessons for months to come. A music teacher told me about the benefits of the ukulele for young children: you can often buy one cheaply, they are small which makes them easy to handle, and children can have relatively quick success.

8. Grow a gift.

Visit your local garden center and find something fun you can plant in your garden. Every year, my children receive a package of seeds they enjoy scattering in the garden. An indoor planter with bulbs is also a great gift for both children and adults. Children love watching bulbs grow and bloom.

9. Design a journal or planner with your child’s art or photos.

At you can upload your child’s art work or family photos and create a personalized journal. This is easy to do and can cost as little as $5 for a journal. This summer I had my children design their own journals which they used for drawing and recording their summer adventures. You can pick various journal sizes and paper options (lined, blank, gardening, or daytimer).  

10. Experience the gift together.

Purchase tickets to a local theatre production or sports game. Experience gifts are about creating memories as you spend time together.

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