I spent the better part of a day purging, organizing, and scouring our basement playroom about two weeks ago. I had been ignoring it for quite some time because it was too overwhelming. Toys were EVERYWHERE and yet the boys spent very little time in there playing with them. I knew it was partially because of the mess, but also because there was too much stuff to choose from. Every time I looked through the doorway at the legos and cars and trains sprawled all over the carpet, I had a mini panic attack.
That all had to change before school started up again.
So, I hunkered down around 9am one morning, the boys happily bingeing on movies and PBS shows, and took care of the junk heap once and for all. I set out 3 baskets: one for trash, one for donate, and one for Once Upon a Child. By the end of the day, I had filled all three baskets and carefully snuck them past the kiddos to place them in the car or directly in the garbage bin. (And no, they have not noticed that anything is missing.)
At the end of the day, I felt AMAZING. Plus, the boys have actually started playing with their toys again. HALLELUJAH!
With the holiday season fast approaching (!) and birthday season happening...well...always, I wanted to put together a practical list of non-toy gift ideas. I always feel a pang of guilt when I buy a toy for a child's birthday or for a holiday because I know the struggle of keeping toys under control. New things are fun for 25 seconds and then they get tossed in the pile with everything else that gets forgotten. SO, experiences over things is the lesson. I used two simple rules to compile this list. Each idea had to be 1) an experience not a thing, or 2) a thing that could be used up or put to practical use.
The ideas in the list below are for parents, grandparents, friends...literally anyone and everyone who needs to purchase a gift for a child. Most of these gifts are appropriate for ages 1-12. They are timeless and encourage learning through creativity, imagination, and time spent with family.
I'm also going to put this out into the void: if you are a person searching for a gift for my children, these are all pre-approved and preferred options! Just sayin'...
OK- on to the list!
10 Gifts for Kids (that aren't toys)
- bath time fun: bath bombs, bubbles, soap, and fun towels are all excellent
- tickets: orchestra concerts, children's theater, and age-appropriate movies are a great place to start
- audiobooks: give gift certificates to iTunes or Audible so kiddos can browse for new books to listen to (we love Charlotte's Web, The Wizard of Oz, and Winnie the Pooh)
- books/cookbooks: books and kids cookbooks are always a welcome gift item at our house because they always get put to good use. check here, here and here for some of our favorites.
- art supplies: watercolors, paper, stickers, coloring books, sidewalk chalk...the list goes on and on when it comes to options for kids of any age
- memberships: zoo memberships, science museums, and children's museums all have great membership options that are a lifesaver for families (this is an especially great option for grandparents to give)
- date certificates: surprise your little one with a gift certificate to a favorite coffee shop, restaurant, ice cream shop, movie theater, or miniature golf spot for a special just mom or just dad date (an experience that, no matter their age, will be so special for you both)
- photo session: one of my favorite ideas is to give (or contribute to) a photo session for the family. this is especially great for very young kids since it can be difficult to schedule things like this with babies and toddlers running your life. (i happen to know a family photographer in the Denver area if you're looking)
- photo calendar: create a photo calendar to hang in a child's room. fill it with photos of family and friends, but make sure the child receiving the gift is in the photos as well. this is a great idea for preschoolers and kindergarteners who are learning how to read calendars.
- puzzles, games, and other family activities: anything that encourages the entire family to play together is a BIG win. some of our favorites games to play as a family are this, this, and this.
More ideas from all of YOU! -->
- "My kids aren't getting any presents this year. We're going to be sending diapers and care packages to the Texas Diaper Bank and similar orgs and putting those together will be our quality family time. Houston is the new New Orleans :( They can be disappointed now but they'll be thanking me later!" -Heather
- "If you like audio books (adult and kids) ask your local library about their audio books. I have an app on my phone connected to my library card! My library in MN uses Cloud Library and one click digital. If you have a library card- there are hundreds of free eBooks and audio books." -Anna
- "I always liked to get grown up type things for my kids.... real flashlights, tent, sleeping bag, head lamp, gardening tools, seeds to grow flowers or vegetables, maps, magnifying glass, back pack, thermos..... etc." -Robbie
I hope this list gets your creative juices flowing! Think beyond the toy aisle and get a gift that will truly make life more fun for the child and their parents. EXPERIENCES over STUFF, friends.
Also, I know I haven't compiled a complete list here- you all have some great ideas of your own! Please share them in the comments below and I will add them to this post as well!