If your playroom cannot handle a single more block, this Christmas gift guide is for you.
It’s so easy to immediately think of toys when doing Christmas shopping for kids. But if your house is anything like mine, we have more toys than we can handle! First world problems, I know, but having too much clutter can be stressful for parents and kids.
I’ve done a lot of homework and have some great gift ideas that aren’t toys.
If you have any suggestions, I’d love for you to share them in the comments section below. I am personally always looking for gift ideas that won’t add to the clutter.
Avoiding Toys This Christmas
Look, I’ll be honest – I’ve already bought several toys for my kids this Christmas. I find things I think they’d love, and I get excited.
But just like many other parents out there, we have SO many toys. I’m constantly overwhelmed by how many toys there are, and I find myself trying to come up with new organizational hacks to keep things tidy.
In addition to reducing the overwhelm associated with too much toy clutter, a lot of toys these days are made of plastic. They’re not made to last and often end up in a landfill long before they’ve lived a full life.
The toy industry uses 40 tons of plastic for every $1 million in revenue. Toys require more plastic than any other industry in the world with 90% of toys being made of plastic (The World Counts). Plastic can also contain heavy metals and other harmful chemicals, the exact stuff we try to shield our little ones from.
I’m not zero-waste by ANY means. But I do try to find ways to reduce the waste my family produces. And avoiding plastic toys is one thing I’ve started to become more mindful of.
With that in mind, the toys I do buy tend to be made of more natural materials, like wood or stainless steel. If you need some suggestions, there are several good ones in my Montessori gift guide for ages 2-4 and toy guide for animal-loving kids.
A big bonus? Wooden toys often look a lot nicer in your home compared to their plastic counterparts.
With all that in mind, I’ve split up this article into categories with several gift ideas in each one. I really hope this inspires some toy-free Christmas ideas in your home!
The obvious way to avoid toys when gift giving is to give experiences.
Experiences create memories, which are some of the best gifts you can give any child. The drawback is opening the “present” on Christmas day may not be as exciting as ripping into toy packaging, but that comes with the territory.
For kids who are a little older, they will understand the concept of “We’re going to Disney!” or “These are tickets to the zoo!” and they’ll be super excited.
You can also find fun ways to wrap your gift, like buying a small item that represents the experience. Here are some examples:
- A bottle of nail polish for a spa day with mom
- A box of crayons for tickets to the Crayola Experience museum
- A baseball for tickets for a baseball game
- A seashell to represent a family trip to the beach
- A little giraffe figurine for a day trip to the zoo
Here are some ideas for experiences you can gift kids:
- Vacation (Disney world comes to mind)
- Water park
- Music classes
- Museum or children’s museum
- KidStrong classes
- Ice skating
- Horseback riding
- Art class
- Cooking class
- Indoor rock climbing
- Mini golf and batting cages
- Arcade day
- Movie/Theater tickets
- Tumbling or trampoline park
- Sports game tickets
- Weekend or sleepover with grandparents
- Spa day with mom
- Musical or play
- Pottery making class
- Disney on Ice
- Surfing lessons
- Boat tour
- Helicopter ride
- State park
Arts & Crafts
Arts and crafts can be a great non-toy gift category, because these products are mostly consumable. You use up crayons and chalk and glue. They don’t permanently add to the clutter in your house.
Plus, different kinds of art materials are biodegradable, so you don’t have to worry about tossing it and adding it to a landfill.
Finally, your kids have something to show for their fun when they’re finished! I love the concept behind companies like Artkive, where you save up your kid’s artwork and ship it to them. They take professional photographs of the art and turn it into framed collages or photo albums. It’s a great way to keep the clutter down and to preserve those special crafts!
Here are several arts & craft gift ideas for kids.
Dough Parlor makes 100% non-toxic, scented playdough. It’s biodegradable and compostable, so when you’re done with it, you can toss it in your compost bin or quite literally bury it in your backyard.
Dough Parlor playdoughs are also water-based, meaning you can rehydrate it if it dries out. FInally, it’s BPA free, so you don’t have to worry about chemicals if your kid tries to eat it. Eating it is not recommended, though. 🙂
I got the transportation set for my daughter for Christmas. She loves doing sugar cookie cutouts, and I think this set will recreate that experience for her whenever she wants.
The Mindful & Co Kids Coloring Pack combines the powers of gratitude, affirmations, and mindfulness and will let your child’s creative side flourish!
I also really love that this coloring pack comes with envelopes to share any drawings with family. We have a lot of out-of-state family, so any time I can include them and connect them with my kids, I love it!
Another arts and crafts idea is to look for crafting kits where kids can create something. In the past, I’ve gotten my kids a birdhouse craft and this haunted house craft for Halloween.
This Dinosaur one caught my eye because so many kids go through a dinosaur-loving phase, and I love the crafting materials! I can see my kids having a blast with this kind of activity.
This may seem random, but sketch pads are an incredible gift to get kids of all ages. Crayons, colored pencils, and even markers tend to outlast a home’s supply of construction paper and craft paper. I often find myself grabbing printer paper for the kids to color on, so when a birthday or holiday comes around, I make sure to pick up some sketch pads.
Kids love a blank canvas, and sketch pads are also ideal for traveling.
Another unique arts & crafts gift idea is this Osmo Creative Starter Kit, which can be used with a Fire Tablet or iPad.
Osmo is a special system that hooks up with your tablet to bring a child’s personal drawings to life.
This system is meant for ages 5-10+ and includes a ton of hands-on learning activities. I feel like the best way to understand Osmo is watch this video:
Another toy-free gift category is tech subscriptions. No physical items to add to clutter, and many subscriptions for kids are educational.
If you’re a screen-free family or don’t want to give kids another opportunity to be on a tablet, you can skip this section. But there are some great options here if you’re open to it.
Set your kids up for tech success by teaching them some coding basics. Even if they don’t become a programmer, it’s a great way to introduce these concepts and give them useful skills. Heck, I went to college for an English degree, and I use basic coding in my job every day.
Plus, a lot of kids are really interested in coding and learning more about tech. I looked at several online coding classes, and UCode is my top choice.
Hooked on Phonics is a great subscription to teach kids how to read. The app is meant for Pre-K through 2nd Grade, though I started using this with my 2.5-year-old to start some pre-reading practice and letter recognition. It’s amazing how much kids learn with this app!
There are some great bundles available where you can gift an annual membership along with some supplemental materials. You could also give a gift card that the parents can use to purchase access to the app.
ABCmouse offers full online curriculum for children ages 2-8. There are more than 850 lessons across 10 levels that teach reading and language arts, math, science and social studies, and art and colors.
The best part is ABCmouse online curriculum is SO fun for kids! The games are educational and interactive, so they’re motivated to keep learning. Each and every game is designed to teach a specific educational concept.
ABCmouse also has more than 2,000 printable activities to supplement the online learning, including number tracing, dot-to-dot pictures, paint-by-number drawings, mazes, and more.
You can get 2 months of ABCmouse for just $5 with this special link.
Another non-toy gift idea is a subscription that creates experiences. There are some fantastic kid-focused activity subscriptions that help with parent-child bonding and learning (plus, they’re fun!)
Here are some kid-friendly subscription boxes that make for great Christmas gifts:
Raddish Kids is a cooking club for kids. Raddish brings the whole family together in the kitchen and at the table and is designed for kids 4 to 14+.
Membership includes a monthly cooking kit, digital bonus recipes and activities, and an online community. With each kit, kids learn culinary skills, create new recipes, collect an apron patch and kitchen tool, and more!
Be sure to use code BESTDEAL21 to save $20 on a 6 or 12 month subscription. After this Black Friday code expires, you can still save $15 on a 6 month membership with promo code ATHOME.
KiwiCo crates are art and science-based projects, delivered to you each month. They’re hands-on, screen-free, and created based on age.
You can buy the actual subscription, or a gift card to the subscription. However, there is a Store area that’s ideal for Christmas. Here, there are all kinds of projects to choose from, from a domino machine to a paleontologist starter kit. The cost of these individual crates vary, depending on how complex the materials are.
Plus, for Cyber Monday, you can get up to 4 months FREE with code MERRY. After Cyber Monday, just check the website for posted promotions.
Read my full review: Are the KiwiCo Crates Worth It?
Little Passports is an award-winning subscription service that helps kids ignite curiosity, explore new ideas and places, and celebrate cultures with globally inspired experiences, hands-on art and science activities, and stories for kids ages 3-10.
Each product is tested by kids and developed by parents and educators to ensure it sparks curiosity about the world in your child.
Use code THANKFUL for 25% off subscriptions until November 29, 2021. (You can gift a subscription!)
Get 50% off your first month with promo code BEARS50!
MEL Science offers next-generation subscription boxes for kids, combining hands-on experiments with VR and AR technologies to make learning fun and effective.
MEL offers 4 different subscriptions:
- MEL Chemistry
- MEL Physics
- MEL Med
- MEL Kids (STEM)
One of the reasons I love MEL Science is research conducted by the New Jersey Institute of Technology shows that their lessons help children score higher on exams and further their progress by 20.3%.
I spent some time over Thanksgiving with my 9-year-old nephew on several MEL Chemistry and MEL Physics experiments.
I will say it requires some patience on the parent’s part, but he had a lot of fun and said he’d love to keep doing it (read the full review here).
They are educational and fun and make for a great Christmas gift.
Get 50% off your first month with promo code BEARS50!
From furniture to wall stickers, there are some great items for the home that will help make a child’s life easier or enrich it in some way.
For kids who like to climb and stay active, a climber and rockwall can be the perfect gift. I recommend taking a look at Lily and River – they use premium hardwood, so the playset will last a really long time.
I like the playset, because it bundles the Little Climber, 2-in-1 Rockwall/Slide, and Little Rocker with Memory Pad for a discount.
These items are great for ages 6 months through 12 years, and they inspire motor skill development, balance control, creativity, and imagination!
This Baby Elephant Chalkboard Wall Sticker not only adds a design element to your child’s room, but it’s functional! Kids can get out their chalk and draw on the walls without making mom and dad mad.
Use code BLACKFRIDAY until December 2nd for 10% off!
The Nugget is a very popular play couch that’s infinitely configurable. People RAVE about this to the point where it has nearly 20,000 5-star reviews and is almost never in stock.
The good news is many companies have come out with alternatives that serve the same purpose.
Sam’s Club has an Explorer Sofa, which will save you about $100 if you can snag it when it’s in stock. You can also get a version from Foamnasium on Amazon, though it’s slightly more expensive than the original Nugget (albiet more likely to be in stock).
Another option is clothing – kids grow so dang fast, and getting clothes is often super practical! It’s also fun for the child. Both of my kids (a girl and a boy) get excited when they get a present with clothes or PJs in it!
You can find some great clothes at Target and even discount stores like TJ Maxx, but there are two online companies I go to often for kid’s clothing when I need it.
The first company I love for buying kid’s clothes is Primary. Their clothes have no labels and no slogans. It’s just high-quality, soft, simple clothes for kids.
You can get highly functional clothes here, like solids and simple patterns, and most of the styles are 100% cotton.
The second place I always look for clothing is Maisonette.
They have boutique clothing in trendy styles, and it’s all very high-quality. One of my daughter’s favorite dresses is the Cleo Dress by Maison Me. It’s 100% cotton and is SO soft. The style is also 100% darling. 🙂
Anyway, it’s a lot of fun to browse through their clothing options. And they often have some really great sales.
Books make for incredible gifts for all ages.
One place I actually love going book shopping is my local library! There’s a little bookstore in the very front where they sell books that are no longer in circulation for whatever reason. You can walk in with $10 and come out with a huge stack of books!
That said, if you want something a little more formal and new, I have a couple of fun book gifting options.
Literati is a book club that delivers 5 books every month based on your child’s age. You have a week to choose your favorite books, and you can send the rest back for free.
Some of our favorite books have come from Literati book club boxes – they pick some really unique, interesting stories that my kids often ask for again and again.
Get $25 in book bucks for Literati Kids when you use this link!
Another book box option is from Amazon.
With the Amazon Book Box program, you get a box of curated children’s books delivered to your door every 1, 2, or 3 months. Prime Book Box has four age groups. Children who are two years old or younger will receive four board books, while children ages 3–5, ages 6–8 and ages 9–12 will receive two age-appropriate hard cover books in every Prime Book Box.
Before the box ships, you can also review the chosen books and swap any you don’t want or already have.
We loved this subscription when we were building up a “library” for my kids. It would make for a great gift, and Amazon does let you enter a recipient’s name and shipping address during signup for gifting purposes.
Another unique book recommendation is a personalized book with the child’s name. Maisonette has a lot of fun options, like What Makes [NAME] a Hero? and [NAME’S] Perfect Pet Dinosaur.
Kids always get a kick out of hearing a story with their name in it.
I love this board book collection, because it hits on so many of the educational topics you want to cover with babies and toddlers. You have the abs, numbers, colors, animals, shapes – it’s perfect!
The price is also right at under $20 for 10 board books. With over 33,000 5-star reviews, it’s no wonder this collection is so beloved.
- Real Kids Readers series
My 3-year-old daughter is absolutely obsessed with the Real Kids Readers book series. These stories feature real photos of kids doing everyday things, like making messes or wanting to help their parents around the house. She’s completely fascinated by these stories – it’s unlike our experience with any other type of book.
These books bridge the gap of being educational yet also fun for kids. There are several reading levels in this book series, but I personally think they’re all great for ages 2-8.
You can go to Amazon and search “Read Kids Readers” to find the plethora of options, but here are a few of our favorites:
Believe it or not, you CAN do Christmas this year without going overboard on the toys! Consider giving experiences, crafts, subscriptions, home items, clothing, or books to cut down on the clutter.
What non-toy gift ideas are you giving for Christmas this year? Let me know in the comments below!