Thoughtful Gifts for Children (Alternative to Toys!)

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Over the last couple of years, I have had a lot of fun sharing my favorite gift ideas with you. I have always loved giving gifts, even if I’m a minimalist at heart. I’ve made gift guides for Classy Gentlemen, for Ladies, and for Grandma. But one of my favorite demographics to choose presents for is kids. My own daughter has never been a big fan of toys, and I don’t like giving technology or whatever the popular thing each year is, so that has caused me to get even more creative with thoughtful gifts for children. That, and the fact that I have… let’s see… 16 nieces and nephews! Over the years, that is a LOT of children’s gifts!

Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Kids

Let’s start with my favorite. This may not be possible for each kid in your life, but if you are near enough to your little recipient, then it’s fantastic.

1. Give an experience. Seriously, this is the most fun, meaningful, and memorable type of gift. He or she will love spending time with you and making a fun memory.
Here’s a list of just a few of the many options:

  • An elaborate ethnic meal (We took my daughter for a big Moroccan dinner for her 5th birthday, and she still talks about sitting on poofs and getting her hands washed at the table in orange blossom water.)
  • A trip to an amusement park, children’s museum, or zoo
  • A music, theater, or dance performance
  • A cooking class that you can take together (or put together your own for him or her!)
  • A camping trip, or even just a day trip to enjoy a special natural area
  • Offer a fun lesson with you in whatever hobbies you enjoy: baking, fishing, sewing, knitting, painting, etc.
  • Another fantastic option is to give a membership to a museum or zoo! This is an excellent present for the whole family. One year we asked for a membership to the Oregon Science Museum (OMSI) and it was the best gift ever– we were pretty broke at the time and I had a very active toddler on my hands. It was so great to be able to take her to OMSI whenever I wanted!

2. Give a skill or a hobby. This is another version of an experience, but you don’t need to be nearby to do it with them. And in terms of price and commitment level, it can range from one hour to one semester– it’s up to you and the age/ interest level of the child you want to give the experience to.
Based on the maturity, interest and ability of the person, there is a whole range of things they might like to learn!51Ga19aoLXL

  • music
  • art (painting, drawing, ceramics)
  • horseback riding
  • martial arts
  • dance
  • sports
  • cooking
  • handicrafts (knitting, embroidery, woodcarving, sewing, etc.)
  • camping/ wilderness survival skills

3. Give a creative kit or en engaging instructional book. This was my favorite kind of gift when I was younger– the sort of thing I could pull out and work with whenever I was bored. Again, your choice will depend on the age and interest of the child, but most kits are clearly labeled for age group. One book I remember spending a lot of time with when I was about eight and older was a book on how to do all sorts of braided hairstyles. Something that will pique a child’s curiosity (and that they can learn on their own with) is a wonderful gift!
If you have the time, it’s really fun if you can put a kit together yourself. (We gave Amelia a knitting kit one year, which included a couple of books, sets of yarn and needles, all in a really sweet little knitting basket.) But there are also many choices out there for pre-assembled kits! Here are some roundups of various types of kits (all ages, but it’s easy to select for your desired age group).61BD+92FK+L._SL1000_

4. Give supplies for an interest or hobby he or she already has.

5. Give your favorite game, with a coupon for a date to teach him how to play it! Games are one of those things that are very dear to my heart. I grew up playing a LOT of games, both with my family and friends and as an introvert in a very large and busy family it was a real respite to play against our macintosh computer. (I kicked that computer’s butt in backgammon and monopoly all of the time!) Now and then I feel kind of sad that games are not as popular as they used to be. Games are a great way to pass the time, to spend quality time with people you like, and they teach so much about strategy, problem-solving, and sportsmanship. This is my official plea to teach the kids in your life to play games– in real life, not on the computer. I am asking my family this year to add to our game library! Here are some of our favorites so far:51U2Tp9C1PL

And here are the classics, that I think everyone should learn…

For very young children, I love I Never Forget a Face (matching game) and other games by this company.

6. Books! Books are some of my favorite things to give children. I honestly feel a little overwhelmed by the thought of trying to sum up a selection of books. Let’s just say that it’s a great idea to think about your own favorite childhood books– what book were you really into when you were that age? Give that! And if you can, refresh your own memory of the book so you can chat about it with your little recipient.

That said, here are some of my favorites…
For very young children:

For young children:

For older children:

7. Useful Things. I like getting children gifts they can use. This is actually my favorite category of all, and there are SO many things you could give a child and make him or her very happy! Here are just some of my ideas.61LfyN9r+nL._SL1212_

So, these are some of my favorite gifts for children– things I enjoy giving and also things I know my own daughter would really appreciate! I hope you have found some inspiration here. Happy gifting!


If you enjoyed this guide, you will definitely want to check out some of my other gift ideas!

A Gift Guide for Grandma70+ Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Kids


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11 Responses to Thoughtful Gifts for Children (Alternative to Toys!)

  1. Megan Stevens December 1, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    That tea set- oh! This is a lovely post, beautiful suggestions. I haven’t read Andrew Henry’s Meadow and can’t wait to!

  2. katheats December 1, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    Great ideas!! I love to give “consumables” (as we call them in our family). Things you can use – tickets, soaps, wines, food, etc.

  3. Jessica Lane December 1, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    I love this so much. As I wade through my children’s rooms trying to put away laundry, I realize how toys only last a moment. After the thrill of receiving them, they get tossed into a corner and forgotten about. My husband and I have resolved to focus on meaningful gifts that will last. We are also in the process of weeding through the “stuff” to donate the majority to kids who will actually appreciate it.

  4. reneekohley December 1, 2015 at 2:17 pm #

    I really appreciate those book suggestions Ariana! Thank you! Chloe is just getting into chapter books and I really trust your recommendations! I love the idea of gifting an experience too – so clever!

  5. lindaspikerl December 1, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

    I love these suggestions! Kids have too many toys and end up not playing with them!

  6. RecipestoNourish December 1, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

    I love the idea of giving an experience or a hobby! I love to do that with my girls. Some really lovely ideas here.

  7. Meghan December 2, 2015 at 4:27 am #

    This is great! My daughter is 2 and I haven’t decided what to get her for Christmas yet. Lots of inspiration here.

    And I love Andrew Henry’s Meadow. I used to read it when I was a nanny. I’ll have to try to get a copy for our own library. ?

  8. Libby December 2, 2015 at 6:14 am #

    What a thoughtful list! As of late we’ve been doing the ‘experience’ gift giving and this year I’m going to follow your advice and give games as well. Thank u!

  9. Sylvie December 2, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    Such thoughtful suggestions!

  10. Chloe December 2, 2015 at 11:16 am #

    Great ideas! They gave me a few ideas for what to give to a gift exchange this weekend.

  11. [email protected] December 6, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

    I love the idea of giving a game with a coupon to play a game with them. The gift of time is the most precious.

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