Toys... Every year I feel like I am sorting, organizing and donating masses of them to our local church's thrift store. I often thought to myself about the lump sums of money spent on these toys—toys that are often played with once, tossed to the side and eventually donated.
There was so much waste happening in our household and I didn't want that. I wanted my children to appreciate their belongings, be non-consumers and most importantly associate holidays, get-togethers and birthdays with love and not with what gifts they were going to receive.
After much thought and deliberation, I had to find a polite way to put a stop to all the toys and—believe it or not—our family and friends thought it was the best idea ever.
So, here are 11 ideas to give to kids that don't revolve around toys...
1. Magazine subscriptions
Ever since I put a stop to the toys, my little one's great-grandmother sends magazine subscriptions in the mail and he loves it! I mean, what child doesn't love getting mail that's for them? Some of the most recent magazines he has received and adored include: Highlights, Click, Ranger Rick, National Geographic Kids and Zoobooks.
2. Subscription boxes
Aside from just magazines, monthly or quarterly subscription boxes are also great non-toy gifts for kids. A few favorites are Kiwi Crate (arts + crafts), Amazon STEM toy club (science and STEM based), Little Passports (travel based) and Bookroo (monthly book box).
Gifting experiences is one of the best gifts I think you can give a child. Whether it's tickets to a museum, waterpark, play, a week at a summer camp or a membership to a children's museum or zoo, experience gifts bring memories that last a lifetime. This past fall my 4-year-old was gifted tickets to the Polar Express Train Ride and it was the perfect gift for the holiday season—for all of us!
Swim lessons, music lessons, a painting class or even karate lessons make for such wonderful gifts. Not only are you giving them something that they can learn, but a skill that they will always have. And, let's be honest, these lessons add up—so parents appreciate a little help in the budget department!
Books are always good alternatives to toys. Some of my most favorite books as a child are the ones that my grandparents left little notes in and gifted to me—and they continue to bring me joy when I read them with my own kids and come across the long-forgotten inscriptions.
6. College contributions
College contributions are something that I think both parents and (eventually) children will appreciate. And even a $10 bill donated on 18 birthdays can add up! (Tip: Be sure to put it in a tax-protected college savings account.)
7. Coupon booklets
An idea that a friend suggested to me was a coupon booklet full of coupons that her parents give to her little ones. The coupons included things that they were able to do with their grandmother—such as a sleepover, trip to the ice cream shop, trip to the park and a trip to the movies.
8. New supplies
The past two years I've asked my mom to gift new school supplies or a backpack before the start of school. Not only does this help me out, but my little one loves that he's toting a new folder or backpack to school that's from Mimi!
9. Gift cards
Gift cards are always fun for kids! Whether they are to Chick-fil-a, a bookstore or a craft store, kids always appreciate when they can choose something just for themselves.
10. Piggy bank donations
When my oldest was still little, my mother-in-law bought him a special piggy bank—which she helps fill up with occasional $5 bills in the mail. The piggy bank not only serves a purpose for holding his money, but it has also taught him about the value of it. He's actually one frugal little guy, who now looks at money as something he likes to collect rather than spend!
11. Gifts for others
One of the best gifts a kid can receive is the gift of giving, which helps them learn the value of paying their good fortune forward. As kids get older, it may be nice to give them a certain amount to donate and then guide them as their pick a charity of their choice—perhaps your pet-lover will go with the Humane Society or a little one who knew a friend with an illness will have it in her heart to donate to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.
Of course, all of these gifts also benefit parents who get to see their children's eyes light up or as they learn more about savings or compassion—and all the while you get to keep your house free of more toys. That's what I call a win-win!