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30 Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Children


One of the struggles I face as a mother during Christmastime is trying to raise my daughter to understand the meaning of Christmas over the materialism that this season brings. She is only two, and the one thing she has learned about Christmas is that she gets presents. 

I am grateful that she has generous and loving grandparents and family members who give her wonderful gifts, but I am also wary of my role to guide her as she begins to collect toys and “stuff”. We have been trying to teach her how to be a good steward of her new possessions, how to donate or give away old toys as she takes in new ones, and how to be thankful for each gift.

One way I am hoping to make Christmas special for her is to incorporate “memories” as “gifts”. As I have been pondering this idea, I have come up with some ideas for others that may be looking to give less material goods and more memorable gifts. Some of these ideas are still a hard, physical gift- but the idea behind them is to make lasting memories. Many of these gifts are items most children will cherish and use for many years.

I hope you enjoy this non-toy list of gift ideas!

1. Passes to museums

We love our annual Children’s Museum pass and use it all the time. Children love to explore and learn at hands-on museums. Most annual passes are not too expensive and are great gifts for entire families!

2. Zoo passes

Who doesn’t love the zoo? Trips to the zoo are a fantastic gift idea. The zoo often offers passes as well. What an educational and memorable gift!

3. Train ride

My child loves the train. What about looking for train rides in your local area. There may be special event rides like “Hot cocoa with Santa”, or brunch train rides.

4. Dance or gymnastic classes

We find dance and gymnastics classes can add up, so giving gifts like these are great for busy families and are great for the development of children.

5. Art or music classes

This year we asked for music classes for my daughter. Check your local area for different types of pottery, music, and art classes for children of all ages. This gift is an investment for their future, too! I want to encourage my daughter to love art.

6. Kids camera to capture memories

This kids camera is a fantastic gift. It takes video and captures photos, is durable, and teaches young children how to practice photography and how to manage digital files.

7. Photo album featuring all members of family

Young children will love their own small photo album of all the special people in their lives. Simply print a photo of each family member and add to a photo album. Babies also love learning the titles of family members. I did this for my daughter when she was two and she carried it everywhere! Be prepared for the photos to get crumpled.

8. Baby book or family year book

I love the idea of a family year book as a gift for the entire family. This is a special gift that will last for decades.  I use Mixbook to put together my family albums.

9. Skiing trip

If you have a family that loves the snow, a skiing or snowboarding trip is a fun gift that will be filled with lots of fun memories!

10. Memory journal

A memory journal is a lovely gift that inspires children to capture special moments. You can buy pre-made ones or make one yourself!

11. Custom book

I love these custom storybooks that include the child’s name and mother and father’s name.

12. Magazine subscriptions

Children love getting things in the mail just for them! My daughter loves her Highlights subscription, and it is fun for me to read it with her each month.

13. Dress up clothes

This year I decided to give my daughter a trunk of dress up clothes. I found some of the costumes at Goodwill. She loves to dress up and play imagination games. I am hoping this will keep her busy and allow for fun play. You can add old scarves, hats, props, and gloves as fun items to a dress up trunk.

14. Books

Educational and timeless, books make fantastic gifts. Give your favorite childhood book, or a book that reminds you of the child. Add a personal message in the book for a special touch. Classics we love are Dr. Suess books, Brown Bear Brown Bear, Curious George, and Where the Wild Things Are.

15. Time telling items

Calendars, watches, and alarm clocks make fantastic and useful gifts also! There are so many fun calendars featuring favorite characters for children. Watches are a great “first” jewelry pieces and also teach kids about time. Alarm clocks now double as night lights or piggy banks.

16. Dinner ware

My daughter got these fun mealtime face plates that allow you to make faces out of food. She loves them! Dinner plates, cups, and forks and spoons for children are a great gift idea because they are useful and give a child a sense of independence at the dinner table.

17. Clothing

For children who do not have large wardrobes, some clothing is a great gift. Do they love the color pink? Knock them out with a great pink jacket. Consider the child and find something fun and useful for their wardrobe. Parents love the gift of clothes because it is a great financial help on a necessity they may need to buy. Socks, athletic shoes, jackets and hoodies, and jeans are all items that get a ton of wear.

18. Events

A fun event could make a wonderful gift for a child. Ice skating shows, concerts, circus events, and other fun amusements make awesome memories and are a rare treat!

19. Activities

Planning an activity as a gift is another great idea. Amusement parks, mini golfing, and butterfly pavilions are a few examples of types of activities that make great gifts.

20. Craft Supplies

Bring out the artist in a child! Basic art supplies are often costly for parents. Crayons, play-doh (it is easy to make homemade!), craft paper, paint, brushes, and chalk are a few ideas for a child who loves to make art.

21. Baking Supplies or cookbook

Cookie cutters make a fun and unique gift. A cookie baking kit in a mason jar is also a fun idea for kids, complete with instructions. There are also lots of great kids cookbooks with easy, beginner recipes for children to try with an adult.

22. Restaurant Gift Card

Does the child love ice cream or pizza? A gift card is a great way to treat the child and the parents, and create a memory!

23. Outdoor supplies

For outdoorsy families, consider gifts like a fishing pole, lantern, or sleeping bag. Outdoor gifts encourage a love for the outdoors! Win.

24. Games and Puzzles

Games and puzzles are awesome gifts that encourage social skills and get the family together.

25. Nature box

Create a beautiful nature box with a simple wood or plastic box. Make a list of items a child can collect- leaves, rocks, flowers, etc. Consider adding a small shovel or net with the nature box.

26. Ant Farm

I used to love my ant farm growing up! Check with the parents, first.

27. Sporting Goods

Soccer balls, roller skates, and bikes make awesome gifts because they encourage physical activity and generally last an entire childhood.

28. Musical instruments

Musical instruments make amazing gifts. Recorders with a music book, small maracas, a keyboard, or a beginner guitar are gifts that have many educational benefits- and are fun!

29. Christmas ornaments

Personal Christmas ornaments make awesome gifts and keepsakes. There are so many great homemade ornament ideas.

30. Music Box

A special music box is a gift most children love and cherish. My daughter has one that she keeps a special necklace in.


What thoughts do you have on this? Have you found ways to control the chaos at Christmas and make the season about more than gift-giving in your family?


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  • Reply Whitney

    These are great ideas! Pinning this! I’ve never heard of Mixbook, I’ll have to check it out. I usually use blog2print and print out our private family blog into a book.

    December 10, 2014 at 7:51 am
  • Reply Karen Peterson

    These are some great ideas. I usually do books for my nephew, but I love the idea of museum passes. Thanks!

    December 10, 2014 at 5:12 pm
  • Reply Jamie | North of Something

    I love the magazine and dress up ideas! Also, I think I will get a photo album for our niece and nephews this year since we visited recently and I took a ton of photos of everyone 🙂

    December 12, 2014 at 9:21 am
  • Reply April

    awesome list. We did Zoo for Carson’s birthday and asked MIL for a museum membership for Christmas. We also so clothes for every gift giving holiday.

    December 12, 2014 at 11:49 pm
  • Reply Walking Dot Photography

    Museum passes are SUCH great ideas – especially for the winter when it’s so darn cold outside!

    December 15, 2014 at 7:20 am
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