Raising Memories: The Ultimate List of 100 Non-Toy Gift Ideas

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Ultimate List of 100 Non-Toy Gift Ideas

List of 100 Specific Non-Toy Gift Ideas by www.RaisingMemories.com

Remember this picture I shared last year?
If that's how you feel when you survey the growing collection of toys in your home, then you may find today's post helpful!

100 Toyless Christmas Gift Ideas by www.RaisingMemories.com

This morning I'll be interviewed on several radio shows across Canada about the idea of a Toyless Christmas, so I thought I would share a list on the blog of Non-Toy Gift Ideas that can serve as a reference for birthdays and Christmas when you're feeling overwhelmed with toys!

100 Specific Non-Toy Gift Ideas:

Season Passes

- Zoo
- Museum
- Butterfly Conservatory
- Aviary
- Aquarium
- Amusement Park

One-Time Passes

- Movies
- Bowling
- Swimming
- Theatre Performance
- Dinner & A Show
(we went to Medieval Times)
- Go see a sporting event
- Disney On Ice
- Circus
- Ice Skating
- Roller Skating
- Mini Golf
- Concert

Experiences for Kids

- Horse & Buggy Ride
- Train Ride
- Ice Cream Vouchers
- Special dinner out
- A Trip to the Fire Station
- A Trip to Chuckie Cheese (buy the tokens ahead of time so you have something to wrap!)
- Coupon book with "time" gifts (ie. an afternoon making cookies with mom)

Older Kids or Grown-Ups

- Hot Air Balloon Ride
- Wine Tasting
- Zip Lining
- Helicopter Ride
- Trip to the Spa (Mani/Pedi, Massage, Facial, etc.)
- Overnight Getaway to a Spa
- Rock Climbing
- Trip to Arcade

A Class or Season of Lessons

- Swimming
- Sports
- Gymnastics
- Dance
- Karate
- Musical Instrument
- Pottery Class- or paint your own pottery
- Art Class
- Craft class (ie. knitting)
- Horseback riding lessons

Family Experiences

- A night(s) away at a local hotel (with a pool)
- A hotel with an indoor waterpark
- Camping
- Road trip
- Trip to the Beach
- Give each family member the travel/camping gear, swimsuits, or other accessories needed for the experience you'll be gifting so that they have a physical item to unwrap
- Let them unwrap something that reveals where they'll be going!
(Here's how we told our girls we were going to Disney World)

Physical Gifts that aren't Toys

- Books
- Games
- CDs of fun kids music
- Craft kits
- Science kit
- New art supplies
- Magazine Subscription
- Monthly Craft or Science Kit Subscription
- Fun Bath Supplies (colour-changing water, crayons that write on walls, foamy soap, etc.)
- A wagon to pull kids in when you go on walks
- Stationary
- Special Christmas Tree Ornament
- Wrist watch
- Piggy bank
- Memory/Photo Book
- Journal

Fun "Needs"

- Kid furniture
- New bedding that they really like
- Bedroom décor/Promise of a total room makeover
- New hat, mitts, etc.
- Bike
- Scooter
- Roller skates/blades
- Basketball hoop
- Trampoline
- Swing set (for big ticket items like this, grandparents can pitch in)
- An item they need, but they wanted a more expensive version than you would normally buy (ie. boots/clothes)
- Colourful band aids
- Sled/toboggan/other winter outdoor things
- Sleeping bag
- Flashlight
- Toy box
- Personal set of scriptures
- Jewelry box

Learning Tools

- Telescope
- Magnifying glass
- Strong Magnet
- Science Kit
- Magic Kit
- Cookbook & Apron/Chef Hat
- Easel
- Chalkboard
- Gardening tools
- Bug-catching tools (better if you don't live somewhere that's snowy ;)
- Binoculars
- Globe


- Educational App they can play on your phone/ipod/tablet or Computer Game
- Items they need for lessons (costume/instrument/etc.)
- A new game for a game console
- A refill for an easy bake oven or other toy requiring refills
- A pet! (perhaps a "certificate" saying that you will go and pick one out together)
- Pet Accessories/supplies
- iTunes gift card
- grandparents can take the grandchildren for a sleepover and let their parents go on a getaway!

If you want to refer to this list in the future, you can on Pinterest for later!

Thanks for stopping by and if you're visiting for the first time, check out the "About Page" for a place to start with looking around my blog! :)

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  1. I don't have kids - and don't do a lot of gifting, but I love your list! GREAT ideas for gifts all year round!
    A small note though - I don't recommend giving the actual "pet" for an event (xmas, birthday, etc).
    I would, however, recommend giving books/videos/care products for such pet - and a "certificate" from you to go with the gift recipient to pick out their cat/dog from the shelter and give him a forever home (or to go to the pet store for the small cageable pets).

    There's just too much excitement on a holiday to introduce a new family member.

    Thanks for your awesome blog!

    1. Thank you, Deb! & that sounds like good advice about the pet :) I have never had a pet, so I haven't got a lot of experience with the process of choosing one and bringing one home! :)

      Thank you for your kind words!

    2. Agreed! As a dad who had my daughter come home from a sleep-over birthday party with a pet fish, it's not fun, funny or appreciated. We then had to go out and get a fish bowl, food and all the accessories.

      In fact, pets should never be a gift. Too quickly that pet is forgotten (rabbit for easter??) and dumped somewhere. We have a park near us where it's rather common place to find numerous discarded rabbits. The population spikes each year around the start of summer when the Easter bunny novelty has dried up and the actual pain of owning a pet rabbit come.

    3. Oh, I totally agree! I wouldn't appreciate a "surprise pet gift" for my child either! I was thinking of it as a gift from parents to their own children (after making the decision to go ahead and have a pet).

    4. One of my besties asked what my twins wanted for their birthday. I joked that they'd love her forever if she got them a hamster. She was on board, so was I. I told other people gift cards to the pet store would be nice... It was a wonderful gift and I love that my friend was a part of it!

  2. Fantastic list! I pinned it to my Christmas Community board. One of my goals for 2014 is to shop throughout the year for gifts for the kids. We try to emphasize non-toy gifts with the inlaws. A list like this would really help!

    I'd love for you to share this list with my readers on my Motivation Monday linky: http://alifeinbalance.net

  3. Heather,
    My wife just sent me the link to this page and I loved it so much I had to comment. Making this my FIRST official blog comment. Growing up my family did not have a lot of disposable income. My parents always kept Christ and family first at Christmas. While we did receive gifts they were usually not "toys". Our Christmas gifts back then usually consisted of clothes, books, and learning tools (Legos, binoculars, bug catchers, etc.). One of my favorite gifts of all time was The American Boy's Handy Book. My brothers and I would spend hours reading that book, and then countless more hours building the contraptions that the book taught us how to make. We never went back to school with the hottest new clothes or coolest toys, but we went back full of love and always thinking about what we could make after we got home from school. It is no wonder that all three of us are engineers today... It was my parent's loving and pragmatic approach to Christmas gift giving that drives me to not gift "toys" to our young children today. My wife and I are by no means perfect as we do give our children "toys", but with every year as we all grow together the ratio of practical gifts to "toys" improves. We do not give gifts on my side of the extended family anymore, but instead we have a new tradition that my wife started. Instead of giving each other gifts we rotate years of responsibility finding a needy family in one of our communities and obtaining a list of what they need. We then gift them clothing, baby items, grocery gift cards, books, and even a few 'toys". Helping those in need, especially around the holidays, brings our family closer together and is a much more worthwhile investment than more "toys". For months after Christmas our young son would speak about "helping those other boys out". To this day when you ask him what he wants to be when he grows up he will tell you that he wants to help people (or be a ninja...). Thank you for sharing this perspective with people and for starting my day off right!

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment, Daric! What a great example of what "non-toy" gifts can mean! Thank you for sharing that! I love the idea of choosing a family in need to help out- what a great example to and experience for your kids to have and to learn from!

    2. Daric, I really appreciated your comment. I could write much more, but am not going to. Thank you.

    3. I am so impressed that Daric has passed on to us all the real meaning of the Christmas season and was brought up to give to others and not expect material gifts as such. What a wonderful way to share the holidays.

    4. I love what you had to say. We have 7 grandkids and we do not buy toys or electronics of any kind. Some of the family gets upset because the kids aren't getting toys, but I really don't care. I love the ideas on your list and plan to try some of them out this year.

  4. I love this list - and hoping to send it grandma's way this year. :) 5 children can make a lot of stuff-induced-stress for this mama who likes to keep things simple.

  5. Replies
    1. Thank you Dana! And thanks for taking a moment to comment! :)

  6. Great Post! In preparation for Christmas I have been thinking a lot of gifts. My husband and I have been asked what we want, and the answer is not in stuff. We recently purged a lot of stuff, and don't want more nick knacks. This is a wonderful list of ideas for what I can give family, without giving more stuff. Thanks!

    1. You're very welcome! I'm glad you're finding it useful! Isn't it great to purge and make space in your home?! Thanks for taking the time to comment, Rebekah!

  7. If you've never had a pet, please do not suggest that as a gift. Animals need a lot of care, money and attention. Giving a pet as a gift usually results in the recipient(s) becoming bored of said pet as time goes on. :/

    1. That's an interesting point, Darlenne. Maybe a "certificate" saying that you will go together and choose a pet would be a better idea, as Deb suggested in the comments above. The gift could be some supplies needed for the pet, as a "clue" to what the main gift (the pet) would be.

    2. Another idea instead of getting a pet or certificate would be to donate to your local humane society, they are almost always in need, you can also donate your time. There's a lot of people who get a puppy and then the excitement wears off and they eat your shoes and poop everywhere it seems and people find out the hard way that it's not just a toy that can be played with and put away. Helping with the shelter dogs and cats puts pet ownership into perspective of what will be asked of you and if you can't handle an hour there, there's no way you'll last for 10 to 15 years on your own.

  8. This is exactly what I would love Christmas to look like! Thanks for sharing I will be sharing these as a nudge to family :) thanks Heather!

  9. Great list! Thanks for sharing. The busy holiday season is practically here. How did that happen?!

    1. Thanks Kara, and I know! So crazy to think it's already "upon us" ;)

  10. I have three Godchildren in three (other) countries. For the first 18 years of their lives, on their birthday, I put money into a bank account for them and told their parents that it was not to be touched until they were 18 and then, preferably, for education.

  11. An idea if you want to give an experience but still want something to wrap is to write on a balloon or punching ballon what the experience will be. That way, the kids still have something to unwrap and play with, but it's cheap and disposable.

    1. What a fun idea, Kay! I love that (and I know my kids would too!)

  12. This is how we do Christmas in our house pretty much. 2 years ago we started giving our kids a "main" gift and a box of books. The first year I went a little overboard on the box of books. Last year our box was 10 books per kid. Things we've given as a main gift: a bigger LEGO set, Hearts for Hearts Girls doll, bow and arrow, Geomags, etc ... This past Christmas with my extended family we all picked names from a hat and then we bought a gift that reminded us of the person we drew and then gave them to whatever organization they thought it best fit. So for example, my cousin Cathy got my daughter and bought several books because my daughter loves to read and donated them to a local book drive. My son drew my cousin Lynn who is a high school basketball coach so we got a basketball, go figure. One of my aunts got one of my cousins who loves to cook so she bought a bunch of food and donated it to a local food drive. Because we're all over the country (my family) we all took pictures of what we bought and posted the photos of why we bought what we bought and where we gave it to. It was really fun.

    1. I love little family traditions like that! It is likely something that your children will never forget & may implement in their own families in the future :)

  13. Awesome list! The toys just pile up, I love the idea of no toys gift giving. I'm sure my son would appreciate those things a lot more too. Thank you! Pinning for sure.

  14. Great list!!! One question, where did you find the swirly tree wall decal?

    1. They are on ebay and amazon.

    2. They are on ebay and amazon.

    3. Hi Heidi! I found it on a website called CSN Stores ( which is now Wayfair.com) I just looked it up and found it! Here's the link: http://www.wayfair.com/Room-Mates-Megapacks-Scroll-Tree-Wall-Decal-RMK1439SLM-RZM1504.html

    4. Awwww thank you for the link that was very nice of you! Have a wonderful day!

  15. This was a great list. However, I would take computer games off the list, since in this day and age, computer games are the new "toys". I think children want and parents spend more on video games than the traditional toys I grew up with. I would also add to the list a bug collection. My aunt gave us this when I was a kid and my brothers and I loved it. We would go into the woods and try to find and collect every insect on the poster and keep them in jars. It was very educational.

    1. I agree! I thought to myself: Video games are toys! They're also a more expensive kind of toy and not very conducive to imaginative play. My mother showered our children with video games and they play three out of the 60 or so they own. I would also suggest skill build toys, like a small, real tool set, first sewing machine, or loom. Children love to do what their parents do. Perhaps, you could learn something new together?

    2. Computer games are kind of a tricky/touchy item, aren't they? I am sensitive to trying to limit my kids' "screen time" and it can be challenging when they have lots of fun activities to do "on screen"! This would definitely be one that may not be a good idea for everyone.

      Love the bug collection idea- I love the idea of getting kids excited about being outside! (although my kids would have to wait about 6 months before they could use it with the weather here if it were a Christmas gift, and they both have Winter birthdays.. maybe something fun for Easter ;)

      Rachel, I love the idea of a first sewing machine or tool set! My daughter loves using her looms (she has a couple different types) and I am excited that she is learning to do things like that!

      I'm with you on learning something new together too- time together is a great 'gift'!

  16. This is a super thorough list! Love it. :)

  17. I think Cooking lessons for older kids would be a fantastic Christmas gift! OR perhaps Grandma or Grandpa can set aside some special time to share some of their favorite recipes with little ones - another 'real' experience idea. Perhaps Mom or Dad can write up the recipies in a special way.
    I sell some adorable personalized ornaments made from tree rings, and some cute stuffed toys kids can color over at Little Wee Shop on Etsy if folks are looking for eco-friendly ideas.

    1. I love the idea of lessons from Grandma or Grandpa!

  18. I am all for a "no toy" Christmas. This year there is an archery set and a bb gun on the wish list (son is in Cub Scouts), craft supplies, and an acoustic guitar. I can handle that!

  19. A number of years ago my family had what we called, "Memory Christmas." All gifts had to be based on a memory you had with the recipient (for the adults) OR the creation of a new memory (for the kids.) I really enjoyed the experiences and relationship focus it provided, as opposed to a forgettable and breakable stuff focus. "Memory Christmas" is by FAR the most memorable to date!

  20. A number of years ago my family had what we called, "Memory Christmas." All gifts had to be based on a memory you had with the recipient (for the adults) OR the creation of a new memory (for the kids.) I really enjoyed the experiences and relationship focus it provided, as opposed to a forgettable and breakable stuff focus. "Memory Christmas" is by FAR the most memorable to date!

  21. I love the idea of season passes! great ideas here!

  22. This is such a great list. I've shared it with my readers and I know a lot of people have read it, liked it, and shared it themselves. I think we all feel that our houses are overflown with "stuff" and not enough of us actually spend any quality time with loved ones, so this is a step in the right direction. In fact, my sons received a gift from their Aunt and Uncle last Christmas that included a day at the Aquarium. Only thing is, it's almost a year later and it hasn't happened yet. So my only advice would be to actually make sure you follow through on the non-material gifts ;) While the thought is nice, spending time together is what really counts or it's all for not.

  23. I love this list it is so great....Thanks for sharing.

  24. BTW, what is the widget you use for your pinterest? I love it with the scrolling up pics. If you are willing to share your secret, let me know!

    1. Hey Elizabeth, are you talking about the bar at the top of my blog? That's from hellobar.com :)

  25. Thanks Heather. Love the list. My son is 22 month old. Any other cool ideas for gifts he can get involved with or I can make for him that he would appreciate.

  26. Loved the list - thanks for compiling. I linked to your article from my blog post about How I Plan to Redefine My Family Christmas. http://lessismoremoreorless.blogspot.ca/2014/10/five-ways-ill-be-redefining-my-family.html

  27. Hi there! I also linked to your post through my blog post: Spend Less, Give More: http://www.natureofaservant.com/2014/11/spend-less-give-more-living-advent.html

  28. This is a fantastic post and I put a link to it in my blog post today, I hope you don't mind (http://mynaturallyfrugalfamily.blogspot.com/2014/11/only-51-more-days-to-go.html).

  29. For girls: There is a company called add a pearl. You can order 1 pearl at a time and have it added to a necklace. I hope by the time my girls are married they have a full necklace.

  30. I love this list. We always follow the want, need, wear, read motto when buying for our son, and for other children we always try to make something they need. Lists like this should be compulsory reading for people shopping for younger relatives

  31. Don't forget the Star Registry. Name a star after your childb and very a star map and certificate that can be framed.

  32. This is a great list! As a professional organizer, I have many clients who are overwhelmed just trying to keep all their kids' toys stored and organized. They have trouble getting rid of stuff and the guilt is magnified when something is a gift. When it comes to kids, it is never too early to teach them how to be organized as well as the value in giving vs. getting. Just one reason I have always been a big advocate of consumable gifts (gift cards, edible gifts, services, donations to charity, tickets to events, etc.) It puts far less pressure on the recipient not to have to figure out how/where to store their gift. I am one of 8 kids, and every year my father's gift to each of us is a donation made in our name to a worthy cause. He spends a lot of time researching various organizations and picks one that champions a cause close to our hearts. It is one of my favorite traditions because it allows us to become part of a solution for someone else instead of creating a new problem for ourselves (e.g. I got a gift I don't like/can't use/don't have room for and I feel guilty getting rid of it).

  33. I love these ideas! Here's another awesome, healthy, non-toy Christmas gift: Clued In Kids treasure hunts. Check them out: www.cluedinkids.com :)

  34. Really a great thanks to give us a important suggestion. Thanks for the reply.

  35. Buying best gifts for children can be quite easy if you know what to look for. One of the best gifts that you can get your child is a toy. A toy is a great learning tool for children.

    1. Absolutely, toys are great gifts! I hope this post hasn't given the impression that I'm against toys- I'm certainly not! I just know that kids can end up with too many and sometimes, as parents, we know our kids don't really need more at a particular time, so it's nice to have ideas of alternatives when that need isn't there. I definitely agree that a toy is a great learning tool.

  36. I really like this concept all. Exactly what a cute idea-totally the kind of gift.

  37. Excellent blog. Your article was so nice and very useful. Thank you so much for sharing.


  38. It's really nice to see a gift guide where you're actually properly talking about the things you've picked out!

    anniversary gift

  39. I love the idea of giving a season pass to the zoo! Perfect for a family Christmas gift as well!

  40. Hi, Thanks for sharing this amazing post with us. Gifts in Coimbatore I enjoyed the entire article and keep rocking!

  41. Thanks for sharing the birthday gift ideas.

  42. Wow ! This is indeed a nice post. Thanks for sharing.

  43. Ha..Ha.. While reading your post I feel somewhat quite interesting that offering non-toy gift.

  44. Thank you for the post regarding kid's gift guide. Kids love gifts. They want gift from parents. Every children loves fun types of game like trampoline. Jumping on trampoline is a great fun for them. trampoline reviews

  45. Write great post . That’s Interesting blog .

  46. Very well written I appreciate & must say good job.... please continue your blog

    unique gifts for baby girl

  47. Tons of gift list ideas! Very useful for us. Thanks for your ideas.
    Children loves receiving gifts .

  48. I love this list! This is particularly handy when you know the kid well enough to give them a class or experience that they will love. Great ideas, thanks!

  49. This showed up in my memories from this time last year. I love it as much this year as I did last year. One of our favorite non-toy gifts is picture books!! All of our pics are on digital formats, but my girls love hard copies!!

    1. Oh, I love having photo books! I agree, that would be a lovely gift!

  50. Please, no circuses! These animals are usually stolen as babies from their mothers in the wild and then brought to the U.S. and worldwide to perform ridiculous tricks. Elephants, for instance, are trained by being beaten with bull hooks (a metal apparatus resembling a fireplace poker with a hook on the end) and clubs as well as being whipped and electrocuted. Trainers have been known to burn the bottoms of dancing bears' feet so, by shifting their weight from foot to foot, the bears appear to dance. Much of the cruelty goes on behind the scenes and spectators to the circus do not see it. At performance time, the trainer then only needs to use the sight of the bull hook or whip and not actually use it in order to “persuade” the animal into performing a trick. Far too often, they are kept from seeing a veterinarian, even when they are having severe physical maladies.

    Besides all of the cruelty that is attached with animal shows, circus-goers are oftentimes given the opportunity to have contact with animals which is absolutely FOOLISH! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, elephants, for instance, can carry TUBERCULOSIS and transmit it to the public, even without direct contact. Also, as we have seen numerous times before, animals that have been grossly maltreated end up going berserk and harming and/or killing people. Please do NOT patronize circuses with animals like this one. There are plenty of circuses without animals that are absolutely terrific -- I have seen them. Just a few animal-free shows are: Circus of the Kids, Circus Vargas, Imperial Circus, New Shanghai Circus, as well as many others. Thank you for caring!

  51. Very helpful list but please do not suggest any kind of pet as a Christmas gift. Any pet is a huge decision that the child must be a part of giving them the chance to consider the responsibility too. There are so many other things that you have suggested that are amazing

    1. Oh, I agree! I would assume that someone wouldn't give this gift unless they had already had such discussions prior to deciding on that as a gift!

  52. Love, love, love this blog. My husband and I are first time grandparents with a 2 year old and another one on the way. We like the "simple" idea. Our grandson has to many toys already from a lot of well meaning relatives on our daughter in laws side. I would also like to suggest making a simple photo book with pictures of the family so the child can learn to say their names. Like, Aunt Sue, Grandma Jo, boots the dog, etc. Perhaps label it "Those Who Love Me" I do a newsletter 4 times a year on "Nurturing Mindfulness and Spirituality for Children" and if you don't mind, I would like to use some of your suggestions in my next newsletter.

    1. Thank you! That is a very nice idea, too!
      I'm happy to have it shared, but would appreciate if you would link back to the original blog post as the source, or share the blog address (www.RaisingMemories.com) when sharing in print. Thank you so much!

  53. Great list! Our son is 13, and I cannot tell you how many Christmases he has had where the number of toys he gets seem insurmountable. In an already over-crowded bedroom, finding room for the extra stuff was a nightmare. We started several years ago giving "experiences" as his major gift. Things like a trip to Orlando to visit the Kennedy Space Center have been a big hit! Last year, he got travel stuff to go along with the family trip we had already planned for London and Paris--he got new earbuds, French language software, a passport cover, and money to spend on his own souvenirs. He loved it, and the memories we made on that trip will definitely outlast some cheap toy that would have already been discarded. Thanks for sharing your list; it really is difficult to come up with non-toy ideas sometimes!

    1. Thank you! Those ideas are fabulous! I hope to do some more travel-based gifts in the future with my girls. I remember a friend whose parents surprised their kids with a trip to Jamaica for Christmas (all of the gifts they opened were things they would need for the trip- swim suits, etc.) I love the ideas you listed that you've done!

  54. Thanks for the great list! My daughter is getting a subscription to a kids magazine (Ladybug) this year for Christmas. She loves to read, AND I think she is going to get a real buzz from getting a package in the mail every month, addressed to her!

  55. I have no children of my own however i do have a niece and nephew that i love to spoil. Every year for Christmas i get them an "experience" gift. It consists of a weekend spending the night with me and big event. The most recent event was a day at Disney World. They love these gifts and really look forward to them. I love that it's not some piece of plastic but time together and memories made. Additionally their parents love the gift also for the same reason. This was a great blog post!

  56. I love this! I will be sharing it on my Oregon Kids and Family Facebook page- it goes great with an article I just wrote about providing gifts of time and experiences- thank you!

  57. Excellent blog. Your article was so nice and very useful. Thank you so much for sharing.

  58. These seems to be unique gift ideas. Found some amazing and unusual Christmas day gifts for him and her.

  59. this tips really genius

    but I think it will be more interesting if you add image on the post

    anyway thank you for your hardwork!

  60. Those are all very cute & neat! I love to do gift baskets! A great grandma one (since they have everything) is "Glad Tidings of Great Joy!" packed with useful Glad storage bags, Tide, & Joy dishwashing liquid...just thought I'd share!

    mother day homemade gift ideas from daughter


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~Heather Lynne

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