15 kids' gifts that are way better than toys
Toys are awesome — no one can deny that. But today's parents want to mix up their gift-giving a bit and give presents with more meaning behind them. Ones that tell their children they know who they are, where they come from, where they are going and exactly what they'd enjoy (even if there was no commercial on TV or catalog in the mail saying so).
Parents are always looking for gifts to give kids that are better than "just toys," so here's a list of exactly that. From the little everyday items that fit in the palm of their hands to big experiences, there's bound to be something your kiddos will love!
1. Recognition of a big milestone (like learning to read)
Every kid has his or her own milestones. Celebrate them with gifts that show you know how big a deal they are! Did they recently learn how to read? Sign them up for a library card and pop it into a new book tote with their name on it. Bonus points if you also create a reading nook in their room, complete with a beanbag chair and fuzzy throw.
Where to buy: Library Card Kids Tote Bag ($15, Out of Print)
New releases of the series they're currently reading, beautiful vintage versions of the classics they've read over and over again, books you read as a kid and wrote a note to them inside the front cover — there are so many ways to give great stories to your children that are meaningful and fun.
Where to buy: Peter Pan Collectible Edition ($10, Barnes & Noble)
3. Lessons to show you take their interests seriously
What is your kid interested in? What instructional videos are they watching on YouTube, or what do they spend hours doing in imaginary ways that could be brought over to reality? Prove you're paying attention and let them learn everything they can about their new passion with the gift of lessons on painting, music, robotics, photography, computer programming, magic, sewing or whatever it is that suits them best.
4. An experience to try something new
Have adventurous kids? Show them you're cool with them trying something a little crazy. Look locally to see what your kids might want to try, like indoor skydiving, hot air balloon rides, race car driving or rock climbing.
5. A peek into your childhood
Give them a gift of understanding what you were like as a kid, by stocking them up on your favorite movies from when you were their age! Add some microwave popcorn to the package and set a date for a weekend of binge-watching, giving you yet another way to build your bond.
Where to buy: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial DVD ($10, Amazon)
6. A reminder of where they come from
Pull heartstrings by making or giving your child something that keeps family close to their hearts even when they're away. One mom made her photography-loving son a new strap for his camera out of a beloved grandfather's old flannel shirt, reminding him of Gramps each time he presses the shutter. Tying his hobby with his history is both sentimental and practical.
7. Membership to their favorite place
Make it so they can visit the science museum, aquarium, botanical gardens, museum of natural history, zoo or children's museum any time they want to by signing them up for annual memberships (which often fund the interests your kids hold dear). This is something that you can do together as a family, and it reminds them of how big their world is.
8. The things you typically tell them not to have too much of
Constantly telling your kid to skip the soda, have a protein-rich breakfast or limit her candy intake? Wrap up a case of the bubbly stuff, a few boxes of her favorite forbidden sugary cereals or a bag full of candy and show them that it's OK to treat yourself every now and then.
9. A family vacation
Not just any old trip: pick a place that they have been begging to go. It could be a weekend skiing, a trip to the lake or even a big theme park. Just choose something that they want to do and happily go along with it. It will make them feel like important members of the family when their ideas are validated in this way.
10. A desk of their own
There is something about getting your very own desk. Furniture might not seem fun — especially something built to do your homework on — but it's a space full of hiding spots that will stay in their room for years to come. If you get one built to grow into, it might even end up in their own home one day.
Where to buy: Catalina Storage Desk & Low Hutch ($50-$500, Pottery Barn Kids)
11. Theater or concert tickets
Seeing actors and singers perform live is an experience that every kid should have at some point. Whether it's seeing their favorite band in person or watching a beloved movie come to life on stage, there's something special about a night out on the town while enjoying the arts and appreciating the talents of others.
12. Boxes of her favorite things delivered all year long
There are many subscription services unique to a child's interests that will send a box each month (or at regular intervals), whether they are into crafts, exploring the world, hair accessories or the like. Waiting for their box to arrive helps them practice patience, and they are consistently surprised by how much more there is to learn and experience about their favorite things.
13. Travel gear
Is your kid a jet-setter (or maybe a frequent overnighter at Grandpa's)? Hook them up with a coordinating set of travel gear, including a suitcase and sleeping bag. Thinking smaller? Try a personalized toiletry kit, travel pillow, world map or travel planner. All are all nice to have if you're an on-the-go kid, and you're setting them up to be an organized traveler and encouraging them to keep getting out there to see the world.
Where to buy: Scratch Map ($23, Paper Source)
14. Autographed sports gear
Professional sports fans feel even closer to the game when they get gifts their heroes have personally handled. From jerseys to balls to photos, there are lots of resources to acquire something signed by the athletes they love watching from the stands or on TV, making them feel more accessible than ever.
Where to buy: Stephen Strasburg Washington Nationals Autographed 2019 World Series Champions Baseball ($300, Amazon)
15. A kindness kit
Kids naturally enjoy doing things for other people, so why not make it easier for them to give, too? They can make blankets, knit winter caps or assemble food baskets to donate to local homeless shelters or raise money for local charities by selling bracelets they make or running a lemonade stand. This kind of gift gives in more ways that any of you will expect.