Non-toy Christmas gifts to give: get inspired

Every year we make a deal with ourselves that THIS year we will not go for some Chinese made plastic toys, that we will opt for non-toy Christmas gifts. But suddenly there are 3 days left before Christmas and we run to the first shopping centre (or this year, Amazon) to buy everything we didn’t want to.

Toys are great, and children expect them under the tree, but there are many ways to offer a meaningful gift that will last in their hearts longer than a toy. Here are some ideas for you!

No matter if it’s for your children, for your godchildren, your nephew, or niece, this year I’m offering a chance to feel good about yourself with these non-toy Christmas gifts.

A voucher for a day out

You may have noticed how we have little time for children during the holiday season, so much to do and think, to organize, and when it’s finally Christmas, there is still the meal to care for.

Offering quality time as a present for Christmas is not only one of our favourite non-toy Christmas gifts, but it also makes children feel valuable and important. The fact that you’re looking forward to spending a whole day just with them is already a gift.

The possibilities are numerous and will depend on where you live and what you like. But here are some ideas for non-toy Christmas gifts of this kind that might inspire you for when Covid restrictions are lifted – now that’s something to look forward to:

  • A ski trip (after all, it’s winter)
  • A sleigh adventure (be brave and brave the cold)
  • A museum or an exhibition (take the time to make it interesting)
  • A natural wonder (maybe there is a cave or a waterfall in your area)
  • A day to the zoo (which child wouldn’t love that?!)
  • An adventure trail (check which one is close to you here)
  • A storytelling night (whether if you’re the storyteller or if you go to an event)
  • A dinner in a restaurant (how special would it be to have dinner just with you)

Extra tips

  • If there are several children, they much appreciate having their individual day out. That is the whole point of such a present, feeling special and valued.
  • Offer different experiences to the different children according to their personality.
  • Remember that if you have fun, they’ll have fun. If you hate cold, don’t go skiing!

My mother has been doing this for years with my three children and now, all year round, when they see something they’d like to do, they tell her, and she puts it on a wish list.

A homemade present

One of my best memories of presents as a child was the reggae tapes my uncle would make for me. Not only did I get to listen to some cool music, but it made me feel special that a grown-up would take the time to do this for me.

We under evaluate homemade presents because we have the idea that they are « cheap ». But time and love can never be replaced with money, and it is a great opportunity to share those values with children.

What are you good at making? Here are some ideas to help you weigh up your homemade non-toy Christmas gifts options:

  • A play-lists of your favorite songs (the modern tape!)
  • A lip-balm (which little girl wouldn’t love that? Find recipes here)
  • A photo album (in those days of screens, a proper photo album is a great gift)
  • A recipe book with a basket of goodies to try them (you may even get to taste some)
  • A constellation jar lamp (wonderful for a young child’s room, check it out here)
  • Personalized clothing (are you good at sewing? Let your creativity speak)
  • A snow globes (a child’s wonder and easy to make!)

Extra tips:

  • Don’t throw yourself into a crazy project. The simpler the better.
  • Instead of buying all the material, check what you have in your house already.
  • Adapt the present to the age of the child. You can make presents for anyone from babies to teens.

Share a passion

Children learn best through example and are always eager to do « grown-up-things ». Do you have a passion that you could share? Do not rule something out because you think that the children might not be interested. Children can be interested in anything.

Even if it’s your children, there might be something in your life that you don’t share with them because you never thought of it. Again, some of these will have to wait until restrictions are lifted…

What could it look like?

  • If you play an instrument, a trial lesson with a teacher or yourself
  • If you love cinema, take them to a festival
  • If you love music, buy some hearing protection and enjoy a concert together
  • If you love painting, organize a workshop
  • If you ride a mountain bike, go for a day trip to the mountains
  • If you can sew, offer to create a project together

Extra tips:

  • You could turn this upside-down and decide on discovering one of the child’s passion for yourself.
  • If you don’t have a proper passion to share, maybe someone around you would love to welcome you both
  • Children are more hands-on than theoretical, chose wisely so they enjoy themselves.

Do something selfless together

Christmas is about hope and love. Not everyone is as fortunate as us and it is a beautiful gift to allow children to do their part. I’m sure you can see all the positive sides of such a present: developing empathy, learning selflessness, growing a community feeling,…

There is another good point about these types of non-toy Christmas gifts, they are good for self-esteem and self-confidence. Those and a growing sense of responsibility.

It is not about making the child feel sad about the world’s misery, it is about showing him that together, we can improve things.

What would be adapted for children:

  • Volunteer in an animal shelter. They always need little hands to pet the animals and young legs to go on a walk.
  • Volunteer in a retirement home. Try to choose a fun activity to help with like bingo.
  • Help with a community food bank. Either by collecting food or sorting it, there is plenty to do and it’s fun.
  • Participate in a clean-up of the park or the forest near-by. Children usually have a lot of fun picking up garbage.
  • Find some repair and renovation efforts for low-income residents project. Children love tools and real work.
  • Contact a local farmer and offer your help. There is always work to do on a farm and children will love to be finally allowed to be dirty.

Extra tips:

  • Call the local associations and let them know about your project, they will tell you what’s adapted for children
  • At the end of the day, reward them with nice hot cocoa.
  • Think locally, who around you, person or association, could use some help?

Toys are not a necessity

Look at your children’s room, do they need more toys? Are they even playing with them all? Of course with the Christmas shopping frenzy and toys displayed everywhere, children will ask for them. But a little gesture in the form of one of these non-toy Christmas gifts to go with your « experience » present will make them just as happy.

I like to make beautiful home-made vouchers and I add a little something in the gift since having a tangible object is what they expect at Christmas and nobody wants to disappoint a child!

To help myself I have a couple of rules for those small accompanying gifts:

  • They have to cost less than 15 pounds
  • They have to be made in Europe
  • They have to be eco-friendly
  • They can be pre-loved

We hope this list of non-toy Christmas gifts has inspired you. If you have any other ideas you would like to suggest, do feel free to add them in a comment below.

Author bio

Bérénice Goin is a specialised educator and the founder of The Earth School. She created The Free Child Bundles, a monthly pack of goodies for moms who want their children to develop their life-skills. She also manages The Free Child Blog, where she discusses conscious parenting, positive education, and child development.

Combining a degree in social work, along with several years of experience working in a children’s home and homeschooling her 3 children, Bérénice (a recovered yeller), has developed the knowledge and practical skills to help people practice positive parenting and raise free children.

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