Practical gift ideas for kids that they will actually use to instill passion for learning, teach real-life skills, and create special memories from experiences that they’ll hold onto forever!
There are days I look around our house… the graveyard of plastic toy pieces in the playroom, the arsenal of Barbie body parts all over Olivia’s bedroom floor… and I swear I will lose my mind if one more box of Shopkins finds its way into our lives.
Holy slime-filled surprise eggs, y’all! I can. not. deal!
I donate toys when she’s not looking or end up combing through her mounds of toys to throw out all of the broken pieces she hasn’t played with in a year. And when she says, “I’m bored”, despite her accumulating pile of entertainment, I tell myself, “I’m NOT buying her more toys this Christmas.”
But I don’t want to be the “mean mom”. I don’t want her to feel like she’s not loved or isn’t getting something exciting when she rips into her treasures on Christmas morning or her birthday. So this year, I brainstormed every non-toy gift idea I possibly could.
And you know what?! Every single thing on this list kicks the PANTS off of any plastic toy she’ll get bored with in 5 minutes. (Ya know… if toys wore pants… besides Ken dolls.)
All of these gift ideas are things kids will actually use, instill passion for learning, teach real-life skills, and create memories from experiences that they’ll hold onto forever! Win – win – win – win! (And parents all over the world rejoiced!)
If the toy thing is a struggle you’ve had with the kiddos in your life too, I hope this list helps you as much as it has helped me. I’m so passionate about this one from a mommy and teacher standpoint and from a homeowner who is ready to reclaim her sanity!
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My daughter loves getting packages in the mail, and these boxes are all special monthly surprises with STEAM learning opportunities (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) and lessons on cultures from around the world. Or if you only want to buy 1 box without the commitment of a monthly subscription, you can do that too.
- KiwiCo – hands-on science and art projects for ages 0-16 years old
- Bluum Box – books, utensils, gear, and essentials for pregnant moms, babies, and toddlers
- Little Passports – activities to help kids ages 3-12 learn about cultures from around the world
- Green Kid Crafts – hands-on learning and STEAM project kits for ages 2-10
- Universal Yums – snacks from different countries delivered monthly to learn more about other cultures through different flavors
I love these just because they’re fun and kind of like toys but have more practical function.
- Bean bag chair stuffed animal storage – This is so brilliant! If your kiddo has a pile of sentimental stuffed animals they can’t stand to part with, this bean bag chair doubles as storage. It can hold over 90 stuffed animals.
- Wall decals – These are so fun if your little one likes decorating their room but you don’t want to bust out the paint. There are so many great educational ones too like this map.
- Personalized wall art– How adorable is this?! And it can double as a cute night light too.
- Night light star projector – Fun like a toy, functional for those little ones who are scared of the dark.
- Play table with storage – This table is awesome for corralling the chaos of Legos, blocks, and train sets to help you reclaim space.
We LOVE giving “events” instead of giving presents or throwing birthday parties in our family. In the past, we’ve taken Olivia to the zoo, Disney On Ice, Great Wolf Lodge, etc. We love the memories we’ve created doing that instead of forking out the money on toys that would be broken within a year. Olivia still talks about them all the time. I usually just search on TicketWeb or TicketMaster for upcoming events in our area to get ideas.
- A concert
- A play
- Sporting event
- Circus or Disney On Ice (or other kid-friendly type shows)
- A movie in theaters (or drive-in movie if you have one in your city)
- An overnight stay at a kid-friendly hotel or resort
Real world learning tools:
- A watch– This kids’ smart watch has a pedometer and games and helps teach how to tell time on an analog clock.
- Book subscription– Amazon Prime now has a book box subscription for kids and saves 40% off of list price, if your little one is an avid reader. It curates stories based on his/her preferences too.
- Wallet– My daughter LOVES carrying around a wallet and a purse because it makes her a “grown-up”. But it also teaches a bit about responsibility. 😉
- Calendar– This magnetic calendar teaches days of the week, dates, weather, and special events and encourages communication about the future.
- Piggy bank – This “owl bank” is genius for creating a teaching opportunity about budgeting and financial responsibility at a young age with three separate slots for spending, saving, and giving to charity.
- Math games – This box has 16 games to help kids get excited about working with numbers.
- Jewelry box & jewelry – Olivia got a silver cross necklace and jewelry box for her birthday this year, and they are still her most prized possessions. It’s a great opportunity to teach about taking care of special/sentimental items.
- Kitchen knives, cookbook, and apron– We gave this to Olivia for Christmas last year, and she has loved pulling out her own kitchen knives to help me chop up fruits and veggies for dinner. For encouraging a future chef maybe?
- Ride- On Suitcase – I want to be a kid again just so I can have this suitcase! If you fly a lot, this one is a game changer. Your little one can sit on it and ride wherever they need to go. Makes airport layovers way less stressful. Or if you have an older kiddo who is too big for a ride-on, a cute rolling suitcase would be awesome too.
- Tool belt & tool box – We got one of these a couple of years ago too, and they are real tools! Any time we do a DIY project, Olivia is hammering nails and measuring things right along with us. Yay for teachable moments that apply to the real world!
Arts & crafts:
I love all of these because they can set your child on the path for learning skill sets that could one day translate into future artistic careers.
- Camera– This is probably better suited for older elementary / preteen age, but if your child is interested in photography, this is a good one and has a bit of nostalgia.
- Photo album– Fill up a photo album with favorite snapshots of your child and your family. I had several albums as a kid and always loved flipping through them. There’s just something special about tangible print photographs.
- Learn to paint kit– This kit has all of the paint and instructions to learn color mixing and illustrating techniques.
- Kids’ sewing machine and sewing project book– If your kiddo is crafty, this beginner’s sewing machine is great for putting him/her on the right path for learning the skill. Future fashion designer maybe?
- Buddha board– This board teaches drawing, painting, and writing with a Japanese-style bamboo brush. The best part… it’s mess free!
If you want a gift that keeps on giving, I love the idea of gifting a special class that suits your child’s interest. Who says they can’t be presents? Wrap up a horseshoe and put it under the tree to reveal your gift of horseback riding lessons. Or box up a pair of boxing gloves to tell them you got them boxing classes.
- Horseback riding
- Pottery making
If your little one is the outdoorsy type, I love these ideas that embrace their exploration of nature.
- Sleeping bag– Great for sleeping under the stars and slumber parties too. Win/win.
- A tent– This one can be used outdoors but is small enough to set up in a bedroom or playroom.
- Fishing pole– This one is a real deal kids’ version complete with lures and tackle box.
- Bird feeder – I love this feeder that has suction cups to stick to windows so little ones can watch the birds every day.
- Gardening tools & growing kit– Pack some seed packets with it or take them with you to the garden center to let them pick out their own seeds to get them even more excited and involved.
- Butterfly garden– This little kit teaches about the four stages from caterpillar to butterfly so they can watch it all happen in real life.
- Ant farm– If your kiddo likes bugs, this is a fun one with a modern twist to the traditional ant farms.
Remember when getting mail was super special as a kid? I love these magazines that are a little monthly surprise for learning about history, nature, and art and are packed full with activities.
Every year, my parents gift us season passes to our local amusement park that we use from spring to fall. We love all of the opportunities it creates for family time! Whatever local attractions you have in your area, spring for memberships to keep the memories going.
- Amusement park season passes
- Zoo memberships
- Aquarium passes
- Museum memberships
- Aquatic club memberships
- Water park memberships
- Mini golf memberships
I hope that helps! Any others you would add to the list? Feel free to add them to the comments below!
Want creative ideas for stocking stuffers? You can find my giant list of favorite stocking stuffer ideas in this post.
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