With the lights twinkling on the tree behind us, my husband and I sat and contemplated Christmas and what we want it to look like in our family. We each have beautiful childhood memories of Christmases past and now it’s our turn to share the magic. We thought a lot about possibly having a non-toy Christmas.
(In sharing this I want to be sure to tell you that this is what works for our family and I’m not under the assumption that it must work for everyone.)
One thing we both feel very strongly about is making sure that the Christmas we teach to our children is not a completely consumerist one.
This is hard for me. Scarlette is (and will be) an only child, long awaited and much celebrated. I (and my love of a good deal) want to give her the world. (2016 update: lol, it’s so cute how I was so certain that we were only going to have one kid.)
Plus, I am a gift giver. It’s my love language. I just like to give people stuff. And I love my Black Friday sales with the best of them, y’all.
I counted the gifts we purchased for Scarlette last year on one hand. “It looks so small” I lamented. First World Problems at their finest, right?
What do we want her to know? That Christmas is about giving. Namely, the gift of a Christ child to a world who was in desperate need of a Savior. And that we give in that spirit, of presents and of time and of love, to honor the greatest gift ever bestowed.
So we drastically changed how we do gifts around here. For her birthday, she got one toy and a special cupcake outing from Mommy and Daddy. (And if you’ve seen this video, you know that she was the happiest kid ever.)
Instead we’ve decided to focus on Advent and gifting to our community. We still exchange gifts but on a much smaller scale with more intention.
Now that we’re on our
third sixth year of Christmas/birthdays in this vein and figuring this out a little more, here are some suggestions for 25+ non-toy gift ideas!
(some referral links included b/c coupons!)
Right now our three year old daughter, Scarlette, is in ballet class because she asked to be. (She did not get that from her rhythm-less mama.!) She knows that the classes are a gift from her grandparents and I find that really special. I’m thankful to them for being a part of giving her new experiences and creating special memories with her when they take her on outings. I typically visit GROUPON’s local things-to-do page to find some fantastic experience gifts for over half off. This year I bought some great packages for family members through them!
1.) Memberships to a children’s museum or the zoo. My dad took Scarlette to the zoo this year and she talks about it all the time. Seriously. ALL THE TIME.
2.) Paint Your Own Pottery trip. We love doing this. It is so fun and you don’t have to make something you bring home, you can have your child make something like a pretty vase to donate to the local nursing home.
3.) Tickets to the movies, theater production, or concert. I stalk puppet shows and children’s theater products around town. Scarlette LOVES going to watch plays or interactive children’s shows, so we LOVE getting tickets as gifts! Fandango lets you personalized their gift cards with a photo, which is a cute way to give a movie ticket gift!
4.) Gift certificates to a favorite ice cream/cupcake shoppe. Because we all scream for ice cream. Except Scarlette. She screams for cupcakes. And also just randomly, for no good reason.
5.) Gift certificates for a family outing, such as ice skating or mini golf. Or, if they are teenagers and are embarrassed to be seen with you because you feel the need to dance in public (MOM) then maybe for a friends outing. (I was scarred for life, y’all.)
6.) Crafting or baking dates. My mother made Scarlette this canopy for her bed as her Christmas gift last year. Scarlette was SO excited about it. And my favorite gift from my Aunt every year from the time I was a little girl has ALWAYS been her homemade butter mints. Of all the gifts I received at our family gathering, I always looked most forward to when I opened my tin of homemade butter mints from her.
Don’t think kids can’t enjoy things like magazine subscriptions! Scarlette gets Ladybug magazine every month and she loves it. She enjoys getting the mail with me and having a “pwize” in it. We also love our subscription boxes. Most offer a one-time option in addition to a 3,6,9, and 12 month plan so there is something for every budget.
7.) Magazine subscription (we love Ladybug, Highlights and National Geographic Kids)
8.) A Book-Of-The-Month Club! Lollipop Book Club mails a lollipop and a book with a specially inscribed note each month. I love that idea! You could even probably do the same thing yourself for less, just remember to mail the book each month! I also love GiftLit because you can choose from all ages, including read-aloud family books!
9.) Monthly Craft Kit. Kiwi Crate is a monthly craft club for kids. Each month you receive a box with supplies and instructions to make themed crafts that encourage creativity and learning. This is our favorite one, we got a subscription for Scarlette last year and she really looks forward to her box every month and my niece is getting a subscription this year. You can save 60% on your first box or a subscription with the code EARLY – For kids under 4 their Koala Crate is fantastic and they also have Tinker Crate for older kids that is more STEM focused.
10.) Monthly Learning Kit. Little Passports is a monthly travel adventure kit. It’s for maybe 7+ but it is so cute! You can do the world edition or the USA edition and “visit” different countries/states each month!
11.) Baby Essentials Subscription. If you have a baby, then a subscription or bundle from The Honest Company is a great choice for you. You can do the diaper subscription and get eco-friendly diapers + natural wipes delivered monthly (WHO DOESN’T LOVE THAT?!) or you can get natural bath & body products, kid’s toothpaste and more. And let’s be honest: your baby has no idea what is happening on Christmas. The diaper bundle is where it is at. This makes such a great gift for a new mom!
Some people dislike giving digital gifts because they like having something to unwrap. But you can still make a cute present out of something like a Netflix subscription by printing out the gift code and wrapping it up in a fun popcorn tin!
12.) Online Learning. Scarlette, my six year old, loves cooking. We are all Food Network, all the time in this house. For her birthday this year we bought her a subscription to these online cooking classes for kids called Kids Cook Real Food. I highly recommend it. Scarlette watches the intro lessons, works on the printable, and then we put the tablet in the kitchen and she does the cooking lesson as we watch. The knife skills class was AMAZING and since I’m not savvy in the kitchen, I love that it is something we can do together and is giving her good foundational skills. This and something called Gift ‘Ems (that I don’t even understand) were her favorite gifts this year. The course only opens a couple of times a year so if you have a little chef on your hands, definitely check it out.
13.) Hulu. Hulu is our go-to in this cable-free house. It’s such a great gift because it has an entire kids-only section with tons of family favorites and educational shows. Including my favorite 90’s programs! And after the kids use it, mom and dad can totally have a movie date night in. (Tip: Wrap up a gift certificate for a netflix subscription with a bottle of wine for a fun adult gift!) HOT TIP: USE THIS LINK TO GET HULU FOR ONLY $1.99 A MONTH!
14.) Educational App. I love the Kindle Free Time Unlimited App that I have for my Kindle Fire. It’s only $2.99 a month and it is full of educational games and books that I can let Scarlette read without worrying about her accidentally deleting my stuff or buying billions of dollars of e-books.
We also used www.abcmouse.com for early learning and we loved it. It is designed for toddlers up to Kindergarten age and is full of educational lessons that are presented as games, puzzles, books, songs, and more.(This link will give you the first month free to try it out)
15.) Gift cards. Gift cards to Amazon or iTunes for digital books, apps or music are good bet for the teen crowd. Or thirty year olds with a penchant for YA dystopian fiction series. Just sayin.’ Fandango gift cards are also a great idea because there are a ton of good YA movies coming out this year!
And if you just really like wrapping stuff, I love getting hands on learning items for Scarlette. Musical instruments, craft supplies, etc. are all helpful to this homeschool-ish mom and are things that my kid enjoys.
16.) Extracurricular activity items. If your child is signed up for ballet, a tutu makes a great gift. Just ask Scarlette. I can’t get her to take off the one she got for her birthday. It’s kind of a problem, actually.
17.) Musical Instruments. We love these rhythm sticks by Hohner Kids. And by “we” I mean “Scarlette.” No parents like these. Also, this harmonica is like, five dollars. And it’s a harmonica. Everyone likes the guy who can play a harmonica! We also have this wooden xylophone that Scarlette loves. Last year Scarlette got this kid’s cd player for her birthday – she LOVES listening to books on cd (this set is her favorite) and singing along to Frozen karaoke in the microphones. I liked it because it also has an mp3 and usb hookup so I can download music for her online. This year she got a drum set, because we are glutton for punishment.
18.) Arts & Craft Supplies. It’s so nice in the winter months to have a go-to craft bin in the house. Chenille sticks, googley eyes, glue, feathers, construction paper, scissors, popsicle sticks, watercolors, markers, etc. are all great things to bundle together in a little craft set. I normally pick these up at craft stores or you can grab an oversized arts and crafts bucket like this one. We store ours in these stackable ArtBins.
19.) Books. I love giving and receiving books. If you have an early reader, Scarlette’s favorite series right now is The Owl Diaries. And I think you can’t go wrong with classics like Shel Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends, Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, Where The Wild Things Are, etc. and I am all about fostering a love of reading in kids. Oh, and we love LOVE the Jesus Storybook Bible. You can also get a mini American Girl Doll + Book on Amazon for under $20!
20.) Learning Activities. I’m against ant farms on account of how I read the Scary Stories books when I was a child and still have nightmares but I do love nature stuff. Scarlette has a magnifying glass we use to look at bugs that was her favorite gift ever. On her list of things that she is thankful for, number two is BUGS. I also love things like these wooden pattern blocks that my dad gave Scarlette for her birthday. We can do so many learning activities with them that even though they might be technically a toy, I give them a pass. I also love Lisa’s printable activity sets.
22.) Mermaid Sequin Pillows. Don’t even ask but my nieces are obsessed with these mermaid sequin pillows. I gave them to my niece and my sister this year!
23.) Clothes. Okay, that might not be unique but I had no category for it. Technically, we’re learning how to dress ourselves over here. Well, the three year old is. But kids need clothes, y’all. They grow real fast. And I’m all about building a dress-up box out of clearance sales and thrift store finds because imaginative play is brain power. Or maybe not, I just made that up but I bet it’s good for kids or something. Check out ThredUp for NWT items at deep clearance prices! This link will give you a $20 credit to get started.
The Gift Of Giving
I think it’s important to teach our kids about charitable giving from a young age. Here are a few ideas organizations that I personally like and support, but having your child research, learn about, and choose a charity that is personal to them is awesome. It’s a sweet opportunity to teach our kids about giving beyond ourselves.
24.) Giving to a local need. We do something for families in the local NICU each year at Christmas time and ask that our friends and family consider donating a book in Scarlette’s name to their local NICU, to share a little bit of the hope that we have now and that we so wanted back when it was us there during the holiday season. You can make blankets or crochet preemie hats or any number of things!
25.) Sole Hope. Sole Hope is an organization that does medical work in Uganda and helps local men makes shoes for the kids there. I got to meet them last month and was so impressed with them that on my next Girl’s Night, I made my girlfriends watch the video and cut out shoes out of old jeans with me. It’s not at all annoying to be friends with me y’all. I think it’s a good organization for older kids/teens to be a part of because they can host fun shoe-cutting parties and be actively participating in the mission.
26.) Freeset. Freeset is a fair trade business that employees women who are trying to escape the sex trade. (I know that seems heavy for a Christmas gift but well, the greatest Christmas Gift the world received was born into a pretty heavy burden and I think it’s especially important to remember these girls in this season.) The women make beautiful bags (and laptop sleeves!) so this is another gift that you can wrap up while giving back. Another organization that I was able to meet face to face last month who truly impressed me.
27.) Light Em’ Up Giving. Check out Courtney DeFeo’s Light Em’ Up guide, with tons ideas for random acts of kindness that you can do with your children during the holiday season. I love the way this is set up, with printables and helpful ideas. We’ll be doing some of these with Scarlette this year and I am really looking forward to it.
28.) Choose A Gift Catalog. Several reputable charitable organizations like World Vision have gift catalogs that you can browse with your child. Scarlette loves farm animals right now so we’re going to discuss giving a family the gift of livestock and then I’ll let her choose from there.
We’re not totally anti-toy. After all, I hit up the Target Secret Toy Sale to stock up on books and gifts. But we do try to keep the balance weighted towards more handmade gifts, experience gifts and secondhand gifts than lots of brand new piles under the tree and this has been what has helped us 🙂
Whenever this topic comes up among my girlfriends they always ask how we broach this with family members. We definitely don’t want to take away the joy of giving from others or infringe our own feelings on anyone else but we did share our hearts with them and ask them to consider experience or non-toy gifts. We’re thankful that her grandparents were incredibly understanding of our space (our house is small and I have a problem with clutter. Like, I make a lot of it.) and our hearts and purposed to honor our requests. Plus, I send them videos of Scarlette taking the ballet class they gave her and that is just the gift that keeps on giving, y’all.
(And if you are looking for gift ideas for the grown-up kids in your life, I’m partial to an Amazon Prime gift subscription. Two day shipping + free kindle books + free movies/tv shows is basically the gift that keeps on giving.)
I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for non-toy gifts!
Keep the connection going with our free Christmas Connection Set featuring 3 printable sets of conversation cards to add some fun and merriment to family dinner + a printable fill-in-the-blank gift letter! Click here to get yours!
Other Christmas Tutorials & Freebies: 12 Fun Free Christmas Fonts | Love You Latte Gift In A Bag | No-Sew Tutu | Free Photo Christmas Card Template | DIY Photo Color-A-Magnet | Printable Calendar Sticker Magnets | Free Christmas Card Template