Beyond toys: A gift guide for children

I love a good toy. Particularly one that invites open ended play. Toys can enhance and open up an child’s imagination in beautiful ways. And what child doesn’t want to open at least a few toys on Christmas day? You can be sure our kids are getting some toys, and this Mama is thrilled to get them as well.

Maybe, though, you would like to give something other than a toy. Or maybe you would like to give something in addition to a toy. Here are some great non-toy gift ideas for children. Many of them can be enjoyed by the whole family, so you could make it a family gift.

1. Ranger Rick (or Ranger Rick Jr.) Subscription

Our children were given a subscription to Ranger Rick Jr. (formerly Big Backyard) from one of Brian’s aunts. We are in our second year of the subscription and my kids thoroughly enjoy it. Each issue features a different wild life animal. We have learned so much about different animals that I wouldn’t normally even think to talk about. It has been both educational and fun.

And what kid doesn’t like getting mail? Each time the issue comes we love sitting down and reading the stories, looking at the beautiful pictures, and learning something new. We also enjoy doing some of the various activities and ideas included in the issue. We have the Jr. version, but they older kid version gets equal ratings.

Give a gift of learning about nature and wildlife. Not only will they enjoy it for any entire year, each time the issue comes they will think of you.

2. Kiwi Crates Subscription

Simply brilliant, I tell you. This is a perfect gift for the child that loves to craft–and for a mom that is too busy to always pull together the craft. By the time you find the idea, pin it, remember to get the supplies, only to realize you used the supplies on another craft before you ever did the original idea, crafting can take up a lot of time for a mom.

Kiwi Crates offers a monthly subscription, or a 3-month and 6- month option. The box comes to your door with several themed crafts, and all the supplies you will need for it. All crafts are intended for children ages 3-7 and will delight a child and relieve a mom.

They also have some stocking stuffer crafts that look adorable. What little boy wouldn’t love to be able to find all the materials to make his own cape, or a little girl to make some butterfly wings in their stocking?

3. Craft supplies or kits

Keeping with the craft theme, Artterro has craft kits for the older elementary child. Most of these kits are for children age 7 and up.  There are a host of options. From bookmaking, felt, bead, wire, bead, and paint, you can find a kit with all the supplies and directions for a craft lover.

My kids are still too young for these, but I know I have some nieces and nephews that would love some of these. Check out their catalog via their website, or order through Amazon.

Don’t want to get them a kit? Basic art and craft supplies make a great gift. If you add in some fun, unusual craft supplies it makes it even more exciting. If you are on Facebook, you know that our kids are getting re-stocked art supplies with a couple of fun new additions as part of their Christmas present.

4. Audio Stories

Ever since my oldest stopped taking a nap every day we have learned to love a good audio story. He often listens to these while he rests and plays quietly during rest time. You can buy quality audio stories or get them from your library. We have found that the quality of library audio books varies quite a bit.

Entire audio sets of books like The Chronicles of Narnia , or another story you know the child will love make a great gift.

Sparkle Stories has a subscription option for weekly stories. There are several different stories you can subscribe to for various ages. Each story has 52 segments, one story per week for a year.

We have never gotten a subscription, but they frequently offer free stories (obviously you don’t get the continuation) and we have really enjoyed those.

This is a husband and wife team who were formerly Waldorf educators. All the stories are original, and you will be supporting a family owned business.

Greathall also has a host of story options by Jim Weiss (who is the reader for the popular audio version of Story of the World books). You can find these stories divided by age (beginning at age 3), or by time period which would be great if you are studying, or your child has as particular interest, in a specific era of history.

I have only heard parts of Story of the World, so I can’t vouch for everything there, but there are some great options.

This is a great way to introduce children to stories, culture, history, and classic literature all at once. These are available on CD or by download.

5. Maestro Classics

These are technically audio stories, but they get in some classical music as well, so I’ll put them separately. Plus, we just love these.

You know I love classical music, and I love to have my kids listening and enjoying it as well. These CDs are fabulous.

Stephen Simon is a classical musician who was the Music Director of the Washington Chamber Orchestra at the Kennedy Center for 25 years. He founded Maestro Classics as a way to combine stories and classical music in hopes of encouraging a love of music in children.

Well, we love them. Hands down, Stefan will tell you that Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel and Peter and the Wolf are his all time favorite. These are always asked for as soon as we get in the car, and they frequently get listened to while the kids are playing as well.

Each CD features the track with the musical story. There are also additional tracks where they explain what instruments they used to make different sounds (like the trombones for the airplanes), and various other things. You can listen to a sample on their site.

You can buy these as CD’s or MP3 downloads off their site, or via Amazon.

Those are my ideas. Now I’d love to hear some of your ideas!

What are some great non-toy gifts for kids?

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  1. We also enjoy the Kids Discover, National Geographic Kids and Highlights magazines. Last year my kids got sleeping bags which they loved. New character type bed sheets are also a fun idea.

    • These are some great suggestions. My husband really enjoyed Highlights when he was a kid! Love the sleeping bag idea. My son would totally love that!

  2. Kristy Stewart says:

    We enjoy our annual membership to a children’s museum. Most of them offer reciprocal membership where you can visit other children’s museums for free or 50% of the cost. We have about four within two hours.

    • Love this! We have an annual zoo/science museum membership and it is so nice! That’s awesome that you have so many museums within a short radius!

  3. Our kiddo loves Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel! Her grandparents have gotten her a subscription to Sparkle Stories for Christmas and I’m so excited about it!

  4. Kristi Henson says:

    My mom looked into buying our family tickets to a play this year. We gave our 6 year old horseback trail ride tickets for the family for her birthday. Also, a gift of paying for lessons on art, cooking, piano, gymnastics, ballet, etc. would be so nice!
    One year my Dad, who is a great artist, but almost never has time to do anything with it, gave us a coupon for a few art lessons with him…loved that!
    My husband once gave me a coupon book he made for monthly dates and that could easily be re-done for a child.
    One thing I try to do each year is something crafty- I picked up a set of t-shirt paints at a discount store this year. I’ll match that with t-shirts for each one or maybe a little tote bag to paint and that will make a whole afternoon of fun for one day. (last year it was some pretty beads with bracelet making supplies.)
    I end up walking through the malls and stores and feeling like there is nothing else there I want in my house. We have three girls it’s hard to shop for the youngest because “we already have one of those at home.” I would take an experience or time spent doing something together any day!

    • These are some really great ideas. I love the lesson idea (piano, gymnastics, etc). I totally know what you mean about the youngest child. I feel the same way about our son. Most of our toys are gender neutral so it’s kind of hard to know what to get him!

  5. I really enjoyed some of your ideas. I checked out the Ranger Rick Jr. magazine. Terrific! I also loved the idea of having all the craft ideas and supplies delivered every so often. They didn’t have anything like that back when . . . . Great idea, especially for little ones.

    I like growing flower bulbs in the winter. Becky especially liked that. The “vase” thing holds the bulb, so you can see the roots and watch it sprout. Of course, art supplies, like colored pencils, paints (washable!), and brushes were good. David liked tools from little on. We got him a set of plastic ones with big screws, nuts, etc. when he was quite small. He loved them. Later, of course, he “graduated” to real tools and real projects. Seeds, dirt, planting a garden. Kids love to see something come up–even if the only dirt is in a flower pot.

    • Love the flower bulb idea. A garden kit is a really good idea. Stefan is enthralled with things growing so he would love that!

  6. Ooooh. This is a good list to remember for later. I’m especially interested in the last one :)

  7. I like the idea of crafts for kids. I always try to get my kiddo, nieces and nephews art supplies and open-ended toys.

    I’ve also given money, but with a caveat: I put the money in a savings account under their names that they can’t touch until they’re 25. This sort of shows them the value of compounding interest, delayed gratification, and the awesomeness of getting a pretty sweet lump sum!

    • Money is a great idea. They may not know to appreciate it right now but they will love it when they are older and open it up! It’s a great idea to have an account that grandparents and aunts/uncles can contribute to.

  8. Andrea Cavanaugh says:

    I had not known about the Maestro Classics — what a great product! I am thinking about getting one for my niece and nephew!

    I have also done magazine subscriptions (Nat Geo Kids) in the past for my niece and nephew, and that has been a great hit!

    • They really are well done. They’ve added one new story since we got our set and it’s already on my wish list! Hope your niece and nephew enjoy it!

      I’m definitely considering that subscription for the kids in the future. Glad to know it’s a winner!


  1. […] already told you how much my kids enjoy these CDs. They are a great way to give children a taste for classical […]

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