Monday, April 29, 2013

5 Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Kids

When birthdays or holidays roll around, it's usually a safe bet that your kids are going to get a lot of toys. So if you're looking to give them gifts that won't get lost in the pile of toys they're sure to get from relatives and friends, here's a list of non-toy gifts that have 14-month old L's seal of approval (and that will work for kids who are younger and much older, too.) An added perk of these gifts is that they take up little or no space in your house.

Note: I'm including links for some of these. They're not necessarily products I endorse or have reviewed; they're just added to give suggestions for where you can find some of the gifts.

1. Bird Feeder
A friend in our neighborhood has a bird feeder outside of her playroom window, and the kids love watching the birds and squirrels that stop by, so I decided to get one for L with some money he got for his birthday. Ours hasn't attracted any squirrels yet, but we regularly see cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, mourning doves, a bunch of birds I can't name, and two ducks! L loves watching the birds (he thinks the ducks are especially hilarious.) Our play area windows extend down almost to the floor, so it's easy for L to look out and see the feeder. If your windows are higher, there are bird feeders that stick directly to the window with suction cups so that kids can see the birds even from below the window. (I found a suction cup window bird feeder for $3 at Big Lots last week.) For older kids, you can combine this with a bird book written especially for children (Amazon has a bunch of them here) so that they can identify the birds they see, or you can buy a bird feeder kit so that they can build and decorate it themselves (with adult help, of course.)

Bird feeder tip - Our feeder was up for a week without a single bird visiting it, so a friend suggested that I cover toilet paper rolls in peanut butter, roll them in bird seed, and then hang them in the tree near the feeder. Within 24 hours, our bird feeder was the new neighborhood hot spot for birds.

2. Play Rug
A play rug brightens up a play room or bedroom and will give kids more options for playing with the toys they already have. I've seen play rugs at Walmart, Lowe's, Home Depot and Big Lots. You can find typical city or road style rugs, dollhouse rugs, maps of the United States, and even hopscotch rugs. You can get them as small as 1.5'x2' or large enough to cover a whole room. We found the 8'x10' Pottery Barn Kids rug that we use in our kitchen play area at our local Once Upon a Child store for only $48.

For now, it's mostly just nice that his play area is padded for when he falls (which happens quite a lot.) But when he gets older, he can drive toy cars on the roads and train tracks.

3. Family Photo Album
We don't have any family nearby, so I had been meaning to put some family pictures in an album for L so that he'd recognize his relatives when they come to visit, but I never quite got around to it. And then my mom made him this awesome book!
When I put the book on the floor to take a picture, he immediately ran  over to grab it.
You can see his shadow and his foot in the bottom picture.
Each page has a picture of one or more of his family members, and she wrote a cute rhyming story to go with the pictures. Included are pictures of L's grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and parents (that's Dan and me... obviously.) She printed each picture onto thick computer paper, put each page into a plastic page protector, and put them all in a three-ringed binder. L loves the book so much that I recently confessed to my mom that I've had to hide it a few times when L was demanding that I read it dozens of times per day. You could make this as simple as a cheap photo album filled with pictures, or you could write a cute story like my mom did.

4. Zoo Membership
We just bought a zoo membership for the first time this year, but we have friends whose kids get a zoo membership as a gift every year. It's educational and fun, and it gives you something to do when you all need to get out of the house for a while. If you want your child to have an actual gift to open, you can combine it with a book (purchased or homemade) of pictures of animals you'll see when you visit the zoo.

5. Books
This is a favorite in our house. L loves when I read to him, and I try to make it a point of buying him at least one book for every major holiday. Even kids who don't typically like books will often enjoy them if you buy high quality books with a subject that interests them. Some kids' books are poorly written or illustrated, and even my 14-month old will reject books that aren't good. If you need ideas for good children's books, check out Sandra BoyntonBarefoot Books, or Usborne Books. For toddlers and babies, books should have only a few words per page (one to two sentences is a good length) and simple pictures or they'll quickly lose interest. We have a great used bookstore (Ukazoo Books) in our town, and I've found board books that looked brand new for $1-2.

For seven more great gifts that aren't toys, click here to visit my post, "12 Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Kids."

    Bethany is a contributing guest blogger for Mommys Craft Obsession. To read more, visit her blog, "I was promised more naps."

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  1. These are wonderful ideas! I love giving gifts, not just to my kids but to other kids, that aren't necessarily toys. Gifts that encourage creativity and/or getting outside are the best in my opinion.


  2. Great idea!! My granddaughter has SO MANY toys that half of them she dont even play with anymore!!

  3. You know, I had never thought about giving a bird feeder, but that makes such good sense! My 2-year-old LOVES watching the birds in the backyard :) I look forward to more creative ideas like these in your upcoming SoFab posts! (Welcome to the group again, btw!)

  4. Thanks, ladies! Glad you enjoyed the list! There are seven more ideas over on my blog!

  5. Great ideas! The birds are always a hit in our yard as well. We have several feeders out to keep our yard hopping. We also have a squirrel, Jumpy.

  6. I like these ideas. I've heard of giving stuff like zoo trips or of course personalizing days out with mom and dad as gift giving as well. I really like the combo of toy giving and these type of gifts too. Too many toys just make pickup too hard. The kids only like them for so long and no time is spent with mom and dad. Thanks for posting these.

  7. I've given museum memberships before and the rug but never thought about your other ideas. Thanks so much, I'm going to keep these gifts in the back of my mind. Thanks.

  8. Ahh, this is an awesome list of ideas. Especially since I have two kids birthdays coming. I bet my son would love a play rug. I hadn't ever looked at them!


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