Wonderful non-toy gifts for kids, 2020 edition

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There is a focus now on consumerism during the holidays, but non-toy gifts can help you celebrate the holidays and birthdays and promote the spirit of giving…without filling up your house with toys that won’t get used much. Check out these top non-toy gifts for kids that they are sure to love!

Non-toy gifts are great to:

  • Increase family time!
  • Help with budgeting– many of them are super practical, so they can be used throughout the year.
  • Decrease clutter in your home.
  • Promote quality over quantity!

Table of Contents

Practical non-toy gifts for kids

These toys are as useful as they are cute! Many of them are hand made and customizable– so you’ll need to order them ahead of time. But, it’ll be worth the wait.

nontoy gifts for kids apron and chef hat
Photo Credit: Touch of Grey Designs
  • Why it’s wonderful: This apron is perfect for aspiring chefs! They help make cooking alongside their favorite adults extra special, and help keep their clothes clean too. This Etsy seller offers different designs, and you can personalize them.
  • Ages: 2-7 years old
  • Skills: Promotes creative thinking and cooking (which supports fine motor skills, sensory exploration, and gross motor skills).
nontoy gift for kids rabbit suit
Photo credit: Purple Wishing Well
  • Why it’s wonderful: Dramatic play is a timeless endeavor for young children. The Purple Wishing Well creates stunning handmade costumes for children– they have something for everyone. From blue jays to lions to robots, these suits can help a child’s pretend play come to life.
  • Ages: 2-6 years old.
  • Skills: Creativity, empathy.
  • Notes: This photo is the rabbit suit, which can be found here. It can be customized to be washable! Just message the seller and ask her about it. For us, she made the tail detachable so we could throw it in the wash.
  • Features: This mermaid tail blanket is the perfect gift for the kid who has everything! It’s sure to become a favorite. This one is crocheted, machine washable and dry-able, and available in multiple colors.
  • Ages:  4-7 years old (but they do have larger sizes available as well!)
  • Skills: Creativity, imagination.
  • Notes: This blanket also includes a mermaid keychain.
  • Why it’s wonderful: This beautiful wooden box is perfect for children to keep their “treasures.” My son loves to collect rocks and shells from the beach, and excitedly returns home to keep them in his treasure box. There are many options on the market, but this one is a stunning gender neutral option for children (and adults) of all ages. It comes in a variety of designs (animals, sports, and more), and is available in small, large, and with drawers. Plus, it doesn’t have any buckles or clasps on the front, which could be tricky for small hands to navigate. This box allows children to open and close their box without any assistance from adults- but the lid is attached so it won’t get lost, either. It has sturdy hinges, incredible craftsmanship, and is sure to last for years to come. 
  • Ages:  3+ years old
  • Skills: Language skills, fine motor skills.
  • Why it’s wonderful: This rain suit allows children to play outside, even if it’s pouring down rain! It is lined with fleece, and when paired with rain boots, can keep children completely dry. This is the perfect gift to help kids fall in love with dancing in the rain.
  • Sizes:  1T-7
  • Skills: Encourages outdoor play and exercise.
  • Notes: If you live in a warmer climate, check out this Tuffo rain suit that isn’t lined with fleece.
  • Want to find items to go with this gift? To check out my comprehensive post on rain gear for kids, click here.
  • Why they’re wonderful: Little Adventures makes the best dress up clothes that I’ve come across. They are made to be comfortable, and worn regularly. They are machine washable and made from comfortable fabric. Plus, they don’t have any zippers or snap closures, and don’t have any itchy fabric (as so many dress up clothes do). They come in a variety of styles- whether your child is looking for a princess dress, pirate ensemble, animal wings or a superhero cape, this company has it all.
  • Ages:  3-6 years old
  • Skills: Language skills, empathy, creativity.
nontoys gifts for kids pencil pouch
Photo credit: MojicalDesigns
  • Why it’s wonderful: This zipper pouch can be used to hold just about anything on-the-go! Pencils and pens, mini notebooks, small toys, or any other treasures that children find. These can promote independence by allowing children to have their own “special” space for things. Plus, having their name on it is a great opportunity to encourage name recognition.
  • Ages: 2+ years old
  • Skills: Fine motor skills, independence.
  • Notes: This pouch is customizable! Contact the seller to personalize it for the child in your life. They also are the perfect size for adults to use to organize suitcases, purses, or diaper bags.
nontoy gifts for kids art smock
Photo credit: Pink Petunia
  • Why it’s wonderful: This art smock can help make arts and crafts extra special! Unlike others on the market, this one is made of fabric and not plastic, making it more breathable. It’s machine washable, so it can just be thrown in the laundry after a messy project. I prefer that to a plastic one that has to be wiped down– that ends up being time consuming and inconvenient for things like glue and glitter. Plus, it is one of the only ones that I could find that has pockets and long sleeves, for full coverage. It has a velcro closure on the back so it’s super adjustable.
  • Sizes: 2T-5T. Contact seller for more information.
  • Skills: Language skills, fine motor skills.
  • Notes: This Etsy seller has SO many fabrics available. You can contact her and inquire about any color or fabric that you are interested in. Each smock is customizable.
  • Want to see toys to promote creative play? Check out my comprehensive post about promoting creative thinking here, which is full of top of the line arts and craft supplies.
non toy gifts for kids montessori screwdriver board
Photo credit: Lines Up
  • Why it’s wonderful: This Montessori-inspired board is the perfect opportunity for kids to get hands-on experience with real tools! It comes with a variety of screws, a screw-driver that’s perfect for little hands, two allen wrenches, and a hexagon wrench. Plus, it has two cut outs that children can use to hold their screws while they’re taking them out so they don’t roll away. This board allows children to practice over and over again– and this repetition is something that children crave for mastery.
  • Ages: 3-5 years old
  • Skills: Fine motor skills, gross motor skills.
non toy gifts for kids diy bird feeder
Photo credit: Broken Sparrow Studio
  • Why it’s wonderful: This hands-on kit comes with everything you need to make a bird feeder! Once it’s done, you can work together to hang them up outside and watch the birds flock to it for a snack.
  • Ages: 3-8 years old
  • Skills: Fine motor skills, empathy.
  • Notes: These bird feeders are dipped in peanut butter, which is a common allergen for young children. You can use a nut butter alternative, but if you are not the parent, make sure you mention to the parents/guardians that the kit includes peanut butter.
  • Why it’s wonderful: This kindle was made especially with young children in mind. As of today, it comes with a 1 year subscription to Amazon Kids+, which gives children access to a lending library and audible, so kids can listen to books as well as read them. It also includes a magnetic cover. Plus, it has a 2 year “worry guarantee”– if it breaks, Amazon will replace it for you. It comes with a black-and-white anti-glare screen, so children can read outside without any trouble. And, it has parental controls, so children can’t access adult content on it.
  • Ages: 7-12 years old
  • Skills: Language skills, fine motor skills.
  • Notes: This is not a tablet– it’s an eReader, meaning that it does not come with apps and it has a  black-and-white screen. It is strictly for reading. Also it is for older children, since picture books are not compatible with this model. If you’re looking for more of a tablet, check out the Kindle Fire Kids here.
  • Why it’s wonderful: This backpack is a great size for smaller children! It has two zipper pockets, and two mesh pockets on the outside for water bottles.
  • Ages:  2+ years old
  • Skills: Independence, fine motor skills.
  • Notes: Many adults boasted that they also used this mini-back pack as their diaper bag or personal bag.
  • Why it’s wonderful: Melissa & Doug has an entire line of dramatic play clothes that highlight jobs in our communities- train engineer, police officer, fire fighter, doctor, chef, and construction worker. These gender neutral, machine washable sets allow children to jump into the shoes of another person, and learn more about their community. I like these sets because they are durable and don’t come with a bunch of plastic-y props that will just end up broken all over my house.
  • Ages: 3-6 years old
  • Skills: Language skills, creativity, empathy.
  • Want to see more?  Check out my comprehensive post about toys (such as this one) that promote creative thinking here.
  • Why it’s wonderful: This adorable piggy bank is lightweight and shatterproof! Plus, kids “feed” coins directly into the pig’s mouth, instead of into a hold in their back. This is a great way to encourage savings in a hands-on way. Plus, it doubles as a great place for parents to put their spare change, too.
  • Ages:  3+ years old
  • Skills: Independence, fine motor skills, responsibility.
  • Notes: If you are shopping for an older child who is ready to think about where their money is going, check out this three part coin bank that has separate areas for saving, spending, and sharing money.

Non-toy gifts for kids' bedrooms

Spicing up a kid’s space is a great way to make them feel special.

Earlier this year, my son was thrilled to add a toy chest to our home– and he quickly learned that he could empty it out and use it as a rocket ship!

non toy gifts for kids toy chest
Photo credit: Dibsies
  • Features: This classic design comes with a book holder on the side! It has a child-safe closure and rounded corners.
  • Ages: 1-6 years old
  • Skills: Responsibility, gross motor skills.
  • Notes: This chest only is available with names that are 9 letters long max.
  • Why it’s wonderful: This two-in-one piece includes space for books to be displayed and a shelf for storage. Plus, it includes a wall bracket so it can be mounted to the wall for safety.
  • Ages:  2+ years old
  • Skills: Literacy.
  • Why it’s wonderful: This genius contraption is a cover that you fill up by stuffing blankets or stuffed animals inside of it. It is a great option for kids who have a plethora of stuffed animals taking up space, or can be a way to make use of extra linens that are lying around the house. It can be machine washed, and adults noted that they could snuggle up with their kiddo to read a book together.
  • Ages:  3+ years old
  • Skills: Gross motor skills.
  • Notes: Reviewers did note that it takes a lot of stuffed animals to fill this up (though they do have two sizes available), so it’s really only a good option for kids who already have quite a lot that they’re not using. Also, they shared that it is almost impossible to get it to look like the picture because stuffed animals are such different shapes. They noted that usually it ends up being very lumpy-looking— but that it’s still comfortable.
  • Features: This sturdy toy chest is lightweight (easy to move!) and durable enough to last for many years. In fact, my in-laws bought this for my husband when he was a child and we are now using it (over 20 years later) for our son’s toys. It’s made of plastic, and therefore easy to clean.
  • Ages:  1-8 years old
  • Skills: Responsibility, gross motor skills.
  • Why it’s wonderful: This mini-sofa is a great personal chair for toddlers and preschoolers. Unlike other toddler chairs on the market, this one is sturdy (it’s weight limit is 110lbs– though too small to fit someone who weighs that much!). Plus, it’s available in adorable prints.
  • Ages: 1.5-4 years old
  • Notes: This sofa is surface clean only- it doesn’t have a removable cover. However, parents noted that they can wipe it off easily, and the fabric is made to dry quickly.

Non-toy gifts for kids that promote exercise and outdoor play!

Outdoor play is essential for kids. It has so many benefits. It promotes skills including overall wellness, exercise, and problem solving. Check out these top toys that can help support outdoor play.

Photo credit: The Gifted Tomato
  • Features: This kit comes with everything needed to start growing a vegetable garden! It includes dehydrated soil, pots, and seeds (lettuce, pumpkins, green bush beans, orange carrots, red cherry tomatoes, mixed lettuce, and teddy bear sunflower seeds).
  • Ages: 2-8 years old
  • Skills: Language skills, fine motor skills, empathy, science, cause and effect.
  • Notes: Once they have sprouted, they need to be transferred into bigger containers outside.

Toddlers are hardwired to move their bodies, climb, jump, and wiggle. Adding a climbing toy to your home or yard can provide hours of entertainment, while promoting gross motor development and physical exercise.

  • Why it’s wonderful: This play set can be used by multiple children simultaneously, at various ages. It has multiple play areas– the slide, “rock wall” ladder, fort area. Plus, the underneath area can be used for storage or additional play space. It’s easy to clean and can be used indoor or outdoor.
  • Ages: 2-7 years old
  • Skills: Gross motor skills, balance, coordination.
  • Want to see other climbing toys? Find the top toddler climbing toys here.
  • Why it’s wonderful: This rope swing can be attached to trees or existing swing sets for loads of fun and gross motor practice. It can be used as a swing, or a climbing rope.
  • Ages: 3+ years old
  • Skills: Gross motor skills, balance.
  • Notes: This is adjustable– it can be easily shortened by tying if it is too long for your space/structure.
  • Why it’s wonderful: Strider bikes are incredible– they allow children to find their sense of balance on a bike from a very young age. Children learn how to “kick” to start, so they can ride before they’re old enough to use pedals. This is their larger model, which has a “pedal conversion kit” (sold separately here). They won’t need this at first, but can upgrade to it as they get older. The tires are made of plastic- so they’ll never go flat.
  • Ages:  3-7 years old
  • Skills: Gross motor skills, balance, coordination, depth perception, physical exercise.
  • Notes: Strider also has a balance bike for 1.5-5 year olds, that can be found here. It doesn’t have a pedal conversion kit, but is a very popular option for younger children who are ready for their own set of wheels.
  • Why it’s wonderful: This scooter is the sturdier of the A model line offered by Razor. It boasts large wheels, a shock-system (for a smoother ride) and a wheelie bar. It’s still lightweight enough to be a great option for younger riders, but will  hold up well as they grow.
  • Ages:  5-8 years old
  • Skills: Gross motor skills, balance, coordination, depth perception, physical exercise.
  • Want to see more scooters? Check out my comprehensive view of scooters here. It’s got info on the best scooter for riders of all ages.

Subscriptions/Gift cards for kids

This year, many attractions and theme parks are closed– but there are still wonderful subscriptions and programs available that promote family time and learning.

Tinkergarten offers year-round outdoor classes for young kids and their families!
  • Features: Tinkergarten has classes designed to support children and families embrace creative, outdoor play. They offer classes year-round throughout the country!
  • Ages:  1.5-8 years old
  • Skills: Language skills, creativity, empathy, problem solving, gross motor skills.
  • Notes: During COVID, Tinkergarten is offering classes virtually!
  • Why it’s wonderful: This affordable subscription sends 6 magazines throughout the year. Each one is packed with animal facts, games, and literacy activities.
  • Ages: 3-6 years old
  • Skills: Language skills, fine motor skills, literacy, science.
  • Features: Kindle Unlimited gift subscriptions are available in pre-paid 3, 6, or 12 month increments. This program boasts a variety of children’s literature. With a membership, users can “borrow” up to 10 books at a time–and they can be returned with the click of a button. Normally, I’d recommend good ol’ fashioned books. However, Kindle Unlimited is a  wonderful tool during the pandemic to “fill the gap” of books– since it is currently harder to access school and local libraries.
  • Ages:  2-99 years old
  • Skills: Language skills, literacy.
  • Notes: There is a Kindle app, so families can access these books on their various phones/tablets. However, they work best on a Kindle Fire. I read aloud to my son on my Kindle Fire, but there are also Kindle Fire Kid Editions available here.

Why should I consider non-toy gifts?

What's the problem with toys, anyway?

For the record, toys are wonderful. There are toys on the market that support kids learning, growth, and development. When chosen thoughtfully, toys can get lots of use and benefit. I’ve reviewed dozens of toys that can be wonderful gifts (find those guides here).

But, child development experts are actually finding that less is more, where toys are concerned.

Psychology Today reported that a study at the University of Toledo in Ohio suggested that “an abundance of toys present reduced quality of toddlers’ play.” In fact, the study found that “fewer toys… result in healthier play, and, ultimately, deeper cognitive development.” This study echos what I saw as an infant teacher– children are capable of focusing on one thing at a time and working to understand it deeply, but this becomes difficult for them to do if there are a lot of options available. This trend continues as children age.

So, non-toy gifts can be a solid option for kids. They also promote learning, development, and time together, without cluttering up a child’s space or mind.

Do kids like gifts that aren't toys?

Yes! Non-toy gifts are practical, but when chosen thoughtfully, children can still connect with them.

Last year, we got my son an apron and a smock. He was only 2 years old, so he didn’t really understand what it was for when he unwrapped it. But, they turned out to be one of the most used gifts of the year. Now that he knows what they’re for, they are special because they both get used when it’s time to do something fun together… art and cooking.

Another bonus? There is still years of use left in both.

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