This Year We Decided to Explore Christmas Gifts for Toddlers (that aren’t toys)
Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year for toddlers and other children. And while every kid loves getting toys at Christmas, parents with toddlers at home often find themselves buried in a sea of plastic in primary colors.
Many of these cheap toys not only get outgrown very quickly by toddlers, but they can also become a serious form of clutter. Christmas gifts for toddlers that AREN’T toys are a relief to MOST parents, and… you actually have a ton of options!
Related: Christmas Traditions for Kids
Gifts such as experiences, art supplies, musical instruments, skill development tools, and practical items like bedroom décor and clothing can all be great gifts for a toddler who already has more toys than they know what to do with.
I do think it’s important to consider whether reducing (or at least not adding to) the clutter is an important factor in your gift choice. While I don’t necessarily consider the items on this list to be toys, they’re still often physical in nature and can definitely add to the clutter.
Related: How to Clean When You’re Paralyzed by “The Mess”
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Memberships to Local Attractions Make Great Gifts for Toddlers
Toddlers need to experience and explore the world in the form of outings and new sensory stimuli to help them develop emotionally, physically, and socially. (Source: Kid’s Health)
The best way to get them out into the world to have those experiences and discover new things they love is to gift them memberships to local attractions. Plus, giving the gift of a date is something a toddler gets to enjoy with family – what could be better?
While a toddler is unlikely to appreciate a gift like this as much as a physical toy, it’s something they’ll likely grow from and enjoy much more.
Gifting trips to places and attractions such as the following can make any toddler happy:
Children’s museumArt museumAquariumTheme parkTrampoline gymBowling alley
These things can be SO much fun! And we know that exposing a toddler to many different experiences from early childhood can help them learn who they are and even discover the world.
Related: Toddler Activities (To Keep Mommy Sane)
Learning gifts are great for young kids
Kids often enjoy learning gifts even more than they enjoy “mindless” toy gifts, because they LOVE learning!
We recently got to try these children’s microscopes from thestemkids.com and I couldn’t BELIEVE how much my kiddos (ages 3 + 5) loved them.
The you can purchase slides to check out (VERY cool – great quality and things kid are familiar with and interested in… like ants, butterfly wings, bumblebee parts etc).
You can also stick anything you have in the house under the scope to learn about your surroundings – watch out, they’ll pull out their own eyelashes to see what they look like – ask me how I know, haha!
Literally seeing things in a new way – discovering there is so much more to the world than meets the eye – was SO much fun for my kids!
We tried our microscopes out for the first time with friends, and my son loved his microscope so much he promptly packed it up when we were finished, to make sure it wouldn’t get left behind!
Recycled Home Items for Make-Believe Are Great Cheap Gifts for Toddlers
For people who are strapped for cash during the holidays, going all-out on the most expensive electronics and gadgets for your toddler may not only be cost-prohibitive, it’s TOTALLY unnecessary. As evidenced by the thousands of toddlers each year who have just as much fun with the boxes their toys come in as the toys themselves!
Toddlers enjoy creative toys that allow for make-believe play. Playing dress-up and other pretend play is a big hit—no batteries needed and, even better, no elaborate instruction booklet. Little ones almost immediately know what to do with these things– play! And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to put together.
Here are some household items that can be recycled or purchased (even secondhand) to make up cool and elaborate make-believe playsets for children:
Clothing and accessories Old Halloween costumes, wigs, and other propsKitchen items like small pots and pans, spatulas, measuring cups, and an apron
Be sure that any make-believe household items that you gift to a toddler are age-appropriate and safe. Skip the wrapping paper and put the items in a cute storage bin that gives Mom an easy place to keep everything! Add ribbon and a bow, and you’re set.
Travel Supplies for Toddlers Are Fun (and useful – esp. if you include an overnight trip as part of the gift!)
If a family has an upcoming trip or for toddlers who spend time between households—either toddlers with separated parents or toddlers who love lots of overnight sleepovers with Grandma—fun travel supplies like a child-sized suitcase, special blanket, and fun to-go games are a thoughtful gift.
This way, they have a special something to look forward to when getting ready for an overnight.
Here are some good options for travel supplies that are kid-sized and kid-friendly:
Kittrich Corporation Travel Activity KitTrunki Original Kids Ride-on Suitcase and Carry-on LuggageFunday Toddler Backpack with Removable Wheels and RabbitWildkin 3 Piece Zippered Organizer for Travel EssentialsFluffy Dinosaur Blanket for Baby Boys Girls
Making sure that toddlers have their setup for traveling not only makes the idea of travel or visiting other people more fun for them, but it may even give them some familiarity with the idea of packing for travel. When the next family vacation comes up, they’ll be prepared!
Related: Special Things to do on Christmas Day With Family
Creative Gifts Are Good Options for Toddlers
Creative gifts that encourage a toddler’s innate artistic abilities or musical talents are a good option not only to give toddlers something fun to do; they can also help develop fine motor skills and a musical ear.
These gifts give a child something fun and creative to do on those cold winter days coming up – and it’s something siblings and parents can engage in with them. Plus, toddlers LOVE art – even if you spend more time getting prepared and cleaning up the “art” than your toddler spends doing it.
Here are some creative gifts that are a good choice for fostering artistic abilities in toddlers:
MusicMusical instrumentsArt suppliesCrafting suppliesColoring posters
Not only can these creative gifts give toddlers hours of entertainment in the post-Christmas lull, but they may also spark a lifelong love of the arts.
A Piggy Bank is a Good Christmas Gift for Toddlers
A piggy bank or some other kind of fun and decorative bank is a cute option as a Christmas gift because toddlers may receive money from extended family as gifts – or they may just enjoy stowing away change Mommy gives them from her purse. Saving gift money is a good, early opportunity for toddlers to learn about the concepts of saving, spending and sharing.
Related: Learning Gifts for Toddlers
Here are some of the best piggy banks for toddlers:
Moonjar Classic Save Spend Share 3-Part MoneyboxXREXS Cool Armored Car Bank with Lights and SoundHUSAN Kid’s Code Electric Piggy BankLefree Digital Piggy BankPhocas Toy Story Piggy Bank
If you gift a toddler a piggy bank, it’s a good idea also to gift them some paper money and coins, but be sure that any coins a toddler receives are either used under supervision or placed inside the piggy bank where they can’t be swallowed.
Outdoor Gifts for Developing Skills Are Great for Toddlers
When you have a toddler in an outdoorsy family, they’ll want to get in on the action whether you’re putting in a vegetable garden, heading out to your local campground, or going out fishing on a bass boat.
Ensuring that toddlers have their own child-sized versions of the tools used by the adults can get them excited about these outings and help them feel included and special.
Related: Chores for Four Year Olds
Here are a few great outdoor gifts that aren’t toys that make good Christmas gifts for toddlers:
ROCA Home Kids Gardening ToolsG & F Products JustforKids Tool SetsKid Casters Paw Patrol Fishing PolePlussino Kid’s Fishing Kit and PoleMeland Toddler Camping SetMini Explorer Nature’s Explorer Kit
These kinds of outdoor gifts help younger kids feel involved when they get to tag along with adults on outings like camping trips, fishing trips, and trips out to the backyard garden. They can also help encourage physical activity and creativity.
Gifts That Explore Living Things Are a Good Choice for Animal Loving Toddlers
There are many gifts for a toddler that can help introduce them to keeping pets and exploring the natural world without giving them the responsibility of dealing with a dog, cat, or larger pet. Caring for a simple ecosystem such as an ant farm or an aquarium can give a toddler hours of pleasure watching these small creatures explore their environment.
Keep in mind that if you plan to gift a toddler an aquarium, terrarium, ant farm, or similar setup and the toddler isn’t your own, you’ll need to get permission from the parents before gifting it. Since toddlers can’t be depended on to care for these animals full-time, it will often fall on a parent to ensure that fish (or ants) get regularly fed and cared for.
Here are some options for terrariums, aquariums, ant farms, and other biological gifts that toddlers will enjoy adding to their rooms:
Marineland Three Gallon Aquarium with Rail LightScience Lab Worm Farm Observatory and Terrarium for KidsUptown Farmer Kids Terrarium with LED Night LightEducational Insights GeoSafari Ant FactoryInsect Lore Butterfly Growing KitNature Bound Bug Catcher with Habitat Bucket
Toddlers already enjoy observing bugs and small animals. Encouraging this love early on and exposing children to small creatures also fosters their natural sense of empathy and teaches them how to handle other living things with love and compassion.
Since insects can feel pain and can be easily hurt or damaged by well-intentioned but clumsy toddlers, it’s a good idea for toddlers to interact with these gifts under adult supervision. In the meantime, just exposing toddlers to insects, fish, and other small animals can help foster a love for biology and science that may eventually blossom into a love for STEM.
Related: Christmas Eve Activities for Families
Practical Gifts are Good Ideas for Toddlers, Too
Many grown-ups in a kid’s life are afraid of being the one who gets the sensible, “boring” gift. We all want to give them the thing they love and makes them smile. But guess what? Some of those practical items are what a toddler uses every day and may grow with them as part of their life. That is far from boring. And let’s face it, more toys than they know what to do with.
Here are a few examples of practical gifts that can help fill out a toddler’s gift list:
Books: Books are anything but ordinary or practical. They are magical, especially when part of a bedtime routine with parents. Look for chunky-paged books that toddlers can page through themselves or a book of classic tales or bible stores a family member can read to them. Christmas-themed books can give them something new to incorporate into many special holiday seasons to come.Blanket: Nobody can have too many blankets, and toddlers especially like having a varied selection of them to choose from both as comfort objects and for use in make-believe games, where they can serve as a variety of different imaginary tools.Special bath towel: Having a colorful bath towel or one that features a favorite cartoon character can help make bath time special for toddlers and make the entire process of taking a bath more entertaining. Add-ons to the gift can include things like bathtub crayons or bubble bath. You can even get matching bathroom décor with the towel, such as shower curtains, toothbrush holders, and mouth-rinsing cups.A sleeping bag: Not only do sleeping bags make good gifts for use during travel or camping trips, but they are also used (like blankets) in many make-believe activities where they can serve as an imaginary cave or as a covering for a blanket fort.Clothing: Getting toddlers a variety of clothing can help them learn how to pick out their own outfits and can give them a sense of independence and self-expression by allowing them to choose which clothing, shoes, and other accessories they are going to wear each day.Children’s jewelry: Children’s jewelry can be a HUGE hit in some households. My friend’s daughter LOVES playing dress up, which makes jewelry a great gift for imaginative play (which is super important for toddlers). You don’t need anything fancy so costume jewelry is TOTALLY ok. With that being said – be wary of something too cheap – you don’t want it falling apart after being put on and taken off a handful of times.A swoop bag or pickup bag for cleaning activities: It’s never too early to teach kids how to help clean up their room or performing other small tasks around the house, and a “swoop bag” or pickup bag can make cleaning seem less overwhelming and more exciting.A child-sized umbrella: All toddlers love to play around in the rain and jump in puddles, and giving a toddler an umbrella—along with maybe some rain boots and a raincoat—can allow them to indulge in this activity. You don’t need bad weather to enjoy playing with an umbrella though – they’re plenty of fun for kids to “shield” themselves when playing in summertime sprinklers.Snacks: All people—no matter their age—love getting a gift that consists of their favorite snacks, especially if they don’t usually get free access to them. Toddlers will love a gift basket made up of all of their favorite treats and candies. Definitely check with the parents before doing this though – and including a few healthy treats will make them more willing to allow this kind of gift.Bedroom decorations such as clocks or night lights: There are plenty of adorable bedroom decorations available to help toddlers embellish their rooms and make them a cozy haven to get away from the world.
As you can see, there are plenty of practical gifts to give a toddler that can help give them a little more diversity in their gift selection and make sure that they have some things that they need along with the things they want.
Related: The Secret To Getting Your Toddler to Eat Vegetables
If you’re buying practical gifts for a toddler that isn’t your own, ask their parents to get some idea of what they like as far as themes (such as unicorns or stars or certain sports). This can make it SO much easier to narrow down the types of gifts they will use and enjoy.
Puzzles and Board Games are Good for Toddlers
Puzzles and board games aren’t just a good option for keeping toddlers busy on a rainy afternoon; these gifts also improve fine motor function, collaborative, turn-taking, and other important skills. Puzzles and board games are also good options for toddlers to learn how to play with others in a group activity. Sharing may come naturally to a few toddlers (probably – I’ve never met one), and activities that encourage it are good for a toddler’s development. (Source: Psychology Today)
When choosing puzzles and board games for toddlers, it’s important to look at the age range specified for the puzzle or board game to make sure that it is not too advanced for the toddler to grasp. This is important because you want activities like this to be FUN – and a frustrated toddler may decide they don’t like puzzles before really giving them a chance.
Here are some great puzzles and board games for gifting to toddlers:
Beestech Elementary Jigsaw PuzzlesGetianlai Wooden Sorting Block PuzzleMelissa and Doug Colorful Fish Chunky PuzzleHasbro Gaming Candy LandPressman Let’s Go Fishin’ThinkFun Roll and Play Game for Toddlers
Many puzzles and board games come with small pieces that can be easy for toddlers to use if left unsupervised, so many of these games and puzzles should be played under supervision. You might want to include a reusable zip-up bag like these with your gift to help parents keep small pieces neatly collected and organized.
There are So Many Christmas Gifts You Can Give a Toddler That Aren’t Toys
There are many reasons to look to alternative ideas for gifting a toddler during Christmas, from trying to keep down the amount of clutter in the house to saving money during the holidays. The truth is that unlike adolescents and adults, toddlers can often be quite happy—or even happier—getting experiences or opportunities for creativity and make-believe play from their Christmas gifts.
The good thing about creative or non-toy gifts is that it is easy to cater your gift ideas to the interests of a toddler. So, whether you’re trying to get a gift for a pink-loving girly-girl or you want to encourage a budding biologist in their bug-catching habits, there are more than enough ideas to choose from!
Do you have a great non-toy gift idea for toddlers? We’d love to hear about it!
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