9 Non-Stuff Gift Ideas for Kids

Instead of toys, games or other material things, consider some of these non-stuff gift ideas for the kids in your life.

I know that it’s fun to watch kids unwrap presents. I love when my son opens a gift from me and his face lights up. But what are we teaching our children with all of this stuff?

As Christmas and Hanukkah approach, I think it’s a good time for us to consider some non-material gifts for kids.

Kids don’t need mountains of toys to know that we love them. In fact, rewarding kids with more stuff can actually do them harm as they grow up. Kids with fewer toys tend to use their imaginations more, and grow up to be less materialistic.

I love the holidays, but since having a kid, it does give me a little bit of dread. My son’s room is small, and I feel like we are already at maximum capacity in the storage department. And I’m not the only parent who feels this way. Many of the parents I know get stressed about where they’re going to put the mountain of holiday gifts from well-meaning family members.

Too many toys means a cluttered living space, which actually harms our health.

That doesn’t mean you should throw all of your kid’s toys in the trash or have nothing for them under the tree. There is a difference between getting a kid a gift you know he will love and buying stuff for stuff’s sake. What it does mean is that we can pare back on the material gifts in favor of these no-stuff kift ideas for kids.

Instead of toys, games, or other material things, consider some of these non-stuff gift ideas for the kids in your life.

No-Stuff Gifts for Kids

1. Museum Tickets

This is one of my favorite non-stuff gifts. My dad renews our membership to a local children’s science museum every year. A museum membership is a gift that gives back all year long. I love that his gift supports a great museum and that we have a fun, educational option on bad-weather days.

2. Movie Tickets

Older kids will love gift certificates to their local movie theater. Get enough for a pair of tickets and a snack, so they can treat one of their friends to a movie and popcorn. They’ll love how grown-up they feel when they use it.

3. Theater Tickets

If the kid in your play loves music or theater, consider passes to a show. My son is obsessed with brass instruments, for example, so tickets to a kid’s symphony performance would make his Christmas morning. You get to support the arts and help a child’s creative interests bloom.

4. National Park Passes

National parks and monuments need our support more than ever. Throw some cash their way, and encourage the kids in your life to play outdoors.

5. Music Lessons

Music lessons can be a great gift, if it’s done thoughtfully. Make sure that the child is interested in lessons and has access to the instrument to practice on outside of class. You’ll also want to make sure that the parents are on board, since they’ll likely be the ones figuring out how to get the kid to and from those lessons.

6. Art Classes

This can be an amazing gift, with the same stipulations as the music lessons. Make sure the kid will have any needed supplies, and make sure his or her parents can handle transportation to and from class.

7. Theme Park Passes

Does the kid in your life love roller coasters? Disney movies? Waterslides? Talk to their parents about organizing a related theme park pass as a gift. Like with music lessons or art classes, this gift does put a logistical burden on parents, but if you coordinate with them, it can be an awesome adventure for the whole family. Just be ready to hear ‘no’ on this one. If money is tight, traveling to a theme park may not be possible, even if the passes part of the trip is covered.

8. Gift Card to a Bookstore

My son’s aunt gets all of the kids bookstore gift cards every Christmas, and I love it! Yes, this gift translates into stuff, but it’s an experience that teaches my son about budgeting and about valuing what he has. He has to keep his purchases within the limit of the gift card, and he’s so proud when he swipes his gift card to pay for a book he has been wanting. He cherishes that book even more, because he bought it himself.

9. A Donation

My parents donated a tree in Israel in our names for one night of Hanukkah each year. My little sister and I didn’t love it at first, but as we got older, we really got into it. Charitable gifts teach your kid that giving back is as important as receiving.


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