If your home is anything like mine, no matter how many children’s toys we give away or sneak into the recycle bin, there is always a mountain of toys around.
Now, don’t get me wrong –I really like toys, and I know that play-time is an ESSENTIAL part of a child’s development, but it’s the sheer volume that bothers me.
We wrote letters to Santa in our house this week, and it struck me that my kids were asking for toys that they didn’t yet have, rather than for things that they really wanted.
Maybe spending time with our precious kids is a far greater gift than anything we can wrap up? And although they may not jump up and down with such glee on Christmas morning as gifts are unwrapped, 20 years from now, maybe they’ll still be talking about “that time you took me to see…”
So this year, I might try some toy-free gifts for our kids instead. I’ve discovered that there are some really great toy alternatives – for Christmas, a birthday, or another gift-inspired holiday, so here are the top 16 ideas that I found – maybe they will give you some ideas too:
- Photo Album. Make them a photo album of memories from the year – use an album where it has room for you to write and share why you loved that moment.
- Magazine subscription. These are great because they are a gift that just KEEPS giving every month for a year.
- Membership to a local activity centre, pet farm, the zoo, aquarium or whatever they enjoy. You can go as often as you like and it pays for itself after just a few visits.
- Money … yes, hard cash. Give a child a purse of money and see a huge smile on their face! Even a bag of Euro coins will get a great reaction.
- A digital camera. See the world through your child’s eyes and give them the gift of discovery! You can find inexpensive digital cameras which can be brought everywhere. They can be a great way to keep your kids interested if you are on a weekend excursion.
- A sewing machine. Learning to hand-sew is a great life-skill and an excellent creative outlet for kids of all ages, but needs a lot of patience. A sewing machine designed with kids in mind will help give children the confidence to create anything they can imagine with fabric and contribute useful items to the home, from a cushion for their bedroom to soft toys.
- Redecorate their Room. Let them help to repaint the room and add their own creative flair. They can really have fun with this one.
- “Your Day” – give your kids a day to pick whatever they want. Call it a YOUR DAY. Give them a list of the sort of things they could do, or help them to make their own list.
- Tickets to the cinema or to an event. You could include a snack bag too and make a day of it with your family.
- Sleepover Coupon. A sleeping bag and a coupon for a sleepover at Granny and Grandad’s house or at the cousins (make sure you agree this one in advance!)
- Classes. What does your child love or what is s/he good at? Dance, art, athletics, horseback riding, music, storytelling, carpentry? Book them a few classes in advance.
- A Monthly letter in the post. Do they have an older sibling or cousins living abroad? Organise for them to send a postcard once a month for the following year as a Christmas gift. Kids love getting post and it provides a wonderful, on-going connection between the your kids and their loved ones.
- Nature up-close. What about a butterfly garden to watch caterpillars grow into butterflies; a bird feeder + bird seed+ bird book so they can identify the ones that come into their garden.
- A watch. A watch gives a sense of independence. Knowing when an event will happen or knowing that they have 15 minutes to complete an activity and it’s their responsibility to finish in time can be a very empowering, encouraging thing.
- Giant coloring posters. In our house we all love to colour, so I think these are amazing and provide hours of coloring fun. We sometimes do these as a family, as they’re big enough to work on together.
- Sponsor an animal. Take a look at the WWF Christmas ad campaign. Trust me.. if you’re in any doubt about how much kids love this – mine were in tears when the tiger walked back to the forest.