Welcome to my absolutely perfect non-toy gifts for kids list. This gift guide is filled with an assortment of items and suggested pairings for a themed gift. Don’t gloss over non-toy gifts for the holiday season: these presents pack a major “wow.”
What are non-toy gifts for kids?
Gifts for kids don’t always have to be toys.
The items on this list are definitely not toys. There’s nothing to build with or be imaginary with, but these gifts are still just as enriching to a child’s life.
Look at non-toy gifts as a way to honor and expand on a child’s interests or loves. It’s a wonderful way to expose them to something new or give them a targeted present you put together based on who they are.
Why I love physical non-toy gifts for kids
This list is (obviously) filled with non-toy gifts that a child can open and immediately use. This is very different from other non-toy gifts like memberships, subscriptions, classes, or coupon books.
While those are all fantastic and amazing gifts, children live in the physical and concrete world. They aren’t quite ready to appreciate the abstract nature of a subscription service or that in the future they’ll go to a special place using a membership.
Instead, I prefer gifting kids physical non-toy gifts. A gift they can unwrap, see, hold, and understand in the present.
Memberships and gift cards are FANTASTIC family gifts and so unbelievably helpful. I’m not poo-pooing their validity by any means. Just understand it will be harder for children to conceptualize this present, which is why I personally prefer physical non-toy gifts.
Remember, non-toy gifts do not have a gender
Always remember: Objects for children do not have a gender. None of these items are gender specific. Gifts are kid-specific and focus on the child and their interests.
It would be a shame to minimize a child’s interests because it didn’t match a specific gendered expectation. Instead, let’s match gifts to the child.
Non-toy gifts are great in pairings
A lot of the gifts listed below have other gifts paired with them.
My mom and I both love to give a themed-gift to kids. A few items that go together is always a fun box to open or watch unfold during gift giving times.
Make sure to pay attention to the items I added as “pairings” – they’re fantastic as well.
Revealed: The Best Non-Toy Gifts for Kids
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A globe is a fantastic non-toy gift for a little learner. Grandma gifted this to my son when he was 5 years old and we pull it out often – it’s a great piece for his room.
If you aren’t ready for a full globe, try the “Hugg-A-Planet” instead. It’s a stuffed animal Earth. It’s awesome.
Gifts to pair with a globe
This. Microscope. Kids have a hard time with traditional microscopes seeing through the small eye piece. This takes away that variable AND everyone can see all at once.
Kids Pod Swing (indoor or outdoor)
These are sweetest, coolest – just a great little space for growing big kids. They can relax, grab a book, unwind, etc… all in the comfort of their own pod. Lots of different colors available.
Small Piano Keyboard
Fantastic option for kids who are interested in learning piano but don’t have access to a full one. That’s my 7 year old. He got this for his birthday from grandparents (who were music majors in college), it has a really nice tone, and it’s been perfect as an “intro to piano” gift.
Fit Bit Ace 3
Starting with: this should NOT be given to a child for weight loss reasons. My kids love their Fitbits because they like having a watch and they like numerical data on how many steps they take each day. There’s a math element that’s really fun. THAT’S IT.
We gave this to my son for Christmas 2020 and it’s been the most fun for our whole family. We aren’t exactly musical, but this comes with sheet music that even we could follow. This is definitely a 5+ gift, but is used all the way up to my 40 year old husband.
This has been a stand out through the years: I gave this to my daughter two Christmases ago and it’s still being used. So is the kit we bought for her best friend: he is still using it 2 years later. It’s a great set for kids and they love the way it’s laid out and packaged.
Shopping for an artsy kid? Check out my list of the best art supplies to give as gifts. It’s full of more perfect ideas for kids.
We got this for my then-8 year old, but it was my then-4 year old that imprinted on it most. He LOVES seeing the world up close. This is a great way to introduce microscopes to any age.
This is NOT a Kindle Fire. This is NOT a tablet. This does not let kids play games. It’s just like an adult Kindle, but way less expensive. And it’s a more manageable and mobile way for children to take books with them.
You can purchase a subscription to the Amazon digital library. You can also hook this up with your local library (check with your library system first).
My kids love their Kindles. They’ve been able to discover new books they would never have seen on a library shelf. This also travels really well.
Product does need WiFi to download books but once downloaded, the books can be read without Internet access.
These have been great for us. My kids use them to listen to audio books on their Kindles or to connect through Bluetooth to other devices.
Hands down – the best non-toy gift I’ve been giving for a year now. Kids LOVE THESE. They’re magical, just like they were in the 70s. Lots of colors and styles are available, and these are often sold at local toy store (that’s where we get ours).
Whittling took my kids and their friends by storm this year. From ages 6+, whittling has been all the rage. Of course, whittling needs lots of supervision and care so whether this will work for your child is up to you.
I gave my 7 year old this watch for his birthday and he’s loved it. It helps kids learn to read an analog clock, which is a necessary but often forgotten skill. It’s been really helpful for him and he’s loved it. Lots of colors available.
Yes, you read that right. A CD player.
Here’s my plug for CD players: when kids use Alexa, Spotify, or an “audio player,” they lose the ability to stumble on new tracks. When they ask Alexa for a song, they can only ask for what they know. When they pick a character for an audio player, they’re limited to just 3-4 tracks.
CDs let kids discover. “Stumble upon” learning and discovery by chance is desperately missing from this Google-it or Ask Siri generation of kids (gosh that makes me sound old…).
Also, remember that libraries still check out CDs. Libraries don’t check out Alexa or “audio player” figures. CDs + CD player are a great way to introduce new music on a budget.
CDs my children love
We’ve owned a kids calendar since December 2015 when my oldest was 2.5. I’ve loved having one for my kids. This version (by Melissa and Doug) is what we had for many years.
Other calendar options
This is such a cool non-toy gift. It is absolutely magical to watch butterflies go through their metamorphosis. Talk about giving a child an experience they will never forget. The kit portion is reusable – you can buy new caterpillars each year.
Gifts that pair well with a butterfly garden
A camera is THE BEST for kids. If you have a shutter bug in the family, this is a great option that kids can really get behind. Big WOW factor on this one.
They don’t look like much but this indoor/outdoor product is brilliant for kids. After seeing how much my “Floor is Lava” loving kids took to these at a museum, I bought a set for my daughter’s birthday, and two years later, it’s still one of the most used outdoor toys for all the kids.
What a old school, simple, sweet joy this has been. My 8 year old spent all year learning how to press flowers. This takes patience and a calm hand, but it appeals to meticulous kids. It’s been a fun project.
I am a HUGE fan of kids have real tools to use as they develop skills. Will they hammer a finger? Sure will. But they’ll figure it out, just like we did. My kids and their friends (BOYS AND GIRLS) have loved this kit from ages 4+ (but you do what’s best for your family).
Gifts that pair well with real tools
Jewelry and treasure boxes are fantastic. This one has been with my daughter for years and has held so many trinkets and memories. You can also fill this with a few small tokens before you gift it.
A treasure box is another great option – and this style is perfect. It has 3-shelves and a clear top (it’s similar to a name brand many folks had in the 1980s/1990s…). Kids who fill their pockets each day with treasures might love a special place to put everything. You can also prefill this with things the child enjoys, like geodes, small animals, jewelry, lotion, etc.
Travel Watercolor Set
This blew my mind the first time I saw a child (10) with it and immediately bought one for my middle kid (7). What an awesome product. It’s perfection for kids who want to take their art outside, on vacation, or in the car.
Gifts that pair well with a watercolor set:
A fantastic “non-toy gift.” The gift of a fort. This giant tent inflates in seconds with a box fan (sold separately) to make a cozy, inviting, imaginative play space for kids to hang, but that’s also big enough for adults. It’s a great size and perfect for kids who love forts.
Ice Dyed Sheets
Full disclosure: these are made by my sister-in-law, but the whole business of selling them began with the rainbow set she gifted my oldest. These were a show-stopper of his Christmas gifts last year. She crushed it.
These need a 1-3 week lead time.
Wooden Sensory Tools
Look, I’m still forever a fan of kids and families using whatever random kitchen gadgets they have for a sensory bin, but if you are tired of sharing your measuring cups… these have been pretty spectacular.
Pairs well with a fresh bag of: Rainbow rice (put it in a mason jar with the gift for maximum cuteness).
This is a gift the whole family will love: a telescope. We have so enjoyed using a telescope to learn about space and track stars. If you have a child into outer space, take it up a notch with this gift.
My husband likes to track the International Space Station with our kids (and the neighbor kids). This is the website he uses.
Gifts that pair well with a telescope
Have a child that loves being helpful and cooking? Check out these kid-safe knives and the gifts I’d pair with them as a great option for our budding chefs. We got my son this set around age 3.5 and it’s still been with us for more than 5 years.
My son is now 10 years old, a confident baker, and was ready to try a more real knife. I got him this kid-knife last year which he adores and feels very confident using.
Gifts that pair well with a kid-safe knives:
We love having sets of binoculars just right for the kids (these come in all the colors shows on the box in the photo).
Gifts that pair well with a binoculars:
Bless these sweet bells and the joy they’ve brought my youngest. This has been a huge reason for him learning note names, scale, and understanding of pitch. The music is easy for him to follow (my mom got this book with it).
Frequently Asked Questions
That’s personal to each family and to the interests of the child. You may have a child who only asks for non-toy gifts. You may have a child who is only interested in toy gifts. Rather than look to what others do, go based on your child, their passions, and their wants.
I don’t usually give kids memberships as gifts because these are used by the whole family. A zoo membership at our house would be for everyone, not for one specific child.
As for subscriptions, I don’t use any toy subscription type service for my children because I like to be more personal with our selections (plus those services are expensive). We do like magazine subscriptions like Highlights, Ranger Rick, and Faces.
Memberships and things like magazine subscriptions are great whole family gifts for relatives and something we ask for regularly from extended family.
Our life. These are all items that either my family or a friend’s family own and love. I do my best to only put items on lists that have been field tested.