Welcome to my absolutely perfect non-toy gifts for kids list. Filled with an assortment of items and suggested pairings for a themed gift, this list is a standout. 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 they’re 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.
Either way, non-toy gifts for kids are great.
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 gender. Instead, let’s match gifts to the child not their label.
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.
Related: Check out two non-toy gift guides for best books for kids and best puzzles for kids.
Revealed: The Best Non-Toy Gifts for Kids
Busy Toddler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read more about these links in my disclosure policy.
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.
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.
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).
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.
- ABBA Gold (no joke)
- Disney hits
- NOW Christmas
- Guardian’s of the Galaxy (my kids haven’t seen the movie, but this is where they discovered 70s/80s rock)
Fitbit 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’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 calendar has a smaller footprint (we used it in our homeschool closet)
- This calendar is a splurge (it’s from a small business, wooden, and what we have now)
Yup, it’s a bike/scooter/skate board ramp and it’s awesome. This comes in three sections and can be configured in different ways. I bought this for my then 8-year-old last Christmas, and every neighbor kid down to the 2 year old fell in love with it.
- The best kid scooter (this has been our favorite)
- A great helmet
- Bicycle wheel lights (so cool, kids love these)
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.
- A Butterfly is Patient (great book!)
- Caterpillar to Butterfly (a non-fiction easy text)
- Butterfly wings (from a small business)
- Butterfly toys (these are a big hit here!)
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.
Reading Pod (indoor or outdoor)
I wish we had a tree for this (but my best friend does). My kids love relaxing in these and taking a load off – I know my bestie’s daughter loves this quiet, safe, alone space.
Pair a reading pod with a great new book. Check out my list of The Best Books for Kids (to get as gifts).
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.
One year later: this is still one of the hottest items in our house and is used constantly for play with kids ranging from 2-9 years old.
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).
- Nails and wood (but seriously, a box of wood scraps or balsa wood is GREAT)
- Other tools (age depending): a hacksaw and a manual hand drill
- Caution tape (trust me)
- Safety/traffic cones
- Kids construction costume
We have both these boxes because I have two kids who love to collect treasures and store away important things to them, like shells, marbles, rocks, bracelets, rings, and pine cones that made a lasting impression. Having a treasure box space to help their trinkets has been so sweet for both of them.
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.
- Watercolor paper notebook (this paper is different and is incredible to paint on)
- A Child’s Introduction to Art (this non-fiction book introduces kids to famous works of art)
Personalized Note Pads
Who doesn’t love seeing their name in print?! For Christmas one year, I got my then 6-year-old a few personalized note pads and cards, and he LOVED it. It was sweet little gift.
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.
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 9 years old, a confident baker, and was ready to try a more real knife. I got him this kid-knife which he adores and feels very confident using.
- This Kid-Friendly Cookbook is A+++
- A kid-sized apron
- Small colanders (I give these as gifts often)
- Tiny kids pitcher for pouring (can’t live without this)
We love having sets of binoculars just right for the kids (these come in all the colors shows on the box in the photo).
- Compass (my kids think these are magical)
- Hydration backpacks (kids think these are so cool)
- Walkie Talkies (absolutely love this set – works GREAT!)
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).
I don’t know what the year would have been like without this set. It does NOT include a rope – but that’s a good thing. You can fit it to your trees and space. It’s so flexible. Great for ages 3+. This has been a hero for our time at home.
We got this for my 8 year old, but it was my 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.
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 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… but I don’t give them as gifts.
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.
Susie Allison, M. Ed
Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 2 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.
Leave a Comment