When you have the world’s largest collection of Legos and 5 kids, and a small house, toys suddenly become a gift you absolutely do not want coming into your home at Christmas. Instead you start suggesting museum memberships, books, and gasp, even renting toys.
Non-Traditional Christmas Gifts for Kids
If this is your first time suggesting alternatives to toys to your children’s grandparents, understand that you both share a common goal of making your kids happy. Also understand that grandparents love to see the joy on their grandchildren’s faces as they open their Christmas gifts. When making suggestions, include something that can be unwrapped like a book or an ornament representing the gift. If you can’t persuade the grandparents to try something different for Christmas, try again for your child’s birthday. Include them in the process and ask them for suggestions. Grandparents are fantastic listeners!
Spending time with children is the absolutely best gift to give them. Yes, you can take them to a local museum or some other fun place, or simply kick off your shoes, sit on the floor and read books. Or make your favorite dish.
How about sharing your hobby? My father-in-law is a licensed pilot. It has become a tradition for him to take his grandchildren for a flight when they reach three or four years of age. Each child gets a pair of wings afterwards with the date of the flight and their name engraved on it.
If you have a teen on your list, spending time with them in an activity that involves their hands is a wonderful way to give them time to open up their heart without the pressure of answering questions. If food is involved, any teenage boy will be there. Some experiences can extended over a period of time such as taking a child to the park once a month or having them work with you in the garden or learning how to make the different parts of a meal.
Sports Equipment and Classes
My kids are beginning to move out of the preschool toys into sports equipment, and I’m encouraging this by buying them balls and used equipment. Many sports are easy to do at home and don’t require much like soccer. Tennis does require a court, but balls and used rackets aren’t expensive.
If a child on your list is into a more expensive sport like football or ballet, offering to pay for a class or buy a piece of equipment may be a huge help for the parents. Football equipment, for example, can cost a few hundred dollars. Ballet requires both special shoes and classes.
My children love books. Every Saturday we visit the local library, and every time we have an argument about who gets to go this time. Each bedroom has a bookcase, plus we have another in the dining room, and plans to install at least one in the living room. If we had bigger rooms, we’d have more books.
Book choices can be targeted towards interests like dinosaurs, Legos or penguins. You could also give a copy of your favorite childhood book. One year my oldest son received a copy of The Little Engine that Could, a childhood favorite of my father-in-law. Another option is to give a children’s cookbook and offer to spend time making some of the recipes.
My children also like to listen to books on CD at bedtime or when we’re in the car. I’ve been building a small collection of CDs and also taking advantage of library CDs. Unfortunately over time, these CDs can get scratched. How about replacing a beloved CD?
Books are also available as MP3s for downloading onto iPods or burning onto CDs. Just this week, I downloaded a number of classic children’s books for $.99 each from Audible Kids for a doctor’s appointment. And speaking of CDs, one of my sisters-in-law created a CD of her children’s favorite songs and gave copies to her neices and nephews.
“Think Outside the Box” Toys
Toys did make it onto the list, but I’m not advocating going to the local Toys R Us. First of all, check out the local thrift stores for used toys. Our local St. Francis thrift shop has a decent collection of board games, not to mention puzzles and books. Goodwill is another possible resource for gifts like bikes.
Consider buying handmade toys, particularly if you can find a local toymaker. These toys will be made in the U.S.A. and less likely to have lead or plastics in them.
Try making your own toys. Libraries have craft and knitting books with lots of ideas. The Crafty Crow has a huge collection of links sorted by type of craft, age for making the craft, and whether or not a craft is seasonal. If you’re not up for making the toys, collect items that normally go in the recycling container like yogurt containers, band aid boxes, toilet paper rolls, along with bits of felt, a pot of glue, markers, and put together a toy making kit.
Put together a collection of hats, purses, shoes, coats, and anything else you can find at local thrift stores, flea markets or in the Halloween clearance section. Then, create a treasure box or container for storing them.
These can be the most precious gift of all. When I was growing up, my grandmother knit sweaters for my sister and I every year until we were teenagers. I still remember some of those sweaters, plus the ponchos she made for us when we were little. The memories of her knitted gifts are some of the reasons why I knit, sew, and craft for my children. My husband still has the afghan his grandmother knitted him. We keep it tucked away in a box under the bed, but it will come out when he’s sick.
The internet and the library are full of knitting, sewing, and crafting books and ideas. If you’re not sure about a project or don’t have a lot of time, a small project like a knitted hat or a project spread out over time like a quilt might be the way to go. Another possibility is making toys like blocks for babies or felt food. A person with wood-working skills could make a bookcase or just a small shelf.
Sometimes the best gift is an item needed by a child, like a new winter coat or sheets. With the economy still bad and many families in dire straits due to job loss, a quiet conversation with the parents about the children’s needs may be much appreciated.
This year, my sister gave my two middle boys an Ikea gift certificate so that we can buy some organizing items for their newly-renovated bedroom. Maybe a gift certificate for a local grocery store, or if the family eats a mostly organic diet, a gift certificate for Whole Foods might be a better option. Shoes or a gift certificate for a shoe store is another option since kids can go through several pairs of shoes in a year just because of growth.