Are you tired of spending your hard-earned money on presents that get played with briefly and then tossed aside? Keep in mind that toys are not the only type of gift that kids love to receive. Next time you’re shopping for a holiday, birthday or other special occasion, try thinking outside the proverbial toy box. You’ll discover many creative, non-toy gift ideas sure to surprise and delight children of all ages.

  1. Memberships

When you invest in season passes or annual memberships, your kids get to visit the places they love all year long. Choose from favorite local destinations like zoos, wildlife centers, amusement parks, water parks and museums.


  1. Experiences

Instead of a gift card to yet another store at the mall, why not give a gift certificate or voucher for an experience or activity your child would enjoy? Consider options like bowling, skating, horseback riding or indoor rock climbing.


  1. Subscriptions

Popular children’s magazines like Highlights, Cricket and National Geographic Kids help build literacy skills—and they encourage kids to read for fun. Give your child one copy as a gift, then watch his eyes light up each time a new issue arrives in the mail or becomes available for download.


  1. Tickets

Tickets to a sporting event like a basketball, hockey or baseball game make a great gift for a little sports fan, especially when accompanied by a team jersey. Not into sports? Encourage your kids to embrace the arts with tickets to a play, concert or ballet. Many venues offer short, interactive performances specifically for younger audiences.


  1. Lessons

From weekly dance or karate lessons to a special, parent-child cooking class, kids love the opportunity to learn new things. Wrap up an item they can use for their lessons—perhaps a new leotard for dance or a personalized apron for cooking—so they will have a gift to open.


  1. Coupon Book

Turn the tables on those handmade coupon books that kids love to give as gifts. Design a book of your own featuring coupons your child will be excited to redeem. Ideas include:

  • A “Get Out of Chores Free” pass
  • An ice cream date with Mom or Dad
  • A “Technology Ticket” for extra time using an electronic device
  • A chance to stay up 30 minutes past bedtime


  1. Homemade Gift Basket

Instead of buying one large gift, make a themed gift basket comprised of smaller gifts related to something your child enjoys. For an avid reader, build a book basket filled with books, bookmarks, a book light and a gift certificate to a local bookstore. For a movie buff, create a family movie night basket filled with DVD’s or a Netflix subscription, boxes of movie theater candy and popcorn.


  1. Shopping Spree

For the teen or tween who wants a new wardrobe, a special shopping spree can be a much-appreciated gift. Plan to spend an entire day together trying on outfits, having lunch and enjoying quality, one-on-one time.


  1. Bedroom Makeover

Your daughter may have loved her bedroom a few years ago, but does it reflect her interests now? If she’s ready for a change, surprise her with a new set of bedding. Include accessories like curtains and pillows, and include paint swatches so she can choose a new color for her walls.


  1. Pet

Give your child the gift of a pet of

his very own. Just be sure to give this some forethought and determine whether he’s truly ready for the care a creature deserves. You might start small with a low-maintenance pet like a fish or a hamster. Keep costs down by spreading the word among extended family that accessories—such as food, cages and pet toys—would make great gifts.


  1. Something that Gives Back

Not ready to bring an animal into your home? Make a donation to the World Wildlife Fund at to adopt one in your child’s name. Or choose another nonprofit that aligns with your child’s interests, such as a food bank, homeless shelter or emergency relief organization. When you give a gift that gives back, you give your children a reminder that birthdays and special occasions are about more than just the presents you receive.


Alyssa Chirco is a mother of two who writes about parenting and family life.


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