This December, I gathered my kids into the living room and asked them what they wanted for Christmas. Every year, they provide me with a long list of toys, games, books, and other non-essential items. I gather their ideas, log in to Amazon, and generate a giant wish list that everyone in the family can access.
But this year, my eleven-year-old said, “I don’t really want any gifts, mom. I don’t need anything, and I don’t want to waste anyone’s money on things I’m not going to use or play with.”
My oldest son and I talk a lot about gratitude, graciousness, and minimalism. He knows he already has everything he needs and doesn’t want a shelf full of stuff that will gather dust.
It was one of those moments that made me feel super proud as a parent. Some kids count the presents under the tree and wish for more the minute they unwrap the pile before them. This year, my son realized he already had more than enough.
So I let our relatives know my son didn’t want anything this year. But that didn’t stop them from wanting to buy him presents.
Best Gifts for Kids
In response, I created an alternative gift guide that includes meaningful gifts for kids who already have everything they need. I call this my non-toy gift list, and it’s perfect for kids of all ages, particularly tweens and teens who have outgrown the toys and games they loved as small children.
This list will help you find the perfect Christmas gift or birthday gift for the kid who has everything. It doesn’t include a bunch of products you can buy from Amazon. Instead, it contains unique gifts for kids who require a little out-of-the-box thinking.
We will begin with a list of experience gifts.
1. Tickets to the Theatre or Sporting Events
First up on the list are fun gifts for the whole family. When we think about experience gifts, we often contemplate expensive outings.
Buying tickets to broadway shows or pricey front-row seats to watch sporting events like baseball, basketball, or hockey. But the best gifts don’t need to cost gobs of money.
Some kids enjoy local community theatre just as much as broadway productions. So consider purchasing tickets to a local dinner theatre or a high school production outside your neighborhood.
The same goes for sporting events. You can buy basketball and football tickets to high school or college games rather than shelling out big bucks for the pros. Buy your kids candy at the concession stand and cheer on your local team.
2. A Night at a Nearby Hotel
When we think about vacations, we tend to focus on extravagant trips involving expensive airplane rides and lavish resorts, but kids don’t have to travel far to have a good time.
Every so often, we take our kids to a nearby hotel for a special night of swimming, hockey, and mini-golf. We order a pizza, stay up late, and play in the arcade until everyone is exhausted enough to fall asleep.
To save money, we stay overnight during the off-season and bring snacks and breakfast for the following day.
3. Camp in the Backyard
When my kids were small, I bought a tent for a camping trip, then set it up in the living room. The boys begged to sleep in there for a few nights in a row.
So here’s another fun gift that doesn’t cost much and won’t require you to leave home. Present your kids with the option to camp in the house or the backyard. Wrap a small flashlight or glow sticks with a note that you’ll set up camp somewhere close to home.
4. Tickets to a Concert or Musical Performance
Our kids love to listen to music, and they are constantly streaming Spotify tunes from their iPads or humming and singing as they move from one room to another in our house.
If your child enjoys music, consider giving the gift of concert tickets. Again, this can be an expensive endeavor or an inexpensive trip to listen to a local choir, jazz band, or musical theatre. Search nearby community colleges for performance dates in your area.
5. Pay for a Class to Grow Their Passions
Does your kid love to code, paint, draw, dance, sew, cook, or knit? If so, pay for a class to improve their skills and help grow their passions. Classes help children explore, grow, and meet other like-minded kids. If your kid doesn’t have a particular passion, this gift might help them find a new hobby.
You can search for classes in your area or try online courses through sites like Outschool. Classes are the perfect gift to get creative and have fun learning new techniques.
6. Take a Class Together
Kids who love to learn will also love learning with you. Sign up for pottery, cooking, or dance classes. If you want to help your kids relax and unwind, sign up for yoga or meditation classes. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, so long as you spend quality time learning together.
Creative kids will enjoy side-by-side learning.
7. Teach Kids a Skill
If you don’t have the money to pay for expensive classes, you can offer to teach your kids a new skill. Maybe they love eating your famous banana chocolate chip muffins or want to learn to knit so they can create scarves to wear all winter long.
We all have unique talents. Whether playing a musical instrument, drawing, painting, writing, cooking, or sewing, we all have gifts to share. If you choose this gift, you can provide a few items to get them started, like watercolor paper and paintbrushes for the kid who wants to paint or measuring spoons for the child who yearns to bake.
8. Purchase a Membership to a Museum or Science Center
Memberships are the gifts that keep on giving. If you live near a museum or science center, purchase a yearly membership so you can visit multiple times throughout the year.
9. One-On-One Cards: Giving the Gift of Quality Time
If you aren’t sure what to give to a child who has everything, give the gift of quality time. Find twelve envelopes and write the name of each month on them. Then write a letter asking your kid how they might like to spend time with you.
As parents, we often think of extravagant outings like going to dinner or the movies when our kids might want to snuggle into their pajamas to read bedtime stories or set aside time to play their favorite board game.
Again, you don’t have to make this a super expensive present full of plush experiences. You can choose small things like taking a late-night walk to look at Christmas lights or catching fireflies together in the spring.
Write down how you’d like to spend time together and place each idea inside an envelope. These cards are an excellent way for kids to get involved in the gifting experience, and it’s a non-toy gift list they’ll love!
10. “Break the Rules” Cards
When we think of fun gifts for kids, we often think about physical objects, but there is nothing they love more than changing or breaking household rules.
So this year, give them free passes to break the rules. Maybe your kids want to stay up past bedtime, eat cookies before dinner, or sleep in the living room. Write down a few ways they can break the rules. Then let them choose which day or night to turn in the card.
11. “You Choose” Cards
At least once a week, my husband asks my kids what they want us to make for dinner. Sometimes the kids choose something we consider healthy, and sometimes they pick grilled cheese or breakfast for dinner. For this gift, grab a bunch of cards or sticky notes and write down meals, desserts, restaurants, and events the kids can choose.
Here are a few examples:
- Choose tonight’s meal
- Choose a restaurant
- Choose dessert
- Choose an after-dinner activity
- Choose breakfast
12. Create A Storybook Together
When my oldest son was just a toddler, we began writing stories together. I would write the story’s first sentence, and he would tell me what to write next. Here’s an example.
I’d say, “One night, a big, hairy monster woke up from a long slumber and went to the refrigerator for a snack.”
Then my son would say, “Inside the fridge, he found a set of jiggly eyeballs.”
We would continue this way for nearly an hour, adding line after line of random ideas and thoughts that came together to create wildly creative stories. Writing together is a great way to get close, spend time together, and giggle.
For this gift, you need a note about storytelling, a pad of paper, and a pencil. Before you wrap, choose the first line for your story.
13. Journals & Letters
If you aren’t a fan of storytelling, you can provide the gift of journaling. When my kids were little, I began writing them letters about the things they liked and disliked.
I didn’t spend time perfecting every sentence or double-checking my grammar. Instead, I wrote from the heart to tell my boys how much I love them.
If you’ve never kept a journal for your children, now might be the best time to start one. You can include stories about them or even stories about yourself when you were their age.
You can bundle these letters for your kids or give them one heartfelt letter to express your affection.
14. Give Them the Gift of Something Unexpected
A few weeks ago, I took my kids to Dunkin Donuts before school. It wasn’t an expensive trip or super pricey, but it made me realize that simple pleasures like waking my kids before school and eating sugary breakfast make life worth living.
When you have everything, sometimes you need reminders that everyday moments are more important than shelves full of toys.
If you aren’t sure what your child will enjoy, provide them with a few envelopes full of small surprises. Let them know any time they turn in an envelope. A surprise will be waiting for them.
15. Buy the Ultimate Gift
Some gifts have more wow factors than others. While most of the gifts on this list are inexpensive, this one might cost you a little more. Does your child love amusement parks, escape rooms, indoor rock climbing, or dream of indoor skydiving?
If so, you can go all out and buy them tickets to a memorable adventure. If possible, look for something fun the whole family can do together.