Most preschoolers get a ton of toys for birthdays and Christmas. It makes for quite a mess around the house, and a lot of toys that only rarely get played with. Not that the kids won’t consider each utterly precious, to be given up only with great reluctance, but as most parents know, enough is enough when it comes to toys. There comes a time when you want to give more non-toy gifts for preschoolers.
The best way to encourage people to give your preschoolers more non-toy gifts is to let it be known what else your child would like. Preschoolers love toys, they can always spot another one they want, but there are so many other things they will be just as delighted to get, things that won’t cause so much clutter or waste. Here are some ideas.
1. Art Supplies
While it’s possible to have too many art supplies for your preschooler, I find an oversupply of art supplies easier to deal with than an excess of toys. Know what your child’s favorites are – my youngest has a thing for paints, but really doesn’t care that much for crayons or markers. She also loves glue when I can stand the mess.
An easel is a nice addition to art supplies. You can take it outside for messy projects, or let your preschooler work indoors when things won’t get messy. It’s one more thing to store, yes, but an easel has a lot of potential too. If it’s magnetic, so much the better, as that’s one more activity they can use the easel for.
2. Special Outings
Kids love to be taken out on special outings. This can be done by a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle… just about anyone your preschooler has fun going places with. Pick a place they love but don’t often get to go and make the gift a promise to take them.
Trampoline parks are popular right now. Some even have special hours for preschoolers while older kids are in school – a real advantage so that the little ones don’t get trampled. That said, a trip to a favorite playground could be a part of a gift too.
My husband and I did this for Christmas last year in the form of printed coupons for each of the kids. A day out with mom or dad, total cost to not exceed $X. Within reason, they got to pick the day they went out, and the activity.
Know a show coming up that your preschooler would enjoy? Get tickets! It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie, concert or theatrical production, just find something your child will enjoy.
4. Gift Card to a Favorite Restaurant
Where does your preschooler like to eat? Anything from fast food to a pizza place to the ice cream shop is fair game. It’s easy to find gift cards at most restaurants. Local grocery stores, Target and Walmart also usually carry a good selection, as does Amazon.
5. Time With You
Time spent with kids doesn’t always have to be an outing. It can just be a promise to do something fun at home soon. It could be playing make believe, doing crafts, learning to ride a bike, whatever works. If you need ideas, check out my post on fun ways to teach kids about nature.
6. Annual Passes
My mom loves to give my kids in general annual passes, usually to someplace she can take them to, kind of an extended special outing gift. Passes can be to theme parks, museums, zoos, just about anyplace your kids love to go.
Be aware that there are additional expenses to annual passes. You need a pass for more than just your preschooler, after all. Parking may be extra if your pass doesn’t include it. Food. Travel to and from. Kids will beg for souvenirs, which brings you right back to that “too many toys!!” thing. That said, the memories are generally worth it.
My youngest is obsessed with ballet and gym classes, and I don’t sign her up very often, more due to time than costs. It’s a good gift, however, so long as the person giving it will either take the child to and from class or knows who has the time to do so.
Classes through your local community center are usually quite affordable. Many have a good selection appropriate to preschoolers.
8. Baking Supplies
Want to make a preschooler happy? Bake his or her favorite treat. For my youngest, that’s chocolate chip cookies… or vanilla ice cream.
Baking supplies to make cookies or other treats make a good gift too. Put all the dry ingredients together, include some child appropriate tools and a recipe, and maybe a promise to help out with the baking, and you have a really fun gift.
9. Bikes, Skates or Other Sports Supplies
It’s good to encourage preschoolers to go outside to play. While most are still improving their balance, they love to learn.
A balance bike is good for those who aren’t ready to learn both how to pedal and balance a bicycle. There are children’s skates available that control how fast the wheels roll, or if they roll at all, so kids can learn to move in them safely. Soccer balls, footballs, baseballs and so forth encourage kids to play, whether or not they’re on a team yet or even want to be on one.
10. Water Fun
There are all kinds of sprinklers that make playing outdoors in warm weather more fun for kids. Your traditional yard sprinkler may suffice, but there are also ones with various characters or that spray water in interesting ways. A nice beach towel could be a good addition to this gift.
11. Swing Set
This one may be best as a group present, as even a basic swing set isn’t all that cheap. Pick something that fits in the space you have for one, and think about how many years it will be good for. You don’t want the swing set to be outgrown too quickly, but you also don’t want it too difficult for your child right now. Just one more great way to get kids to play outside.
Kids love plants. It’s something they can take care of that doesn’t have all the complications of a pet. Pick something easy to grow for younger kids – most like tomatoes pretty well. Something that can be kept in the child’s room can be nice too, so long as the plant isn’t too messy and there’s a place to keep it where it won’t be knocked over when the kids get rambunctious.
My youngest adores marigolds, for example, so that’s what we get for her. Sunflowers are also popular. Any flower that attracts butterflies will also make good gifts for preschoolers. Almost all preschoolers adore butterflies.
13. Savings Account
Kids this age don’t understand money yet, but the time will come when they appreciate what you’ve done for them by starting a savings account. If you go with a plain savings account, watch out for fees, as they can eat up what you put in. A 529 college savings account is an excellent option, especially if it’s something that can be regularly contributed to.
14. Piggy Bank
If you don’t want the commitment of helping build a savings account, a piggy bank is a great alternative. Your typical preschooler doesn’t really understand money yet, but they love getting it and having a special place to keep it.
There are some great clothes out there for preschool girls and boys, and some of them need replacements pretty regularly, with how rough some kids play. Depending on what the child needs, you can go with practical or fun, just make sure it’s something the child will like to have.
Most preschoolers love basic puzzles and may enjoy slightly more complex ones. Know what kind they enjoy before buying them – some will still just want the simple puzzles where you put each piece into its slot, while others may enjoy puzzles where they have to figure out which ones go together, so long as the number of pieces isn’t too high.
17. Board Games
There are board games available that are great for preschoolers, and that will continue to be interesting for years to come. Sorry is good for counting skills, for example.
Some board games also have iPad versions, which allow younger kids to learn to play more difficult games than they might manage on a board. My youngest likes to play Life on the iPad, for example. Our version has a board available, but you don’t have to use it.
Just be aware of the missing pieces issue. All too often kids misplace game pieces, usually right where the parents will step on them or where a pet will chew them up. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience… ow!
With board games and puzzles, just be sure that the family doesn’t already have enough that they’re causing clutter too.
18. Musical Instruments
While many children’s musical instruments fall awfully close to the toy line, I think they’re worthwhile. Pick something that sounds fairly nice – no point driving the adults insane if you can help it. Children’s guitars are pretty easy to find. Harmonicas can also be fairly cheap.
Whether you give the child an iTunes gift card so that they can be helped to download their own choice of music or you give them a CD of music, most kids love music. Disney music is a relatively safe bet with preschoolers, although there are a lot of alternatives.
Many preschoolers don’t read yet, but they love to be read to! Pick books that encourage them to learn to read or that have stories they’ll enjoy listening too. Don’t forget the classics such as anything by Dr. Seuss or Eric Carle.
Popup books can also be a good choice, although you may have to be careful that the preschooler isn’t too destructive. One Red Dot has been a hit with all of my kids, and it is beautiful!
21. Magazine Subscription
There are some great magazine out there for preschoolers. There’s Highlights High Five, Ladybug, National Geographic Little Kids and Ranger Rick Jr., just to name a few.
22. Online Subscription
Does your child want a subscription to a particular website? My youngest always wanted to join ABC Mouse, and of course there are other websites out there for kids, some are free, but others require a subscription.
If the preschooler is starting to learn math, I strongly recommend The Prodigy Game. Your child can try it out for free, but some of the things the kids will want most require a subscription. The math parts and much of the game work well even if you don’t have a paid subscription. It’s aimed at grades 1-8, but the very early stuff could work for a younger child.
23. Bath Supplies
Bath supplies don’t have to be bath toys. Kids love bubble baths. My youngest has a major thing for Epsom salts in her bath, as well as scents from essential oils. Pick things that are safe for young children and won’t make a big mess for the parents to deal with.
24. Kid Furniture
One of my youngest’s favorite gifts ever was a chair just for her. It came from IKEA, and while it’s small enough for a preschooler, even my older two find it comfortable. She had seen a chair her size when we were shopping for furniture for the house and obsessed about it for months until she got the one from IKEA. She also has a little table and folding chairs her size. The folding table and chairs are nice if you will put them away regularly, while the wooden sets are good if they’re just going to remain set up.
If you want to go a bit nicer, they even make kid size recliners.
25. Toy Box
Does your preschooler lack a great place to keep all those excessive toys? A toy box can be a very welcome addition. Make sure it’s a good quality and that the top is unlikely to squish little fingers or heads. Safety hinges, a lightweight lid, or other safety features are a must. A toy box will also help take care of all those other gifts your preschooler receives.
While considering non-toy gifts for preschoolers, remember to also consider handmade gifts you can make together to give to other people. It’s a great way to teach your kids that some of the most appreciated gifts are made, not bought.