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25 Non-Toy Gifts For Preschoolers

25 Non-Toy Gifts For Preschoolers

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.

3. Tickets

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.

7. Classes

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.

12. Plants

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.

15. Clothes

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.

16. Puzzles

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.

19. Music

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.

20. Books

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.

7 Handmade Gifts You Can Make With Your Kids

As Christmas gets closer, it gets harder to figure out what you’re getting for the rest of the people on your list. It can be harder yet to decide what your kids will give to grandparents and the few other people they give presents too. It’s a good time to start working on some handmade presents, things that show personal effort yet look really nice.

1. Cookies

Kids love to make cookies. Pick some favorite recipes and get started. Use organic, fair trade or local ingredients where possible. You can buy organic or fair trade chocolate chips on Amazon, for example.

2. Candy

A little touch of candy making is always fun. I usually do something with chocolate. Chocolate covered pomegranate seeds are easy, for example. You simply melt the chocolate, stir in the pomegranate seeds, then scoop away a few seeds at a time to a cookie sheet to cool. Just a few seeds together are best, and you may want to warn recipients to eat these quickly, as the pomegranate seeds won’t stay good for long. They’re also very juicy and should be eaten carefully so they don’t squirt.

Truffles are also fun to make. There are all kinds of recipes online. My own favorite is a pomegranate truffle, and yes, you are sensing a theme here. My mother has a pomegranate tree, which should pretty much explain it. The truffles are made from pomegranate juice simmered down to about half, with dark chocolate mixed in, allowed to cool, made into small balls, allowed to cool again, then dipped in dark chocolate to coat. The insides melt very quickly, so I usually keep these cold.

3. Homemade Play Dough

This is a great gift for kids to give their friends. You can mix it up all the way or just give bags of powder and instructions on how to finish it off. The play dough recipe can be as simple as a mix of flour, salt, water and food coloring. A little vegetable oil can help make it a little smoother, but I often skip that part and I’ve never bothered with the cream of tartar many recipes recommend, nor do I cook mine. It comes out well and lasts for weeks anyhow.

4. Homemade Slime

This is another fun project, although the ingredients aren’t all as safe as the ones for play dough. Still not too bad, overall. Slime is basically water, Elmer’s glue, borax and food coloring.

5. Heat Packs

You can make heat packs in a variety of sizes. Buy an attractive, sturdy cotton cloth for the bag. Other fabrics may not fare well in the microwave and should not be used. Decide how large a bag you want. Smaller bags are good as hand warmers, which can be nice for cold weather. Larger ones are nice for heating sore muscles and can be draped on the neck or leaned on for a sore back.

Use your choice of filler. Rice, buckwheat hulls, feed corn, barley and beans are common choices. Only one is really necessary. Don’t fill the bag too full, as it should be fairly flexible.

Add in any scents desired. Dried herbs such as lavender, rose petals, mint or rosemary smell nice. You can also use essential oils. Mix these in before filling the bag. Be careful if you know the intended recipient is sensitive to certain smells.

Fill the bag and stitch it closed. I like to include a removable cover bag. It’s much easier to wash a cover than it is to wash a heat pack bag, and they do get dirty over time.

6. Bath Salts

Bath salts are easy to make. You just need a clean, empty jar, epsom salts and/or sea salts, food coloring and some essential oils. Glycerin is a nice addition, but not absolutely necessary. Mix your ingredients together in a bowl, remembering that it doesn’t take much essential oil at all to make a nice scent through the whole thing.

You can decorate the jars to make them more attractive if you like. I save jars from spaghetti sauce and other things all year, so jars for projects like this really aren’t hard to come by.

7. Time

Not even handmade gifts always have to be from something you purchased. You can give the gift of time instead. You can offer to run errands, clean around the house, whatever the recipient would love for you to do.

This one can be great for grandparents, especially if they’re having trouble doing things themselves as they get older. Odds are they don’t need more stuff, but they certainly love having more time with the people they love.

Of course, you don’t have to limit this one to grandparents. Maybe you have a skill that someone else would love to have you share with them. I often have people asking me about how to set up a website, for example, and helping someone get started could be a great gift.

Slime – Another Easy Last Minute Gift to Make for Your Kids

I just posted about making play dough as a Christmas gift for your kids. You can do the same with the ingredients to make slime. I will warn you, however… slime is NOT nontoxic, at least not with the recipe I have.

2 cups water
1-1/4 cup Elmer’s glue
food coloring
1/3 cup hot water
1 tsp Borax

Thoroughly mix 2 cups water with glue. Add food coloring as desired.

Mix hot water and Borax. Stir into glue and water mixture, removing slime as necessary. You may have to make an extra batch of the hot water and Borax to make the entire mixture into slime.

The slime will be rather tacky at first. The more you work it, the less tacky it will be.

To give this as a gift I would suggest giving the kids just the glue and tell them it’s for a special project. Packaging up the rest of the ingredients just wouldn’t work for me.

Slime is rather messy of course, but if you clean up promptly it’s not likely to stain. At least it hasn’t for me.  Don’t let it near carpet as it’s not so easy to clean up there.  Tile floors are a much better choice for this one.

As with the play dough, keep it sealed up and it will last a while. Your patience with whatever mess they create may be another matter.

Homemade Play Dough – An Easy Last Minute Gift to Make for Your Kids

Kids want so much for Christmas, especially if they watch much television at all. They see all the cool toys out there. But sometimes one of the best gifts  can be one you make yourself.

Homemade play dough is a great choice for kids in the right age group. They love it.

My plan this year is to prepare a couple containers of dry play dough ingredients and have a part of the gift being getting to choose the colors they make while spending time with Mommy. It’s a really inexpensive gift, and the ingredients I need are right on hand. Here’s my recipe:

2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
1 tbs cream of tartar (optional but helpful)
1-1/2 cups hot water
3 tbs cooking oil
Food coloring
glitter (optional but pretty)

Mix dry ingredients together. Separate into containers if you want to do multiple colors. Add oil and food coloring to each batch. If you’ve separated colors, estimate the right amount of oil for each. Add hot water slowly and mix until the consistency is right. Too much water makes dough gooey and less fun to play with. But you can always add extra flour to work it out.

We like this recipe because it lasts a long time. Keep it in a sealed container. Refrigeration is helpful.

If you don’t add the glitter this is of course completely nontoxic, which is nice. Especially if you’re like me and have a near toddler to deal with as well as the older children.

Encourage the Kids to Make Christmas Gifts

There are a few things that are true about most kids, especially younger ones.

  1. They love to make crafts.
  2. They love holidays.
  3. They don’t have much of their own money.

Put it all together and what do you have? The perfect excuse to have them make the Christmas gifts they give.

Gifts don’t have to be complex. Last year my kids made frames out of wooden craft sticks, with magnets on the back so they could be stuck on the fridge. They painted them and added glitter because, well, it wouldn’t be a fun craft in their view if things didn’t go just a little overboard.

craft stick framesThe frames are really easy to make. You’ll need:

4 or 8 craft sticks, depending on if you want a single or double layer to the frame.
Glue
Photograph to be framed
Paperboard or thin cardboard
Magnet (strong enough to hold the whole thing up)
Decorating supplies

Have the kids glue them into approximately a square. Don’t fuss about perfection, these are kids and a little off looks good. My kids like to do the double layer frame.

Allow the glue to dry, then let the kids decorate the frame as they please.

As the decorations dry, you can cut the photograph to fit the frame. Glue its back to the paperboard and attach the magnet to the back.

When everything is dry, glue the photo into the frame.

There are many other crafts kids can easily make that will be appreciated by grandparents and other relatives. Having them make the gifts encourages them to give things that have more meaning, rather than spending a dollar or two on what appeals to them at that instant at the store.