Young kids are like cats – you can buy them the most expensive toy in the world and they’ll still get more enjoyment out of the box it came in.
So when you’ve run out of space to stash things, or you don’t want to burden someone else with more stuff, here are some great clutter-free gifts kids will love.
1. Tickets or passes to something special
Your options here are pretty endless. For one-off events think things like Disney On Ice, a musical or theatre production, a seasonal festival, an age-appropriate concert or show, the (cruelty-free) circus, or a limited time exhibition at a local children’s museum or similar.
Movie theatre tickets can be a big deal too if there’s something they really want to see (which is basically anything Pixar puts out).
If it’s in the budget and you can add an additional ticket so they can bring a friend, all the better.
For something more multi-use, consider memberships to the local zoo, amusement park, children’s museum, observatory, swimming pool, sports club, or trampoline park.
2. One-on-one time
There’s very little kids love more than undivided attention. Organise some special dates with them like watching a movie, going out for lunch or dinner, going to the playground, baking cakes, etc.
If you think it would help, or you still want to give them something to unwrap, you could buy something symbolic that would be used up, like popcorn or hot chocolate for your movie night, or cupcake ingredients.
3. A class or workshop
Kids are like sponges, soaking up everything around them. They also have more energy than a nuclear power plant.
Put all of that to good use by signing them up for something they’ll enjoy, like a certain sport, a dance or music class, swimming lessons, art class, science club, drama group, karate lessons, etc.
(Added bonus that they’ll be much more likely to sleep soundly that night. Double win!)
Now I know that many of those come with their own gear and accessories but usually, at least in the beginning, those things are unnecessary (or, if necessary, can be borrowed or rented). It’s only as time goes on and you see that they have a real passion for it that you can decide whether to invest further.
Or if "gear" is really an issue but you already have a device and access to the internet, there are also online learning options. I'm loathe to recommend one because I don't have personal experience with any but, for younger kids, I've heard great things about ABCmouse.
Your local library will be a font of information here.
4. A trip
This could be big or small, near or far. It could involve planes and trains, or a short drive to a nearby neighbourhood. It could even be as simple as a stroll to the local ice-cream parlour or splash park.
For Scout’s 4th birthday we brought her to Legoland. Two and a half years later she still talks about it and shows everyone the “driver’s licence” she got while there. She doesn’t often remember bygone toys, but she has many fond memories of trips and holidays we’ve taken together, or times she’s spent with grandparents.
So don’t feel you need to splash out. Kids don’t care that they’re not in Tahiti, they’re just excited by new surroundings (and not being in school).
5. Parties and sleepovers
The promise of having all their friends come over to the house so they can play games, eat treats, watch movies, and giggle the day and night away is a dream come true for a lot of kids.
They’ll think it’s extra exciting if they have a hand in organising it, so make a big deal about them being able to choose the games and movie (feel absolutely free to give them a short list first if you suspect they’ll pick something you won’t agree with) and helping to “decorate” the place in advance by putting out food, spreading pillows and blankets around, etc.
Again, if you’d feel better about giving them something they can unwrap, consider a stack of invitations they can fill in and hand out, or a bunch of treats to share with their friends.
6. A care package
Fill a basket with items that you’d normally buy anyway (so no extra waste), and that can be used up or worn out. Examples include their favourite treats, bath bombs and lotions, bubbles, fun socks, etc.
It could also contain tickets or home-made coupons for anything else on this list.
7. A safe space
Something kids fight for most is autonomy and independence. They want to have a certain amount of control over their surroundings and situation.
You may be able to eliminate a lot of the friction that will cause (without completely caving to their demands) by allowing them their own “space” in, or around, your home.
This could be their own room, certainly, but it could also be a little den or nook somewhere else in the home, or even a tent or treehouse outside.
It could also be more representative of a feeling of safety than it is about the physical space. For instance, something I implemented about a year ago with Scout was that, if she ever needs to talk, we can sit on the stairs together. When there, she can tell me anything and I will listen and try to understand.
It’s a way for her to speak freely and without fear of reprimand (within reason, of course), and I hope it will foster a close relationship between us that will continue to grow.
So create a space that’s just for them and that’s invite only, and then try to respect it and treat it as sacred as much as you can.
I think any kid would be thrilled to receive one or more of the above… and maybe even a few adults too. 😉
Here are some more gift guides to feast your peepers on (clutter-free and otherwise) if you’re still looking for something special, and let me know in the comments if you can think of anything else to add.
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