Whether you consider yourself a minimalist or you simply want to avoid wasteful spending and consumption, it can be tough to find meaningful gifts for kids.
Kids can be unpredictable with what they like from one moment to the next and it’s tough to know what will be a hit and what will be a flop.
So what’s a parent (or aunt, uncle, grandparent, etc) to do?
How to Choose Meaningful Gifts for Kids
If you’re like me and want to choose gifts that are not going to turn into junk that clutters up the house then this post is for you! Here are some tips on how you can choose gifts for the kids in your life.
Remember That More is Not (Always) Better
You probably already know this but when it comes time to buy presents for our kids it’s easy to overdo it, right?
I have struggled with this concept for a long time (even before having kids) and I think I finally feel comfortable NOT giving large numbers of presents. Of course, my kids are still young so I have that on my side!
However, I hope that I can continue to remember that fewer gifts (and fewer toys entirely) are a good thing! Kids have a chance to enjoy the things they love when they aren’t distracted by other stuff.
To choose truly meaningful gifts for kids we have to remember that all of the extra stuff that they don’t love is just taking away from the few things they do love.
Matt and I want to teach our kids that gift giving is not a competition and that getting a few meaningful gifts is better than hoards of junk. If they grow up with this as the norm, hopefully, they will appreciate the space between the things as much as, or more than, the things themselves.
(Update: my kids are older now and we still don’t do many gifts! The kids think it’s normal.)
For some strategies for gift giving without wasteful spending check out this post.
But What Do They Really Want?
The obvious next question is, “How do I figure out what they will love?”
It’s easy to get wrapped up in what is hot right now for toys and gifts (think tickle me Elmo circa 1996) but that’s usually not the best way to go.
For the most part, those toys’ desirability is based on good marketing (marketers know how to get into kids heads and hearts) and not on what your kids actually want.
The novelty wears off quickly and those toys are often ignored in favor of old favorites. That doesn’t mean you should never buy the hottest toys, it just means you should only choose them if you think they would really be the best gift.
To figure out the most meaningful gifts for kids, and which ones they will LOVE, ask yourself these questions:
What are their interests and talents?
What makes their heart soar?
What kind of gift would invest in their interests and talents?
How can I encourage their developing skills and talents? Will this gift help them reach goals?
How is this gift supporting values I want them to hold?
Our kids will value what we value. What values do I want them to have?
Is this gift going to inspire creativity?
Open-ended toys are the best for helping kids develop creativity. Think about whether the toy you are considering getting is intended to be used many ways or only one way.
Think Outside the Box
Consider investing in your kids in other ways besides traditional gifts. These gift ideas are a great way to show your kids that you are thinking about them without creating more clutter.
- Movie tickets
- Children’s theater tickets
- Dance, karate, guitar, gymnastics, etc. lessons
- Passes for swimming, paintball, mini golf, laser tag, skiing, bowling, a ropes course, rock climbing, etc.
- City passes (a pass for all of the attractions in a city for discounted rate)
- A trip to paint your own pottery
- Magazines! OG gets Highlights High Five (ages 3-6) which she loves but some other options are Ranger Rick, National Geographic Kids, Boys Life, Discovery Girls, and Zoobooks.
- Monthly learning and craft kits – Green Kid Crafts (ages 3-8) explores STEM and art (both of my kids love these!) while Little Passports ( ages 7-12) explores geography (US or world). Some other craft subscriptions are Kiwi Crate, BabbaBox and Wonder Box.
When thinking about kids interests and talents a more expensive piece of equipment might be the right gift that will invest in a child’s interests.
Yes, these items are more expensive and sometimes that’s just not in the cards but if you can swing it, these kinds of gifts pay for themselves many times over by helping kids learn skills.
Here are some ideas:
- A musical instrument like a kids’ ukulele
- Sewing machine
- Set of tools for a hobby
- Computer software
- A kids’ digital camera for the budding photographer
- Sports equipment
- Camping gear
The Gift of Giving
The holidays are often tainted with consumerism but that doesn’t mean we can’t teach our kids what giving really is.
- Make a Christmas family tradition of serving at a food shelter or volunteering at an animal shelter.
- Keep a jar in your kitchen for the kids to contribute their own money to. Let them decide where to donate the money at the end of the month or year.
- Show them how to help others by helping your neighbors, family, and friends with jobs around the house.
- Adopt a family for Christmas. Find one by searching for adopt-a-family in your city or through your local Salvation Army.
Babies are pretty easy! They don’t really get the concept of gift giving and receiving yet and most of the time they prefer the box that a gift came with anyway, right?
Simple toys made from natural materials are great for babies but what would be even better is giving the tired mom and dad a gift instead. Here are some ideas:
- Subscription to a cloth diaper service
- Amazon prime for free movies and free shipping
- gift cards for baby products or dinner out
- Personalized baby’s first Christmas ornaments
What We’re Doing
My kids are almost 4 years old and 14 months old. Even though they are young they have talents, skills, and interests. For example, OG loves art, building things, climbing, school buses, and computer games.
We’re not going to be buying her any computer games or similar because that doesn’t fit in with what I want her to value but we want to get her some new art supplies and books.
QC is too young to understand the idea of gifts so we will probably stick with practical gifts such as clothing but we will also get her some books.
We don’t see any point in adding more clutter or toys (we have plenty) just to say we bought something.
What are your tips for finding meaningful gifts for kids? How do you keep gift-giving in check? Tell us in the comments!
Every year my kids get a subscription to our local science museum for Christmas from my sister. It’s one of the gifts we look forward to the most AND it lasts all year long.
I love that idea!
Yes, I love this. I am so tired of seeing an unbelievable amount of toys in our home. My kids are only (almost) 2 and 4 years old. They are beyond spoiled with hundreds of every kind of toy bc our family is so huge and everyone buys presents. It’s also getting to the point that it’s hard to buy for other family members bc the kids already have everything they need. My presents are often duplicates or something pushed off to the side. I love the experience type of presents. Those are wonderful. In fact, I asked my hubby for a ton of exerience-type gifts this year. We’ll see what happens. All in all, I truly agree that fewer, meaningful gifts is better than a pile of junk that gets tossed aside quickly!
Same for us. I could probably count the toys I actually bought for my kids on one, maybe two hands, while the rest were from family. I’m very grateful for their generosity but it does get overwhelming :)
It’s difficult with family because they love the kids and want to show how much they love them. We’ve started saying that the kids just like spending quality time with their grandparents etc so we’ve said that instead of gifts why don’t they take them out somewhere special for the day. The boys love it and they’ve got to spend some time with their loved ones and I have less clutter in the house.
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