It's a real thing: Too Many Toys Syndrome. Toys in the garage, toys in the basement, toys in the bedroom, toys in the living room. Toys. TOYS. TOYS!
In this culture of consumerism I think we sometimes flunk as parents in teaching our children to appreciate what they have. Toys are fun! But when surrounded by 10,000 electric beeping and squeaking trinkets and games, it's hard to see through the clutter. Our children are not encouraged to be resourceful and foster their own creativity - in fact, I sometimes find my children "bored" even though they are surrounded by a sea of choices. So, no more toys, right? Not realistic. What about birthdays, holidays and trips? We can't ignore that gift giving is part of society's way of celebrating and a tradition we all enjoy partaking in.
So rather than gifting another dancing robot that will eventually sit at the bottom of the toy box, let's encourage an alternative: gifting an experience and creating memories! Fewer toys will benefit your kids, your sanity, and provide a bonding experience for the gift-giver and child recipient. Below are some non-toy gift ideas that are sure to be a hit!
Gift a membership to the local zoo, children's museum, science museum, aquarium, conservatory, or art museum. These gifts pay for themselves within a couple visits and also eliminate the ever lingering "what should we do this weekend" question.
This is a fun one! Gift a child a pass to an indoor play space, or a music class, art class, swimming lesson, sport lesson, cooking class, karate class, pottery course - the list is endless! Classes are especially great gifts around winter holidays when we are all spending more time indoors and could use a fun reason to get out more.
A memory maker for sure! Gifting special event tickets such as baseball, basketball or hockey games, an outing to the movies or even the theatre or ballet, trips to the circus and Disney on Ice - all grant a child joy through an experience. Perhaps you can gift an experience to have WITH the child - maybe gifting a trip to Chuck-E-Cheese (get some tokens for them to open and have in hand for the trip!), a horse drawn carriage ride, a trip to get manicure and pedicure, or even a bus ride or train ride! Even better? Just bring over the fixings to make and decorate cookies - the child will LOVE the fun time spent with you!
Kids love mail! Subscription boxes are fun little monthly 'presents' that can be activity-based, such as Kiwi Crate or discovery-based, like Little passports. There are dozens of subscription boxes that cater to children of all ages and interests.
Think of the child you are looking to gift... do they like to explore the outdoors? If so, perhaps nature walk "tools" would be a great gift - binoculars, magnifying glass, and a flash light. How about gardening tools so you can start a garden this summer? A watch to learn how to tell time or camera and a photo album to take photos on their own and look back on memories. All of these are learning tools that kids love and encourage their creativity.
Arts and Crafts Supplies
A box of colored and printed paper, glue, pom poms, beads, stickers, yarn, paint and brushes, glitter, scissors, ect. is a wonderful gift! It not only gives the child the tools to get crafty and imaginative on their own, but it also gives parents approximately 30 minutes to scroll Instagram while their little one is busy gluing stuff.
A Responsibility Item
So maybe not every child is ready to care for a dog, BUT a pet fish might be fun! Or perhaps a plant to care for, or a piggy bank in which they can earn money to purchase their own gift!
Sports Illustrated Kids, National Geographic Kids, Highlights, the list goes on! This goes back to kids getting mail too, which is a VERY exciting happening on its own.
A new pair of slippers or dress up clothes can be so fun too! A wardrobe-centric box like those from Lilladu Exchange make the perfect gift for both a child and a busy mom. My favorite thing about Lilladu Exchange as a gift is that not only are you refitting a child's wardrobe with 12 preloved, top brand clothing pieces in excellent condition which they receive in the mail and unwrap like a present, but you are also helping the parents declutter as they send in old clothing that no longer fits their child! Having a personal stylist tending to a child's clothing doesn't hurt either. ;-) Not sure if they have any clothes to trade? No problem; Lilladu offers Retail Collections too which involves the same 12 pieces of quality secondhand clothing selected by a personal stylist but without the exchange; a perfect gift for any child, sizes 18 months to 5T.
Worried that these gifts may not be the most exciting for a child to unwrap? Don't worry, with a little creativity of your own, you really can make them special! Say you are gifting a series of swim lessons. You can accompany it with some swim goggles and perhaps a new towel. For a gift of baseball tickets, perhaps include a hat and ball for the home team. Or even the gift of clothing or a subscription box; ask them to take a photo opening their package! There is a lot to be said for going minimalist with your child's toy collection and encouraging non-toy gifts from friends and family.
The point of a gift is to bring joy to the recipient in that moment. With non-toy gifts for children, you are gifting joy and a memory that they will have for the long-term, rather than a tangible item that they will hold onto for the long-term. This is how childhood memories are formed and fostered. We LOVE our friends and family, so let's remind them that creating memories with your children is far more valuable than gifting a toy that will be forgotten next month.
Wife and mother of two boys, Joanne recently moved from suburbia Maine to Manhattan - quite the change of pace and trade of lifestyle! Navigating her way in New York City has provided lots of laughter, tears and confusion for the whole family, but Joanne takes it all in stride and aims to keep the family chaos to a minimum. She loves to spend her days at the park, savors every date night, enjoys time in the kitchen and out shopping, and possibly spends too much time on Pinterest... Follow Joanne on Instagram @jtolford