Parenting
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Christmas gift ideas for kids that are not toys

child in santa hat looking in wonder at christmas decorations

Christmas means a lot of things to people—fun, family, Christmas parties, food, and of course lots of presents. For me, Christmas has always been a time when I got to spend quality time with friends and family.

Christmas is a time of great joy and celebration, but the prevalence of materialistic consumerism has marred it. Sure, you could buy your kids the latest toy (that they will forget about in two weeks), but won’t it be great if they have something longer-lasting? I’m going to share with you some gifts for kids that are not toys that you can use for any time of the year presents are required.

Celebrating the Spirit of Christmas

We are not Christians and I didn’t know anyone celebrating the festival growing up. I did not have a clue about Santa Claus. We moved to Hong Kong when I turned 11; then, I slowly caught on. My eyes sparkled with the lights and the sights. We sisters would save up our pocket money and buy small trinkets for each other, then go on a morning walk around the promenade near our home. 

I moved to a boarding school in Dehradun, India, a few years later. We couldn’t meet our family for the short Diwali holidays, and Christmastime during our winter holidays was the only festival we got to celebrate something together. 

Stepping out to watch everything lit up and people in a festive mood was great. We would go gift-shopping with our mom and buy small gifts or make something at home. We would get things we could use or something related to our hobbies. Then, we would decorate our small tree together and all get cosied up at night for a movie or just talk. It was the highlight of my year.

As parents, we sometimes want to spoil our kids, but that does not always mean giving them toys and gadgets. Meaningful and useful holiday gifts stay with you for longer. Over the years, we have continued to meet up with family and friends during this time over a nice lunch and for the most part skipped the material gifting part completely. 

Jingle Bell Rock

Celebrating Christmas with kids

As a parent, we started setting up a Christmas tree at home just two years ago. It has made me notice a sea of change in how people celebrate now. Christmas has become so materialistic. There is a rush to get plastic trees and cheap plastic decorations, toys and gifts that will lose their meaning and purpose the next day, and a lot of sugar rush and food coma from overpriced Christmas lunches and dinners at fancy restaurants.

Our son is always excited about festivities and parties, so Christmas was just another day to celebrate when he was a toddler. But as he grew older, he found out about how other kids celebrate Christmas—with a tree and presents. While we don’t want him to miss out on all the fun, we also want to manage his expectations and emphasise the importance of meaningful vs material gifts.

We, as a society, also need to normalise gifts that are repurposed, handmade, and hand-me-downs. 

This year is the 3rd year we’ll celebrate Christmas with our son. The first year we didn’t have any presents under the tree because he wasn’t aware there should be. We just lit it up and had a nice dinner at home.

The following year, he figured that there were supposed gifts he should be getting. He got a small wooden train set he had selected and was happy with it. We were not stepping out, especially for shopping, because of the ongoing pandemic, so the temptation factor was also low.

Also check out my post on DIY Christmas trees that are eco-friendly and plastic-free for more low waste ideas to celebrate the holiday season.

This year, though, people around him have been hyped up Christmas, asking him what he wants from Santa this Christmas. They fail to mention that it’s not necessary he’ll be getting what he wants. As a consequence, he’s expecting a cartload of presents that he’s not going to get.

I’ve been reminding him every day that gifts can be many things and not just toys. I’ve also asked him to think about what gifts he’ll be giving us and his grandparents—only things he can make or do. He’ll also be making cards. So far, we’ve come up with a Lego build. He’ll be getting a waffle maker and apron from us. I will update this piece with his reaction.

UPDATE: He absolutely loved the waffle-maker and his new apron!

The Best Gift Ever

Christmas Gift ideas for kids who already have everything

Kids are easy to please if you’re paying attention to them, but we often give in and get them toys even though they already have too many. However, there are other alternative gift ideas that kids will genuinely love and want to use.

Utility gifts

  • Kitchen items kids can use such as their own knife, or apron
  • Clothes they’ll use
  • School supplies 
  • Food/snack basket

DIY Kits

  • Art and Craft kits you can compile or buy
  • Activity boxes are educational and keep them occupied for hours. Here are some we’ve tried and loved: Awesome Activity Boxes for Kids
  • DIY food making kits like a cake mix or a mulled wine kit (with non-alcoholic wine obviously)
DIY Mulled wine kit for Christmas gifting
DIY Mulled wine kit for Christmas gifting

Experiences

  • Tickets to a favourite place or movie
  • Enrolling in an activity class they’ll enjoy
  • Photo album or scrapbook with pictures of the year
  • Coupons to use with parents like “This coupon entitles the holder 1 extra story at bedtime”

Books

  • So many good options depending on the child’s interest and age 
  • Augmented Reality books if your child is allowed screen time
  • Personalised storybooks where the child’s name is printed within the story. (Zoomin or Wonderbly)
personalised book for kids - the little boy who lost his name
Personalised book from Wonderbly

Have yourselves a Merry Little Christmas

Christmas time is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Unfortunately, it can also be a time when we spoil our kids with toys that they do not need. Don’t get me wrong—I love toys; I think they’re necessary for a child’s physical and mental growth. But look for toys that are not just a fad and can genuinely be used to expand their creativity and imagination. 

It is crucial as a parent to teach our children that no matter what gift we give them is not the purpose of the holiday. It is about the meaning of Christmas and the child’s interaction with their family. Gifting should be more about the time spent and quality time than about the gift itself.

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