The holiday season has only barely begun and I’m already rearranging our modest playroom—which is also my kids’ shared bedroom—in preparation for the haul of toys I know they’ll get at Christmas.
My daughters are well loved by our large, generous family, made evident on Christmas morning when gift after gift is pulled from the tree, addressed to… you guessed it: the kids.
They become little present-unwrapping machines, eyes glazing over as the pile of toys and paper grows. The gifts are thoughtful and catered to their interests. But there are a lot of them. And when Christmas is over and the toys have been enjoyed, they join the growing collection of stuff already filling that dreaded playroom.
There are ways to rein in that haul while still allowing family to give wonderful presents. It starts with a diplomatically worded email that encourages everyone in the family to re-think what it means to give presents to kids (and by extension their parents). Once you have buy in, you'll need to present a carefully planned wish list of non-toy gift ideas. Here are some ideas.
A monthly subscription is the gift that keeps on giving, and who doesn’t love getting a surprise in the mail every month? Owl Kids publishes six different magazines geared toward kids from 3 to 13. Or consider a monthly subscription box. Pipsticks sends stickers in the mail, Kiwi Crate features craft projects, Kidstir is geared toward foodie kids (it doesn't currently ship to Canada, though) and MailOrderMystery sends clues for a mystery to solve. There’s quite literally a subscription out there for any child and any interest.
Money for extracurricular activities like ballet, soccer, music and even toddler yoga are a fantastic no-toy gift. A nice way to show the gift-giver how much your child enjoys their present is take a picture of them having fun doing the activity, and then sending the photos back.
At first glance this may seem like a pricey suggestion, but a membership is actually great gift for an entire family. Most zoos, art galleries, museums and science centres offer family memberships that pay for themselves within two or three visits, and usually last the entire year.
While full-year memberships might come with a higher price tag, there's also the option of asking Grandma to get your kid a one-time admission to your local aquarium, amusement park, movie theatre, children’s discovery centre or even scenic train ride. You can also check out your community’s listing of upcoming events and request tickets to a live show like Disney on Ice.
If, despite your requests to keep "stuff" at a minimum, your in-laws are balking at the idea of giving a gift that can't be wrapped in a box and put under a tree, ask for gifts that get used up on the first go. Michaels is a great spot to pick up craft packs, while Alex Toys has great craft kits for kids of all ages. Other perishable gift ideas include coloured bath bombs and bath crayons, temporary tattoos and face paint.
If the kids you’re shopping for are in extracurricular activities, chances are they could use some equipment. From new skates or ballet tights, to strider bikes and water wings, these are great gifts that will get used lots, and don’t take up space in the playroom.
This is where creative gift-givers can build custom gift baskets, like family movie nights that include popcorn, Junior Mints and a new DVD, or Netflix or iTunes gift card.
Tell Grandma your kids would love a voucher to take them to a movie, an indoor trampoline gym, art centre, or even a walk in the woods with hot chocolate afterwards. One of the most memorable gifts my daughter received was an invitation to my brother’s house for a camping-themed sleepover. They slept in a tent in the living room and made hot dogs and S’mores.
Most kids would be thrilled to get a gift with their name on it—be it a water bottle, a pencil case or charm bracelet. Click here for all sorts of cute ideas.
This article was originally published online in November 2016.