My daughter bought an iPod with her birthday money, and it is killing my son.
He started by asking for an iPad, then a Kindle Fire, then any tablet, then an iPod, and then a laptop. Then he started asking for “any device.” After telling him that, at five years of age, he is too young for electronics he began asking how old he will have to be before he is old enough.
He asks multiple times every single day.
For Dax, an electronic device is the be all end all of gifts, the perfect evidence of love expressed through giving. A lot of parents feel the same way, or maybe they just get tired of being asked for a device every single day.
I feel you, but don’t despair.
Here are 10 other, dare I say better, gifts for kids. These gifts will teach your children to imagine, create, and interact with others much better than any device ever could.
1. DIY Fort Kit
Every child I know loves a good blanket fort, so why not give them everything they need to build their own?
This can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. You could just grab some sheets, clothespins, flash lights and rope from around your house and wrap it all up. You could make one of these adorable kits using this tutorial from ARMOMMY, you could order one like this from Amazon, or you could support a small business and order one from Etsy.
2. Empty Boxes
I know, I know. As parents we want to buy something that is STEM approved and guarantees to improve their SAT scores, but have you ever seen a kid with a couple of empty boxes?
They’re SO HAPPY!
So why not save the money and encourage the creativity? Go get several large refrigerator boxes and some art supplies, and let your kids go.
Their imagination will go into overdrive, and you will be amazed at all the creative things they will think of. And if you sit down with them and pretend to fly to space/build a house/camp in the woods, you will be making memories they’ll never forget.
If you can’t find any empty boxes, you could order a cardboard kit like this and let your kids build and decorate it instead.
3. Sewing Kit
We all want our kids to have the necessary basic life skills, but first we have to teach them. Children love learning to do new things! Kids as young as four can be trusted to use a needle and thread with supervision. Yes, they might poke their finger and it might bleed a little, but that’s okay. It won’t do any permanent damage, and they will learn how to use a thimble.
If you already have a sewing kit, you could simply take some things out of yours and build your child their own little kit. You could go to your local craft store or even Wal-Mart and buy everything necessary for the kit or you could just order a preassembled kit from Amazon. We ordered this one for our oldest daughter when she was five, and it was fantastic!
Just be sure you make time to sit with them and teach them how to use the sewing kit. It’s no good to give a gift of learning a new skill when you won’t make time to teach it.
And remember, this isn’t a gift exclusively for girls. Boys need to know how to sew the buttons and hem pants too.
If this gift appeals to you, you might check out 15 fun and easy sewing projects for kids from Dabbles and Babbles blog.
4. Baking Kit
My daughter desperately wanted an EZBake Oven when she was five years old. My husband and I did not want to be forced to eat brownies cooked under a light bulb for the next 5 months, so we bought her a a convection toaster oven and several cookie and brownie mixes.
I committed to letting her actually help me with cooking and honestly, it’s been tough.
Breakfast and dinner time are usually pretty hurried in our house. Adding in the extra time to teach while cooking these meals wasn’t easy at first. But now, she’s eight and she is truly a help with meal preparation. Plus, it’s been teaching her some really valuable skills. She is learning to understand fractions, to read and follow directions, and how much work it is to cook!
Last week, she made muffins ALL BY HERSELF.
Yes, it took longer than if I had just done it myself.
Yes, I was a nervous wreck letting her pull them out of the oven.
Yes, she could have gotten burned.
But the pride on her face when she took them to church Sunday morning and told people that she did it all by herself, was totally worth the stress of the last three years. Plus, she now has a valuable skill that she can use to serve others.
Now it’s time to start it all over with her five year old brother.
5. Scrapbook and Supplies
Scrapbooking has changed a lot in the last two decades. Gone are the days of simple printed paper, pictures, and some stickers. Now it’s a crafting free for all. Which is exactly what kids like.
A great gift to give kids is printed pictures, craft supplies, and a smash book. If you haven’t heard of smash books, they’re exactly what they sound like. It’s a book with various printed papers that you simply smash (glue) all the stuff you want into it.
Amazon sells this K & Company Smash Folio for under $10 as an add-on item or this Gift Pack for under $20.
Or you could make your own book from this tutorial from Dollar Store Mom.
6. Gorilla Gym
This is amazing.
We bought one for our kids last Christmas and it is played on for at least an hour everyday. It’s awesome for those chilly winter days or hot summer days or every day in between.
Seriously. It’s been worth every penny.
7. Outdoor Kit
I want my kids to be more resilient and creative. These traits are developed through adversity. A large part of parenting is providing for our kids so that they don’t have to face adversity.
It’s a paradox.
One way kids can face a safe level of adversity is to send them outside. Unfortunately, they come back in within ten minutes and tell me that they are bored.
To combat this, I’ve put together a box of stuff to play outside. I used a medium plastic storage box with a lid and it has held up pretty well to the
wild things children. I included outdoor toys like side walk chalk, jump ropes, frisbees, bubbles, kites, binoculars, and balls. It’s all stuff that fosters creativity and can be used without adult supervision.
Recently, they built a doll elevator to their club house using an old box (see?! They’re so much fun!!) and some jump ropes. I was so proud!
You could also go to the dollar store to get this stuff or the dollar section at Target because let’s be honest, we will use any excuse to make a Target run.
Legos are the best.
Unless you don’t enjoy excruciating pain in your feet and the constant threat of babies choking.
But what if there was a way to avoid those things and still enjoy the amazing creative benefits of legos?
Enter the Lego playmat.
This is a total game changer for my house. As in, I’m going to actually buy more Legos for my children to play with instead of systematically throwing them away.
If you’re looking to buy Legos for cheap, check out Swap.com. They sell them by the pound as well as in kits.
9. Hair Kit
Little girls love fixing hair. Put together a kit with combs, brushes, hair ties, headbands, foam rollers, some of these cool curling rods, or whatever other fun hair stuff. Maybe even put some yarn in the kit so they can practice braiding.
10. Walking Stick
My dad made beautiful walking sticks and, of course, I didn’t appreciate them when he gave them to me.
Recently, my husband took our five year old son on a hike with some boys from church, and every boy spent the majority of the hike trying to find the perfect walking stick. Eventually, our son found “the one” and brought it home where it sits in a place of honor, and he touches it at least twice a day.
Every time he touches it, he talks about the awesome day he had hiking with his dad and how he can’t wait to whittle the stick and seal it with varnish.
So basically this is a gift of time with a free stick you pick up on the way.
As people get older, they second guess a lot of their decisions. Some are trivial in the grand scheme of life.
For instance, I wish I hadn’t gotten a black eye fighting with my sister the day before the homecoming dance.
Some are more central to who we have become as adults. I wish I had spent more time with my dad and grandparents. Anyone dealing with loss probably feels the same, but I have never heard anyone say, “I wish I had spent more time playing Nintendo.”
Maybe your kid can learn to code on their tablet, but they probably won’t.
Your daughter might be the next Steve Jobs, but probably not.
Sure, that tablet will allow them to keep in touch with family across the country, but they will probably just play Angry Birds most of the time.
I don’t know the future, but I can guarantee that the course and direction of your child’s future will be inextricably bound to the relationships they make with people.
So, give them gifts that teach them to share, cooperate, imagine, design, create, and dream together.
What gifts have you found to help make your children into better adults?
Donna Alston says
A really great blog post with valuable suggestions. It’s so easy to get caught up in the Christmas trap as a parent of wanting amazing Christmas morning pictures with all the Santa gifts laid, out just waiting for happy faces to see what he brought. At least that was th case at our house. Then, one fine summer day, our oldest child, age 5 at the time, decided to run away to the neighbors house even though we had told him he couldn’t go. My husband decided we would clean out his room before we called him home. All the toys went up into the attic. Everything! Not a car left, not even one. When he got home he had to stay in his room for the remainder of the day and think about his poor choice of disobeying us. The toys were gone for a week. At the end of the week we told him he could chose two toys to bring down from the attic. At the end of he next week, if things went well, he could chose another two.
He chose his Legos and his box of cars. He never asked for any other toys. Between playing outside and the Legos and cars, and a little bit of imagination, he was a content, happy little boy.
Long story short… most of the gifts we bought for under the tree were more for the great pictures rather than for the joy they brought the child.
That is such a great story! I love the parenting technique as well as the result. Thanks for the support. It’s hard to not get caught up in buying stuff just for the sake of it!
Yup. All great gifts. We own several, or variations on them. In fact, my 5yo just started playing (again) with the Crazy Forts kit my girls got last Christmas (= one of last year’s top gifts)…
Halee Anthony says
Yay!! My kids love building forts. 😍
I love these Suggests!!! Gym idea is my FAvorite !!
Halee Anthony says
All four of our kids play on the gym set every single day. It’s pretty nice because it doesn’t make a mess, but they’re not the greatest at sharing! 😬
Lindsey Renee says
Such great ideas. My boys love empty boxes and making forts. My oldest son was into cooking so we did the baking set and he has had so much fun with it!
Halee Anthony says
I’ve got to start teaching my son to cook. It was so easy with my daughter because she was so eager to learn. My son is so energetic so I know it’s going to be a completely different experience!
Taylor Johnson says
I love these ideas! I couldn’t agree more that our kids need to be using their imagination and interacting with others! Thank you for these great ideas!
Halee Anthony says
Thanks Taylor! It’s so easy to say that kids need to be creative, but at 5:00 when I’m cooking dinner it’s so easy to turn on the tv!! 😬
Apple Mountain Life says
Thanks! This is such a great list, that gorilla gym looks awesome. I have 4 boys, so I thi k we’re going to have to get one of those.
Halee Anthony says
My kids LOVE it! They all play on it every single day. Even our one year old!