8 non-toy gift ideas for kids and teens

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Snowboarder taking a jump in fresh snow.

Snowboarder taking a jump in fresh snow.

Gifts aren’t bad, especially during the holidays, but there can be too much of a good thing. Even if you aren’t a minimalist, you may not want to gift your kids another toy. Perhaps they may have too many already and you don’t want to spend your hard-earned cash on a gift that will end up in the bottom of a bin. Or maybe you have older kids and teens that have outgrown the Barbie and Lego stage completely. Try these eight non-toy Christmas gift ideas for kids who don’t need toys:

1. Classes

Sign your child up for classes tailored to their interests: art, music, karate or skating, for instance. This option is more expensive than a traditional gift, but it could pay dividends throughout the year (and could save you money if you were considering signing them up anyway). If you don’t want to pay all year long, consider gifting an “intro” or month of classes.

2. Memberships

A month- or year-long membership to the children’s museum or zoo is great for younger children, while older kids and teens may prefer a membership to an indoor rock climbing facility or activities center like Provo Beach. A membership to a city recreation center is a great family gift.

3. Sports equipment

Sports and outdoor gear helps keep kids active, can enhance their talents or introduce them to new skills and can encourage family togetherness. For colder months, try skis or snowboards, sleds and snowshoes. For the warmer months, bikes and scooters, kayaks and canoes are good options.

4. Subscriptions

Kids love to get things in the mail, so why not gift them a subscription to a magazine like Highlights, National Geographic Kids, Odyssey or Time for Kids? Or sign them up for a monthly service such as Kiwi Crate, which sends hands-on arts, crafts and science activities, Pley, a Lego rental service, or Little Passports, which includes letters, photos and activity pages from fictional world travelers Sam and Sofia. For older kids, try a subscription to Kindle Unlimited, Audible.com or Spotify.

5. Event tickets

Older kids and teens may enjoy tickets to events that aren’t normally in the budget: hot concerts, Broadway plays and pricey sports events. Season tickets are more fun than a one-off but more expensive, too.

6. Vacations

Give your family the option to choose between traditional presents under the tree or a vacation. It could be a staycation of comparable value or a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for the family. The vacation doesn’t have to be at Christmastime, giving you the option of combining your Christmas budget with your annual family vacation budget if you have one. If you’ve got older kids that can contribute financially to a trip — like teens who have a part-time job — considering gifting only part of the trip, like a plane ticket or the hotel stay, to save money.

7. Gift cards

Teens will likely appreciate gift cards to bowling alleys, pottery studios, restaurants, movie theaters and the like. For younger kids, you could present gift cards as a part of a one-on-one date with mom or dad.

8. Adventurous experiences

Cool experiences such as paragliding or scuba diving lessons, a helicopter tour or a whitewater rafting trip are memorable and meaningful. For maximum impact, coordinate with the parents of your teen’s friends so they can enjoy their gift with an entourage.

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Natalie Hollingshead is a former magazine editor turned freelance writer and editor. She writes regularly about home, family, food and travel for a handful of publications, and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking” (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Elyssa Andrus. A native of Alberta, Canada, Natalie lives in Orem with her husband and their three children.

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