Non-Toy Gift Guide: Gifts To Spark Creativity, Imagination & Special Interests
Welcome! We’re thrilled you’ve found our Unrivaled Guide to Non-Toy Gifts For Kids Of All Ages. Not to toot our own horn or anything, but when it comes to presents that aren’t toys, this is the biggest, most extensive and straightforward gift guide on the Internet (toot toot).
This latest installment of our Non-Toy Gift Guide is probably our favorite, because these presents will encourage your child’s creativity, inspire them to try something new, or be the starting point of a life-long passion.
It doesn’t get much better than helping them find that special thing that’s their “jam”. Plus, these all have the I-can-light-up-a-child’s-face affect that never gets old.
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Inspire A Hobby
Isn’t it wonderful when a child discovers something they are really, really excited to do in their free time? Open their eyes to one of the hobbies below, and you’ll never have to hear “I’m bored” again.
Learning to sew can inspire so much creativity in a child – having the skills to make their own clothes, toys, quilts and anything else their imagination dreams up can be so powerful. For children learning how to use a machine, we recommend the Janome Derby Line. It’s simple to use, includes 10 built-in stitches, and has a nifty built-in finger guard to keep them safe from the sharp needle. It’s light-weight so kids can bring it anywhere, and they all love the bright color combinations. A great little machine that will last them a long, long time.
And if you want to pair the machine with some inspiration, we highly recommend this amazing guide, Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love to Make. The instructions and cut-out patterns are simple enough for children aged 5 and up, and the projects include fun items like pillows, dolls and blankets. It’s all you need to get a child excited about sewing.
The best learn-to-knit kit we’ve found for young kids is this Craft Chunky & Funky Scarf from ALEX Toys. The instructions are as simple as it gets, and the included knitting needles are shorter and thicker to make it easier for kids to maneuver them. The yarn is nice and chunky so they can see their stitches, and it can be used to knit a scarf and matching hat. A great simple set to get them started on their knitting adventure.
There are some great kits that tend to be geared towards tween girls that are a good starting point for beginners. They offer all the tools needed, plus yarn, instructions and patterns. Try our favorites, Crochet Art Kit by 4M and Crochet A Rainbow Scarf by ALEX Toys.
If you have an older child past the beginner stage, gifting a more grown-up set like The Ultimate Crochet Kit with various sized hooks and accessories will get a big thumbs up!
If your child is old enough (recommended age 4+), treat them to their very own set of REAL tools. You won’t find any flimsy plastic with the Grip 9 pc Children's Tool Kit – only super strong steel in a scaled-down size, perfect for smaller hands. The set includes an adjustable wrench, 2 pliers, scissors, hammer, 2 screwdrivers, a tape measure (always a kid favorite) and a cool storage bag. For bonus points add on an adjustable canvas and leather Tool Belt and Safety Glasses.
If you have a playdoh or clay loving child, turn it up a notch with a beginner’s potter’s wheel set. We think this one from Creativity for Kids is pretty darn great, and comes loaded with clay, tools, paint, glaze, brushes, apron, table cover, illustrated instructions and ideas galore. Kids will have a blast creating everything from pinch pots to figurines. You’ll want to get your hands messy and give it a try too!
Magic Trick Kit
Got a little performer on your hands? Teach them how to amaze an audience with magic tricks with a “how to” kit like this 100-Trick Spectacular Magic Show Suitcase. After watching the instructional DVD and a little practice, you won’t believe what they pull out of a hat!
This may seem like a strange gift to some, but it was one of the items that got our tester’s the most excited, and held their attention for the longest period of time (we’re talking hours each day!). This Kid’s Gold Finder Treasure Hunter Metal Detector is simple to use and is sensitive enough to find coins, bottle caps, jewelry and any other metal objects. Kids can go treasure hunting in their backyard, on the beach, or create their own “hunt” under blankets, pillows and cushions on a rainy day. Seriously, give this one a chance, you won’t be sorry.
Coin Collecting Kit
Whether you start your kids out by buying a few rare coins for safe keeping, or simply aim to collect all the State Quarters (This State Quarter Map is a fun way to do it), kids can learn more about our currency, geography and appreciation of value.
Puppet Theatre + Puppets
Want to inspire a love of theatre (while seeing some hilarious shows and endless creativity)? You won’t believe what comes out of your kids (or should we say, puppets) when they step behind the curtain and transform into character. It’s an unbelievable toy for imaginative play…and even works their gross motor skills.
If you have the space, this Deluxe Puppet Theatre is the one to get – it’s super sturdy and has luxe curtains, a clock and chalkboard (to announce show times!) and is the perfect height for younger kids to stand behind. Pair it with any of these awesome detailed puppet sets for a gift that gets a big round of applause.
Dress-Up Clothes + Costume Jewelry
For younger kids, having a good selection of dress-up clothes can inspire so many types of play. We love the pre-packaged “Role Play” Clothes from Melissa and Doug, or simply raid Grandma’s closet for old hats, shoes, boas, ball gowns, and bridesmaid dresses. And don’t forget the costume jewelry - look for fun necklaces, earrings (stick-on or real), bracelets and rings that are age-appropriate.
Cooking + In The Kitchen
We have fond memories of helping our mothers in the kitchen – cooking, baking, and taste testing – and we think it’s a wonderful bonding experience between parent and child to be involved in the process of making a family’s food. Not only that, but it is also very beneficial to help kids understand the importance of healthy eating, and can really nip picky eating in the bud. These gifts can help bring children into the kitchen, and get them excited about cooking (and eating!)
Gift a few fun cookbooks to a foodie kid who loves to experiment with you in the kitchen. These ones are the most frequently used in our kitchen: Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love To Make (and Eat!), Kid Chef: The Foodie Kids Cookbook and American Girl Baking.
Kid Friendly Knives + Cooking Utensils
Add on a few kitchen tools and accessories to your cookbook gift, like these incredible knives which allow kids to cut through fruit and veggies, but won’t cut through their skin!
For older kids ready to step-up their cooking to the next level, take a peek at the Junior Chef line from Williams Sonoma which offers top-quality tools sized just for them.
We also love the genius Opinel Le Petit Chef Knife & Fingers Guard set which keeps your child's fingers out of harm's way. The finger hole on the knife's wooden handle not only teaches them the proper hand placement, but also positions their fingers to prevent them slipping onto the blade. The accompanying finger guard allows them to safely hold the food without the worry of them cutting themselves. The stainless steel blade has a rounded tip, but is sharp enough to cut through hard vegetables like carrots and potatoes. If you want to teach good knife skills and worry less about your child helping in the kitchen, this is the gift you've been looking for!
Standing Step Stool
With this safe Learning Tower, kids can really get in on all the kitchen fun. It adjusts to the perfect height so they can stand right up at the counter with you, and there’s no chance of it tipping over or them slipping off. If you have the space, it’s our #1 recommended product for getting your kids to eat healthy because it gets them invested in the food they are eating.
Fun Pop Molds
We’ve never met a popsicle hating kid, or one that doesn’t like to lend a hand making them. Homemade pops are much healthier than the store-bought kind, and thanks to the ingenious folk at Zoku, they only take a few minutes to freeze! So impatient kids (ahem, all) don’t have to wait hours to inhale them. Their Zoku Quick Pops book has a ton of fun and creative ideas for them too!
Move over Easy Bake Oven, it just got way easier, and way more fun for kids to make their own beloved treats! Baby Cakes has the ultimate tools to help kids “bake”. Their waffle-maker-looking devices have molded non-stick plates that can easily make cupcakes, donuts or cake pops. They don’t need to whip up fancy ingredients either (although with this Babycakes Cake Pop recipe book you can get as advanced as you'd like!), boxed cake, brownie or muffin mixes work perfectly. Your grade-schooler, tween or teen will love these little devices. And moms – get this, they can use it to make all their own treats for school parties and bake sales, woohoo!
Fun Eating Tools, Utensils and Plates
If you make eating fun, kids are more likely to actually eat. We wrote a whole post on it, and recommended our top 26 products to help picky eaters (or good eaters!) gobble up their meals. It’s one of our most popular guides, so make sure to hop on over and take a peek.
Personalized Water Bottle
An ordinary water bottle may not spark any great fanfare, but add a cool monogram and you’ve got instant high fives! Special Etch offers various monogram styles and colors on a great Camel Bak straw bottle (go with their sports numbers, school mascot or classic initials) or on a trendy stainless steel S'well. Alternatively, buy the monogram by itself and use it to personalize whatever water bottle they already have.
Arts + Crafts
We love to give Arts & Crafts themed gifts - not only do they provide hours upon hours of fun, but they help develop fine motor skills, creativity and imagination. And they don’t have to be a “messy” project to be fun, many of the ideas below are mess-free (moms rejoice!).
Make-Your-Own Art Supply Basket
Fill a container with all the supplies they’ll need to make their own amazing creations (think pom poms, googly eyes, paper plates, popsicle sticks, cotton balls, fun paper, scissors, glue, etc.) If you’d rather go for something right off the shelf, this Giant Art Jar will get the job done.
Giant Coloring Poster
Go beyond a regular coloring book with these larger-than-them coloring posters. Roll them out on the floor or across the dining room table for hours of detailed fun (you’ll find it hard to resist too!). Two of the best are the MoMA NYC Poster, and the Coloring America with State Trivia pictured here.
Large Canvas + Brushes + Paints
Hit up your favorite artsy superstore or use our online recommendations to gift your child a blank canvas and fun painting supplies. In turn, they'll gift you with a glorious masterpiece.
For toddlers and little kids, you’ll need a sturdy set of larger brushes, brightly colored paints (washable!), and some no-spill cups for water. Add on a fun palette shaped paint tray (kids love these!), and don’t forget the smock (this one has long sleeves and some fun pockets for holding brushes and other accessories).
If you’re shopping for an older child who is past the washable stage, this set of 12 Acrylic Paints is top-quality with vibrant thick paints and 6 brushes. Grab a set of 8x10, 12x12 or 11x14 stretched canvas panels, and present them with this fab Artists Adjustable Desk Box Easel (we love the storage drawer), which will not only make painting easier, but will make them feel really professional too.
Journal/Diary + Gel Pens
Pick out a special journal or diary where your child can confess their inner-most thoughts and feelings. We adore the high-quality ones from Peaceable Kingdom that include fun designs for girls (this one glows in the dark!) and boys (take a look at this cool vault and lock’n’key design) and include a real working lock and key – so their secrets stay safe from sneaky siblings.
Wrap it with this awesome set of gel pens. You may think we’ve lost our marbles, but we promise you, they will think those pens are the best thing. evah.
"Adult" Coloring Book + Colored Pencils
They may be called adult coloring books, but that doesn’t mean your kids can’t enjoy them too. They are great for practicing fine motor skills with all of the small detail work, and make for stunning pieces to hang up and display. Go for one of Mindware's Fantastical Styles coloring books which offer intricate designs with kid-friendly themes like Ocean, Animals and Flowers. Pair it with a set of colored pencils (these Prismacolor tins are top-notch), and pre-sharpen them so they are ready to go!
Young artists delight in having their very own workspace to scribble or draw to their hearts content. This beautifully crafted Wooden Easel from KidKraft features a chalkboard side, dry erase side, and an easy pull-down paper roll, plus tons of storage for supplies. We have one that is still going strong after more than 5 years of heavy use!
Paper Airplanes Kit
Paper airplanes have been around since, well, paper – and they’re great fun for kids once they know all the secrets to making fast flyers. Our kids love the Fold ‘n Fly kit which teaches them how to make 6 different kinds of planes, and includes fun paper, stickers and a folding tool.
A beautiful set of personalized note cards and note paper makes a lovely gift for an older child who can use them to write thank-yous, or sweet notes to their friends. We adore the modern and whimsical selection from Minted. And with hundreds of designs, you'll find the one best suited to your child's interests.
Let kids take their creativity (and mess!) outside. Perfect for turning driveways into race tracks, sidewalks into hop scotch and walkways into works of art. You can’t beat Crayola’s 48-count box for their bright colors and long-lasting chalk. And to ratchet up the fun-factor, include a Walkie Chalk "Stand Up" Sidewalk Chalk Holder - an adjustable holder that will let your kids draw while standing up. You should see what our kids have drawn with this simple tool: whole cities with intricate road systems and railway tracks that span the entire length of a driveway! It opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities (it is also a total life-saver for pregnant mamas or grandparents!).
RELATED: See what creative games and activities you can do with a simple piece of chalk in 101 Genius Sidewalk Chalk Ideas
Bright colors paired with delicious scents like Apple, Cherry and Blueberry will entice your kids to start creating right away! This pack of scented markers will pair perfectly with the coloring poster, adult coloring book or diary mentioned above.
Stamps + Ink Pad
You can’t go wrong with one a stamp set from Melissa and Doug, they are well-made with sharp lines, great designs and all come with a brightly colored (and washable!) ink-pad.
Books are always a welcome gift, and you can really never have too many. Ask your local bookstore for suggestions for appropriate aged stories, and make sure to check out our picks for Read-Aloud Chapter Books that are perfect for pre-readers, early readers and even older children who still appreciate a good story.
Books You Loved As A Child
This is one of our favorite sentimental gifts – a selection of your favorite childhood books. Don’t forget to write an inscription on each, explaining your memory, and why they are special to you.
OK, you have to see these incredible bookmarks from My Bookmark. They are so creative and your kids will actually think they are cool. Really, we’ve even tested it. Pick from the huge selection including legs from the Wicked Witch, elf shoes, a mermaid's tail and C3PO – there is sure to be a character or theme that will connect with your child. Add this to the gift above for a little extra pizazz.
This is one that many parents don’t think of for kids, but you’ll be shocked at the response you’ll get from them. They come in insanely useful on long car rides, and are more than bearable for adults who “have” to listen too. You gotta try The Roald Dahl Audio Collection, The Magic Tree House, and The Chronicles of Narnia.
Imagine reading your child a bedtime story and it being all about them – their name, family, friends and favorite things. It makes them feel SO special – like the book was written just for them. Browse the personalized book selection from I See Me and there’s no doubt you’ll find the perfect one for your child. (editor’s note: a personal favorite is “A Christmas Bear For…” My son received this as a gift when he was 2, and still requests it – even when it’s not the Holidays! It also comes with a mini teddy bear which ties into the story, and is now very well loved.)
Custom Photo Book
If you want to really knock your child’s socks off, how about creating your own photo book just for them? Using the easy-to-use software from companies like Shutterfly, you can make professional looking ABC Books (with family members and favorite things represented for each letter), a Year in Review book, or a book chronicling a special trip (like Disney World!)
Recordable Story Book
For parents who travel or work the late shift, or grandparents that live across the country, these Recordable Story Books from Hallmark are everything.
They are super simple to record and offer very clear play-back. Your kids will love the feeling that their special someone is with them – even when they can’t be.
Choose a mini LED light that will clip onto their favorite book to encourage reading before bedtime. A great stocking stuffer or accompanying gift to any of the book-related gifts above.
Whether listening to it, or creating it, music is a wonderful gift that works for any age, and promotes movement, musicality and best of all – laughter!
And when they are old enough to learn how to play a real instrument (we recommend at 5+), a keyboard, guitar or (gulp) drum set, make a wonderful gift. You can also add on lessons (see Non-Toy Gifts for Learning & Expanding Horizons) or an instructional book/DVD so they can get started learning how to play right away.
We do want to highlight one instrument that is often overlooked: the Ukulele. It is the perfect size for small hands, has only 4 strings, and is a great stepping stone to learning the guitar later in life. And the sound it makes is so sweet and charming, it makes listening to your child practicing extremely bearable! We love the Rainbow Series Soprano Ukulele that comes in all sorts of fun colors.
For younger children, you must go right now and order anything from The Laurie Berkner Band. Her hit songs are super silly, interactive and soooo catchy. And most important of all, they won’t drive you crazy when you hear them played on repeat 50,000 times. You may even find yourself singing them when your kids aren’t around!
We also sing high praises for the husband-wife duo Play Date, whose indie rock vibe will have your kids (and you!) jamming along in no time. Their songs are upbeat (you can’t help but want to dance), and have super catchy, thoughtful and positive lyrics crafted especially for kids. Their CD Imagination has gotten us through many a long car ride, and their latest, We All Shine, is equally as magical.
itunes Gift Card
Older kids will likely prefer to download their music digitally, so an itunes gift card will allow them to easily select their favorite artists and songs themselves.
A nice set of headphones can be a lifesaver on long car rides or flights, or simply when siblings want to listen to different things (and don’t have to play the “I can crank my volume louder than yours” game).
For toddlers to tweens, we suggest these awesome LilGadgets Connect+ Headphones which have a built-in volume limit, a handy carrying pouch and if you have multiple kids watching the same movie, you can connect the headphones to share audio without the need for a splitter!
For teens, you can’t go wrong with a pair of Beats. Yes, they are pricey, but you can’t beat the sound quality and light-weight design, and they have the street cred this age covets. And trust us, you will be thanked profusely.
A small, easy-to-operate CD player like this one is a nice accompaniment to any music CDs, as it will allow them to play their music whenever they choose (well, maybe not at 2 in the morning, but you know what we mean). It can really give them a sense of ownership over the music as they get to select what CD to play, and when to play it.
Phew. If you’ve been through all of our Non-Toy Gift Guides that’s over 200 ideas to choose from! If you missed any of them, be sure to check 'em out:
- Non-Toy Gifts For Learning & Expanding Horizons
- Non-Toy Gifts That Are Practical (But Far From Boring)
- Non-Toy Gifts For Making Memories
- Non-Toy Gifts To Receive In The Mailbox
And if you haven't yet downloaded our free printable coupon book from our Making Memories guide, click the graphic below for access!
- The Best Vehicle Toys For Car, Truck and Construction Junkies
- The Best Building Toys For Kids (From Blocks To Robots)
- The Best Gross Motor Indoor Toys For Active Kids (To Get That Energy Out!)
- The Very Best Babies, Dolls & Doll Accessories For All Ages & Stages
- The Best Doll Houses & Accessories For Your Doll-Obsessed Girl (or Boy!)
- The Best Princess-Themed Gifts For Your Little Princess
- 200+ Unique Stocking Stuffers For Babies To Teens (That Aren't Junk!)
And we're currently finalizing our brand new guides for 2017:
- The Best Arts & Crafts For Boys & Girls - coming soon!
- The Best Board Games For Solo, Sibling and Family Play - coming soon!
- The Best Toys For Super Hero & Star Wars Fanatics - coming soon!
For notification when we release each new guide, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter. We'll also hook you up with exclusive deals, and freebies like our popular report: 10 Screen-Free Toys For Guaranteed Quiet Time That Will Let You Relax, Recharge or Put The Laundry Away
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What was your favorite non-toy gift idea? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below and we may even add your idea to the list!