Non-Toy Gift Guide: Gifts That Are Practical (But Far From Boring)
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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 foolproof gift guide on the Internet (toot toot).
In this section of our Non-Toy Gift Guide we’re bringing you a load of fun ideas for practical gifts that will still get high fives from your kids. These gifts are the ones that will get used over and over again (hooray!), yet can still be super exciting if you find the right ones.
That’s where we come in. Our guide not only gives you the ideas, but also provides recommendations on where to get them – the coolest, trendiest, highest quality items that we’ve put in front of kids to test their reactions. Anything that the majority ho-hummed was automatically nixed, leaving just the best useful gifts that we guarantee your kids will love.
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For Their Room or Playroom
To a child, their room is just that – THEIR room, and they love to personalize, decorate and re-decorate it to make it their own. So gift some fun accessories they can add, or think about a child’s playroom and what might make it comfier, tidier or more exciting! The last one in this section is an incredible gift for those who can swing it!
Mermaid Sequin Pillow
Alternatively, grab one of these incredible reversible sequin pillows from the Mermaid Pillow Co. Kids go absolutely nuts over these! Simply run your hand or finger over the sequins and they flip to reveal another color – allowing kids to make cool designs, write words or simply change the color to fit their mood.
These ones are high quality (and actually include the pillow insert) and come in a multitude of designs.
And bonus: kids reported that they found playing with the sequins to be quite calming. Use it with them before bed to wind down, practice spelling letters, their name or sight words…trust us, you won’t be able to keep your hands off it either!
These charming, innovative plush friends are much more than just a pillow. Open it up and there’s a soft blanket inside which double as a dress-up cape! Pillowies are perfect for everyday play, as a nap-time set for daycare, or to use in the car or while traveling. You’ll find your kids carrying them around with the convenient carry handle, and placing all sorts of treasures inside! It’s a fun, practical gift they’ll quickly become attached to.
This one is a little tricky if you’re not buying for your own kids because you need to ensure that your gift will have a place in the child’s room, and not look, well, out of place. That means being familiar with their room’s color scheme and overall style – is it fresh and modern, or more rustic and homey?
Whatever the style, we promise you, you will find something on Minted.com that will be the right fit. Minted has the best selection of artwork for kids that isn’t too kiddy. Their pieces are fun, many can be personalized, and can be bought in all sorts of different sizes, with or without a frame (and there’s tons of frame choices too!).
Custom Photo Art
Yes, yes, yes! Just look at these stunning pieces of art you can customize with photos of your child and their favorite people. These are so far beyond the old school photo frame collection, and make a beautiful gift that can adorn the walls in their room way past the baby years. The heart and moon designs can even be hand-pressed with real foil that add a sophisticated shine, and that dinosaur?! Too cool.
Have fun picking out some useful accessories for their room or playroom. You can’t go wrong with the ones from Crate&Kids like this smart Magnet Bar (great for displaying artwork), fun Storage Bins, Art Caddies and the swoon-worthy Beaumont shelving collection.
RELATED: We recommend many more genius organizational products in our post How To Create The Ultimate Homework Station – pop over and take a peek!
Piggy Bank (+money!)
This is a great gift for teaching children the value of money, and how to budget and save. We’re currently obsessed with this Smart Piggy Trio Bank, which is just that – smart! There’s one “book” for spending, one for saving and another for sharing. They’re all super sturdy and easy to open so kids can keep track of how much they’ve collected. And you could even include a little (or a lot!) of pocket change in each one to start them off.
The overall concept really encourages them to think about others, and not just that expensive Lego set they have their eyes on. It even comes with a Kid’s Guide that introduces the basic money concepts.
This should be a must-have on your child’s birthday or holiday list!
Playhouse or Tee Pee Tent
A child’s playroom is not complete without a fun hideaway to call their own. A place where they can curl up with a book, giggle with friends, and hide from little sisters. You can’t beat the selection from Crate&Kids, who offer top-quality, long-lasting material with modern and fresh designs. From tee pees to ice cream trucks to telephone booths, they’ll make your child disappear all day long.
A tad ironic that a box for toys is on our list of non-toy gifts, but if you’re here looking at this guide, chances are your kids could really use some storage for the toys taking over your house. A beautifully made toy box can not only solve the clutter problem, but can be a lovely piece that can be passed down from generation to generation. The designs have come a long way since our day, and these modern ones barely even look like a clunky toy box. Take your pick!
Give your child a comfy place to rest, relax or read in their very own, perfectly proportioned chair. Our kids all have the Anywhere Chair from Pottery Barn Kids, and they get used every day. They are incredibly light-weight so can be moved anywhere (hence the name) they want – into a book nook for reading, in front of the TV for movie night, or turned over and made into a fun “slide” (editor’s note: my kids put theirs together upside down and make super fun obstacle courses!).
They come in a rainbow of colors, patterns, and materials, and can even be personalized with a child’s name. This is a wonderful gift for babies (who will grow into them), toddlers, and grade-schoolers. For an older child, try one of their equally awesome Anywhere Bean Bags.
Stuff ‘n Sit
Alternatively, if your house is overflowing with stuffed animals like ours, then boy oh boy do we have the perfect gift for your kids (which in a way, is also a gift for yourself!). Meet the Stuff ’n Sit. It may look like an ordinary bean bag, but it’s actually a genius way to store your kids’ stuffed animals…and get rid of the clutter once and for all.
Simply unzip and stuff them in! The fabric is high-quality, extra thick cotton and it opens up nice and wide with a reinforced zipper. There’s also a great sturdy fabric “handle” on one end which helps with moving the chair around once it’s filled.
If you’ve got extra blankets, pillows or even dress-up costumes, add them in too! Your kids get a fun new chair to lounge on and a super easy way to tidy up their rooms, while you get to enjoy an instantly clean and organized space. Talk about a win-win.
The Stuff ’n Sit comes in 3 different sizes and several different patterns/colors/fabrics. We recommend getting the Extra Large 38” – it will fit about 90 stuffed animals, which sounds like a lot, but trust us, if you have multiple kids and have been to your share of arcades and fun fairs, you will fill it up! (editor’s note: my kids have a zillion stuffed animals that they don’t play with all the time, but aren’t ready to depart with – the Stuff ’n Sit was the perfect solution. They can still keep their stuffies, but I don’t need to see them! Plus we get a comfy seat in our playroom, and on rainy days, the kids open it up and play with them for hours because they’ve been tucked away and feel new!)
Personalized Growth Chart
Your kids will love tracking their height on their very own growth chart. Customize these beautiful designs from Jolie Prints with your child’s name and mark their height every couple of months. Or go with a more classic one that they won’t mind having on their wall for the long haul, like this cut-out name in bold colors from Pottery Barn Kids, or these gorgeous rustic pine “rulers” from Keepsake Rulers that are handmade to order from 100% thick pine (no veneers here), come in different stains/colors, and can also be personalized. It will serve as a literal reminder of how far they’ve come.
RELATED: For more personalized gift ideas, check out:The Best Personalized Gifts for Babies & Kids
Adjustable Train/Activity Table
Why decide between a smaller kid-sized set, or a bigger version they’ll grow into, when you can have it all! This Adjustable Activity Table Set comes with 3 different sized legs, giving you the option to start it as a train/play table, then convert it into a little kids’ art table, and finally into a big kid desk. It also has a paper roll attachment, and optional accessories including a book bin and storage tray.
RELATED: Like the idea of buying multi-functional pieces that your child won’t quickly outgrow? Check out our popular post: The Secret To Less Baby Stuff. These 10 Multi-Functional Baby Products Will Grow With Your Child & Last For Years.
Budget for a Total Room Make-over!
Oh how we would have loved to have received this as a little girl. A budget for a full room make-over, complete with paint color of choice, bedding and accessories. Wrap-up some recent catalogs from their favorite stores with a book of paint-chips and a note explaining the rules!
Beauty + Fashion
Clothes (That You Wouldn’t Usually Buy)
To amp up your clothing gift (which many kids, particularly girls, will squeal with delight over) look for something special that you wouldn’t normally purchase for them. Perhaps it’s an item that’s a little more expensive, from a coveted store, or something they’ve had their eye on for months. Whatever it is, if you’re gifting to someone that’s not your child, always include a gift receipt so they can exchange the size (or style!) if they need to.
Shoes from See Kai Run
A new pair of shoes for the holidays may seem like a ho-hum gift idea, but not so fast! Think about the last time your kids slipped on a fresh-outta-the-box pair…bet they were smiling from ear to ear, right? And we just had to spotlight the incredible selection from one of our favorite brands, See Kai Run, because you really can’t go wrong with their style, technology and craftsmanship.
Never again will you hear “my feet hurt” because See Kai Run shoes aren’t just mini adult shoes – they are made specially to fit a child’s foot and allow for proper foot development. They have nice wide openings that make them super easy to get on and off (so you don’t have to help – hurrah!), even for wider feet. They’re flexible, lightweight and have breathable insoles, so after a full-day of active play, your child’s feet will still be comfy and happy.
And they always hit it out of the park with their sophisticated, fashion-forward styles that kids feel confident wearing. Take a peek at this season’s selections – they cover all the bases from adorable Mary Janes to dressier sneakers, to insulated waterproof boots.
A few of our favorite styles (pictured above) include the Matty dual-strap cotton-canvas sneaker which is as durable as it is stylish, the Kirby Navy Leather boot for boys and Keegan Gray Suede Stars bootie for girls which combine sneakers and boots in one cool design (they’re great for every day wear, but keep them looking super polished), and the Gilman Waterproof/Insulated Boot which will keep your kids toes toasty and dry all winter long.
From personal experience, we can certainly vouch for the durability of these shoes (editor’s note: my kids have been through numerous pairs of See Kai Run shoes, and after plenty of heavy wear ’n’ tear, they still look incredible!), making them perfect for passing down.
See Kai Run shoes are available in sizes infant to 4Y
Your kids will feel so grown-up with a watch of their own (and it’s great for knowing when it’s dinner time). Pick a fun digital one for younger kids and an analog one for older kids. We’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t tell you about the great selection from Flik Flak (the kid’s line from Swatch) which has a plethora of designs (from kiddy to girlie to sporty), and shows numbers for both the hours and the minutes – perfect for those learning how to tell time. The only downfall is that when you tell your child “Just a minute!”, they can actually hold you to it.
We give our highest recommendation to the incredible Garmin Vivofit Jr – a wearable activity tracker watch for kids age 4-9. This neat device keeps track of your child’s steps, sleep and percentage towards their 60 minutes of daily activity goal. Its 1-piece stretchy band makes for a comfy fit, it’s water/swim friendly and does not need recharging (battery will last about a year). It also includes a timer feature which your child can easily set on the watch themselves – we found this useful for daily activities like brushing teeth, waiting turns, doing homework and daily reading.
But that’s not all! Sync the Vivofit Jr. with the free app and you can create a whole personalized chore system where you give your child “coins” for each task they complete. Your child can see the coins come into their virtual piggy bank on the watch face and you can set up a reward system where they can redeem their coins for special “prizes” (editor’s note: both my 7 and 5 year olds have the Vivofit Jr. and it has been a game changer for chore completion. They will do anything for their coins – even if it means cleaning up the entire play room, or taking out the trash…with zero complaints! Still in shock at how effective it has been. Can’t recommend enough!)
A new pair of soft jammies with their favorite characters, colors or holiday motifs are a useful gift that kids actually love to receive. We like to invest in a few pairs of PJs from Hanna Andersson – their flat seams and 100% organic cotton make them super comfy, and they just get softer and softer with each wash (editor’s note: I can attest to this – my 3rd child is now in 2x hand-me-down Hannas and they are like buttah!). Hanna always has fun prints (kids will love the Disney Princess collection, and super fun holiday Star Wars patterns) and their stripes are always on-point.
On cold winter days, our kids love to slip on a pair of warm slippers to mosey around the house. Our personal favorites are these Swedish Moccasin Slippers from Hanna Andersson, and you can never, ever go wrong with a pair of Uggs (especially for teenage girls who value the brand just as much as the warmth!)
Handmade Hair Accessories
Girlie girls will go gaga over these gorgeous handmade hair accessories from one of our favorite Etsy shops, LaBelle Baby Bows. You’ll find bows on clips and headbands hand crafted from stunning fabrics — pick velvet for the holidays, gauze for summer or a limited edition vintage pattern for everyday musings.
Look for trendy ones like these from Eos that are now 100% natural and organic! They make a great stocking stuffer.
RELATED: Looking for additional ideas for your kids’ stockings? We’ve got you covered with 200+ Unique Stocking Stuffers For Babies to Teens (That Aren’t Junk!)
Children love to feel grown-up in a kid-sized robe, and who doesn’t love to stay warm and cozy after a nice bath?! If you’ve never felt the super soft material used by Barefoot Dreams, you need to suss them out, pronto! (editor’s note: I have 2 Barefoot Dreams robes myself and they are unbelievable…you feel like you’re in a cozy nest! Great gift for moms too!) Your kids will never want to take it off!
Personalized Bath Towel
We can’t say enough about these hooded beach towels from Pottery Barn Kids, and this is a gift that can be used for kids of all ages – from newborn to teens. Make sure you personalize it with their name to make it exclusively theirs.
Personalized Step Stool
Kids often need a little extra boost to reach the sink, hanging clothes or to open their blinds. A handy step stool makes all of these tasks possible, helping them become more self-reliant (and less likely to call for help – hoorah!). We adore the stools from Craft Carve (via Etsy) which can be customized with the child’s name, have a variety of different options for stains/colors and even doubles as a puzzle!
Getting your child to take a bath is simple once you pull out these easy-to-wipe-off crayons (just make sure they understand that they can’t draw on other walls…especially with say, permanent marker). Couple these with one of the gifts above or stick in a stocking for a fun stuffer.
Backpack or Large Tote Bag
Having their own bag for all their personal belongings creates a great sense of ownership and pride in a child. We cannot say enough about this Extra Large Zip Top Canvas Tote Bag from Lands’End – you won’t find anything as roomy and sturdy with this many pockets anywhere. Use it from birth (in fact it’s on our list for 10 Best Gifts For A New Baby), to college. (It also makes an awesome beach bag!)
And click over to view our popular Back-to-School Guides for the Hottest Backpacks for Grade Schoolers, Tweens & Teens, or ones that are just the right size for your Preschooler.
Mini Wheelie Suitcase
If you do a lot of over-night trips, your kids will think these 18” Hard Side Disney suitcases from American Tourister are just the coolest thing. They are small enough for them to wheel, and come in 9 different Disney character designs (from Princesses to Star Wars).
Your kids will jump at the chance to help pack up their toothbrush when they’ve got their very own toiletry bag (seriously, it works wonders). For younger kids one of these fun animal styles from Stephen Joseph is sure to make them smile. Tweens and teens may prefer the more grown-up selection from PBTeen. All of them are big enough to fit their toothpaste, brush and other travel sized items. Add a little surprise by filling it with a fun spinning toothbrush, hair accessories or bubble bath.
Personalized Luggage Tags
These bright and happy custom luggage tags from Emily Cromwell (via Etsy) can easily attach to any of the bags above to further personalize your gift. Kids will love seeing their name (although we do suggest just using their initials for safety reasons), and moms will love easily spotting their luggage on the airport carousel.
Every child should have a sleeping bag – and not just for camping! They are crucial for sleep-overs (that time will come!), and our kids bring them out all the time just to play in (they are great in playrooms for fort building too).
For indoor use, we love these adorable Shaggy Head designs from Pottery Barn Kids – the animal head is super soft and serves as the pillow, and kids love the feeling of snuggling up to a friend at night. Land of Nod also has a fun selection with zoo animals, Care Bears and whimsical designs galore
If your kids will be braving the great outdoors, we recommend the Coleman 30 Degree Youth Sleeping Bag – it will keep them warm and toasty if using outside, has a fun adjustable hood, and an interior pocket for keeping their treasures. It’s also machine washable (a must!) and at just under $40, a really great value.
Alright, you’re probably thinking “totally lame” and we get it – a regular ol’ blanket probably would be opened and tossed aside without much fanfare, but not this one. This one will be ripped open and immediately put on, transforming your elated child into a cozy mermaid or shark (or err, shark attack victim). These Blankie Tails are made from a super soft minky material and are perfect for cuddling up on the couch for movie night, reading in bed, or taking on a sleep over in place of a sleeping bag. Oh, and crazy potato-sack-like-races. Trust us, it will happen. Our kids didn’t want to take these off. A fantastic gift that will get tons of use, and will be well loved.
What kid doesn’t dream of a new bike with a big red bow on it?! It makes an extremely functional, yet exciting gift, that is sure to get lots and lots of use. And in this day and age of technology, it’s a sure-fire way to get your child up and moving outside in the fresh air. Fist bump for that.
Now we have one brand that we give our highest-of-high recommendation to: Guardian Kids Bikes. We’d heard about their innovative super-safe SureStop brake system and had the opportunity to test them for ourselves. We were blown away. Not only are these bikes a breeze to assemble (they come 95-99% assembled based on which one you select), but the quality and craftsman are comparable to that of a high-end adult bike.
Back to that SureStop technology we mentioned – this braking system reduces stopping distance and helps prevent braking related accidents including head-over handlebar falls (hurrah!) and front-wheel skidding. There’s only one brake lever making it much easier for kids to control, and the system automatically distributes the right amount of braking power to both wheels for smooth and controlled stopping. These bikes are worth the investment for this braking technology alone.
The website will easily help you calculate which size bike will be the best fit for your child: the 20” (available in single speed or 6-speed) or the 24” (7-speed). Both come in several different designs (editor’s note: my son exclaimed “that’s sick!” to the matte black with shiny colored decals …a good sign from a 7-year old I suppose!), are lightweight (about 10lbs lighter than the average kids bike), and include a sturdy kickstand.
Overall we found that riders who were a bit timid on their big box store bikes quickly became much more confident on the Guardian Bikes thanks to the quick and easy stop, and their overall geometry (lowered frame and longer wheelbase) which is specially designed to help kids learn to ride more easily.
This is one investment you won’t regret…and that your kids will never forget!
SPECIAL OFFER: Get $20 off every Guardian Bike using code: WHATMOMSLOVE at checkout.
Don’t underestimate the power of a simple flashlight. It can be a welcome gift that makes fort building and “monster” exploring that much more fun. We love this one that has a rubber grip and assorted bright colors (and is far better made than those geared solely to kids).
And if you want to really get them excited, try a headlamp for hands-free play! (editor’s note: my son asked for a headlamp for his birthday and has used this one from Shining Buddy in the most creative of ways. A huge hit I would recommend to anyone)
A wallet may seem like a ho-hum gift idea, but hear us out. Whether it’s real or not, kids LOVE playing with money. For little kids, the wallet serves as a great prop for imaginary games like store and restaurant, and they feel so grown-up having one just like Daddy. They also love to use it for their real money when going out to purchase something (perhaps with their “spend” section of our Editor’s Choice Piggy Bank), and having the responsibility of taking care of it is a great skill to learn. For older kids it becomes a trendier item that will travel with them for everyday use.
You can’t go wrong with the fun selection from Loungefly. These are high-quality wallets that have plenty of slots for cards and cash and a zippered compartment for coins, upping the play factor for the littles, and convenience factor for the big kids. They also have simple coin purses and a ton of fun character options from Star Wars to Disney to Hello Kitty.
Whether it’s a store-bought one with cute puppies, or a homemade one with family photos, calendars are great fun for kids who love to count down the days until big events (like a vacation or hello, Christmas!) (editor’s note: I make two photo calendars every year using the super easy drag ‘n’ drop templates from Shutterfly, one for the kids and one for myself. They have the best selection of layouts, styles and sizes and they always turn out fabulous. Give it a try!)
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And we’re always working on more guides (coming soon: The Best STEM Gifts for Kids).
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What was your favorite gift idea? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below and we may even add your idea to the list!