Simplify your holiday: 101 (fun!) toy-free gifts for kids

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

I was going to wait until December to share this post again but I realized that sooner might be better if the idea of a simplified season is a new (but appealing) one to you. Especially if you will be sharing this list with friends or family.

Because a season full of giving and connection, but lacking in the overwhelm of too much stuff feels just right over here. And I thought, perhaps, it would for some of you as well.

: :

Are you inspired to have a more simple holiday with a little less excess at the end of the season? Especially when it comes to your children?

You're not alone.

Since I shared these two posts to inspire more simple celebrations and to share our family's almost toy-free journey, I've gotten several emails asking for a bit more guidance.

Less toys? Yes! Less clutter? Please! Less consumption? Amen.

These ideas are easy to get on board with until it's time to wrap presents or stuff stockings.

But then what?

Right. That's when it gets sticky.

So Sage (12), Lupine (8) and I worked up a list of 101 toy-free (and many clutter-free, consumption-free, stuff-free!) gifts to give to your littles this season.

Going toy-free requires a little thinking outside the box, so be open to new traditions and a new way of doing things.

Remember: just because it's a new idea for your crew doesn't mean it won't be fan-freaking-tastic. You might find that you all love it more than you ever imagined.

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

A few thoughts before we embark:

1. We often go overboard in our culture. Way overboard. I'm as guilty of this as the next. But when I started to pull back on the gifts (and the toys) I expected my kids to be a bit disappointed. At least at first. But they weren't. The first low-stuff year was voted the "best Solstice ever" by them both (That was the year they each received an ornament and a love coupon.) Go slowly and see how it feels to everyone. This isn't a formula for a better way to do anything. It's just how we do things around here. It might be a fit, it might not. Be open to either option.

2. Consider making a gift of something you might do anyway. It sounds silly, but if you child wants to take a class or go to camp, why not give that as a holiday gift? It would surely be appreciated. And your budget will be so darn happy about it.

3. And finally, consider the child. What does your little one love? What makes them tick? I'm betting it's not only toys. Craft a gift that suits their passions. Because these are the gifts they will remember. A train-obsessed two year old would flip for a ride on a real train or a visit to a train museum. And a ballet-obsessed six year old would be wild with anticipation to see a ballet rehersal or performance. You get the idea.

Many of the gifts listed below are items I have actually given my kids through the years. Obviously you have to consider the age and interests of your child, but this is a solid jumping-off place.

But enough chatter. Let's get to it.

101 toy-free holiday gifts and stocking stuffers

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

Give an Experience

These are among our family's favorite gifts – to give, to receive, and to cash in!

  1. Gift certificate to the skating rink
  2. Gift certificate to restaurant, cafe, or ice cream shop
  3. Movie theatre tickets
  4. Museum membership
  5. Love coupons for special dates together (one per month or one per season would be fun!)
  6. Music or dance lessons
  7. Tickets to a play, a concert, or the ballet
  8. Horseback riding lessons
  9. Magazine subscription
  10. Sparkle Stories subscription
  11. Gift certificate to summer camp
  12. Sleepover party "gift certificate"
  13. Media time tokens (if children receive limited screen time in your home)
  14. Home pizza party coupon
  15. Breakfast in bed gift certificate
  16. "Coupon" for an night at a hotel with a pool with a parent and a friend
  17. Certificate (homemade is great!) for special event, midway tickets for the county fair, etc.

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

Kitchen Gifts and Treats

My kids have been busy in the kitchen since they could stand on a step stool at the counter. For this reason special kitchen-related gifts are always met with enthusiasm. (And yes, treats are too.)

  1. Child-sized tea cup or dishes set
  2. Recipe and ingredients for a special dessert
  3. Tea party dishes and coupon for a tea party with a friend
  4. Fresh fruit
  5. Chocolate
  6. Homemade cocoa mix
  7. Cookbook
  8. Candle for the dinner table
  9. Place mat
  10. Travel cup or drinking jar
  11. Dried fruit or friut leather
  12. Nuts in the shell and a nut cracker
  13. Personalized cloth napkin
  14. Apron
  15. Child-sized kitchen tools
  16. Recipe box with favorite recipes and blank recipe cards

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

Outdoor gifts

Get out there! To the county park, to your backyard, anywhere. Even if you live in the city many of these gifts can be used at your nearby park or even on your patio.

  1. Garden tools
  2. Garden seeds, small pots, and potting soil
  3. Rope, pulleys, and other open-ended hardware store treasures
  4. Snowshoes
  5. Skis
  6. S'more ingredients and a winter campfire coupon
  7. Nature exploration kit (magnifying glass, bug boxes, plant press, butterfly net)
  8. Sunprint paper
  9. Ice skates
  10. Treasure bag or backpack for nature walks
  11. Water bottle and snack pouch
  12. Headlamp
  13. Fire starting kit
  14. Sleeping bag and bedroll
  15. Certificate for back yard camp out with a parent
  16. Fort-making supplies
  17. Gift certificate to hardware store
  18. Tinkering kit – hammer, nails, screwdriver, screws, and wood

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

Get crafty

Crafting is our number one way to spend a day. That makes crafty gifts a natural win.

  1. Playdough ingredients and recipe
  2. Glitter, glue, sparkles, scissors, tape, glue gun
  3. Beading or jewelery supplies
  4. Stamp pad for thumb-print stamps
  5. Colored pencils
  6. Watercolor paints
  7. Sketch book
  8. Pencil sharpener
  9. Acrylic paints, brushes, and paint mixing tray
  10. Sewing supplies
  11. Markers
  12. Potholder loom
  13. Yarn and knitting needles
  14. Calligraphy pen
  15. Modeling wax
  16. Scratch board and tools
  17. Candle rolling kit
  18. Peg dolls, paints and perhaps a peg doll book
  19. Fimo
  20. Paper bead making supplies and instructions
  21. Washi tape
  22. Needle felting supplies
  23. Project book, needles, thread, and fabric

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

Wear it

Simple things can be gifts too. When I was a child I think Santa brought me new socks and underwear every year!

  1. Mittens
  2. Hat
  3. Scarf
  4. Wool socks
  5. Slippers
  6. Pajamas
  7. Analog watch

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

Natural Spa

For some kids a spa gift is heaven on earth. Read those labels though, won't you? Go with the good stuff. (Disclaimer: shameless self-promotion to follow.)

  1. Lip balm
  2. Soap
  3. Bubble bath
  4. Natural perfume
  5. Face pencils
  6. Body glitter roll-on
  7. Jewelery
  8. Jewelery box
  9. Natural nail polish
  10. Spa night coupon and supplies
  11. DIY body care kit (edited to add: I just wrote this DIY perfume kit tutorial!)

101 toy-free gift ideas to simplify your holiday | Clean |

Just for fun

These didn't fit anywhere else. But all are fun, so there you go.

  1. Bath crayons
  2. Personalized pillowcase
  3. Books
  4. Holiday ornament (homemade or purchased)
  5. Deck of cards
  6. Board games
  7. Geode
  8. Stationary
  9. Photo album or homemade story book of the child's life so far


Tell me – are you inspired to go toy-free this year? What would you add to our list?


Originally published in 2014

4 thoughts on “Simplify your holiday: 101 (fun!) toy-free gifts for kids

  1. Spiritmama says:

    All great ideas. I’ve used a few myself, like the headlamp for the cousins’ xmas exchange. I would also suggest a stop watch. My kids are asking for it. Hours of fun timing things, used inside and out, grows with the child.
    Its nice to think I might be on the right track. The main gift for my son this year is tickets to a hockey game with dad. It was hard on the budget, but it will be worth it to see him experience it. Thanks Rachel!

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