My daughter turned 4 this month! I can’t even believe how quickly these years have gone. As we prepared for her birthday party, my husband and I took some time to come up with some gift ideas that don’t involve toys. Over the past 9 months, we have focused on minimizing our belongings. We’ve taken multiple van-loads of excess “stuff” to our local thrift stores in an effort to be more deliberate about what we have in our home.
Less is often more
One thing we’ve found is that the less toys we have, the more Eleanor plays with what is left. It seems like having a lot of toys around distracts and overwhelms her. As we’ve removed the toys that she never plays with, it allows her to really enjoy what she has. We are also focused on having toys that encourage her to use her imagination.
Rather than give her a bunch of toys for her birthday, we decided to keep things simple. We want to raise her to appreciate what she has and not constantly be searching for more more more. When family members asked for gift ideas, here are some of the things we suggested or that we chose to gift her.
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10 gift ideas that aren’t toys
- Tape — Is our kid the only one obsessed with tape? I mean really. Give this child a roll of scotch tape and she’s happy as a clam. I found a super cute flamingo refillable tape dispenser at the dollar store and got a pack of refills for it. She was SO excited to have her very own tape. This was easily her favorite gift and she uses it every single day when she’s working on her art projects.
- Scissors — At age 4, Eleanor LOVES to cut paper. We started practicing this skill with safety scissors when we felt she was ready, and it was time to upgrade her to a more grown up pair. Obviously use your own judgment about what is appropriate for your own kiddo 🙂
- Art supplies–Eleanor loves to draw, paint, cut paper, etc. We stocked her up on glitter glue, paint colors we were running low on, and paper. These are all things we use on a regular basis, and she was very grateful to have new supplies to work with. You could also gift them with supplies to make a sensory activity, like this rainbow rice!
- A Special Meal — Whether it’s dinner at their favorite restaurant, a family picnic, or their favorite lunch at home, a special meal with family is a must for us. We want to teach her that spending time with people you love is truly the best gift. When we celebrate her life, we want to celebrate as a family. We only have one child, but if you have multiple children, you might consider a special meal with just your birthday kiddo to give them some 1-on-1 time.
- Membership to a local zoo/museum/etc — One thing we want to do as Eleanor grows is to gift experiences rather than items. We have a zoo nearby and, when asked, told family members that we’d love to have them contribute towards an annual membership rather than giving her a toy. These are gifts that truly keep on giving! When we did this in the past, we made a point to remind her of who helped make it possible for her to go to the zoo.
- A New Game — We have officially entered the board game phase. Eleanor didn’t show an interest in games until recently, so we’ve started picking them up here and there. Go-Fish and High-Ho Cherry-O are fan favorites! Games are a great option because they help foster family time and get us away from our phones.
- A stainless steel water bottle — We always take water with us when we’re out and about. Eleanor loves to have her own cup or water bottle. These are our favorites because the top comes apart completely, which makes it easier to prevent mold from growing in the lid.
- Underwear or Pajamas — Yep, I’m the mom who requested big girl panties as a birthday gift LOL Eleanor has been going through a growth spurt and needed the next size up. She was SUPER excited to receive new Paw Patrol panties from her Mimi! I am a fan of meeting a practical need. I think that when a need is given as a gift, it helps instill the belief that it’s good to be grateful and excited for the way our needs are met!
- Kitchen Gear — We actually got one of these training knives for Eleanor for Hanukkah. She loves helping cut up fruits and veggies, and it’s been a great way to get her involved (safely) in the kitchen. We also love their baprons for cooking and meal times. Other ideas might be a mini cutting board, a rolling pin, their own set of measuring cups, etc. I want my daughter (and any future children) to be able to care for herself in the kitchen, so I think this is a great way to give her ownership and teach her important life skills.
- A Digital Camera — You can get a decent point and shoot camera for pretty cheap these days. This one is 18MP and under $40. Eleanor received one of these for Christmas last year. It’s basically kid proof haha I really enjoy seeing her perspective though! Having her own camera allows her more freedom than when I let her snap a few pictures with my phone. I’m all for providing kids with tools that encourage their creativity and could also be a way for them to provide for themselves when they grow up!
gifts don’t have to be toys
That rounds out my top 10 non-toy gift ideas for a preschool aged child. Toys are awesome and can be lots of fun, but I’m all for thinking outside the box. Time together, practical gifts, experiences, and items that help teach them a new skill are all great options!
My mom made this fairy house for Eleanor and she loves it. She built the structure from paper-mache and the tiny accessories from clay. Yes, it’s technically a toy, but in this case, it’s an heirloom that encourages open-ended play. That’s totally welcome here 😉
I hope this has been helpful for you. Do you have other gift ideas you’d add to the list? I’d love to hear them in the comments!
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Thanks for reading, y’all!