Skip to main content

6 non-toy gift ideas for toddlers they’ll really love

When buying a gift for a toddler, either as a family member or friend, it can be easy to go straight toward the toy aisle. After all, every toddler likes toys, right? But most toddlers actually have too many toys. In fact, studies have found that having too many toys can be bad for toddlers. 

So, what do you pick when shopping for a toddler gift while simultaneously steering clear of the toy aisle? You may want to consider one of these six options. 

An experience 

Ahmed Almakhzanji/Unsplash

This can be as extravagant or as simple as you want to make it. 

If you’re a parent planning a gift for your own toddler, you might want to put together an experience for the entire family. Maybe it’s a trip to the park on their birthday, with lots of cake and lots of photos. Maybe it’s a trip to the zoo (again, make sure to take those photos!). 

You might also consider signing your child up for a class that you think they might enjoy, such as dance, gymnastics, or swimming. You can even find toddler-appropriate cooking classes via brands like Taste Buds Kitchen. 

If you want to gift an experience to a toddler in another family, like a niece, nephew, or god-child, you can give a gift certificate for the family to do something like go to a zoo or a children’s museum. You might also want to take the child on such an outing as just the two of you, which, as a bonus, gives the parents some downtime.

Media

Okay, okay. We’re not talking classic media, like movies or toddler TV shows. 

Instead, what about a subscription to Amazon Music if the toddler in question loves listening to their favorite tunes while playing, riding in the car, or drifting off to sleep? 

Or, you could go with a subscription to an audiobook provider for easy “reading” when mom or dad isn’t around to actually read the book. 

Clothing

Put down the boring sweater and socks. If you’re buying clothes for a toddler, they’d better be fun. We’re talking sparkles, glitter, favorite cartoon characters, and favorite colors. Maybe a costume. 

Clothing is a functional, useful gift (especially as toddlers are growing out of their old clothes at a rapid pace) that parents can appreciate just as much as the kids — so long as you actually keep the wearer in mind when shopping. 

Outdoor gear

Child playing outdoors
Jordan Sanchez/Unsplash

For the toddler that just loves to get out and about exploring and adventuring all across their backyard, go with some outdoor gear for a great gift that won’t clog up the toy box. 

They probably already have plenty of traditional outdoor toys, so go straight for the useful and/or educational stuff — cartoon-covered rain boots and rain jackets, a bird feeder for nature watching, or a child-sized tent for backyard camping.

If you want to go a little bigger and maybe slightly over-the-top, you can always try a sandbox, old fashioned tire swing, or treehouse. 

Practical life materials

Practical life materials are part of the Montessori style of childhood education, but there’s no reason for these materials to stay in the schoolroom. When you think “practical life materials,” think of any items that will help a child learn a life skill. 

In many cases, toddlers are already drawn to tools and materials that serve this function (it’s why so many toddlers like to “help” their parents by sweeping the floor — whether or not they actually do a good job is beside the point). 

Practical life materials that make good gifts include child-sized cleaning supplies, gardening supplies, or even toddler-safe cooking materials, like measuring cups and blunt spreaders (like cheese knives). 

At-home activities  

While an experience will often take the child out of the house, an at-home activity gift is usually something that the child can enjoy on a regular basis, right at their kitchen or play table, and with or without a parent’s help. 

Activity books like sticker books and coloring books are good choices, as are activity kits. 

You could put together a fun basket of age-appropriate crafting materials. You could also sign up for an age-appropriate subscription box (yes, they even make them for toddlers!) so that the child receives a fun crafting project, educational materials, or books every month for the next year. CrateJoy provides a large selection to choose from. 

Regardless of what non-toy gift you give your favorite toddler, with a little thought and consideration, you can ensure you give them something that’s not only fun but also enriching. You might just be surprised at how much of the world toddlers can enjoy and appreciate that doesn’t come from the toy aisle. 

In addition, you may want to check out our precious gift ideas for big sisters from the baby.

Editors' Recommendations

Holly Riddle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Holly Riddle is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle journalist, who also dabbles in copywriting, ghostwriting and fiction…
Costume ideas for kids who don’t know what to be for Halloween and are reluctant to dress up
Help your kid get into the spooky spirit with these costume ideas
Boy dressed as a rock star for Halloween

There are lots of kids who obsess about Halloween, planning their costumes months in advance. But there are also some kids who aren't big fans of dressing up, or who simply stress over finding the perfect costume. Whether your little one is scared of the spooky holiday or they just don’t appreciate the itchy costumes, there are plenty of kids who don’t like to dress up on All Hallow's Eve.

If your child finds all the efforts around finding a costume a bit overwhelming, there are Halloween costume ideas for kids that just might help your child get into the spooky spirit. All they need is their own clothes and some minor details added. Here are our top costume ideas for kids of all ages who don’t know what they want to be for Halloween.

Read more
Need a Halloween craft for 10-year-olds? Here are spookingly great ideas
The best Halloween activities for a hauntingly good time
A group of kids ready for Halloween.

The Halloween season comes with the most creative crafts for your pumpkins to do. Halloween activities for kids are the favorite thing to do in October — aside from trick-or-treating. They are also the most convenient, as you probably already have the materials to do them around your house. When you have older kids, like 10-year-olds, it’s more relaxing to get crafting. You could get into more detailed crafts or do them side by side since they don’t need the supervision younger children would, and these Halloween crafts for 10-year-olds are perfect to have a spooktacular season.

Themed games to play
There is nothing like getting the kids together to play a game. Whether the whole family gets in the fun or the kids play solo, themed games always make things more interesting.
Spooky bingo
What you’ll need

Read more
Create the ultimate goodie bags for your toddler’s birthday party
Need goodie bags for your toddler's birthday party? Try these awesome ideas
Three kids celebrating a birthday party

Hosting a birthday party for your toddler is a fun way to celebrate the milestone of them getting older. Getting together with your closest family and friends is fun, but the preparations for the party can also be stressful. Parents know that planning for and buying the perfect toddler birthday goodie bags is almost as important as planning the party! The ritual of handing out toddler birthday goodie bags at the end of the birthday party isn't necessary, but many parents like to give their party guests something small to go home with as a token of their appreciation. Goodie bags are like the icing on the cake and kids love to see what’s inside. Usually, they can’t wait until they get to the car to take a peek.

Parents walk a fine line between filling goodie bags with items toddlers enjoy and parents will appreciate while keeping the price tag budget-friendly. Here are some tricks and ideas for toddler birthday goodie bag ideas that are fun, useful, and low-stress for you.

Read more