Meaningful Children's Gifts - A Guide
We love giving our children good things. What doesn't feel as good is the accumulation of stuff that is inexpensively made, short-lived and ends up in a landfill after 6 months. Unwanted, unused and broken toys are piling up in landfills across the world. I’m not saying not to buy toys. This is NOT a non-toy gift guide. I believe that certain toys can play a very important role in the developing child. I simply want us to make wiser and FEWER selections when buying gifts for our kids.
Aside from love, play is the single most important thing that a child experience, and many thoughtfully crafted toys and items have been made by those who understand and value true creative play. Play literally shapes the brain. It is the highest form of research for a child, it is the work of the child. Flashy overstimulating toys do not fit into this criteria and do the developing brain a disservice. The heart behind why I created this gift guide was to give mamas (and papas) out there a curated list of some really great toys and items that will foster creativity and imagination in children. Lasting things that will bring delight and have a good chance of imprinting a fond memory into your child that they can cherish into adulthood. If you’ve been searching for some more meaningful gift options - this guide is for you!
I began this list thinking that I would categorize it by age range, but I found it really difficult to do so because most of these items are so versatile! Since so many of them are great for ages 6mo to even 10+ years old, I decided to only slightly categorize them by type. Also at the bottom you will find a brief list of unconventional gift ideas that are truly outside of the box but very meaningful! I should also note that we absolutely do not own all of these, we have a very minimal amount of toys/possessions but most of what we do have are mentioned here Here are my top personal favorite toy and non/toy meaningful gift ideas:
ALL AGES + OPEN ENDED PLAY
ART + CREATIVITY
NATURE OBSERVATION + NATURE RELATED
One of the most important gifts to give your children is a love of nature! Ask a grandparent some of their fondest memories of childhood, and I bet there is something in there involving nature. We owe it to our children to foster that connection to nature that every human being inherently needs. Here is a bundle I put together of my recommendations for starting a child off on a journey to observe and explore the great outdoors. Nature journaling using is a powerful learning tool for kids and adults alike.
Reading to your children is one of the greatest gifts that we can give them in their early years. Not only does it create meaningful and lasting connection with our kids, it inspires compassion, and fortifies them with concepts and ideas that form the inner strength they need to face life’s challenges. Sarah Mackenzie, founder of Read Aloud Revival says, “You can take your kids around the world in picture books.” Picture books with quality content are a wonderful gift to give any child. Write a little note and date inside the front cover and that book is sure to be passed down to your children’s children as a treasured keepsake. I want to inspire to bypass the “twaddle” type books which severely undervalue the intelligence of the child.
I could list so many good books, I’m truly in love with childrens books. I also have an amazon recommendations list of some MORE of my favorites, which I will link HERE - but here are a few of the top contenders:
UNIQUE GIFT IDEAS
Play room makeover
If your children are still young enough that you can get away with rearranging their space and doing a slight overhaul of toys, this would be such a special surprise for them! Weather it’s an entire toy room or a small corner of their bedroom, organize all of their toys and rearrange it to be a lovely and clean, clutter free space that is conducive to creative play. An aesthetically beautiful play space is not something that is only a trend and pleasing to the adults eye, it is proven to be psychologically beneficial for children and is an optimal learning environment. You can watch my Montessori play room tour if you want more information and ideas on this concept.
A fruit tree to tend and plant in spring
I think this is such a special and beautiful idea. Give the responsibility of tending a tree and the joy of observing the miracle of it’s growth. Alternatively, a small house plant to tend and keep in their room would be nice as well.
A makeover of an old play structure or larger toy
Do your kids have any old play things that could use a little tic, like a play kitchen or old wooden blocks or something of the sort? Pull it into the garage and do a little mini remodel on it - some fun paint and a few cheap materials can completely reinvent a play thing! If you don’t have anything, head to a thrift shop or look for free stuff on the side of the road - Pinterest has some really cool ideas for turning an old small entertainment center into a play kitchen. Or if you’re handy, grab some materials from a home improvement store and make something! I remember my dad making us a little wooden outdoor stove and kitchen set and making us close our eyes and leading us around the house to show us.. to this day, it is one of my clearest and earliest most cherished memory. The pure delight and and joy that it brought was immeasurable. It felt like love in it’s truest form.
These are amazing for all ages but especially beneficial for ages 1-3 as they are in need of sensory experiences which is extremely beneficial for their developing brains! We have a bin of cheap dried beans with various scoops, tongs, etc.. There are some amazing ideas for sensory bins on Pinterest - you can customize them any way you’d like to fit your child’s needs/interests! You better believe that you can buy a Tupperware bin, make an exciting sensory bin and wrap it up as a gift. It’s unconventional, but your kids will love it!
Dress up box (for boys too!)
Clean out your closet and find a few fun pieces of clothing, belts, scarves and accessories or head to the thrift store. If possible, choose a variety of pieces of clothing that are versatile enough that they can pretend them into many characters. It should also have a few large and small silk scarves (easy to find at a thrift store) and hats and belts. Put it all in a nice basket or box. Kids dearly love to dress up and here’s why you should let them according to Charlotte Mason - “Children are born poets, and they dramatise all the life they see about them, after their own hearts, into an endless play. There is no reason why this natural gift should not be pressed into the service of education. Indeed, it might be safe to go further: the child who does not dramatise his lessons, who does not play at Richard and Saladin, who does not voyage with Captain Cook and excavate with Mr Flinders Petrie, is not learning. The knowledge he gets by heart is not assimilated and does not become part of himself.”
“Therefore it is well that children should, at any rate, have the outlet of narration, that they should tell the things they know in full detail; and, when the humour takes them, ‘play’ the persons, act the scenes that interest them in their reading”
Adult sized things
Sometimes the real adult version is better than a toy version and children know the difference! It will thrill them to be gifted their very own household item. It could be a baking set, a small real metal tool set with screws and boards with pre drilled holes (obviously nothing sharp or too dangerous). The possibilities are endless!
A FEW MORE FAVORITES
old school CD player
no link for this one, any portable CD player will do! Avoid the new fancy ones that have bluetooth capabilities. We get audiobooks from the library and E loves listening to it just laying on his bed or while he’s playing with toys.