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10 Creative gifts for children that think outside the toy box

Chrissy is mother of three boys (her middle son having a number of severe food allergies). She is a passionate educator with experience in both public and private education, having spent time as an administrator, literacy specialist, and...

Toy alternatives that kids will love this holiday season

While the holiday season besieges children with marketing for the latest toy craze and inundates parents with options for all ages, gift giving doesn’t have to be all about the latest character or device on the shelves (or online). In our home, we have made a consistent effort to look at presents as an opportunity to broaden experiences and enhance activities, making a conscious effort to move away from adding to the overflow of toys in the playroom.

Thinking outside the toy box can be quite simple and still work within the most limited shopping budget. Here is a list of 10 gift ideas for young children that promote creativity, family time, literacy or simply encourage play.

1. Book subscription service

Toy alternatives that kids will love this holiday season
Image: Book Roo

The world of children’s literature is vast and amazing, yet it can be overwhelming for a parent to select just the right book for your child. Book subscription services, such a Bookroo provide an accessible way for a child to receive a curated selection of books. The sender can choose a month-to-month subscription, or three- and six-month options depending on budget and preference. (Bookroo, starting at $20)

2. Set of classes

Toy alternatives that kids will love this holiday season
Image: Music Together

Enrolling children in group activities has many benefits, from further developing listening and attention skills to overall social skill development. Sharing the gift of a set of classes is a great way to engage a child in a new activity or introduce new experiences. Group classes such as those offered by Music Together programs offer parent-child opportunities. Classes offered at local dance studios and sports camps are another option that can be a big hit with both the children and the parents. (Music Together, class prices vary)

3. Season pass

Toy alternatives that kids will love this holiday season
Image: Association of Zoos & Aquariums

Most museums and zoos offer memberships at different levels of patronage and a basic family membership that are quite reasonable. Since visiting these venues with young children can mean shorter windows of opportunity for exploration — depending on nap schedules — memberships provide an accessible means for frequent short visits. Also, many places provide members with benefits such as early entry, access to special events and discounted admission for guests. Find a zoo near you and check out the membership options. (Association of Zoos and Aquariums, prices vary)

4. Activity kits

Toy alternatives that kids will love this holiday season
Image: Seedling

Whether you have a budding artist or are looking for a creative outlet for your kids, Seedling activity kits are fun and catered to the skill levels of different ages. From designing your own bird wings to inventing your own insects, there is a kit for just about any interest. (Seedling, $18)

5. Sleeping bag

Toy alternatives that kids will love this holiday season
Image: LL Bean

Want a versatile gift? Then, why not consider a sleeping bag, like the cozy L.L.Bean camp sleeping bag. Sleeping bags are not just for outdoor adventures, but are a great accessory for sleepovers or creative sleep escapades in your own home. (L.L.Bean, $70)

Next: More creative ideas for kids

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