Clutter-Free Gifts for Kids (100 days and counting)

posted by Andrea | 09/16/2014
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Last week, two different people emailed me asking for advice on clutter-free gifts for kids.

This is not really an abnormal request once we get a little closer to the holidays, but I was a little ‘taken aback’ by their request SO early in the year. However, as I thought about it a bit more, it’s probably not a bad idea to start planning for clutter-free gifts WAY before the holidays as some ideas might not work out  if you wait until Christmas Eve.

Plus, many of these ideas would work fabulously for birthday gifts any time of the year.

So in honor of the fact that today marks 100 days until Christmas (yes, you read that right!), and the fact that I’m a huge advocate for completing at least some holiday shopping nice and early, I’m sharing a few of my favorite clutter-free gifts for kids.

clutter free gifts for kids

Experiences:

Hands-down, this is THE BEST GIFT for kids — and sometimes, even for adults!

Obviously, younger children love special time with parents, grandparents, friends, relatives, etc. but even older children will cherish experience gifts as well (although they might not act as excited as their younger siblings).

Think about the zoo, a museum, a sporting event, a musical concert, dinner and a movie, a special full “day away” with mom or dad, a family vacation or even a weekend away, a trip to the mall for a few new items, picnics in the park, a day at the beach, a water park or amusement park, going to a spa, a lunch out with friends (for older kids) etc. etc.

It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive — just as long as there is some careful thought put into these gifts.

I can’t say enough about how fabulous experience gifts are — both from a clutter-free standpoint and from a memory-making perspective. If I think back over my 29 years of gifts, there are a few tangible gifts that still standout in my mind; however I have a much clearer recollection of the experience gifts I received. Even though many of the experiences were so simple, I still remember them years later.

For example, my sisters and I each had small family birthday parties every year; however we also got 3 special “friends” birthday parties for ages 6, 11, and 16. Because we didn’t get a friends party every year, they were definitely anticipated, and you better believe I remember every single one. I don’t think I could tell you one single gift I got at any of those parties, but I remember the parties themselves so clearly.

For my 6th birthday, my mom and her friend planned an obstacle course birthday party for me and my friends — complete with ice cream sundaes in our back yard (I never liked birthday cake).

Then when I was 11, my parents took me and 5 friends to Craig’s Cruisers. We played games, did mini golf, road go-carts, had a pizza party and then the girls got to sleepover.

For my sweet 16 (also my golden birthday) my parents took a handful of my friends to a cottage for the day. They brought all kinds of food, we had SeaDoos, and hung out on the beach.

Each one of these parties was a fabulous experience gift that was WAY better than any tangible gift they could have given me and something I still remember many years later.

I know a couple in their early 70’s who have 10 grandchildren. Whenever a grandkid turns 11, they take that grandchild on a week-long trip somewhere in the United States — and the grandchild gets to choose! I realize you would need to have the funding for this type of gift, but wouldn’t that be an amazing experience for both the grandparents and the child. Definitely something they would remember for the rest of their lives!

One other VERY simple experience gift would be giving your child a “yes day” — or a day when you will say “yes” to all of their requests (within reason, of course). If they want you to read 25 books, you say “yes”. If they want to go out for ice cream and then have dinner later, you say “yes”. Feel free to set boundaries or general rules, but if you think your child can handle this, it’s a really fun way to spend the day, and you can be sure they will remember it!

Acts of Service:

I guess this would technically qualify as an experience gift too — but it’s quite a bit different because your child is not necessarily “getting” a party or gifts or star treatment (all of which are fine for special occasions).

With an acts of service gift, your child will have the opportunity to serve and give back (usually right along side you) to various community organizations in need. It could be as simple as picking a name off the AngelTree in the mall, something as memorable as volunteering for a local homeless shelter, or an ongoing opportunity like sponsoring a child through Compassion International (or other similar agencies).

Acts of service can be a great way to give back while bonding and creating life-long memories.

Subscription:

Subscriptions are great clutter-free gifts for almost anyone at any age — but I’ve found they can be particularly great gifts for kids. Even Nora got a subscription to Ranger Rick Jr. magazine from Dave’s parents and it’s SO fun for her to get special mail every once in a while!

Feel free to think beyond traditional magazines as well — thinks like snack of the month (yes, they do that) or a Netflix membership (with parent’s permission) make great gifts too!

Music, Apps, and/or Game Downloads:

I suppose this depends on the age of the child and the parent’s screen time rules, but I know a BUNCH of kids who would love some iTunes credit or other freebie music and game downloads.

Gift Cards and Cash:

Although gift cards and cash wouldn’t be my first choice of clutter-free gift for kids, I really can’t do a post about clutter-free gifts without including these two very obvious ideas!

If you’re going to give gift cards or cash to a child, try to be as creative as possible (especially for younger children). Put the money in a bunch of balloons that they need to pop to collect their cash. Freeze it in a block of ice so they need to wait for it to melt. Give them all $1 bills so it seem like more — or better yet, give them rolled coins so it feels heavy 🙂

Here are a bunch of other creative ways to give the gift of cash — and here are a few creative gift card ideas.

Looking for more clutter-free gift ideas?

I made it easy for you… read all my ideas here (kids and adults).

What would YOU add to my list?

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14 comments

  1. Melissa Q

    09/16/2014

    I am asking the g’parents for a subscription to the Adventures in Odyssey cluub. I know my two boys (ages 4 and 6) will be totally hooked on the audio stories and the other club bonuses will be just that (bonuses). They have outgrown naps and this will make ages great rest time “activity”.

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  2. JJ

    09/16/2014

    My son got a gift subscription to 2 magazines from 2 different people. Highlights (0-2 years) and Babybug are wonderful! I enjoy getting a new one each month as much as he does. 😉

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  3. Pat

    09/16/2014

    Those are some great ideas Andrea. I started a tradition last year with my 3 grandsons (1, 3, 4) of going on a “Birthday Walk” with grandma for their birthday. We make a big deal about it and just the 2 of us walk to Barnes & Noble (about 1 1/4 miles away). They get to pick out a book and then we stop at the Starbucks and they get a treat (free through B&N Kids). On the walk home, we stop at the park and they get to play for a little while. It’s a great way to spend one-on-one time with each of the boys.

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    Andrea Reply:

    that sounds great Pat — what a fun birthday present for your grandsons!

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  4. Carlen

    09/16/2014

    I’m one of the ones that asked about this last week! I’ve been thinking a lot about it. I think I’m going to do a “Date Day” gift for my daughter who is 6. I’m going to get one gift certificate per month for her to open and for us to do together. Some months it will be something easy like frozen yogurt or a trip to the local children’s museum, and I’m also looking for some bigger events, too, like Disney Frozen on Ice.

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    Andrea Reply:

    That sounds like an awesome idea Carlen! And yes, thanks for asking about it last week. It was a great post topic — and perfect timing with the 100 days until Christmas starting today!

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  5. Ally

    09/16/2014

    My mother-in-law pays for our yearly Netflix subscription every Christmas. It’s the gift we get the absolute most use out of, and we look forward to each year. Having 3 kids, it really helps us with saving some money too.

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow, that’s a great gift! I might need to hint at that idea for us 🙂

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  6. Amanda

    09/16/2014

    The most memorable gift in my life was actually a clutter free gift!

    For my 10th Birthday, my Grammy flew in (she lived halfway across the country), and she and my mom let me skip school for the morning. They took me to Tea at the Ritz and then to get my ears pierced (I’d been begging my mom forever). For sure one of the most memorable birthdays I’ve ever had – and now that my Grammy has passed, it is a cherished memory with her.

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — what a fabulous birthday surprise! sounds lovely — and definitely something you’ll never forget!

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  7. Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving

    09/16/2014

    Great ideas! I would add contributing to a college fund or a savings account. Goodness knows college will be much more expensive for our children than it was for us! We’ve made it a point from the beginning to put any cash gifts in a savings fund for Nathan, because you can never start saving too early!

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  8. nora

    09/16/2014

    We do a special meal and $5 dollar tree shopping spree. Dollar tree has puzzles, coloring books, nail art, manicure sets, etc. We talk a lot about good value when buying items and they tend to avoid the cheap, easy to break items.

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  9. Janet

    09/16/2014

    I love to do something for my great nieces and nephews birthdays. I send each one a card with a $2 bill. Just a little something for their special day!

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  10. Carrie

    09/16/2014

    I would add food, special drinks, or candy. I never put junk in their Christmas stockings, only edible items. And I try to put things that I normally wouldn’t buy at the store, but that they really love like pop tarts, jerkey, gatoraide, candy, gum, fruit snacks, etc. My kids really look forward to this and when they are done, no clutter.

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