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.
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.
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 🙂
Looking for more clutter-free gift ideas?
I made it easy for you… read all my ideas here (kids and adults).