10 outside-the-box gift ideas for little kids (plus some stocking stuffers!)

Most parents groan at the thought of more toys entering the house at Christmas time. We spend our entire year decluttering and donating/throwing out/hiding trash bags full of excess toys and clothes, only to fill those empty spaces at Christmas. 

If given the choice, kids will pick out every single item in the store catalog and ask for it for Christmas. I don't mind adding one or two new special toys for my kids, but this year we're looking for some options to gift them other than the latest plastic craze.

Here are some of my suggestions for the best gifts to give young children that AREN'T plastic toys (not that there's anything wrong with that...)

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10 Outside-the-Box Gift Ideas for Little Kids

1. Experiences

My dad used to give each of his daughters (there are 6 of us) a homemade certificate for a breakfast date with Dad. We got to pick the location, and it was such a fun way for us to feel special in such a large family, while creating great memories with my Dad. 

Other ideas might include mini golf, bowling, a museum pass, lessons for something they are interested in, or a movie date with one of their parents.

Bonus idea: give them a picture frame along with the homemade coupon or certificate, then take a picture during the experience and print it for them. They'll get to treasure the memory long after the event is over.

2. Room décor

We plan to have our daughter sleep in our room on Christmas Eve, then we will redecorate her room after she's asleep. We're creating a dress-up corner with a garment rack, mirror, and pretty storage boxes, and adding a few fun touches around the rest of the room, too! She has pictures of her trips to London, Paris, and Mexico up in her room already, so I'm going to go with a travel theme. I can't wait to see her face on Christmas morning when she sees her room all set up!

3. Dress-Up Clothes

To go along with suggestion #2, you can never go wrong with some new dress-up clothes. I guarantee they will be used over and over again, and it's a great way to encourage imaginative play. This is not just for girls, though! My daughter is getting princess dresses, and my son is getting these superhero costumes. Don't forget to provide a bucket or another storage solution when you gift them their costumes so they can learn to keep everything neat right off the bat.

4. Floor Puzzles

My kids are puzzle obsessed, and I love that it's somewhat educational and getting them to use their minds. My 4-year-old daughter got this United States puzzle for Christmas last year, and still uses it every single week. We also love this alphabet puzzle, and this bug puzzle.

5. Educational Gifts

My preschool-aged daughter is learning to read and write, while my 2-year-old son is just starting to learn his letters, shapes, and numbers. These Trace-n-Erase chalkboards come in a suggested step-by-step system, so you can pick which board is appropriate for your child's skill level. This would be perfect for church, long car rides, or even setting your kids up with an educational activity while you cook dinner. I'm thinking this one would be perfect for a preschooler, and this is a fun choice for a 2-year-old who's just starting to learn to write. 

I also love this Kindergarten Toolkit which comes with flash cards, a lesson plan booklet, and a white board, pen, and eraser. It's not just for kindergarteners, though. You can start at any age with shapes and numbers, and work your way up to the alphabet, reading, and sight words. 

6. Easel and Art Supplies

So my mom bought this for my kids last Christmas, and at first I was annoyed because that meant I was going to have to "do art" with them - not my scene. BUT, it has quickly become one of my favorite items to have out in the kitchen, since the kids can draw and write independently. And since it's two-sided both kids can play at the same time while I'm doing dishes or cooking. We love the Ikea easel, but this one looks great, too, if you're looking to Amazon Prime it, and don't forget the markers, chalk, eraser, and paint. 

7. Piggy Bank or Money Management System

I've been eyeing up the Financial Peace Junior kit for my 4-year-old, so we can begin to teach her how to manage her money. She doesn't get allowance yet, but does have plenty of birthday and Christmas money. She's getting to the age where she starts asking for all kinds of fun things in stores, and I want her to understand where the money comes from when we buy things, and to recognize it as a tool. These divider piggy banks are fun, too, to get the money conversation going with little ones!

8. Sleeping Bags

This is a great option if you love camping, if you live far away from family, or if your family is getting large enough that you don't all fit in the beds in hotels. For some reason kids think it's really fun to sleep on the floor, so they will love this gift! I love these fun options, or this slightly chicer option

9. Play Tent

I keep stalking this little tee-pee for Teddy's room. I envision turning it into a reading nook, or just a spot where he can set up his cars and trains and get away from his sister. 

10. Maps

Whether or not you've managed to travel with your kids, there's something amazing about watching them figure our where their home is located in the world. I've had so many discussions with my kids about where our family members live, and we point out the states on a map when we travel. I love the options where you can put push pins where they have been and where they want to go, like this one

Smaller Gifts & Stocking Stuffers