18 Non-Toy Gifts for Toddlers

18 Non-Toy Gifts for Toddlers

Toddlers are so much fun! For them, life is an adventure and they just get excited about everything they do and see! Toddlers don’t need toys to have fun. They play and learn with everything around them. Sticks, rocks, kitchen gadgets, it really doesn’t matter.

Having very few actual toys means their imagination has room to work. They can imagine with anything. Even with having an abundance of toys, I see little ones playing with their sibling’s shoes, “cooking” in the kitchen or talking for popsicle stick people instead. This is a good thing and we need to continue to encourage them to play, learn and imagine with items that don’t already “do-it-all” for them.

18 Non-Toy Gifts for Toddlers

  1. Lessons and Classes. Swim lessons, dance, gymnastics are all great ideas and benefit little ones.
  2. Memberships. Children’s Museums, the zoo, YMCA or family gyms are all wonderful.
  3. Puzzles. I’ve always been surprised at how early little ones understand puzzles and really enjoy them. You can find wooden ones, 2-piece, and 4 pieces.
  4. Books. It’s never too early for books. Did you know that reading to babies and toddlers changes the way their brains develop and gives them a better chance at life? You can watch a video about it here. A couple of our favorites are Sandra Boynton books, Robert Munsch books, Bill Peet Books.
  5. Photo Album. Little ones love looking at pictures of family members and of themselves doing things or at special places. In many online photo sites, you can create a photo book of all the special people and special things the child has done.
  6. Pajamas.  If you sew, special homemade pajamas are THE BOMB! My mom sews and my children just adore the fact that MorMor (Swedish for “mother’s mother”) made them something special.
  7. Sprinklers. Good old fashion fun right there! There are all sorts of sprinklers, I personally prefer the old fashioned oscillating sprinklers and the kids like running through the “tunnel”.
  8. Bird Feeder and Seed. Having a bird feeder outside a winder is very entertaining for kids to watch and helps get them interested in wildlife. You can also encourage them to recognize bird species and develop a lifelong interest!
  9. Artwork Picture Frame. Displaying our children’s artwork is important and also very fun. But the fridge tends to get filled up and parents at times feel guilty for throwing anything away. A hinged art cabinet hangs on the wall and allows you to change pictures out when a new masterpiece is created.
  10. Towel Set. It’s so much fun for little ones to have their own towel and washcloth. I have color-coded all our towels, it makes it easy for the kids to know which towel is theirs and it also cuts down on the spreading of germs if you teach them to always dry their hands on their own towel.
  11. Savings Account or Stocks. Setting money aside for each birthday or holiday may not be very exciting for these little people right now, but when they turn 18 and realize the amazing start they have in life, it will be a huge blessing. You can give a small token gift that they can open and enjoy on their special day, but put the majority of the gift into a savings program.
  12. Music. Kids love music! Some great kid-geared artists are Raffi, Casper Babypants, Sandra Boynton.
  13. Sleeping Bag. Having their own sleeping bag can make little ones pretty excited about sleepovers, trips or camping out family nights. Mine are so excited about them when we visit family far away, they want to go to bed as soon as we arrive, which is great unless it’s not even dinner time yet…
  14. Piggy Bank and Coins. This may take some supervision, but all the little people I know absolutely love putting coins into their piggy banks!
  15. Shoes and Boots. Snow boots or rubber boots are especially helpful. For the little cowboy or cowgirl, having a special pair of cowboy boots is super exciting.
  16. Play Silks. We love our play silks. My kids have used them as capes for superheroes, skirts, dresses, wraps to carry their baby dolls, over chairs and couches to make a fort, the possibilities are endless.
  17. Math Counters. Kids will totally end up playing with animal counters, but we keep ours in a small bucket and bring them out when everything else is put away. We stack colors together, match mamas to babies, make patterns, practice adding and subtracting. We have a lot of fun with them.
  18. Donations. Children understand more than we think they do, generally, they are caring and thoughtful of others. If you explain to them that some people don’t have food to eat, or a nice place to sleep and the children have to have jobs, they can sympathize with that. There are many places that take charitable donations, help those in need and send a card or a plush animal to someone you love. We personally like World Vision and Compassion International.

Need more gifting ideas? Click here:

An easy way to share gift preferences is with CakeClub so you can simply share a link with friends and family without feeling like you are controlling or insensitive.

Clutter-Free Gift Guide – This gift guide is a compilation of all the gift-lists published on the blog, from toddlers to grandparents and everyone in between. Clutter-free and toy-free ideas. Click here to get this 33-page PDF for $5.

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey after I'd been doing a yearly decluttering challenge for 4 years and started to see a change in my home. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, please join our FREE Facebook Group: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group


  1. Katrina on 07/28/2014 at 10:20 am

    One of your articles was posted on Facebook this morning by a dear friend, and I wanted to say two things. First, thank you for the great ideas that I’m now going to share with the grandparents in the hopes that they will quit filling our house with useless toys that rarely get played with. Second, my mom is MorMor too! You don’t hear that one often so I had to comment.

    • Rachel on 07/28/2014 at 4:31 pm

      Very cool! I love hearing that!

    • Quiera on 12/02/2014 at 4:20 am

      My grandmother is Mor Mor!

  2. Anna @ Feminine Adventures on 07/28/2014 at 1:28 pm

    Yes, yes, yes! Imagination is the “best toy” ever and most kids I know spend as much time enjoying a big box as the toys they received in that box. My first Christmas as a mom I found an adorable teddy bear for my daughter. We hardly had any money for gifts and I almost didn’t get it, but found room to wiggle it in. On Christmas morning I couldn’t wait to give it to her… and she cried when I took away the wrapping paper.
    My husband and I got a good laugh out of it.
    (I found your site when a friend posted your “18 Non-Toy Gifts for Kids” on Facebook and love it!)

    • Rachel on 07/28/2014 at 3:08 pm

      Ha! Isn’t that the way it goes!
      Thanks! 🙂

  3. Larissa on 07/29/2014 at 8:55 am

    Great list! The over-buying of toys gets really tiring for us adults and I think it’s overwhelming for kids. Other ideas I have had is a small wooden spoon dedicated to the child for helping with the birthday cake making or just dinner in general, and a set of different coloured hooks for their own low down coat rack to hang up their things on (my 2 year old LOVES this).
    Thanks! (And by the way, my mum is a Mormor too 😉

    • Rachel on 07/29/2014 at 12:50 pm

      Oh very true Larissa- we put hooks down low for our kids and they were thrilled!
      LOVE the Mormors!

  4. Lauren @ For the Love of Dixie on 07/30/2014 at 1:37 am

    Fantastic list! Definitely going to reference this one and your “bigger kids” one before Christmas for my girls and all of their cousins 🙂
    [P.S. It looks like something went awry on #7.]

    • Rachel on 07/30/2014 at 2:38 am

      Oh Thanks!

  5. Helen Curtis on 07/31/2014 at 3:32 pm

    E very time I need to buy presents for our 3 boys I hunt for things I believe they will truly love; 9 years of trying and I’m still trying to hit the nail on the head 🙂 I’m not sure if i’ll ever fully break the things-mentality we’ve created, but I’ll certainly be trying my hardest! Thank you for the wonderful suggestions 🙂

  6. Carla on 08/02/2014 at 12:22 pm

    An age appropriate magazine subscription rocks too! My 2 yr old boy got nat geo kids and loves looking at all the new animals

  7. Mary Cunov on 08/02/2014 at 11:07 pm

    You forgot a box of band aids—hours of fun

  8. Jomomcooks on 06/28/2015 at 5:00 pm

    I am not understanding why you would list animal counters on a toddler’s list. They are very small and when I looked for them, they were recommended for pre-K and up. Maybe you can replace it with animal crackers; they can count them and you don’t have to worry about the little ones swallowing small pieces I consider a toddler any child that walks or toddles. Can be under or over 2. .

  9. Jannie on 10/05/2015 at 2:29 pm

    Another great non-toy gift idea for toddlers is a toothbrush and training toothpaste. My son got a toothbrush set for his 1st birthday and he LOVED being like big sister and getting to brush his own teeth! Probably one of the best toddler gifts I’ve seen yet.
    This is a fantastic idea list – thanks for posting!

    • Rachel on 10/05/2015 at 3:41 pm

      That’s a great suggestion Jannie! Thanks!

  10. Brittney Gossard on 10/23/2015 at 1:25 am

    We have a MorMor and MorFar too 🙂

  11. Jai Parker on 10/23/2015 at 4:48 am

    First aid kit and harmless medical equipment like stethoscope is great. Good way to do play-based understanding of real healthcare practices, which can actually make things easier when you have a Dr appointment because they are more familiar and comfortable with the concepts and equipment. Makes it less frightening.
    And plants as well. Potting a flower with your two year old and helping him/ her to enjoy looking after it is good fun and gives them a real sense of achievement. “Look, this is my flower. I planted it and water it all by myself”!

    • Rachel on 10/27/2015 at 2:57 pm

      Great suggestions! Thanks Jai!

  12. Sonia on 10/24/2015 at 9:48 am

    Garden kits are a very good gift too!

  13. Dixie Lee on 11/16/2015 at 10:35 am

    Our family did small gifts plus a savings bond for many years. That really paid off when our daughter was in college! Plus the 529 plan that one grandfather established. Together, they amounted to about 1.5 tuition payments – a real gift for Junior year when the savings were running out! Now that bonds pay so little interest, the 529 is the way to go.

    • Sherri on 12/18/2016 at 11:46 am

      Ours did the same with savings bonds. My kids used them for the down payments to purchase their first homes.

  14. Beth Bishop on 11/14/2017 at 7:13 am

    Your ideas are right on. My children are grown, and I now have a granddaughter. One of the most played with gifts I ever gave my son and daughter was a kitchen set with a grocery cart and food and a tool bench with moveable parts. They played with these sets for years.

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  24. Sarah on 01/15/2020 at 3:50 am

    Great post!! I really like the idea of a piggy bank and toys, and the towel set idea is fun, too! I’m pinning this to reference for my son’s upcoming birthday.

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