How to have a fun-filled toy-free Christmas

If you’ve been contemplating a toy- free Christmas, you may wonder if it would still feel like Christmas to your children? And is it possible to give them gifts they’re excited about that aren’t toys? What kinds of gifts can we give that won’t leave them disappointed?
Before you go all-in on changing Christmas up, talk to your children about what you’re doing. If they are young and don’t remember receiving toys as gifts, it won’t be an issue, but if they are old enough that they have certain expectations, be upfront with them so they know what to anticipate.
That being said, embracing a toy-free Christmas can definitely be so much fun! Spend a little bit of time thinking about your children, the things that interest them, and what makes them feel special. The 5-Love Languages helped me when picking out gifts- for some kids, it meant quality time together, for others it was expressing in words how much they mean to me and for my son who loves food, the best gift was a gift card to Red Lobster so we could go on a date, just the two of us.
The topic of having a toy-fee Christmas came up in my Facebook Group this week, I the responses were so inspiring, I wanted to share some of the ideas here:

Have Christmas look different for your family

I know one family that decided they didn’t want to have a traditional Christmas with opening gifts, so instead, they plan a vacation during that time. Trips overseas, all-inclusive resorts, Disney Trips, etc. They plan their trips together and everyone in the family looks forward to the things they do.
  • Private cabin rental
  • RV trip
  • Roadtrip
  • Resort

Even if you have to stay in your state with because of COVID, there are many fun retreats on AirBnB- You may even be able to find a treehouse, a hobbit hole, or a cute cottage.


Experiences are often remembered because of the time spent with the adults they love: quality time together. Having a day planned out to do fun things and enjoy the sights around where you live, all while enjoying each other’s company: priceless.

  • Lunch date
  • Attend a theater
  • Check out local sights
  • Shows on Ice
  • Tent and sleeping bags for indoor camping
  • Tickets to a movie they want to see
  • Amusement park
  • Waterpark (indoor or outdoor)
  • Pony/horse rides
  • Petting Zoo
  • Recipe, ingredients and time to cook together
  • Ski pass/lessons
  • Sledding/tubing
  • Lazor tag
  • Mini-golf
  • Trampoline park


  • Zoo
  • Museum
  • Children’s Museum
  • Symphony
  • Pool

Shared gifts

  • Trampoline
  • Playhouse
  • Swingset/play structure
  • Art supplies and scheduled time to do it. I know a family that water-colors together once a week.
  • Sleds/skies/snowshoes
  • Streaming services (Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, or specialty channels that they are interested in)

Items that aren’t technically toys

  • Board games (our family is competitive, so it’s helped to find some cooperative games where we are all working together to win the game. So far, we have: Race to the Treasure, Castle Panic, and Forbidden Island)
  • Puzzles
  • Craft supplies
  • Playdoh
  • Clothes (or gift card so they can have a shopping day and buy their own)
  • Books
  • Bedding
  • PJs
  • Jewelry
  • Bicycles
  • Sport gear
  • Basketball hoop and ball
  • Outdoor equipment- fishing, hiking, etc.
  • Snack pack of special treats
  • A restaurant gift card to go on a special date together
  • Room remodel
  • Magazine subscription

Fun consumables

Consumables can be fun- especially if it’s not something that they normally get to enjoy. My older boys look forward to getting jerky for Christmas and one year I made them their favorite cookies, that they got to enjoy all to themselves. The key to making these memorable is to gift what you know the person will enjoy- one of our kids loves spicy food, another enjoys chocolate, when they open these gifts, they feel like we care deeply because we’re paying attention to their preferences.

  • Favorite breakfast cereal
  • Favorite condiment
  • New condiment (new hot sauce, BBQ sauce, etc.
  • Jam or Jelly
  • Nutbutter
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Case of soda pop/juice/tea

Focus on the traditions, not the gifts

With the chaos of 2020, most of us are looking towards days to celebrate and making plans- because traditions make us feel safe and comfortable. 
I love traditions- but I have had to simplify what I require of myself. I’ve had to shift my focus from church programs and work Christmas parties, to things that help our family connect and enjoy each other.
And for a large family with different ages- it’s best to be clear about everyone’s expected involvement. Mark your plans on the calendar, let them know if it will be a screen-free event or not, etc. And remember with teenagers, they may act like they’re bored, but they still need/want to be included, even if they don’t jump in with excitement.

  • Make cookies together
  • Decorate a gingerbread house
  • Look at Christmas lights
  • Go caroling
  • Read Christmas stories
  • Plan out movie marathons (We always watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy during Christmas break)
  • Cut paper snowflakes

Stocking Stuffers

Consumables are great when going clutter-free, and aiming for things that can be used up within the week or will be a needed replacement helps keep the clutter down.

  • Fruit snacks
  • Jerky
  • Candy
  • Gum
  • Coupons (Play a card game with mom, get ice cream with dad, etc.)
  • Bath bombs
  • Chapstick
  • Toothbrush
  • Socks

General gifting

For our family, we’ve kept the gifts simple. Now that the kids are getting older, we do a name draw and each person has someone to shop for.
Then, mom and dad get the kids each one gift and then get the family a gift- like a new board game or experience to look forward to.
Having a plan and committing to stick to it helps prevent getting caught up in the consumerism of the culture.
Many parents like having a plan to follow like this one:

  • Something they want
  • Something they need
  • Something to wear
  • Something to read


What about all the excess gifting by extended family members??

Sure, we can be fully onboard with changing up Christmas, going toy-free, or maybe even no-gifts at all, but Grandma and Grandpa might not be excited about these changes. Check out these articles to help start the discussion:

If you've been contemplating a toy- free Christmas, you may wonder if it would still feel like Christmas to your children? And is it possible to give them gifts they're excited about that aren't toys? What kinds of gifts can we give that won't leave them disappointed? Here are a list of ideas to help you have a wonderful fun-filled season.

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

Leave a Comment