Parenting Toddlers

Ultimate Guide: Non-Toy Gifts for Toddlers

Gift giving is a necessary part of parenthood. However, you’ll be doing your fellow moms and dads a huge favor by giving non-toy gifts for toddlers in lieu of taking the traditional route.

Even with just having two children, I can already see the toy clutter piling up on what feels like a daily basis. Birthdays, Christmas, little gifts from the grandparents, and hey, I’m a guilty party, too. I have to admit I’m a little a bit of toy junkie myself. There are just so many cute, creative and fun little things out there to discover!

The real downfall with toys is that except for a few long-time favorites, most toys are only loved briefly and then lost to the toy box abyss. The likelihood of of any extended play, at least by young children, is slim to none. Kids are just too variable and easily distracted. I pick something off the store shelf thinking my kids will love it and in the end its just another piece of plastic floating around my house.

Because of all of these colorful, interactive playthings, I’ve subsequently become addicted to purging my home. Clothes with holes, playsets with missing pieces, dried out markers, broken action figures, holey shoes etc. I cannot handle hanging on to things that, in the words of Marie Kondo, “no longer serve me”.

Our biggest offender? TOYS!

I’m more prone to buying quality stuff for my kids now so I can worry less about things breaking and needing to be tossed or replaced. I have another great post on awesome toys and gifts that are guaranteed to entertain BOTH a toddler and a preschool age child. You can check that out here.

Buying quality toys definitely helps to cut down on clutter and really exemplifies the whole less is more idea. It’s a great rule to follow for big events like birthdays or major holidays, but not so much for the day to day things and brief entertainment needed to keep toddlers busy. There’s really no need to spend loads of money on activity items for kids such as crayons, paper or craft sticks. This is stuff is all used an abused anyway, especially by toddlers.

I’m always trying to find useful, affordable gifts my children’s friends as well. Instead of more plastic toys I’ve been leaning towards expendable or reusable gifts such as craft supplies, activities or fun keepsakes. I feel so much better giving my mom friends an awesome, easy way to entertain their young child, instead of spending a ton of money on a toy they may never play with.

There’s actually quite a bit out there to choose from as long as you get a little creative, so I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of non-toy gifts for toddlers and preschool-age kids.

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Craft Supplies and Art Activities

Color Wonder markers and coloring books

These are always a win! No mess and my daughter, who’s now two, is super into coloring right now. I try to find cheaper sets on Amazon, like this one, or on clearance in the store.

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Stickers and a notebook

This is an awesome and really inexpensive idea for toddlers or older children who are obsessed with stickers. Just buy an inexpensive notebook and a bunch of stickers, and voila, you have their very own sticker book. I love to personalize them with the child’s name and give puffy stickers like these along with the notebook. Puffy stickers are so much easier for little fingers to peel off the page. You can also check out these fun sets by Melissa and Doug.

Paint with water books

WaterWOW is excellent for car and travel entertainment. Otherwise we love Melissa and Doug. I found these super fun Hello Kitty and Lisa Frank books at the dollar store once!

An art smock and easel

What better way to keep a toddler clean than one of these handy smocks. I like this Bumkins one because they are super durable and easy to clean. This smock set comes with brushes and sponges for painting with. This toddler art easel comes with magnets!

Shrinky Dinks

We got these one time for my son and he still asks for them all the time. If they are the style you have to cut out first, have your young child color them before hand. They only take a couple minute to shrink in the over and watching is the best part! You can make bracelets, keychains and all sorts of fun things.

Ceramic or wooden painting projects

There are many sets to choose from here. We like wooden pieces for younger children. Any toddler loves getting their hands on some paint, so why not let them create their own masterpiece?! Here’s a fun, inexpensive magnet set.

ALEX Toys Little Hands craft sets

From Paper Bag Monsters to Pop Stick Art, kids of all ages can enjoy some pretty epic craft time with these fun set from ALEX Toy. The Little Hands line is especially developed with younger children in mind. ALEX Discover Tots Art Start is another great one for toddlers.

Exciting markers and crayons

Give these with a big ream of construction paper and some safety scissors. We’re loving Crayola Silly Scents Twistables Crayons and these chunky, easy-to-hold Dab and Dot Markers by Doodle Hog.

Play-Doh or Play Foam

This Play-Doh multipack is great since it comes with so many colors. Also, check out inexpensive Playfoam! It doesn’t dry out and will literally last for years. Plus, its super fun to create with!

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Keepsakes and Room Decor

A keepsake box

This awesome unicorn jewelry box makes me want to be a kid again. Any toddler girl would absolutely LOVE storing her treasures in here! Speaking of treasures, what about a pirate’s treasure box for boys?

A piggy bank

Not just for pigs anymore! There are so many options to choose from. Check out this awesome rocket ship bank!


Special story books, board books, lift-the-flap books, memory books, books for bedtime, etc. I have two really great posts about books for kids. One on books for babies and this post for toddlers.


I’m a big fan of projection-style nightlights and obviously, kids LOVE these too! Here’s a more grow-up version for preschoolers, but I also adore Cloud B Buddies like this sweet bunny. We have a Cloud B fox at home.

Wall art for their room

Personally I love shopping at Hobby Lobby for this sort of thing. They have everything from Spider-Man to unicorns to dinosaurs. Wooden, framed pieces or fun metal signs, your choice.

Imaginative Play

Play Silks

Make a magic wand, a super hero cape or a tent for their stuffed animals with these colorful, lightweight play silks.

Dress-up clothes

Four and five year old kids are in a super imaginative time in their childhood. Watching them play make-believe is a magical thing and providing them with props to do so is a must! Melissa and Doug have several career-related sets like this doctor one. Or you can grab a bulk of DC super heros accessories for girls.

Useful Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Kids

Movies and a personalized popcorn bowl are always a win. My kids are popcorn-obsessed.

Matching plate and utensil sets will always be in use. I like Skip-Hop but there are so many to chose from on Amazon, such as this construction set.

A backpack with their favorite cartoon character for lugging around all those, you guessed it, toys!

A play tent and kid’s sleeping bag for slumber parties and pretend campouts.

Outdoor Fun Non-Toy Gifts

Mini folding chairs are perfect compliments to inflatable pools like this epic watermelon one.

Hooded beach towels like this stylish mermaid and colorful sunglasses.

Seasonal clothes such as sun hats and swim wear or a child-sized snowsuit.

A child-sized umbrella and light-up rain boots for splashing in puddles.

A bubble machine with extra bubbles and a pail of sidewalk chalk.

Frisbees and stomp rockets for exciting outdoor play. These also keep them running so you can wear them out faster!

What are your favorite go-to non-toy gifts? Many families now are enjoying subscriptions. Subscription craft boxes, kids magazines or meal kits are all very popular right now.

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