If you’re like our family, we have toys coming out the gills. And they seem to multiply like bunnies at night. Even more, my son is the first boy in 60 years on my side of the family, and the first grandchild on either side. He has played with more toys in his (almost) five years than I think I played with my entire life.
What I’m getting at here, is that even though he LOVES getting presents, the last thing he actually needs is more toys. This will be the third year in a row that we request no toys at his birthday party. And, likely, it will be the third year that we have more new toys than we have space for.
Well, I know that I hate showing up to a kids’ birthday party empty handed. And what’s more I know I’m not alone. In fact, recently, my son was invited to a birthday party that explicitly requested no gifts, and yep, you guessed it. We stopped at the store and picked up a ball.
It’s not a big or life changing gift, and on one level, the boy’s parents were probably going…great, more stuff. But on the other hand, it’s at least a toy that gets a lot of mileage, and that no one will feel terrible about if it gets misplaced, re-homed, or even re-gifted.
Still, I sort of hope that people aren’t like me this year, and are willing to come empty-handed. I know it’s not realistic, and, honestly, that’s okay. I get the challenge. Really, I do. And I should say I’m incredibly grateful that people want to see my kiddo happy. So with that in mind, every year, we also offer some gift suggestions that emphasize experiences over things.
Maybe this post is for parents looking for ideas to share with their families or friends. Or maybe you’ve been told, “No, Really. No Gifts Please,” and are looking for a way to share the love on a child’s birthday.
Asking for alternatives to toys
I see it again and again in mommy Facebook groups (which, let’s face it, makes up a sad majority of my social interaction these days). No one wants to ask for money for their kids birthdays, but they also aren’t sure what ideas to share.
The reality is that very few of us are sufficiently independently wealthy to take all of the vacations and family adventures that we want to do. Raising kids is expensive enough, with the clothes, the activities, not to mention the basic necessities like food, and kid-friendly food at that.
Is it an issue of tact?
So if you really don’t want gifts, but you also know that people are going to bring them anyway, what ideas can you give people? What language can you use on your invitations to not feel like you’re soliciting donations to your personal slush fund? (Which you absolutely don’t want to be doing, I know!)
You can keep the initial invitation super simple: We hope you’ll join us to celebrate Billy Bob’s birthday. We are fortunate enough to have everything we need (and more!), so the best gift you can give us is your presence.
No, really. No gifts please.
But, if you feel like you must bring something, call me and I’m happy to give you some ideas.
It can get really wordy, really fast. I know. Words are kind of what I do, and it’s often tough to pare them back.
Be prepared with a list of ideas
You really want to stick with the Boy Scout motto here (or as my son says “Bunny Scouts.” Yes, it’s super cute, and tough not to smile.).
Ideas that work for us may not work for you. But speaking for our family, we are big into family adventures around here. In fact, we track my son’s “chores” and good behavior on an app, and he has the opportunity to earn a family adventure every week if he makes good choices and helps out around the house.
Sometimes, these are bigger things, like a trip to Milwaukee to go to the Zoo. Other times, it might be a movie theater. Or, maybe we go swimming or on a long hike as a family. The memberships on a local level add up fast, so those are the sorts of things we suggest people use as gifts.
10 Non-Toy Gift Ideas For Younger Kids
These are some fun small ideas that are great, and can be used and really enjoyed by the whole family. Because it’s my firm belief that time together creating memories is way more important than stuff. These are all solid ideas for families with younger children, and probably for some older children too. And, the bottom line, is that the emphasis is on experiences instead of things.
1. Day passes to your favorite museum or zoo
2. Art supplies!
3. Activity day passes – maybe an indoor playground, a swimming pool, or a water park!
4. Books or even a magazine subscription. I love learning about awesome new books.
5. Movie passes
6. A killer t-shirt. Because who doesn’t love dinosaurs? (Or if you’re shopping for a girl who doesn’t like dinos, maybe a fun design.)
7. A “coupon” for babysitting or a playdate. Let me tell you, this is a gift for everyone!
8. A gift card to a popular ice cream shop or maybe a coffee shop for hot chocolate!
Maybe your family is looking for some fun ideas and wants to go a little bigger.
9. Sports or physical activities. Maybe you want your kiddo to have swimming lessons, to learn gymnastics basics, or to start playing soccer. Those activities add up and can be a huge .
10. Instead of a day pass, a membership will be a big hit! And a lot of times those memberships pay for themselves really quickly.
These are of course, just ideas to get you started. You’ll find some great options that work for you and your family.
But, even if you end up with a whole passel of new toys, thank people for their generosity, and make sure your kids do too.
And then again, maybe people will take you at your word when you say “No, really. No gifts please!