Holiday Gift Guide: Alternative Gifts

Lately, when people ask me if the girls want or need anything for Christmas, my immediate answer is NO. From sensory toys to learning toys to active sports equipment, we already have it covered. If anything, I’m begging you not to bring in any more stuff into my house…

A couple years ago, when my mom asked this same question, I told her gift cards. She got visibly disappointed and said that the girls NEED to open something Christmas morning, like I was just going to have no actual presents whatsoever.

First, I want to get out of this frame of thinking, that the holidays aren’t special unless there are a mountain of gifts. NEGATIVE. I’m pretty sure my girls are young enough that there wouldn’t be any emotional difference or disappointment between opening 5 presents or 15 presents.

And second, in going with my 2021 resolution to become more minimalist and sustainable, there are plenty of other gift-giving options besides buying the entire toddler toy section

Subscription Boxes

Yes, this is technically buying stuff but it’s spread out from month to month. Literally, the gift that keeps on giving. I also like that you can spread out payments from month to month, so you aren’t dropping a ton of cash and killing your December budget.

There are a ton of different kids’ subscription boxes based on your kid’s interests, from food to STEM to travel. We’ve recommended KiwiCo and LittlePassports in a previous post. Just sign up now so that you can gift the first subscription box for the holidays.


Now that more and more entertainment establishments are opening up with safety measures, you can gift experiences. This could be anything from a dinner out to a fun restaurant to a trip to the zoo/children’s museum/aquarium/movie theatre, to annual family memberships. Guitar lessons, trampoline gyms, indoor rock-climbing; lots of possibilities here for older kids, too.

Last year, we received an annual subscription to the Chattahoochee Nature Center. We also requested a gift card for our local kids play gym. You could also plan a fun day out, or shopping trip, or let your kids pick your next vacation spot. Take inspiration from their favorite movies or books for these. A couple years ago, Mary got a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure trip (which I’ve always been super jealous of).

Gift Cards

Yes, this seems like cheating. I love a good gift card, but I’m sure my girls would be like WTF, or think that it was a play credit card for their purse. But since pandemic, they’ve been super excited just to go with us to the grocery store or walk around Target. With a gift card, you could start them young on budgeting. Say they have a $25 gift card to Target. You could give them the latest Target ad or go online, and they could browse and plan and flex their executive skills to choose a gift they really want. It might be ridiculous, but it’s their own.

Quality Over Quantity

A couple years ago on Pinterest, I saved a pin that had a great piece of advice. For kids holiday gifts, keep it to: Something they Want, Something they Need, Something they Wear, and Something they Read. Nice little quippy rhyme, but also a good reminder to assess the things you are purchasing. Sometimes that means spending a little more on things that will last a lot longer.

I use this a guide to make sure that the gifts I’m getting aren’t going to wind up in the donation box after a month. Most of the gifts that are one-and-done are closed-ended electronics, stuffed animals, toys that aren’t age-appropriate, and cheaper quality items that are easily broken or damaged.


My husband actually thought of this one. Pick a project your kids are into that they can build, like a square-foot garden, a treehouse, soapbox car, etc. Get your kids involved in each stage from planning, to construction, to finishing. If you’re not as handy and can find a kit online, that works too. This project can introduce them to cutting wood, hammering real nails, painting, measuring, and so on. You are creating an experience, but also building new skills and spending quality time. For this one, definitely a pick a project that is age-appropriate.

Stocking Stuffers

This is my favorite part, so of course I’m gonna give you alternative stocking stuffer ideas that are functional and needed…

Sustainable swaps (Look at some of the basics your kid needs and see if you can find an eco-friendlier version, like picking products with sustainable packaging and materials, or toiletries with organic or natural ingredients.)
Refills on toiletries (toothpaste and brushes, shampoo, face cream, etc.)
Wool socks
Art supplies
Refills of school supplies
Books (always)
Word puzzles/Word Search/Sudoku books

We hope this post shakes up your plans and gets you thinking more creatively about holiday gift-giving.
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