No More Toys: Some Alternative Gift-Giving Ideas This Holiday Season


My kids have the worst birthdays (October and November) when it comes to gift giving. By the time the holidays roll around, our house is so packed with toys from their late fall birthdays that it looks like Toys R Us or an in-home daycare. My oldest is now at the age where she asks for everything she sees on TV, and everything she wants just so happens to have a million teeny-tiny pieces.

What doesn’t get eaten by a dog or sucked up in the vacuum ends up under the couch, and you know it will never be seen again. It’s an organized mom’s nightmare. We are running out of room, and over half of the toys we have go unplayed with because my kids have too much. Yes, they are spoiled, but that is a whole other issue.

If your kids are anything like mine, you need some non-traditional gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season. Consider the following alternative gift ideas for the special kids in your life.

Clothes and Pajamas

Not the most exciting gift but definitely practical. As a mom, I really appreciate when my kids receive clothes or PJs as gifts. My oldest is even starting to appreciate clothes and loves to pick out her outfits for preschool. An added bonus is if you know what the child is into and use that when picking out a gift! (Dinosaur shirts and Frozen pajamas for the win).  Pajamas get especially worn out, so we really love receiving those for gifts. Don’t be afraid to ask mom or dad for the size the child is wearing. When buying a gift, I usually size up (especially in pajamas), so they can wear it longer. Keep in mind what season you are buying the outfit for though.


My girls are so lucky to have a really large extended family. A birthday party with just family consists of about 25 people, and that’s a lot of presents! If your family is big like ours, consider taking the birthday boy or girl out for a special outing. A movie or out to their favorite restaurant (my daughter would choose Rainforest Café every time) would be a fun option for older children. It will give you one-on-one time with the child, and it will make their day to do something special with you. They will remember the time spent with you much longer than they will play with any toy!

College Account Contribution

Maybe it’s just because I’m a teacher, but this is my favorite gift. College is expensive (coming from someone who is still paying off my last degree), and we don’t know what the cost will be in the next 15-20 years. Programs like MET (Michigan Educational Trust) and MESP (Michigan Educational Savings Program) make it easy to contribute either online or via mail. Every dollar counts when it comes to higher education, and it’s never too late to start saving.

Another great option is to open them a savings account. Diversified Members Credit Union with locations in Detroit and Novi has an awesome savings program for kids! If you open up a savings account with a minimum of a $100 deposit, every year on your child’s birthday, the credit union deposits $50 in their account. If you do it before their first birthday, that’s $900 towards college!


Depending on where you live, a membership to certain metro Detroit attractions is an excellent gift idea for the whole family. We get our money’s worth out of our Detroit Zoo membership every year! Some other options to consider are Greenfield Village, Michigan Science Center, Goldfish Swim School, Sea Life Aquarium or the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. This is a great gift for the whole family that will last all year. Consider the ages of the children you are buying the membership for. For example, a Greenfield Village membership wouldn’t be enjoyed by a toddler as much as older child would. Most of these memberships are good for an entire year from the redemption date not the date of purchase. So, if you wait until the spring to redeem your zoo membership your family receives for Christmas, it will be good until the following spring, not the purchase date.

Charitable Donations

A dear friend of mine did this, and I loved the idea. For her son’s first birthday, she asked for donations to a local organization instead of gifts for her child. As previously stated, our kids (and most of the kids I know) have too much. What a wonderful message to share with your children about helping others who are not as fortunate as them. I think this is a great idea, especially for older children who may be able to understand why they aren’t getting a boatload of presents. I think this would an awesome thing to do then volunteer at the organization you are donating the items to. With the holiday season quickly approaching, your community’s Good Fellows organization does a lot for local families in need.

While I know some people can’t get over the idea of not giving toys to children for their birthday or holidays (grandparents, I’m talking to you!), maybe consider one of these options for a special child in your life. The memories they make or the lesson they will learn will last much longer than the latest and greatest toy. Many of the alternative gifts mentioned above are great opportunities for families to spend time together, and what could be a better present than that?


  1. I love the idea of giving gifts that build skills and curiosity. My 8year old grandson will get a tool pouch filled with hand tools and a box full of miscellaneous end cuts of wood from Home Depot and a beautiful art set filled with markers, colored pencils, paints, pestles etc. for his love of arts and crafts. Bonus for less screen time, more creativity.


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