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Alternative Holiday Giving

Give a Gift That Keeps on Giving (And Won’t Add to Your Playroom Junk Pile)

I don’t like clutter. A few years ago I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and purged So…Much…Stuff. Since then, I’ve been battling back the influx of toys and clothes and all of the other things that seem to take over when you have children.

That’s part of the reason why Christmas can be tricky. I want to make sure my kids can participate in gift opening, but I also know they really don’t need any more toys. Sure I could give them something they do need such as clothes, new underwear, or a shiny new sippy cup, but let’s face it. Those things just aren’t as fun.

Keep reading to see five toy alternatives that are useful, educational, or experiential, and for tips on how to “wrap” these great gifts up.



  • Did you know you can make a kit out of almost anything your kid is interested in? And you can tailor it so as to be both exciting and useful. For example, you could fill a flowerpot with colorful gardening tools, cute gloves, and some seeds to make a gardening kit. Or wrap up a sleeping bag, some hot chocolate and a board game and call it a sleepover kit. You could even include an “invitation” for your child to give to a friend. Other kit ideas include making a cooking or baking kit, camping kit, or giant bubble kit.
  • Try making a “Paper doll” basket (or use real fabric if you have lots of scraps).
  •  Make your own felt board. Your kids can make their own additions to it throughout the year.


  • Visit the butterfly house at the Texas Discovery Gardens. Wrap up a pair of butterfly wings from the Dollar Tree as your physical gift. And as a bonus, the gardens offer “pay as you wish Wednesday.”
  • A friend of mine took her family for one night at Great Wolf Lodge and had the idea to wrap up a stuffed wolf as a surprise.
  • Plan a trip to Fossil Rim or Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose and wrap up a zoo animal or dinosaur toy.

Fun for the Whole Family

  • My family randomly inherited a magnetic dart board like this one and my kids LOVE it. (My husband and I do too!)
  • Gift a year of mommy or daddy and child dates (put the tickets or gift ideas in 12 separate envelopes).
  • Make a scavenger hunt. Wrap the first clue and leave the big gift at the end. This would be a great way to extend the gift process and save a little money.
  • Plan an at-home family movie night and give the kids bags of popcorn, sodas, and homemade movie tickets or a redbox giftcard.
  • Get a new board game for the whole family. Ideas include My First Carcassonne, Outfoxed, or Hoot Owl Hoot.
  • Try learning a skill together. You could give a kid-friendly knitting kit, give and learn together how to play an instrument (there are many used ones on sites like Facebook marketplace), or get handy by doing workshops together from The Home Depot .
  • Consider giving a karaoke machine or bluetooth microphone and then partying it up together.

Giving Back

  • Sponsor an animal from the Dallas Zoo. A stuffed animal or figurine would make a great gift to open on Christmas and then you can visit your sponsored animal friend the next time you go to the zoo.
  • Give your child the materials to make a meal to donate.
  • These Hand-knit dolls from cuddle+kind are pricey but super cute. and each doll sold provides 10 meals to kids in need.
Hailey enjoys opening a wrapped up bag of goldfish.

So that’s it. Keep it simple, and wrap it up. Your kids will enjoy opening the present no matter what!

About the Author

Carrie Thomas is a mother of 3 (Hailey 2, Caleb 4, and Jackson 7) and has been a CECPTA blue and yellow group member for almost 2 years. She moved to Carrollton from New Jersey in the winter of 2018 when her husband accepted a job at UTD. She is a middle school English teacher in Carrollton and loves spending time with her family, reading dystopian YA novels, and unwinding with a glass of wine and one of the well-written Netflix shows.

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