kids reading e-reader in bed


5 holiday gifts kids will love that aren’t toys

Dec 8, 2017

It’s the worst feeling when I inadvertently buy my kids holidays gifts they hate. There’s nothing more disappointing than seeing their faces fall after opening a pair of socks you thought they’d love, or a book they won’t read.

So, how do you know what to get for your kids this holiday season? It might be easier than you think to wow them with something special and exciting. I’ve compiled a list of ideas that will leave everyone smiling — and there isn't a single toy involved!

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The gift of cool

When my future stepdaughter turned nine, I wanted to give her something nobody else could. I took her and her eight-year-old cousin to a hair salon and had the stylist give them colourful hair extensions (one chose purple, the other blue). These extensions can be taped in, washed and brushed like real hair and then removed several months later. The girls were thrilled with the results and their friends thought they looked awesome at school the next day.

It was a great way to spend some time with them, too. Don't feel like you have to limit yourself to hair extensions! Maybe the little ones in your life would prefer a day of nail painting or a photobooth session at a nearby mall. Cool is, of course, so subjective, but you can certainly be the catalyst for it. 

The gift of reading

I wouldn’t typically have thought of getting my kid an e-reader, but one day I downloaded some books on mine for my seven-year-old son and let him read in bed at night. He had been reading by flashlight in the bottom bunk, which prevented my son in the top bunk from falling asleep. My e-reader solved this problem and my son has been attached to it ever since.

There are tons of online reads for kids of all ages, and different e-reader options, too. I really like any option that's backlit, and has the options to change font size, flip pages easily and access a dictionary to define tricky words. I got it set up and downloaded the books for my son, but after that, it was pretty intuitive. He figured out how to choose books, flip pages and work the dictionary on his own. Now, he picks up where he leaves off — no bookmark or flashlight required. 

The gift of time (and culture)

Whenever my kids have a birthday and their aunts and uncles ask what to get them, I insist they not give gifts. I’d rather they give my kids the gift of time, which means getting together and doing something fun. One year, my kids went to a movie with their aunt and uncle. Another year, my sister had them for a sleepover.

Think about what your kids might enjoy and tailor the gift of time accordingly. Take them to a play, concert, sporting event or skating for an afternoon. These are the kinds of gifts my kids remember and treasure years later. Because nothing beats good old-fashioned quality time.

The gift of customized compliments

My kids never tire of hearing me tell them why I love them and why I think they’re awesome. Thanks to a cute series of fill-in-the-blank books, my kids can be reminded of my words whenever they like. There’s a book called “What I love about us,” another called “Why you’re so awesome” and “What I love about you.” It takes time to fill in all 112 pages according to the prompts, but when I presented one to each of my boys for their birthdays, it brought them to tears — happy tears, of course! I find them flipping through the pages every so often and I know they appreciate what a meaningful gift it was.

The gift of memories you can hold

If you don’t like writing, another great personalized gift idea is a photo album. I like to make a photo albums for my kids every year or after a memorable vacation. My boys love flipping through the albums from year to year and reliving the memories we’ve shared. 

What are some non-toy gifts you've given to your kids? How did they react? 

Article Author Erin Silver
Erin Silver

Read more from Erin here.

Erin Silver is a freelance writer and blogger whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, The Globe and Mail, and many other national magazines and newspapers. A single mom, she is hard at work on her first book about the adventures of divorce and single parenthood. Visit her online at

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