Want to avoid toy overload this holiday? 5 alternative gift ideas for kids

Want to avoid toy overload this holiday season? Here’s a look at some alternative holiday gifts for children. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

TORONTO – When it comes to shopping for kids during the holidays, buying a toy is often the first—and perhaps easiest—option that comes to mind.

The sheer excitement children express after receiving a toy is one reason many of us opt for that gift in the first place. But some parents and guardians who have boxes full toys—many of which are discarded by children after several uses—may utter the words: “no more toys, please.”

Want to avoid toy overload this holiday season? Here’s a look at some alternative holiday gifts for children. Share your own ideas on our Facebook page or in the comments section below.

Family activities and trips

For those of us who can recall some of our favourite childhood memories, that trip to the zoo, museum or aquarium may come more easily to mind than a toy we received when we were seven or eight.

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Tip: Keep an eye out for discounts that may pop up, especially if you have plans to purchase family passes.

A trip to the zoo can be both educating and exciting. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Music, sport or art lessons

Music or sport lessons can be a great gift for a child who, for example, wants to learn how to play the guitar or learn how to skate. Depending on your budget, many class packages can be purchased to include a range of five, 10 or more lessons.

The environment will allow children to learn in a creative way and will allow them to socialize with other kids their age outside the classroom or daily playground setting.

Is the child older and hoping to obtain their driver’s licence within the year? Purchasing some lessons is a great gift and will allow the teen to learn safe driving skills.

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Tip: Unsure if the child will enjoy the music or sport class? Pay for a drop-in class first before committing to a package.

Passes to music lessons are a great alternative gift to toys for children this season. The Canadian Press/Don Denton


Children’s books (yes, comic books included) are a wonderful way to foster a love of literature early on. Select a genre that the child might find interesting like fantasy, fairy tales or picture story books.  Not sure what the child likes? Buy them your childhood favourite. Depending on the child’s age, spend some time reading the book with the youngster, even if it’s a few pages.

Tip: Personalized books allow you to brand the book with a child’s name, photo and a personal message. Recordable storybooks allow children and adults to record their voice while reading a story—a perfect gift from a distant relative like a grandparent who the child may not see often.

Give a child your favourite childhood book or one that is personalized for a more intimate touch. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Special night out

Some children may request to eat out at certain restaurants based on stories they hear from friends, but when families are on a tight budget, eating meals outside the home may often be reserved only for special events like birthdays or anniversaries.

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Gift cards to family entertainment centres (like Chuck E. Cheese) or a nearby dessert place can be a sweet treat for those who may not get to visit such places often.

An outing to a family entertainment centre will get kids active and result in memories they’ll have for years. Charley Gallay/Getty Images

Money for their RESP

The chance of a child getting excited over receiving a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) as a gift is slim to nil, but they will likely appreciate the gesture in the future.

This type of gift can also teach children about the value about saving money from an early age. If you continue to contribute toward the RESP, over the years the child can watch their education fund grow (with perhaps some excitement, we hope).

Sure, a child may show much excitement after learning they received a RESP or money toward the account as a gift, but they will likely appreciate the gesture in the future. AP Photo

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