The best gifts for the kids in your life may never appear in the Target ads or the aisles of Toys R Us, because oftentimes they aren’t made just for kids and aren’t marketed as gifts.
So get your mind out of the toy aisle. To find unusual–but appropriate–gifts for the kids in your life, the #1 rule is to follow their interests.
Start by asking yourself what they’re really into. (And don’t get stuck trying to find a “kids” version of the cool adult stuff: usually, the grown-up version is more fun, works better, and costs exactly the same.)
Here are some untraditional gifts we’ve given—or are thinking of giving—to our own kids for Christmas:
1. Coffee table books. Kids love these giant books with gorgeous, full-size photos, but because they’re not marketed to kids it might never occur to you to give one to a child.
Last year we gave Sarah (then 7) Young House Love; this year she’s got her eye on Remodelista. For our ten-year-old, we’re debating between Transit Maps of the World, Beautiful Lego, and Robert Ballard’s Titanic. None of these are “kids’ books,” but they’re perfect for our kids.
2. Kitchen gear. Forget the kids’ baking sets (unless it’s an apron you’re after). Get your child the good stuff: it costs the same and works a lot better. Sarah wants her own set of colorful mixing bowls. Maybe your little chef wants a waffle iron, an ice cream maker, a pizza stone? Get the real thing. (It doesn’t have to be new.)
3. Typewriter. Sarah wants a vintage typewriter. Not a gorgeous, expensive antique, just a functional one so she can type her books. I’m on board. I might even cover it with fabric for her like I saw on Design Sponge (or maybe we’ll wait to do it together?)
4. All that stuff on Etsy you’re swooning over. Your kids are swooning over half of it, too. My girls would love these literary quote prints or this customized Anne of Green Gables moleskine. My boys would love this subway map or this Empire State Building wall art. (Jack is getting this awesome poster which joins his love of baseball and LEGOs.)
5. Swimwear. Fun and practical, swimwear hits the stores in December. Buy it now while you have the best selection of styles and sizes, and the idea of a swimsuit is novel to your kids. (These are my favorite.)
6. City pride. Try a t-shirt, poster, or memento from your own city or a favorite destination.
7. Can’t buy it? Make your own. Sarah’s soy allergy makes it hard to find chocolate she can eat. (So sad, right?) We’re putting together a make-your-own chocolate kit with cocoa butter, cocoa powder, honey, vanilla, mixing bowls and spoons, and cute little molds–and the promise to make treats together.
8. Go simple. Hammer, nails, wood. Cheap, easy, delightful.
9. Picnic set, beach bag, fort-in-a-box. Yes, you can buy prepackaged sets, but you know your child best: put together your own bag and toss in what they would like. I’d do pretty paper plates, cloth napkins, and snacks for the picnic set, cute sunnies and a new swimsuit for the beach bag, and blankets, clamps, and a flashlight for the fort kit. Have fun with it!
10. Let them experience it for themselves. Give tickets (sports/museum/circus), classes (art/sewing/juggling), a promise of a one-on-one adventure. The experiences can be weird, and that’s okay. Customize it for your kid.
What would you add to this list?
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For more unconventional ideas, check out 100 stocking stuffers that will actually be appreciated, don’t feel like a waste of money, and won’t be broken/destroyed/forgotten by New Years.