A friend of mine posted a great question on Facebook: what could she get her kids this winter other than toys? In her case, she felt that her three kids had enough "stuff" and didn't need more of the same. The crowd-sourced answers were so inventive and wonderful that she suggested "someone" should write a blog post about them. I volunteered, and here it is. I hope you find some of these ideas useful.
1) Make a donation in the child's name, in a way that the child can appreciate who was helped and why.
This is something my dad does for my kids every Christmas, and I always look forward to it. He puts together a nice package with pictures and explanations of why he chose the particular non-profit that he chose, and how the donation is going to help people. Through his donation, the kids get to participate directly in the joys of philanthropy, they learn about other people and places in the world that are having challenges the kids might never have imagined otherwise, and they get the reassuring knowledge that there are organizations and people who are committed to solving these problems and helping the people (and other kids just like them) who have been affected.
2) Give the gift of your time.
Commit to a schedule of one-on-one time where your child gets to pick out the activity. Even if it's just fifteen minutes every day, that time is precious. Play hide and seek, card games, make experimental "snacks," color and draw together, sit down and read a favorite book together. Another option is setting aside an entire day that your child gets to design all of the activities. Take lots of pictures!
3) Give entertainment.
Theater passes, passes for Jumpoline/Pump it Up/indoor obstacle courses a la American Ninja Warrior, tickets to a favorite sporting event or musical concert or other arts performance, museum or zoo memberships, magazine subscriptions.
4) Give outdoor fun.
Skiing/snow-tubing passes, horseback riding lessons or trail rides, commit to a visit to a favorite museum or water park or putt putt course, drive out to a great skateboard park or bike course.
5) Give lessons.
Piano or guitar, horseback riding, skateboarding, ice skating, lessons in an obscure language your child has expressed an interest in (you might be able to find a tutor on craigslist), rock-climbing lessons, survival camp classes, cooking classes, sewing classes. Maybe you join your child in the lessons...? And you may have friends or family members that you can employ to provide a few lessons. Maybe you make great breads and your brother's daughter wants to learn, and meanwhile your brother started playing guitar when he was 12 and your son wants to learn. It's a great way to get a little more one-on-one time with extended family and build bonds that will last a lifetime.
6) Make a kid "date".
Schedule a mani-pedi with your daughters; give a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant and let them pick their friends to invite and order dessert; or let your child pick the activity--making her favorite food together from scratch, or working on a craft project together that your child picks out.
7) Give travel.
Commit to a trip to a nearby town, park, historical sight, nature sight, dude ranch, wilderness, big city.
8) Consider some non-toy "stuff".
Tinkering/arts and crafts supplies; a watch; a calendar; sports equipment; a fishing pole; a camera; a flashlight or headlamp; camping gear; puzzles.
9) Get kids BOOKS.
We love books. Kids love books. Even kids who say they don't like books, if you get them one, will spend days going through it. Don't know which books they like? Get them a gift card to a bookstore.