In my last post I expressed my thorough dissatisfaction with toys these days. With Christmas coming up quickly I knew I had to gather ideas for alternative presents for my kids. I know that they’ll inevitably get toys, but I wanted to come up with a good list of things I hope will be more useful or last longer than a toy. So while I know this post isn’t going to affect sales at Toys ‘R Us this holiday season I wanted to share ideas with parents that hopefully might leave more lasting impressions on their kids. I want to thank the Hudson Valley Moms group on Facebook for some great ideas. Here they are in no particular order:

Clothes

1.Coats, hats, scarves, snow suits, school clothes, dress up outfits, boots, snuggly pajamas or socks. I think I’m going to stuff some socks in my kids stockings this year as they are super hard on their socks and could use some extra pairs. Maybe some Christmas themed ones or just colorful or snuggly ones.

Financial Security

2. I truly love the idea of using the holidays as an incentive to open 529 college savings accounts for your kids and asking family and friends for contributions. You can do this with an IRA or existing savings account as well. This is perfect for babies and toddlers as they aren’t going to miss extra toys and starting an account early means that the account will yield more in interest by the time they are ready for college. If family insists on buying toys, you might want to suggest that they buy a small gift and make a small financial gift as well. So if they were going to spend $20 on a toy, ask them to buy a $10 toy instead and contribute $10 for their college fund. Guess which one is going to be more valuable in the long run?

Special Interests/Hobbies

3. Nurture a child’s special interests this holiday season. What does the child like to do? Cook – try their own apron and a cookbook to use together. Photography – camera and photo album. Science – microscope. Star gazing – telescope. The sky’s the limit, just let the child be your guide.

Hannah and Jay meet a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle at the Hudson Valley Renegades Game

Hannah and Jay meet a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle at the Hudson Valley Renegades Game

Trips/Outings

4. I love, love, love the idea of taking the kids to see a play, visit a children’s museum or go on a special vacation in lieu of toys under the tree. Some moms suggested season passes to kid friendly destinations both in and outside the Hudson Valley. Anything from local museums to water parks like Splash Down to big theme parks like Disney Land, Great Escape, etc. There are endless possibilities and the quality time spent with your kids will live forever in their memories. Still want them to unwrap something? How about hiding clues in envelopes and opening a last box or envelope with a photo of the destination with the words “we’re going” with a date or just the year 2015? You could also have a family member get your child a suitcase or sleeping bag with the promise of an upcoming sleepover. Now there’s a present moms and dads can appreciate too!

Mommy helping Jay skate

Mommy helping Jay skate

Learning Rocks

5. The holidays are a perfect excuse to fire up a kid’s love of learning. Books and e-books are awesome. I also love to get my kids book bags for the following school year as they’re often half price this time of year. How about new pencil cases and stickers to decorate them, school supplies, globes, maps, dry erase boards, etc.?

Lessons/Classes

6. It’s often cost prohibitive for parents to put their kids in lessons or classes so the holidays give friends and family a chance to help fund them. Whether it’s ice skating, piano, karate, gymnastics or dance, your child is sure to be thrilled with this gift that will keep on giving with each new class.

Practicality Rules!

7. Ok you know the Discount Diva values practicality. How abut rechargeable batteries to literally give new life to the numerous toys they already have? What about storage bins, toy boxes and book shelves to provide better access and storage for existing items? I scored some great deals on books at my local consignment shop – easy readers for my 5 year-old and chapter books for my 7 year-old so they could really use book shelves. I also like to stuff their stockings with new tooth brushes and toothpaste, along with candy of course. Young babies don’t often play with toys anyway so why not get them diapers and wipes, toiletries, hooded towels, spoons, dishes, convertible car seats or umbrella strollers, or my latest life-saver a paci clip which keeps parents from having to pick up and clean pacis repeatedly. Also formula or jars of baby food, or a baby food maker for parents to make their own baby food. Little girls love cute hair accessories like headbands and ponytail holders so why not put together a set?

Music & Art

8. I only recommend buying a child a musical instrument under the following conditions – you are the parent, the other parent has signed off, and you have a room with a door to shut for practicing. If those conditions have been met then go for it. Music can be one of the healthiest ways for children to express themselves. Art is another great way so think easels, drawing pads, markers, paints, stencils, modeling clay and even specialty items like origami sets.

Daddy and Jay Fishing

The Great Outdoors

9. I know kids love electronics, but since I consider them really expensive toys, I’ll talk about an alternative I love. I love anything that gets kids to play outside. Not everyone can afford big trampolines and swingsets, but you might be amazed at the deals you can find online for used sets. My sister-in-law recently moved to a different state and ended up having to sell her giant swing set for $500 when it cost her $1,000 more than that when she purchased it a year before. There are also bikes, scooters, kites, roller skates and sporting equipment. My husband recently taught my kids how to fish and I know they’d be tickled pink to get their own fishing poles, especially because it means more special time with daddy. Sleds and snow tubes are awesome gifts this time of year.

Snow tubing

Celebrate Coming Of Age

10. Perhaps you have a child on the verge of starting or finishing potty training? Then big boy/girl underwear would make some mighty fine motivation. Do you have a teenager about to get her permit? Then driving lessons might be just the ticket (hopefully so they can avoid tickets). I’m not a big fan of giving kids cell phones, but if you have a tween or early teen this might be the perfect gift to show them that you recognize that they are growing up. You can always do a pre-paid phone to keep costs down. Perhaps your child is ready for a more “grown up” room with new décor and bedding set. I got my daughter a big girl comforter when we were about to transition her to a big girl bed to get her excited about the idea. As much as we hate to see them getting bigger, celebrating their coming of age moments with a special gift is truly meaningful. Last year I got my daughter’s ears pierced and got her earrings and she was thrilled. It showed her that I thought she was old enough to make the decision for herself and she took the piercing like a champ – not even crying once.

A big thank you to all the ladies who contributed ideas for this list. Feel free to share more ideas as well. I wish you all a meaningful gift giving season to come. If you’re like me, with piles of toys cluttering up your house you may want to share this post with friends and family to help spark some new ideas.

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