Toyless Gift Guide

by | Nov 3, 2016

Over the years, we have seen that non-toy gifts seem to stand the test of time better than gifts of the plastic toy variety.  When kids are given *real* things as gifts, it seems to give them a confidence and sense of ability that toys don’t necessarily give them.  A real hammer, that pounds real nails, teaches more and is more fun than a plastic one.  Of course, more diligence for safety is required by the parent, but the trade off is worth it.

Christmas is on the horizon.  Or, if you’ve been in a store lately, maybe it’s already here?  It’s 75* outside and we still have halloween candy floating around, so I’m not really sure.  But it’s not too early to start thinking about your Christmas gift giving.

I try every year to finish my Christmas shopping before Advent.  I’ve never once actually accomplished this goal, but I keep trying!  So, while it seems early, I think I’ll post this non-toy gift guide for some Christmas shopping inspiration.  And maybe you can finish your shopping before Advent!  If you do, let me know how you did it!

Bow and Arrow – a bow and arrow is a wonderful gift for any youngster.  Most of our kids have their own bows.  I grew up shooting a Bear bow and I actually still shoot that bow from time to time.  Talk about a lasting gift!  The one linked here is for younger kids, but there are quality bows for all ages out there.  Shooting can be a fun family activity!  I even shoot with a baby on my back, so don’t tell me that will stop you 😉


Point and Shoot Camera– prices on a decent point and shoot camera can be really reasonable.  Our kids don’t have phones with cameras, so a point and shoot camera is on our list for this year.  I really think kids would love the chance to learn to take pictures and edit them.  Maybe something a little more creative than a “selfie”?

Wallet–  Maybe this is just an issue in our house, but “I lost my dollar!” is often heard around here.  A nice wallet can make a lasting, practical gift.  And who doesn’t feel like a fancy grown up with his own wallet?


Tool Kit– This is a gift that made its rounds with our kids this past year.  A few kids received *real* tools for a birthday and it was really a hit.  Bella used hers to build or repair things outside and PeterXavier grabs his anytime he goes to help his daddy with projects.  Real tools give real results and the confidence the kids get is priceless.


Adventure Bags – I know I talk about Adventure Bags a lot, but my kids REALLY love their bags!  They really inspire outdoor adventure.

Field Guides– the girls carry field guides in their Adventure Bags and they’re so used that they’re tattered with love!  We have a bird guide, a tree guide, and a wildflower guide.  A local foraging guide is on the Christmas list, so I’m on the lookout for a good one.  Field guides are tailored to your location,so make sure you get the one for your home state.


Dress Up Clothes- We have so much dress up!  But the kids all love it and it really brings out their creativity.  Hit up your local thrift store and have a blast.  It will surely be a hit.

Kindle– I have to admit that my kids really do like their kindles.  The big kids read books on them all the time and the younger, non-readers, listed to stories.  Actually, I think my younger kids use the Kindle more often, because it’s so easy to snuggle down and listen.  Most books can be found on audio through Kindle, Audible, or Librivox.


Liturgical Calendars – I love these calendars created by Jessica at Telos Design.  As she says “We believe the arts can strengthen and enrich our faith.”  I couldn’t agree more!  We love living the liturgical year and it would be so helpful to have her calendars guiding us.  Jessica is even offering a BOGO deal through November – buy one of her lovely monthly calendars and receive an Advent poster free.

Cooking things- My kids love to eat, but they also love to cook.  Aprons, real measuring cups, real wooden spoons.  All of these things make great gift and are useful.  We store the kids cooking tools in the play kitchen, so they actually double as play and real tool.  Although, I’ve been known to grab their measuring cups, if my own are dirty!

Knitting Needles and Yarn Nothing is cozier than real wool yarn cast onto smooth needles.  Don’t skimp and buy the cheap acrylic.  Wool will keep those little hands coming back to the needles.  If you don’t knit, I highly suggest checking out how-to books from the youth section at your library.  The colorful pictures and easy to understand instructions make learning a breeze.

Quilting Kit– This is another fun and cozy gift for those cold winter evenings around the fire.  We bought Bella a “jelly roll” for her birthday and, while she still hasn’t finished it, it’s been a really fun project for her.  The pre-cut pieces mean that the child just has to sew.  That’s the fun part!

Pocket Knife– Don’t wince here.  This is a great tool for kids to have.  Again, it takes diligence on the part of the parent to teach and supervise, but you’ll be glad you did.

Head Lamp– We love headlamps!  The kids use them for evening chores or runs to the woods for a forgotten toy.  But they’re also great for hiding under the covers to finish that really great book when it’s way past bed time!

What would you add to the list?  What’s been a huge hit in your house?

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About The Author: Sarah Antonio

Keeper of all the adventure gear, provisions, and abandoned shoes, I’m the one who brings our adventure to you.


  1. bwfarmhouse

    These are such great ideas and I actually have the pocket knife and wallet already on my list for my big boys! Now you’ve got me thinking about the head lamp… 🙂

    • sewmanywildthings

      Headlamps are great! They’re an adventurous boy must have.

  2. Alicia Schonhardt

    I love this list!

    We appreciate the experience gifts– zoo membership, art class, day together, etc.

    • sewmanywildthings

      Yes! Experience gifts are wonderful! Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Catholic Mommy Blogs

    Maybe we’re complete nerds, but our kids will be getting homeschooling materials (along with a special, handmade item)! I ditto the experience gifts with Alicia!

    • sewmanywildthings

      Not nerds! There are so many great things that cross over between fun and homeschool. Like a microscope or awesome art supplies.

  4. Anne Neulieb

    The list made me feel pretty good about my choices so far for my crew!! I decided to get a kindle for my new reader, though I suspect it will still largely be used for audible, but I’m fine with that. One of mine is getting a new-to-her point and shoot camera. One is getting an art/adventure bag. And I’m definitely intrigued by the bow and arrow but never knew where to start, so thanks for that suggestion.

    Last year I got little clippy reading lights for all four of my crew. The two actual readers still have theirs, but I’m thinking maybe a headlamp for Claire would be good.

    I also always try to have the majority of my shopping done before Advent. This year I have added incentive because Christmas Baby!!!

    • sewmanywildthings

      I’d love to see a picture of what you put in the art/adventure bag! The clippy lights are great for readers! Yay for Christmas baby!!

  5. Katherine Grimm Bowers

    This skews a little old for my kids just yet, but I’m filing it away for my godson and for my crew in a few years’ time. Thanks!

  6. The Oak Leaves

    This list is perfect. My son, who is five, just happened to ask for a tool set this year, so I’ve been on the hunt in antique shops. The bow, though, is great idea since his Daddy is also into archery. He already has his own opinel… I think the only other thing I might suggest is art supplies or a journal.

    Thanks for sharing!


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