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Copyright 2007

Giving more than toys
by Tash Hughes

I always planned on giving my children a lot of home made toys and experiences, rather than showering them with piles of plastic toys. Despite such plans, our house is over run with the toys and stuff that they have collected.

People are generous to children and enjoy giving them pleasure, and there’s no greater pleasure than watching them unwrap presents!

Given that many family homes are overwhelmed with toys, there is a challenge for parents, grandparents, family and friends to find alternatives to adding more. You don’t have to skimp on the price of gifts to reduce the overload of things they posses, either.

Here are some ideas that have been used with my children with great success.


Children love spending time with people they like and can be very excited about trips without Mum and Dad. So instead of giving a child a present, you can give them an invitation to somewhere special.

You are only limited by imagination as to where you can take them…

  • A picnic in a nice garden or beside a great playground
  • Visit a museum, aquarium, art gallery, zoo, children’s farm or similar
  • Watch a play or movie together
  • Out to a restaurant for lunch or dinner – why not brunch?
  • Fishing or yabbying
  • Camping or caravanning
  • A trip in a train, boat, tram, bus or horse drawn carriage
  • For a bike ride to somewhere new
  • Play at the beach, a lake or a swimming pool
  • Watch a favoured sport or activity

Practical items

Ok, we all remember being disappointed with clothes as a gift, but young children are usually happy with clothes and many teenagers would like them as long as you select them carefully!

There are other practical gifts to give than clothes, however…

  • Encourage a green thumb and give gardening things. You might give a small tree or bush, the tools to tend a garden, seeds, gloves or a window box. Maybe you could give the child a patch of garden at your house for their specific use, and teach them about plants and gardening.
  • Sports uniforms and equipment is a great gift as it shows you know the child’s interests, as well as ensuring they can continue with it.
  • Beach towels are always popular, but you could also consider some fun everyday towels. Young children love owning their own items, and if you give a towel in their favourite colour or showing a loved character, older children will also be pleased.


Children can be involved in many activities these days, but most of them aren’t cheap. Why not offer to give some lessons as a gift?

  • Pay for a term’s ballet or piano lessons
  • Take the teenager out for some driving lessons or practise
  • Give some time to the local sports club so fees can be kept low
  • Pay memberships at a club or group for the child to belong to
  • Take the child to one of their activities each week
  • Teach the child, and maybe some friends, one of your skills


These will take more of your time than your money, but the time will be well spent in building a relationship that will last years longer than any toy would have…

  • Leave home early and go somewhere special to watch a sunrise together
  • Spend a day in the kitchen together cooking – forget the mess and have some fun!
  • Devote a few hours to listening to the child’s favourite music with him or her
  • Leave the city behind and watch the stars
  • Do something not usually allowed (check with the parents first, of course!) such as eating a whole tub of ice cream or a whole cake in one go, order two desserts at a restaurant, watch 2 movies in a row or
  • Roll down some hills or in a pile of autumn leaves


A pet is definitely different to a plastic toy - the child can play with the pet, depending on what it is, and can learn respect for other creatures and responsibility. However, if giving a pet to child other than your own be sure that the entire family will appreciate it - if the parent s are allergic to cats for instance, they won't want their child having a kitten and families that travel a lot may not be able to care for a pet properly.

  • Be creative - how about some hermit crabs or terrapins instead of a puppy?
  • Pet accessories are another gift option - a new lead or ball will encourage the children to play with their pet
  • Paying for dog-obedience school or a class about caring for animals is a fantastic gift for a new or budding pet owner.
  • Spend time with the child making a home for a pet, whether its a building a dog kennel or cat run, setting up an aquarium or choosing a cage for a bird.
  • Make it a family effort for a birthday. So Grandma gives the animal, Aunty gives a book about caring for that animal and Uncle gives the tank or lead or other necessary items for keeping the pet. This gives the child the best chance of caring for their pet and also makes each gift part of something more rather than individual toys.

Tash Hughes is the owner of Word Constructions and assists businesses in preparing all written documentation and web site content.

Tash also writes articles for magazines, newsletters and websites.




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