Consumable Gifts for Kids
April 10, 2016 7:05 AM   Subscribe

What are some good consumable gifts for children?

In an age when we all have too much crap and struggle with clutter, I generally try to give adults gifts that are used and then gone, e.g. food, drinks, scented candles, toiletries. These are the kinds of gifts I like to receive. I use them, I am grateful and think fondly of the gifter, and then I don't have clutter to either carry around with me every time I move for the rest of my life or feel guilty about giving away or binning.

Are there equivalent gifts for children? Please note I'm not including things like gift tokens and "experiences" (although I am absolutely aware that the one thing kids want is your time and attention!). I mean things that can be wrapped up, gifted, opened, and used until they're gone, like a tub of bubbles or a box of fudge. I usually give books to kids, but would like to have other options that aren't landfill. Thanks!
posted by bimbam to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Sidewalk chalk
posted by sciencegeek at 7:21 AM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

Art supplies, including some less-usual stuff like solar print paper, scratch-off rainbow art paper, origami paper; sidewalk chalk, watercolor paints, paintbrushes; friendship bracelet supplies; etc. I'm just thinking of the things my family runs out of quickly ... base yours on what you know about the family! (We NEVER run out of coloring books, crayons, or markers, those are always kicking around in excessive quantities.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:22 AM on April 10, 2016 [14 favorites]

coloring books
art supplies (watercolors, markers, glitter glue)
bathtub crayons / fun bubblebath / fizzy bath color tabs
face paints
seeds (if you have a budding gardener)
cookie/cake mix and fun sprinkle toppings
hair chalk
posted by belladonna at 7:23 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Art/craft supplies. Crayons, coloured pencils, pastels, chalk (quality depends on age/interest), paints, nice sketching pads, stuff to make bracelets (bead, embroidery floss, whatever is popular now), possibly embroidery or cross-stitch kits, kits for them to make food.
posted by jeather at 7:24 AM on April 10, 2016

Animal shaped bath sponges! They come in little capsules that dissolve to reveal what the animal is!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:26 AM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Scratch off rainbow paper, "3D" paper, washi tape (decorative masking tape), fake moustaches, t-shirt textas.
posted by hawthorne at 7:28 AM on April 10, 2016

My brother gives my kids cash, and it is such a novel thing to them. As a kid my aunts would always send me a card for my birthday with $3-$20, and the amount went up through the years. Not many kids have the same experience nowadays of having their own money that they can spend or save. I remember once when I was 10 one family friend made a 10 out of dimes on a piece of paper for my birthday.
posted by momochan at 7:34 AM on April 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

Dinosaur egg soap (you can melt down ordinary scented glycerine soap bars which will save you dyeing and scenting the soap yourself)
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:39 AM on April 10, 2016

Milk chocolate orange balls.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:51 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

For school age girls - lip balm, nail polish, hair clips, ribbons, pony tail holders.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:58 AM on April 10, 2016

Perler beads and bases -- the plastic melty beads you iron to glue together -- IKEA sells a well-priced version.

Please no low-quality art supplies. If the kid is young, Crayola or better (their "washable" really means "washable" for every shade); if older, "beginner" art supply store grade stuff -- people tend to give stickers, colouring books, magic markers, etc, long after that has ceased to be a thing and the kid wants new oil pastels or a set of sketching pencils and a notebook of quality paper.

I can't vouch for young boys, but many young girls like sets of nicely scented bath what-not. Bonne Bell Lip Smackers in endless scents are still a thing.

Boxes of "good" candy -- kids get a lot of corner store candy but somehow people tend to think a box from a fancy chocolatier is wasted on them -- after a certain age, it's not.

Unfortunately book lights are disposable now -- the cost of new batteries is more than the cost of a new one -- and these are well-loved by the read-under-the-covers set.

My daughter loves to draw on herself, on her hair, etc; this is a hobby shared by her friends, "hair chalk" is a thing now. It drives me nuts, so I gave up and bought her a big box of it. The 'tattoo pens' are a big hit.

Cash is definitely appreciated.
posted by kmennie at 8:01 AM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

My 4 year old is crazy for temporary tattoos. I love them because they are something she can do immediately when she gets one, they generate very little garbage, and then the tattoo washes away.
(3 cheers for this question!)
posted by stowaway at 8:03 AM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also, as someone who is dismayed at the flood of inconsequential gifts that are given to children, some of the prior answers have me scratching my head. If you are really looking to help with the clutter/consumption problem, don't give token gifts at random times. If it's a gift giving occasion, get something that is relevant to that child's particular interests.
posted by stowaway at 8:15 AM on April 10, 2016

When I said quality, I didn't mean you should buy dollar store stuff for toddlers, but you probably want better than crayola for a 10 year old who likes art.
posted by jeather at 8:20 AM on April 10, 2016

posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:36 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I feel the same way, OP. Bath bombs and the "fun" bath clay that Lush sells have worked for me. Face painting makeup, Play doh or modeling clay. A huge bunch of balloons. Some kids love to receive flowers. A gift bag of candy will DELIGHT a kid, but of course it may not be ok with the parents. We also give away lots of baked goods or hand-made drawings.
Then, I know this is not exactly what you asked, but you can re-gift your stuff or buy used stuff. I prefer to buy gifts second-hand when a bigger gift is required. The gift bag of costume jewelry and dress-up clothes I gave to my friend's daughter went over huge at a recent party. I thrifted all of it and washed it. I feel like there's a stigma to giving "used" gifts, but the second hand gifts I've given or received seem to be big hits. It's an item other kids have loved and actually used, which means it's automatically better than 90% of the new junk for sale. One of my best friends only shops second-hand and her gifts are absolutely some of the best I've ever received. My kids know a package from her is going to be really fun to open.
posted by areaperson at 8:43 AM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Also, as someone who is dismayed at the flood of inconsequential gifts that are given to children, some of the prior answers have me scratching my head. If you are really looking to help with the clutter/consumption problem, don't give token gifts at random times. If it's a gift giving occasion, get something that is relevant to that child's particular interests.

I didn't read this thread as a "token gifts at random times" thing at all. Of course, you should tailor gifts to the child's interests. But some people want help thinking of categories of consumable gifts that those children will like. For example, when my youngest was obsessed with Hello Kitty, she would have been thrilled to get a sketchbook, funky glitter markers, and a sheet of Hello Kitty stickers as a birthday gift. Or a bottle of Hello Kitty bubble bath. Or Hello Kitty lip balm in weird flavors. But most people wouldn't necessarily think to look outside of the toy aisle when they're shopping.
posted by belladonna at 8:45 AM on April 10, 2016

Depends on the age and the situation but a few things I've used for the kids in my life

- foaming bath soap things
- higher end/fancy popsicles in summertime (most kids have some sort of food that they LOVE but that is maybe too expensive or hard to get for "everyday" and figuring out what that thing is can be useful)
- really interesting coloring books and/or good pens/markers
- a book of postcards and stamps in case they are communicative/postally inclined

Along the lines of cash, if they are kids with smart devices, a little $$ at an app store can get them that thing they want that their parent may not want to shell out for (check with parents, natch) and so it's consumable but also delivers something that doesn't clutter
posted by jessamyn at 8:56 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

We now give movie vouchers, sometimes with unpopped popcorn, and gift certificates for the family to the kid's favorite restaurant. This has worked for my kids and their friends ages 5-12. It feels very grown up to the kids, and gives them a fun experience.
posted by cocoagirl at 9:46 AM on April 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

Not consumables, but books and music are good additions in a world too full of stuff.
posted by theora55 at 9:55 AM on April 10, 2016

The Break-Your-Own Geode kits are fun.
posted by Ostara at 10:19 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hand a tube of glow-stick-bracelets to a group of children after sunset on a summer's night. It's magic.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:37 AM on April 10, 2016

For school age girls - lip balm, nail polish, hair clips, ribbons, pony tail holders.

As the mother of a girl, let me caution against this if the goal is not to add clutter. Every tween/teen girl is likely up to her knees in all of these. It is the go-to gift for lots of people & the girls themselves gift/buy this stuff. And nail polish in particular is a disposal problem.

Maybe consider a make-your-own kit--more interactive, can learn something, & fun to share. Here's one example

I'm all about higher quality art supplies (or Crayola for littler kids) and the Klutz books that include instructions & supplies to try out a craft or develop a skill.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 1:22 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Art supplies are the most desired thing for my kids. Starting with construction paper, fat crayons, and Play-Doh as little ones, and going on through high-quality sketchbooks and pens for the older kids. Plus all kinds of nifty stuff like beautiful origami papers.

We have also enjoyed the tablets you can drop into the bath to make the water different colors. A great way to get reluctant preschoolers into the tub!

My kids have also valued magazine subscriptions -- everything from Cricket (Babybug, Ladybug, Muse, etc.) and MAD Magazine, Sports Illustrated for Kids, and so on.

Another gift my children have enjoyed is loose tea in a tin chosen especially for them along with a special tea strainer. My kids don't have a problem with caffeine, but you can also find wonderful herbal teas in flavors that children adore.
posted by gateau at 5:13 PM on April 11, 2016

Hopefully this is not quite what you were thinking of when you mentioned "gift tokens and "experiences"" but, gift cards for fast casual/fast food restaurants are terrific kid presents. It is something to look forward to. It teaches lessons in delayed gratification and generosity -- it's kind of boring to go to a restaurant by yourself, but how nice to be able to treat your BFF or Mummy to some nachos. Also in budgeting: do I blow the whole wad on a huge banana split, or make this about a few trip for small cones? And there is nothing at all for me to store, clean up after, etc, and it feels pleasantly grown-up to have something extra in your wallet.

It's also nice for parents who are busy or broke or both -- you are buying the two of them a little spell of bonding time that doesn't need to be budgeted for. And I really enjoy seeing my daughter take pride in being the one to treat others when somebody has given her gift cards for the local ice cream place or wherever. In a way I enjoy seeing her with them more than other types of gift card, as she never uses it solely on herself. If she is given a gift card for the toy store it's a solo event, but eating is a social affair -- and you can't underestimate the pride taken in "it's on me."
posted by kmennie at 7:34 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Tattly Temporary Tattoos. They last way longer than other temporary tattoos and have awesome designs like Sesame Street, weird animals in cars, fun words, and random designs. I am on their email list and stock up when they have big sales. Parents and kids both love them. A+++ would recommend!
posted by barnone at 8:53 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

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