Nontoy gift ideas for kids
November 20, 2017 12:33 PM   Subscribe

I am seeking nontoy gift ideas for kids in the 7- to 11-year-old range.

My kids are not toy-lovers, and they honestly couldn't come up with a wish list of any substance if they tried. For the most part I don't get them gifts, but other people still want to get my kids...stuff.

These lovely people are not looking to give cash, gift cards, subscriptions, donations in their honor, or activities at this time. In the past I've steered gift givers to watches, flashlights, general crafty stuff, clocks, multipurpose tools, calendars, umbrellas, yoga mats, musical instruments, puzzles, and sleeping bags, but I suppose I'm looking for similar ideas (or wildly different ones?).

I don't know that it's necessary to be too specific about the interests of the kids, but one is heavy into science/art/sewing and the other is into playing sports/writing stories. Perhaps there is some new hobby out there that they haven't yet been exposed to, so I'd hate for gift ideas to be limited by my list of what they're currently doing with their free time.

Thanks for any suggestions or inspired thoughts you share!
posted by rabidsegue to Shopping (18 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
As a science-loving "former" kid, I would have been over the moon (no pun intended) if I'd been given either a telescope or a microscope at that age. :)
posted by darkstar at 12:42 PM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Board games are always on my kids' lists. (Not sure if you'd count that as a toy, but I'd put it with puzzles as an activity). There are always new and interesting ones out there to suit any kid. Some new-ish favorites or ours that would fit your age range are Potion Explosion or Ice Cool. I have this "room escape" box activity on my kid's list, on the recommendation of a trusted board game shop. Also this cool looking book, This Book Is a Planetarium: And Other Extraordinary Pop-Up Contraptions. Nice sheets or throw blankets (like cuddly microfleece ones) are always appreciates, as are jammies and slippers.

There are lots of fun science kits out there.
posted by LKWorking at 12:47 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some kind of writer inspiration kit like this?
posted by emkelley at 12:51 PM on November 20, 2017

Art supplies for your artist--fancy gel pens, watercolor pens, thick watercolor paper, sketchbook w/pencils, beads, embroidery thread...

Sports supplies for your sporty one--practice balls or other gear, pads, gloves, activewear...

For your writer--a journal, a book with prompts

Misc fun things: a hopping ball, glow sticks/props, classic movies they might not have seen (e.g., Princess Bride, My Neighbor Totoro)
posted by msbubbaclees at 12:53 PM on November 20, 2017

Do they enjoy games? That's a good board game age, and my doesn't-play-with-toys-much kid likes them. On the cooperative front, my 7 year old loves Outfoxed (which they could probably play without an adult's help), and Mice and Mystics (which might need adult assistance to lead the story). For competitive games, Ticket To Ride has good replay value at our house. I linked the kid version but depending on the kids, and with some adult help at first, they might be able to manage the basic grownup version.

Other ideas: a small indoor trampoline? Yoga ball? A pull up bar for the sporty kid's door? Some kind of fun seating option? (My kid might be getting a beanbag chair.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:01 PM on November 20, 2017

Candy or other food (I always got peanuts or popcorn)
Notebooks, calendars, wall posters, etc.
posted by soelo at 1:03 PM on November 20, 2017

Ooh, sewing? What about some really cool Spoonflower cloth, or a book of patterns, or even a gift card to Joann's or the like to buy patterns or notions? All the craft stores will run AMAZING sales on patterns where you can get 4 or 5 for the price of 1 -- usually the publisher changes per week or so. Do they have a sewing machine? I wish someone had given me one when I was young.

If they might be into knitting or crochet that opens up a WORLD of gifts as far as YARN. So much yarn. And nice needles/hooks.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:07 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

For the upper end of that age range (and to a lesser extent, for the lower end as well) "real" things-that-are-not-toys are sometimes a hit: so like, at your discretion, a real pocketknife or multi-tool, real kitchen tools (spatula, whisk, rolling pin), real tools (hammer, screwdrivers, plyers), real art and sewing and science supplies and sports equipment, etc.

"Real" things have the benefit of, if the kid isn't into them right at this age, they'll still be useful when the kid is, say, 35.
posted by spamloaf at 1:08 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what their budget is, but when I was that age the things I desperately wanted were: a rock tumbler (they're loud but should be okay in outdoor spaces?), and a diary with prompting questions ("my favorite X is ____," "one thing that made me happy today is _____") and/or dream journal.
posted by capricorn at 1:19 PM on November 20, 2017

Science experimentation sets?
A working model of the solar system?
An ant farm?

Books on art, that the artsy one can use to improve technique?

Beautiful notebooks for the writer - introduce the concept of a day book.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:21 PM on November 20, 2017

any kind of electronic device - Kindle, smart phone, mp3 player, etc.
t-shirts featuring TV/manga/movie characters or memes they think are cool
jewelry or stuff to make jewelry
regular clay, air dry clay, Sculpey, etc.
Magnetic Poetry set
Heelys, inline skates, skateboard, scooter, hoverboard, etc.
tennis racquet style bug zapper
an interesting plant like a venus flytrap or cactus
magnifying glass or hand lens
bird feeder or hummingbird feeder
flint and steel kit
flint knapping kit
these tablets that make foods taste sweeter
metal detector
balance board
posted by Redstart at 1:35 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I got my granddaughter a very cute knitting bag on etsy, which I filled with needles, yarn, and a few other miscellaneous supplies.

A basic cake decorating kit could be fun. It's not that hard to figure out how to use the tips with a good instruction book. When I took a cake decorating class, we made a frosting out of Crisco and powdered sugar and used that for practice. You can reuse that almost endlessly.
posted by FencingGal at 1:49 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

A microscope and a rock tumbler were my favorite non-toy childhood gifts.
posted by jointhedance at 1:51 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you checked out the Garrett Wade catalog? I was eyeballing this set of wooden bird calls for my non-toy-loving kids. Here's a page of kids' gifts. The gyroscopes are kinda neat too.
posted by Ostara at 5:55 PM on November 20, 2017

Following spamloaf: yeah, nice fancy stuff they can have for ages. My 10yo will be wearing a wee version of a Kate Spade purse I have when we hit The Nutcracker this year. (And a family friend gave her a pocket knife with her initial; this was appreciated and should be around for a very long time.) A monogrammed leather "padfolio" to hold paper and drawing whatnot -- including perhaps a good pen?

My daughter has been moaning about using luggage with my monogram on it when packing to go somewhere; LL Bean "Boat and Totes" are easily monogrammed and if those things have a way of wearing out I'm not privy to it.

How's your family when it comes to camping -- even in the yard if there's one? Good camping equipment is nice and durable...

Those sorts of gifts are doubly nice as they send a "I'm thought of as mature!" message, and, it is extremely cool to have stuff you still use that you got when you were a kid. (And there is the bonus for you -- and eventually them -- that you get to sit down and show them how to take care of this very grown-up X, and they tend to take it seriously as they recognise it as a thing that needs that, and it pushes them a little further along towards taking good care of things in general.)

It will be boring if you go overboard with it, so the padfolio might want to come with a Pusheen pencil case and giant tub of candy and other kiddie fun stuff.

Things I did not expect to be hits but which were: fuzzy socks, grown-up-looking boots, gift cards -- especially a wallet full of $20 here and $20 there, the Staedleter Triplus Fineliners (displayed neatly while other markers &c are chucked into drawers at random), a video camera, smaller but better quality boxes of chocolates -- a good brand is now more appealing than a huge quantity, and I expect a huge "FINALLY!" over the monogrammed bag (which I also expect her to leave home with :'-), her own mug (not to be used without permission) (beware of NOT SUITABLE FOR THE DISHWASHER in tiny letters 🙄)... I got a new Mason Pearson hairbrush periodically and felt very posh and grown-up to have such a "proper" brush. "Real" jewellery also goes over well.
posted by kmennie at 7:35 PM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

A cooking kit? I'm imagining a subscription to something like Chef's Plate- a complete ingredient box that comes with a photographic recipe card that's easy to follow. You would select 1-2 easy, appetizing meals each week (hamburgers! tacos! pasta! beef stroganoff! stir fry!), so they can cook dinner for the family.

My little nephews (9 and 11) LOVE cooking, and can do a lot with some pretty minor adult supervision. We just make sure to give them small knives that are quite sharp, so they are easy to control and not prone to skidding around on the vegetables.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:48 PM on November 20, 2017

My mother always made sure we got "something to do." Craft kits of all varieties; rug hook, stained glass, mosaics, tile projects, etc.
posted by poppunkcat at 10:47 AM on November 21, 2017

I can't thank you all enough. Every single answer has given me a direction to go in, and they are all exactly the kind of inspiration I was looking for. I marked best answer to the ones that gave me a specific named item that I wasn't familiar with before hand to add to the list, but truly each answer is helpful.

Metafilter to the rescue again!
posted by rabidsegue at 6:25 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

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