9 Alternatives To Toys For Christmas

The holiday season is upon us and I've already seen countless posts from parents obsessing over what to get their little people for Christmas. While many couldn't wait to peruse Toys R Us' annual toy guide, I immediately placed ours in the recycling bin.

Its not that I'm opposed to toys, I just think that most of them are loud, useless pieces of plastic that will only clutter up my son's room. I used to donate any toy that came with a battery when he was younger. But now that he's six and Paw Patrol is all the rage, its not so easy + some "toys" we're okay with are run on batteries. So there's that.

But that still doesn't mean we're all of sudden okay with him having most toys on the market. Its quite the opposite. Many of the best memories he's had, per his own admission, have been family hikes on many of the trails around Austin, his 4th birthday where we celebrated as a family at a local spot similar to Celebration Station. He rode his first roller coaster and go kart plus enjoyed all of the arcade games he could play. These are memories I hope stay with him through the years. So while toys will not be on the list, at least not in the usual sense (think snap circuits), if someone is so inclined to purchase him something, something from the list below would be greatly appreciated. 

Handmade Items

I think nothing says I love you like a handmade gift. If a person takes time out of their day or days to make something specifically for you that says alot even if it doesn’t exactly come out the way as expected. They gave up their time to make you feel special. Some of my best presents have been homemade and I cherish them to this day. When I was getting married, my best friend made a memory book filled with pictures and sayings from out shenanigans in college. It always makes me smile when I go back through it and think of the times we had. Then there’s the scrapbook a friend made to commemorate the boy’s first year of life along with some ribbon wrapped hangers. Ya’ll it about brought me to tears during that baby shower. While I never did fill out the book  (we took all the pics but never printed them) it is still means a lot to me. I believe the same will hold true for our littles. 

Little Sir's First Year Scrapbook

Little Sir's First Year Scrapbook

First Year Inside.JPG


One of my favorite subscriptions my parents had for me was one to Highlights magazine. Filled with brain teasers, coloring options, stories and a list of other activities, it was a one stop shop to occupy some time at home, on road trips or while visiting my grandma. I enjoyed it and think my oldest little person would too. But magazines aren’t the only way to go these days. With the introduction of the sub box in the last few years, exploring new ideas is no longer confined to words on a page. Now kids can bring just about any subject to life with experiments, crafts, puzzles, you name it, all packaged nice and neat in a box sent to their door every month. It’s really the gift that keeps on giving.


This summer I took the kiddos to a number of museums here in Austin (the blanton, laguna gloria, carver center to name a few) but by his favorite was and still is the Thinkery. Its highly interactive from creating wax designs on a conveyer belt to waterplay. Its learning and fun all rolled into one. Also, with some museum memberships, you’re able to visit other museums in the same city or even across the country for free or at a reduced price. 

The Contemporary Austin - Laguna Gloria

The Contemporary Austin - Laguna Gloria

The Houston Zoo

The Houston Zoo

Summer Camps

As a kid, I went to summer camp once for a week through my church. While some of my bunk mates were a bit interesting to say the least, I had a great time. I went sailing and almost immediately got stuck out on the lake because we had a shoddy rudder, learned archery and experienced my first bonfire. I wanted to go back every year but there was an age cutoff. While my littles aren’t exactly ready for sleep away at camp and I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever let them go, but day camp is a lovely alternative. Its socialization, an opportunity to learn new skills and delve further into specifics interests all rolled into one while allowing mom to maintain her sanity to a degree. If you’re not sure where to look try your local rec center or YMCA. If you happen to live in Austin, there is annual summer camp fair that includes everything from legos, improv, archery, sailing and more.

Contributions To A Charity In Their Name

Its never too early to teach our littles about giving whether its of our time, money or both to causes that are near and dear to our hearts. While this time of year brings about huge lists of filled with every toy imaginable there are people hurting for the bare necessities (recent hurricane victims, domestic violence survivors, foster children) who could really use our help. 


Growing up, one of the things I truly wanted to learn how to do was to play the piano. I had learned to play a small snippet of Beethoven’s Symphony and could figure out the basic melody of a few songs playing single notes but nothing beyond that. But I never had the opportunity because it simply wasn’t in the budget. While I’m not worse for wear having not learned, it would still have been beneficial in further enforcing discipline needed to accomplish a particular goal or set of goals not just in that particular subject or activity but life in general. But its also another way for a child to express themselves creatively or direct excess energy in a productive way. Last year our son played soccer. It took him a moment to warm up to it but he eventually enjoyed it. But since his diagnosis with ADHD, we are now looking to put him in Ju Jitsu and eventually music lessons on an instrument of choice to channel his energy, encourage more discipline and focus.



Contributions To A 529

Listen, college is expensive. Very expensive. And its not getting any cheaper. While I have faith our little people will be capable of getting scholarships for their hard work, there’s still no guarantee that they will cover all costs (lodging, food, books, tutors).  While the hubs and I will do our part to contribute to their college fund, if their funds were given a little extra padding from grandma and grandpa, we are not opposed.


Our son loves to read and loves having us read to him more. In between buying books we make frequent trips to the library. The boy loves a good book! The she babe is still curious and tries to put it in her mouth but I think she enjoys them too. While the internet offers more information than you'd probably ever want to know on a given subject, there's still nothing like curling up with a good book.


Just about any gift can make a child happy for a few hours, days or even weeks. But nothing compares to giving them your undivided attention. During those moments, you're building a bond that will hopefully last a lifetime. Sure initially you'll here about how this Chase from Paw Patrol saved the day or the bug they discovered during recess. But then you'll hear about their friends, their struggles as well as their triumphs because you gave them your time and your focus. Our son has no qualms expressing himself regarding his feelings towards us and other family members to varying degrees during conversations on the ride home from school, while playing legos, listening to music together or any other activity that allows for time together. They're only little for so long. Make the most of it to build a lifetime of memories.

Little Sir and two of his grandmothers picking veggies from our garden for Christmas dinner last year.

Little Sir and two of his grandmothers picking veggies from our garden for Christmas dinner last year.


While I didn't get this up before the shopping season started, there's still time to rethink your Christmas shopping list or at least modify it. Of course give how you see fit. It is your money after all. Do you boo boo!

Tell us about how you're planning on sharing the Christmas spirit with your little ones this year.