need *non-material* birthday gift ideas please - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 12 Old 12-28-2012, 02:14 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi Mamas! I usually post on the Toddler forum but think I can get better answers here as this pertains to a just-emerging-from-toddlerhood child. My nephew is turning four very soon and I need to get him a gift. Thing is, this child literally has everything and their house is beyond overflowing with books and toys. It's absurd.


I would like to get him something that's not another toy. I was thinking some kind of experience. They live in Southern California. I know I could get him, say, a one-year membership to a zoo or kids museum but they are also one of those whirlwind-busy families and he's always being taken from one event or activity to another it seems. I am just unsure if they would ever even use something like that. But maybe.


Any other ideas for either a non-material gift, places I could get him a membership / pass to, or maybe something that is material but just very tiny (I was not kidding their house is too full and most toys would just get lost in the pile) or somehow unusual (also meant it when I said he has everything).


Thanks in advance! love.gif

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#2 of 12 Old 12-28-2012, 05:04 AM
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Did you ask the parents what they would like him to have? At this age I would not think to get anything without talking to a parent first and I appreciate that everyone in our circle does this for us.


While you may feel he has too much, at four it may be hard for him to get a non-material gift. While you may mean well, I do feel it's the parents job not yours to do non-material gifting request - if they state it and are doing so that is the parents role-IMO

At four, even the simplest things is OK and while you may feel one way, you don't live in the house and it's really up to the parents to dictate how and what they want, they may be just fine with the number of items. If you are so strong in your feelings give a non-material gift but with all gifts it's usually better if you speak to the parents first, you may find there are things he does need. As the child ages they will form their own opinions on how they feel about your gifting. I had an aunt that had her own thoughts on how things should be- I hated what she did and I stopped exchanging with her when I was older, I still remember things she gave me as a child and how I felt about them, memories do last.




Personally I would not buy a year membership to anything prior to asking if it what they would use. In my area (I know several states near me also have it) - they are called kids coupon books (usually sold by private school/dance school, etc as a fund raiser) - they are booklets that give discounts to area places (museums included) but do not lock you into a commitments. Since the booklets have hundreds of places it is more appealing so some, but again it is not something all like. we get one each year but I know my soon to be five year old would not want this as a "gift"

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#3 of 12 Old 12-28-2012, 06:07 AM
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What about a gift card to an ice cream place?  That's always been a favorite activity of my young kids - they'd love that at 4 (try to look up what's nearby them).  


Movie tickets?  Maybe a magazine subscription (plenty of options like highlights or cricket or ranger rick for different ages - while it may eventually get misplaced, there's nothing like the excitement of getting mail).  


You can print or get printed stickers with his picture on them, or some other photo-ish gift.  You could get pencils with his name on them. 

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#4 of 12 Old 12-28-2012, 10:29 AM
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You could do a baking kit. Make a mix of something in a jar, small spatula, apron. It's nice because it mostly gets used up. Could be sweet (cake, cookies) or savory (bread, pizza kit).

Art supplies are good for their 'consumable' qualities

If you see you could make him some pants or pjs. My ds is 5 and loves when people in his life make him things.
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#5 of 12 Old 12-28-2012, 11:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the ideas so far! I love the ideas about personalized photo items or something with his name on it!


Serenbat ~ I always ask his mama before I send a gift. I like to have some ideas first though. I agree with your sentiment and I think we all got some crap gifts as kids and isn't it the stereotype that all granny got you for Christmas was some ugly hand-knit socks, lol? Now he's getting older and up til now I think he always pretty much forgot what I got him (again - he has so much stuff it's hard to find a gift that will stand out and he will be guaranteed to love and remember forever, ya know.), but indeed it would be cool to find gifts for him that he'll truly enjoy and remember. That was kinda the intention behind my asking for advice. It seems like he has so many toys and books already that whatever small thing I get him just gets lost in the toy room after a few days (at most). I was thinking to get a non-toy gift not because I have any problem with the fact that he has a lot of toys, just that I wanted to maybe get something different or special is all. I know from my own kid that it's often hit-or-miss with the gifts he gets and even when he loves a toy (usually a toy truck or car) it often gets forgotten in the pile (the ever-growing pile of vehicles) once the novelty wears off. But you're right that a four year old might not even make the connection that it was a gift or from whom if it's an experience-type thing, or he may find it dreadfully boring.

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#6 of 12 Old 12-28-2012, 08:49 PM
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What about a subscription to a kid's magazine?  I don't know what you have in the States, but my mom got my DD a subscription to "Chirp" when she was about 4 and she loved it.  The magazine itself was fun but getting something in the mail every month addressed to her was even better!

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#7 of 12 Old 12-28-2012, 10:16 PM
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I like to make home-made play dough.  I usually make 4 different colors, roll them into balls, and put them all in one washed-out jelly jar.  (Every kid I've ever known ends up mixing up the colors, anyway.)  Eventually, the dough dries out and can be thrown away or composted, and the jar can be reused or recycled.  It seems to impress parents and kids... even kids who already have play dough.  I don't know why, really... maybe the novelty of it?  Anyway, this might be a fun addition to something less tangible.  Good luck!

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#8 of 12 Old 12-30-2012, 07:51 AM
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My SIL made a small and fairly simple scrap book for my daughter when she was younger and she still enjoys it.  SIL hand wrote the captions and used mostly construction paper for the backgrounds.  It's not as elaborate as those super crazy SCRAP BOOKS that some moms make, but it's still much enjoyed at my house.


If you have time, you can also buy personalized story books with the name of the kid and some of his friends and family.  I have one from when I was small and I know my daughter would enjoy that and find is special.

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#9 of 12 Old 12-30-2012, 08:30 AM
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Most of my suggestions have already been posted - movie or museum passes, tickets to a performance, baking kits or art supplies etc. 


Along the lines of a personalized photo book or scrapbook (also great ideas), you could make a calendar with photos of family or special places or his favourite things. You can mark special dates on it - things like "family picnic" or "movie night" or "trip to the zoo" that you can do together. At 4, he's probably learning about calendars, months, and days of the week, so having his own calendar could be quite special.  

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#10 of 12 Old 01-01-2013, 01:10 PM
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Music classes or sports could be fun.  You could sponsor some lessons or buy some clothing or equipment for a class.  Our local public recreation system sells gift certificates for classes.

A CD to listen to in the car while on the whirlwind adventures?

Are his walls cluttered?  A poster of something he likes or of something educational (numbers, maps, etc.) could be fun.  My DS likes his alphabet poster a lot.

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#11 of 12 Old 01-02-2013, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by serenbat View Post

Did you ask the parents what they would like him to have?


Yes, this. :)


Does he want a pet maybe? like a fish or something? A gift certificate to an ice cream or doughnut shop that he could spread out and use over time? A one time gift card for pizza?

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#12 of 12 Old 01-03-2013, 08:04 AM
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We recently bought a 4 year old who also has tons of toys Scholastic books like this one:


and it was a hit.


Last yr dd got an annual mag. subscription. She would look at the magazine once when it arrived and that was it. She found it so boring. I would offer to read it at bed time but every time she would refuse it.

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