There’s nothing like the satisfaction of getting a child a gift they really love. But how does a grandparent or other family member find that perfect gift? This gift guide offers inspiration for every age and stage, from birth to adulthood.
But you won’t find the usual list of plastic toys and tangibles on this gift list. Parents will tell you that their kids have lots of stuff. Maybe too much stuff. And many of the things that delight them at first all too quickly become relegated to tomorrow’s pile of unused clutter. We’ve put together a list of presents for kids that are more outside the box.
This gift guide recommends non-toy ideas (with just a few practical exceptions). These gifts will stimulate kids’ minds and imaginations and hopefully bring you closer together as a family. Before you buy, check-in to make sure your intended gift is in line with the parents’ values and the child’s interests and needs.
Gifts Ideas for Babies
Let’s start with presents for the littlest ones. A new baby is a precious gift and as a grandparent, you probably want to give your precious one the world. While there are many gift options at this age, it’s best to balance what you give with what the parents want, as well as with what is useful or needed for the baby.
Gift Ideas for Kids and Infants to Suit Everyone’s Needs
- Handmade gifts: Something you make yourself is a special gift your grandchild can treasure for a lifetime. If you sew or knit, you can make a quilt, blanket, stuffed animal or doll. Or, create a scrapbook or memory box to hold special mementos from the baby’s first year and beyond.
- Books: Reading out loud helps develop babies’ language and literacy skills. It can also strengthen the bond you share with your grandchild. Build a library of classic books—such as Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Guess How Much I Love You—that you can read to your grandchild again and again.
- Essentials for baby: While not the most glamorous gift, busy parents will appreciate a store of everyday essentials, such as diapers, wipes, diaper rash creams and soap.
- Sensory toys: From the day they’re born, children begin learning about the world through their five senses. Play that engages the senses encourages this process, helping to build nerve connections in the brain. It also supports language and motor skill development. For babies, look for sensory toys that make sounds, light up and have bright colors, patterns and different textures.
- Education fund: It’s never too early to start saving for your grandchild’s education. A 529 savings plan is a smart way to save for college expenses such as tuition, books and supplies. Open an account now, contribute regularly, and watch the earnings grow tax-free.
Gifts for Toddlers
Toddlers usually aren’t fussy when it comes to gifts. Almost anything will capture their interest. They love everything from everyday objects you have around the house to purposeful playthings designed to help them master new skills.
Gift Ideas Your Grandchild Will Love at This Stage
- Art materials: Toddlers are natural artists. They love to experiment with colors and textures. The more tactile they’re allowed to be, the better. To encourage the young artist in your life, buy a mobile art storage cart. Stock it with safe, washable finger paint, markers and Play-Doh. Sponges, brushes and other tools like glue sticks, glitter and different types of paper products are great, too. Now watch and wait for all those amazing creations to emerge.
- Role-play toys: Playing pretend is an important part of child development. It’s a fun way to act out real-life roles, interact creatively with others, build problem-solving skills and do what parents do. You can promote role-play with toys such as a doctor’s kit, lawnmower, vacuum cleaner, kitchen or workbench. Also consider props that spark the child’s imagination, such as a box of costumes, a magnifying glass or a fireman’s hat. All of these make great presents for kids.
- Furniture: The toddlers in your life will love having pint-sized furnishings all their own. Whether it’s a chair and a table set, rocking chair or even a comfy couch, they will cherish these gifts indefinitely. Especially if the parents keep them somewhere as the child grows. It’s always fun for an older child to see what they used to play with!
- Puzzles: This classic activity engages young minds and builds concentration, problem-solving skills and delivers a sense of satisfaction when completed! Start with simple two- or three-piece puzzles for two-year-olds then move on to more complex jigsaw puzzles for three years and beyond.
- Piggybank: Children quickly grasp the value of coins and a piggy bank gives them a place to stash their very own collection. They can start to learn the rewards of saving and build the fine motor skills required to fit the coins into that tiny slot. Personalize the piggy bank with the child’s name to let them know the gift—and what’s inside—is just for them.
Gift Ideas for Kids Who Are Elementary School Age
Once they’re in elementary school, kids have clear preferences. Now you can gear presents for kids toward the things you know they like.
Presents for Kids That Are Not Toys
These toy-alternatives can delight the kids in your life while expanding horizons and building the bond you share:
Collectibles: Create a tradition with collectible items you can give them on birthdays or special holidays. Collectibles can range from coins and model cars to dolls, charms (for a bracelet), and sports or action figures. You can both look forward to the annual gift and have a common interest to share and talk about.
- Subscription boxes: Subscription boxes are great gifts for kids, especially because they last well past the holiday season. There’s one to fuel nearly every interest—from books and games to arts, crafts, science and technology. They’re delivered automatically, so your grandchild can get excited about receiving something special in the mail each month.
- Experiences: Shared experiences are fun and can create meaningful memories for you both. Go on a train ride together, attend a musical performance or show, or visit a water park or aquarium. If there’s a zoo, theater or museum in your area, consider purchasing an annual membership, so the whole family can attend regularly. Even if you can’t attend now, you could purchase a gift card for future use.
- Classes: Encourage what the child likes or is good at. Give the gift of music lessons or a series of classes in dance, art, sports, sewing, woodworking or baking—whatever piques their interest. You may open doors to lifelong pursuits and even future occupations. If their favorite activity isn’t running right now, consider buying a gift card for future lessons.
- The gift of nature: Introduce them to the wonders of nature with a gift such as a bird feeder with seed and a bird guidebook; a terrarium, bughouse, or butterfly garden; or a pair of binoculars or a telescope.
Gift Ideas for Teenagers
Presents for kids who are young are easy, but teens can present a gift-giving challenge. They’re up on the latest trends, which you may know nothing about. They can be very particular about what they like, what they’ll wear and what they’ll do.
Time-Tested and Tech Savvy Presents for Teens
Here are a few time-tested gift ideas your grandchild will love you for. Plus we have a few tech-savvy ideas that show you can rock with the times:
- Something meaningful to you: At this age, your grandchild can value something sentimental from your own life and treat it with care. Pass on a keepsake such as your first fishing pole, an heirloom ring or your mother’s necklace, quilt or musical instrument.
- New driver support: Getting a driver’s license is a major rite of passage for teens. Consider gifts that will support them as new drivers, such as an emergency road safety kit, tire gauge or gasoline gift card. Buy gift certificates for a car wash, detailing or oil change.
- Tile tracking tags: If you’re not familiar with it, Tile is a tiny Bluetooth device that can track down anything it’s attached to, such as a misplaced phone, keys, wallet or luggage. A practical gift for teens, Tile lets them find lost items by sound, by seeing its location on a map or by getting an alert when it’s found.
- Debit cards: In today’s world, teens need a debit card to make purchases, whether online or in-person at their favorite stores. A number of debit cards with smartphone apps are on the market, such as Current, that allows you and parents to put money on the card at any time while giving your teen the gift of financial education.
Gift Ideas for Adult Children
Gift-giving traditions may change as the children in your life become adults and build lives and families of their own, sometimes far from home. But you can always give something special that they’ll appreciate and that expresses the love you’ll always have for them.
Gifts for Adults
Here are gift ideas to get you started for the grandchildren who have left the nest or even for your own children:
- Something for their home: The options here are endless. How about a useful kitchen gadget, wine glasses, a beautiful wooden serving bowl, a down comforter for cold nights or an interesting lamp to warm a room? Think in terms of practical items in line with the recipient’s taste, wants and needs.
- Gift cards: These cards are popular because they allow the recipients to select their own gifts. Be sure to choose carefully so your gift card doesn’t go unused. Find out where they likes to shop, dine or be entertained, and buy a gift card accordingly.
- Spa day: With all the stresses of daily life, you can’t go wrong with giving the gift of a day at an area spa to decompress and receive some much-valued pampering. And if a spa day isn’t possible now, a gift card can always be used at a later date.
- Money: Financial gifts of any size are always appreciated, especially when young adults are just starting out. Assistance with wedding costs or the down payment on a house can relieve some of the financial pressure on opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach. You also can gift up to $15,000 per year per individual without tax implications. Just be sure to give within your own financial means.
Your Greatest Gift: Your Time
No doubt, the children in your life will take special delight in the tangible gifts you give, but even more meaningful over the long run is the gift of you: your time, love, unwavering support and listening ear. And even if you can’t connect in person, you can use technology to stay in touch and maintain or build your relationship.
These intangibles will provide the children in your life with a sense of belonging, connection and safety that will serve them well. Your support will have a lasting, positive effect on their well-being. That is the best gift of all.
Among the many joys of being a grandparent, giving gifts to those you love can be so fulfilling. What have we missed here? What great gifts have you given to the children in your life? What gifts do you still remember receiving as a child?
Share in the comments.